Under The Knife: Halladay finds clarity, Weaver finds uncertainty
Lat muscle injury expected to sideline Roy Halladay at least 6 weeks
Stephen Strasburg's loss of control could be precursor to elbow problems
After missing all of season so far, Mike Morse nearing return this week.
It's time for baseball to learn a lesson from tennis and golf. In both of those sports, the coach and other associated personnel belong to the athlete. The athlete hires the coach, determines the program and generally owns the process. For years, team sports in the U.S. have taken a determined paternalistic process, but that hasn't worked. Nutrition is essentially ignored, especially at lower levels. Teams attempt to use a one-size-fits-all approach, lose continuity between levels and are often years behind, held back by tradition, folklore and inertia. Over the past couple years, we've seen a few pitching prospects come in with their own system, working with their own coaches in the offseason and even in some cases, in-season, though only when there were problems. Now with some of the newer uber-prospects like Trevor Bauer and Dylan Bundy, there's an adherence to their individual plans that go beyond the team's system. For Bundy, there's an overlap with the new data-driven system put in place by Rick Peterson with the Orioles. Bauer is getting more of a hands-off, do-your-thing vibe from the D'backs, so as long as it works, he's likely to be allowed to handle it.
A couple years back, Scott Boras hired Steve Odgers, the White Sox S&C coach and started his own offseason facility for SBC clients. IMG has used its academies as extensions of their youth programs, though their strength hasn't been baseball. I'm surprised this model hasn't taken off more, though there aren't many baseball agencies big enough to support this year-round. It would be easy enough to set up "preferred partners" or something similar, but agencies seem satisfied with the team-based, paternal system for now. Limits on uniformed personnel have kept teams from going to the NBA model of multiple coaches, but there are no limits on what players can do. Many have nutritionists and personal trainers. If teams won't get creative and don't feel sufficiently incentivized to do so, players are going to have to do this sooner rather than later.
Powered by Dario Franchitti's third win at Indy, on to the injuries:
It says something that the Phillies had to work a little bit to find a doctor to see Halladay. The Phillies' ace didn't have an established relationship with any doctor. He had two previous arm issues but both were handled by the Blue Jays' staff, as far as I can tell. He's been good since.
Halladay's statement that he didn't think it was too bad is not the kind of thing normally worth listening to, but more experienced pitchers who have extensive innings know their arms better than anyone. Halladay returned from a 2005 injury by going on the run that made him ROY HALLADAY! rather than just a nice comeback story. Halladay's MRI results indicated a low-grade strain in his lat muscle, an injury not normally seen in pitchers and at odds with how Halladay described the injury. (Lat muscles are sometimes described as shoulders, sometimes as back. Both are technically correct, but pitchers seldom use anatomical definitions. They tend to focus on normal, functional definitions.) Halladay will miss about six weeks, though it's unclear how long he'll be rested.
It was about five minutes after Weaver left the mound with the athletic trainers with Mike Scioscia watching when @cmkelly29 asked, "So how important is the lower back when pitching?" Well, Cormac, it's very important. Quick -- try going through a pitching motion without bending your lower back or using those muscles to stabilize yourself. I'll lay $100 right now that no one can do it. If nothing else, it would drastically change the kinematics of a delivery. That's to say nothing of the underlying pain. Without getting into root causes, which are generally an unknown from the outside, it wasn't that long ago that Weaver threw his no-hitter. This was his fifth outing since, and with four good ones and one bad one, it's hard to point there. Instead, we have to hope that this is one of those painful things that happened at the point it appears to have happened and can be treated quickly and easily. Back injuries are painful, but simple spasms or a more complex strain are very manageable. Indications from Weaver are that he has a stabbing pain and a tough time bending. Those, along with the DL designation of "inflammation, disc" indicate a more serious disc problem. The Angels will work to manage this, but at worst, he's going to miss one start and the ERD could be farther out.
When Pedroia left Monday's game with what was called a jammed thumb, no one seemed too concerned. That he'd have an MRI on the thumb threw up the first red flag. Reports started coming Tuesday afternoon, including from Peter Gammons, that Pedroia would miss a month. Pedroia showed up to the ballpark Tuesday in a brace, and Bobby Valentine let slip that the "jam" wasn't the problem, and that Pedroia has been dealing with "discomfort" for more than a month. Valentine also mentioned "recurrence," which ... well, it's confusing. There are several things that would normally be called recurring that happen to a thumb, but most of them don't match up with the kind of symptomology that Pedroia reportedly has and wouldn't be considered lingering issues. The Sox finally released that Pedroia has a strained adductor muscle in his thumb. Yes, just like there's also a UCL in the thumb, there's also an adductor muscle. Adduction means "bringing in to the body," so it's the muscle that pulls the thumb closer to the index finger. Use your thumb and forefinger to make a "gun" and the adductor is what makes your thumb go "bang." The Sox will keep working on Pedroia's thumb as they try to avoid the DL. He can play with the injury, as he's shown, but it doesn't appear things are staying static. Pedroia has played poorly in previous attempts to play through injury, so while he's day-to-day right now, get Plan B going.
Berkman had his knee scoped last week and the news was mostly good. The ACL was not ruptured, and though slightly damaged and a bit lax, it did not require repair. Berkman did need cleanup around the knee, including meniscus and articular cartilage, but he should be able to return in about 6-8 weeks. There's a balance here; in the short term, Berkman will need to protect the knee in order to not lose function; on the other side of that equation is the reality that this is likely Berkman's last season in baseball. We won't see the rehab work, but we should get some early indications about when he'll return by when we see him back with the team and where we see him jogging.
Strasburg came back after being lifted with "tightness" his last time out. He may have only gone five innings, but it's the walks that are a worry. He's always had solid control but a loss of control can be a precursor to elbow issues. That said, just before he popped his UCL in '10, he had two walk-free outings. Strasburg got the win, but he didn't make anyone feel better about his arm in doing so. The Nats have been tight with pitch counts on a game-by-game basis, but GM Mike Rizzo has gone on record as saying that the 160-inning limit that has been quoted regularly in the media is not a number he's using. The care the Nats have used is industry standard, but don't take that as too much of a compliment. So far, it hasn't worked and it'd be good to see the Nats -- or Scott Boras -- get a bit creative.
The Yankees bullpen hasn't imploded since the loss of Robertson, but they will be better when he returns. Robertson's oblique has healed enough that he's throwing and should start a rehab assignment in the next week. It shouldn't take too much time for him to get back to game-ready, since the Yankees are very focused on conditioning during their rehabs. That aspect is something the team has been good at for better than a decade. Robertson will just need to show that he can recover before returning, so don't expect a long stint once he starts. Robertson won't go back to the closer role he left, but Rafael Soriano doesn't have the job locked down either. Joe Girardi likely will mix-and-match when he has both Soriano and Robertson available, and is showing growing fidence in David Phelps as the setup.
Strained lat muscles are a weird breed of injuries. The sample we have tends to be focused on pitchers toward the end of their careers. Medical literature is more focused on the redundancy of the muscle, which would suggest it's not important and could be adjusted to, even in severe cases. None of that helps Morse, who's missed the season thus far with his own lat strain. Morse has made a lot of progress lately and is scheduled to go out on a rehab assignment Tuesday. He should be back by the end of the week if he has no issues and shows his swing is fine. He'll be a nice addition for the Nats. There's not much to go on with recurrence risk, but you can feel pretty good about Morse as a pickup.
It was incredibly hot over Memorial Day weekend, whether you were at the Indy 500, in the backyard or covered in catcher's gear. Normally, the kind of heat illness injuries we're used to seeing are minor and come later in summer, but heat is heat and it can kill. Molina had to leave Sunday's game with symptoms of heat illness. He was treated quickly and cooled down, which allowed him to get back on the field. All teams have facilities to set up ice baths and other necessary cooling, but it's as important to get the athletes hydrated properly and to monitor them on hot days. I hope you're doing the same across the country, especially those of you that will have kids playing football.
Matt Kemp had a quick rehab assignment in Albuquerque. No word on whether he made a wrong turn, but he was back in the Dodgers lineup on Tuesday ... Ted Lilly will miss at least one start with a shoulder problem, but it sounds more serious. ... Think Chris Sale's elbow is OK? The 15 guys he struck out sure do. My question is: what changed? And if it's nothing, what were they doing? ... Chipper Jones had blood drained from his strained calf. Sadly, there were no leeches involved ... Freddie Freeman is still dealing with vision issues, which recalls Brian McCann's issues of a few years back ... David Freese sat on Monday after injuring his wrist on a couple diving defensive plays. He'll be back by Wednesday at the latest ... Austin Jackson is expected back late this week. For me, he's a real buy low candidate ... Jonathan Lucroy is out for a month with a fractured hand. The Brewers are waiting for luck to balance after a run of traumatic injuries ... Brandon McCarthy is on track for a weekend return. Luckily, his shoulder injury has not kept him from tweeting ... Not sure why everyone's surprised Mark Teixeira is heating up. He does this every year, though the respiratory issue might have delayed things a bit ... Trevor Bauer got a big test, going against Manny Ramirez and Yoenis Cespedes on Monday. Cespedes is close to coming back from a hand injury, but scouts like to see top pitchers take on top hitters. According to one scout there, Bauer was "good not great. He dominated the guys he should have" ... Jack Hannahan hits the DL with a calf strain, opening up the 3B slot for Lonnie Chisenhall ... Justin Turner left Monday's game in agony after spraining his ankle. There were worries he had broken the ankle, but as the next note will remind you, sometimes a fracture is not "worse" ... Stephen Drew had a significant setback with his ankle and will take some time off. A rehab assignment is at least a couple weeks off ... Desmond Jennings will need a rehab assignment, so he's at least a week away, if not more ... Cameron Maybin is dealing with a sore wrist. It's not thought to be serious, but it is lingering ... Somebody give me one reason that this shouldn't happen. OK, one good reason.
NBA playoff preview: Portland Trail Blazers vs. Houston Rockets
NBA playoff preview: Charlotte Bobcats vs. Miami Heat