Will Carroll
Wednesday April 13th, 2011

Innovative measures abound thus far in the early season. The Boston Globe spent their whole season preview talking about injuries and what the Red Sox are trying to do to reduce their incidence rates. Baseball analyst Eric Seidman talked about the use of PitchFX in pinpointing injuries. Now, we have Tom Verducci introducing us to Trackman, which is a Doppler radar system that picks up all sorts of things as the ball is pitched . Verducci focused on release point and perceived velocity, but there's more that goes into that, including eye level.

My hope is that the use of Trackman and all the other technology in baseball makes the game better. Like biomechanical analysis, these technologies have to be used to make any difference. Some teams toy with things, make small changes, but few buy in. We've had biomechanical analysis in baseball for over a decade, but only a of couple teams have committed to it. When they get an advantage, teams will rush to catch up. There are tiny advantages all over baseball, waiting to be found, but the cheapest and most effective ones available are in the sports medicine arena. It's still a very slow pace of change, even when the costs and barriers are low. Can you believe no team is even discussing having players wear something like this in order to measure fatigue? Baseball needs to hurry up, because I'm sick and tired of getting e-mails like this: " ... just read your article, dated March 9, 2011, regarding Tommy John surgery while I was researching the topic because my 12-year-old son was just diagnosed with a partial tear of his ulnar collateral ligament in his pitching elbow."

Powered by hope and technology, on to the injuries:

I hate holding up anyone as a paragon of virtue in sports, because you never know when they'll go all Brett Favre on you. However, I think it's relatively safe to point to J.D. Drew as the polar opposite of Hamilton in ways. Drew is a bible-reading guy who married his high school sweetheart, avoiding all the temptations that have been so hard on Hamilton. However, Drew has been tagged as "injury prone" throughout his career, the same way that Hamilton has. Drew's actually been relatively healthy over the last half of his career, but it's very hard to shake that tag. Saying that Hamilton's injuries trace back to his off-field issues is impossible and likely wrong-headed. The fact is, Hamilton's injury was purely random, pure trauma, and likely could have happened to anyone. The quirky play is one of those things in baseball that we'll likely never be able to completely eliminate. Hamilton's fracture will cost him between six and eight weeks. I think it will be more on the low end due to the location and the size, so look for him to begin taking batting practice. Between this and the Evan Longoria injury, I might get to cash in that Fantasy Insurance policy of mine.

Furcal is on the DL again. I'm loathe to call this Ironman Syndrome -- the rapid decline of a long-healthy player -- mostly because Furcal has had injury problems through out his career. I think we can clearly say that this is an injury-fueled decline. Furcal fractured his thumb sliding into third, so if you want to be glass-half-full, his legs are fine. There's also no connection to the sore wrist that Furcal had missed a couple games with. This is a simple fracture that won't require anything more than a brace and some time to heal. Furcal will need to have the thumb fully healthy, since he is a player that relies on bat control. That loss of bat control can linger after a thumb injury the same way that a loss of power follows a wrist problem. Furcal is likely to miss a month, but you'll want to see him getting hits before putting him back in your lineup.

Context counts. Zimmerman's abdominal strain is no worse than originally thought, a Grade II that's low and relatively central, but the Nats are not really playing for this year. Yes, they would like to contend and .500 is a real goal that they'd never articulate, but with a player like Zimmerman, they're not going to take any chances whatsoever. Zimmerman's going to be out three weeks or maybe more. The Nats know that Zimmerman said he was fine, even when he wasn't, and that playing through the injury through the first week of the season contributed to the situation. Expect them to be even more conservative with a return. It might keep him out long enough that he would need a short rehab assignment before returning, maybe to check in with Bryce Harper.

That Helton is 37 shouldn't surprise me as much as it does. He's been around a long time and he's put up huge numbers, but mostly, it's his ever-present connection to Peyton Manning, Helton's football teammate. Manning, who's chasing the record for most consecutive starts, is just younger than Helton, but has likely started to think about what's next for him as few quarterbacks play this deep into their careers. Helton might not have made as much money in baseball as Manning did in the NFL, but given his injury history, I don't think Helton could have lasted long taking hits. Helton returned to the Rockies' lineup after missing four games with back issues. It's something he's likely to deal with off and on however long his career has left. I'm watching his power to see how long his career will have fantasy value.

Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski "gets" injury risk. When the Tigers signed Ordonez, he was coming off a unique ultrasound procedure on his knee (not microfracture, as has been reported incorrectly) and the results have been pretty solid. Some of the credit goes to the Tigers' medical staff, who kept Ordonez out there despite the knee's chronic issues and the ravages of time and wear. His latest issue is an intriguing story that speaks well of the Tigers' staff again. What was originally thought to be an Achilles issue turned out to be bursitis in the back of his ankle. It should respond to treatment over the next few days and have him back in the lineup by the weekend. The Tigers can be conservative with Ordonez, so a couple extra days wouldn't be a big deal if needed.

Sometimes signings don't work. The signing of Figgins in Seattle hasn't worked on any level, but it looks to be getting worse. His thumb injury isn't helping him get out of this slump that's started his season off so badly. Forget the Punto Slash, Figgins is OPSing only .484 and while barely more than a week is a small sample size, it's not a very good trendline. Figgins will miss a game or two as his bruised thumb heals up, while the Mariners hope that his psyche takes a deep breath as well.

The Nats had hoped that the slight groin strain that LaRoche suffered this weekend would be better by Tuesday, given the off day on Monday. It didn't happen, so the team went with Matt Stairs at 1B. That doesn't show the best planning, given that LaRoche also has a labrum issue in his shoulder and is, you know, Adam LaRoche. Mike Morse is out with flu and he's the normal backup, so this is one of those injury stacks that can't be predicted, but you have an injury-prone guy who hasn't been league average as your starter, a guy who's been in the minors and twice suspended for steroids as the backup, and a DH behind them. (Morse did come in at 1B on Tuesday as a "defensive replacement.") Chris Marrero has to be wondering why he's in Syracuse. LaRoche should be back Wednesday.

While I praised the Tigers' medical staff above with Ordonez, one of the reasons that the Tigers haven't been higher in the medical staff rankings I do is because of Zumaya. I'm not sure that any medical staff could have held together Zumaya, and I certainly don't feel like the staff is to "blame" for Zumaya's struggles. With Zumaya, Stephen Strasburg and others, the question is one of force -- can a human body hold together when this much force is coming through the pitching arm? The Reds sure hope so or Aroldis Chapman is heading this way ... but then again, the same could be said of Justin Verlander, a pitcher that the Tigers' staff has kept very healthy during his stint with the team. Zumaya is having nerve impingement inside his elbow, something that could require more surgery. He is still just 26, still throws very hard when he's healthy, and will continue getting chances until he doesn't. There's no way to put an ERD on this one, but I don't think he'll be back anytime soon.

My tombstone will read "A strain is a tear!" Once again, some baseball scribes aren't getting that as I read on Tuesday that Torres doesn't have an Achilles tear, just a strain. What Torres doesn't have is a rupture, a complete tear of a muscle or tendon. An incomplete tear is a Grade I or II strain. Those aren't good, but are much better than a rupture. Torres' Achilles is a Grade I, a scare, and something that will have to be monitored in a speed player, but not something that will even put him on the DL. If you drafted Torres for steals, watch to see how he runs in his first few games back before you put him back in your lineup.

The Red Sox got Ranaudo in last year's draft, largely because the pitcher many thought would go just behind Bryce Harper had some injury concerns. He missed time in 2010 while at LSU due to elbow concerns and several teams "red flagged" him during drafts, including at least one team that had a doctor who would not clear him to be drafted. The Sox, one of the few teams with a progressive approach to sports medicine, were able to assess the situation and grabbed him. (It didn't hurt that they could afford him as well.) Ranaudo made his A-ball debut and showed no issues. He did show a dominating mid-90s fastball that will have him near the top of prospect lists. The lack of a draft combine or physical process probably cost Ranaudo money and certainly had him slide, but sliding to a club like the Sox isn't a bad thing. The important thing to remember is that Ranaudo, like most young pitchers, is inherently risky. That doesn't change because he had one good day or one good season. It's just something that has to be known and managed appropriately. The Red Sox think they can do that, keeping him out of this column in the future.

Adam Dunn is back in just over a week after his appendectomy, wiping out Matt Holliday's record. Both appear to be fine in all formats ... Hanley Ramirez is back in the lineup after the deep contusion cleared up. He'll be fine going forward ... Grady Sizemore played back to back games on Monday and Tuesday at AA Akron. I expect him back in Cleveland in about a week. Nice article from the Times, though it doesn't go anywhere we didn't gone here two weeks ago. I do like the artwork ... Jorge De La Rosa had no issues with his blister during his throw day, but don't be surprised if he has another short outing Wednesday ... The story is that Pedro Feliciano will have an MRI on Wednesday because Joe Girardi required it. I'm guessing there's more to this ... Homer Bailey threw about 40 pitches in XST. He's on track for a rehab start early next week ... Jason Bartlett is expected back later this week after missing several games due to back spasms. That's not a good sign at all for a player that relies on athleticism ... If you're not already listening to SI Inside Fantasy but you're interested in medicine, here's a tip: Dr. Matthew Lublin is part of this week's podcast, explaining how players like Dunn and Holliday can come back from an appendectomy so quickly. Subscribe now at iTunes.

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