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Under The Knife: Mauer's surprise trip to the DL offers few answers

The Twins shocked their fans on Thursday by placing Mauer on the DL with what they termed "bilateral leg weakness," which is a description that tells us something without telling us anything. What's more informative is that Mauer's first step after going on the DL will be to head back to Baltimore to see the same doctor that helped him through his SI joint problems back in 2009. (That's sacroiliac, not Sports Illustrated) While the doctor has never been publicly identified, many think that it's Dr. Steven Cohen, one of the top researchers in the field who focuses on both the SI joint and new technologies for treating pain.

It's reasonable to think that Mauer is having something similar to the issues that plagued him before. Since he's played pretty darn well since coming back from that, it's something of a positive. Mauer was placed on medication at that point and began doing more work to keep his back and hips flexible. There was a lot of speculation at the time about what the medication was, with some reports speculating that Mauer would need a TUE (therapeutic use exemption, a drug waiver) at that point. While all of the speculation offers few hard answers, it's clear just how risky a player like Joe Mauer is. Despite this, the Twins signed him to a big-dollar deal, so we have to assume they knew the risks and felt comfortable with them. In the short term, Mauer will be out until the root cause can be dealt with, rather than just the symptoms. Using '09's situation as a base, I think 30 days is a safe length of time to estimate, though I'm going to hold off on the ERD as we don't yet know that this is a similar situation. I can't tell Twins fans to exhale just yet.

This is the part of the season where sleepers need to wake up and do something. Dan Wade has one favorite early this season, Arizona's Miguel Montero. I'll let him fill in the details:

"One of the darlings of the 2010 offseason was Arizona catcher Miguel Montero, who was touted as a late-round sleeper option behind established stars like Joe Mauer and Brian McCann. His breakout campaign lasted just four games as Montero tore his meniscus on April 11 and underwent surgery four days later to repair the damage. Montero was out until June 12, and while he posted a respectable .256/.324/.432 line, the hype that had boosted his draft stock had all but dried up.

"His torn meniscus a thing of the past, Montero's ADP was a respectable 125 in 2011, according to MockDraftCentral.com, and is owned in 85 percent of leagues. He's finally getting a chance to capitalize on the hype he had over a year ago, posting the third highest OPS in baseball on the back of a .444/.512/.750 line. Is that likely to decease? I feel pretty confident in saying yes, that Montero will regress at least a little bit. Working in Montero's favor, though, is the fact that he plays in a hitter-friendly park -- to say nothing of division trips to Denver -- which will help aid his power output.

"Montero is a second-division starter at this point, but with traditional stalwarts Mauer and Jorge Posada off to particularly wretched starts, he may not be a bad option -- either as an insurance policy for a more highly regarded player or as a replacement for out and out draft mistake."

I agree. Montero's injury is in the past and he's a solid pickup. I'll talk more about Montero and others on Friday in my video chat, so join me at 2 p.m. ET. You can send in questions ahead of time with the e-mail link above this article, on my Facebook page, or via Twitter. Powered by Allison Krauss' new album in the background, on to the rest of the injuries:

I'm still dumbfounded that players -- even smart, high-dollar players like Howard -- don't wear more protective gear. I'm not talking about controversial armor of the type Craig Biggio or Barry Bonds used to wear, but more like padding or hard plastic on gloves, better batting helmets, and some protection for the pitchers. I won't soap box here, but a penny-cost piece of plastic might have helped Howard come away from a HBP without an injury and pain. Howard had precautionary X-rays, which came back negative. Howard has been carrying the Phillies offense so far, so we'll have to see if this is anything more than an annoyance for him over the next few days. It bears watching that Howard is simply not walking, continuing a pattern that's trending against him since '07.

Forget jogging. Utley went straight to running on Thursday, the first visible step in his return to the Phillies lineup. Lots has gone on behind the scenes, but even my best Phillies sources are in the dark as to the specifics. Utley's return continues to have no timetable, and Friday morning is actually more important than Thursday's running, since his response to the running is what really counts here. If Utley doesn't have significant pain or swelling, we'll likely see him amp up the running, shift to the bases and then to full hitting. Those milestones that the Phillies are looking for should be visible enough, and I still think he'll be back well before the All Star break.

Things went very well for Peavy during his Wednesday rehab start, going 72 pitches in his six innings of work, then finishing things up in the pen to hit his goal of 85 pitches. As important, he had no issues the next day with his shoulder, either the tendonitis or at the point where his lat was re-attached. He was sharp and used all of his pitches, which leaves him looking only for stamina. He'll make one more start in Birmingham and if he can push closer to 100, he'll be back with the Sox for his next start. The reports were so uniformly positive that I think he'll come back after that next start. If he's on the waiver wire, now's the time to grab him.

The Reds made it to the playoffs last year based on an MVP season from Joey Votto, solid work from his supporting cast and a relatively healthy team that didn't lose much when one of it's players went down. Some credited new head trainer Paul Lessard while others said it was luck. The truth is usually in between, and the Reds' medical staff has always been a bit underrated given it's results have been weighed down for the last decade with broken players like Ken Griffey Jr. The Reds have to hope the same happens this year, though they've started the season with several players already hurting. Two more were added to the list when both Phillips and Bruce came down with minor groin strains. The Reds tried to make Bruce's look like a day off, but the news leaked out, as it always does. Both players should be back by the weekend, though both will be watched closely are are likely to be held back from running.

I've complained several times about the usage of Chapman, wondering why he wasn't used more. Maybe the Reds knew something, since they and several others are worried at the drop in velocity seen over his last few outings. The question is whether or not he doesn't recover well or whether there's an injury. The quotes from Ramon Hernandez are pretty damning on their face, but remember that Chapman has been a reliever for less than a year. We not only don't know how he recovers as a reliever, we barely know anything about him on a physical level, so we have to wonder what the Reds know. The Reds did send him to see Dr. Tim Kremchek, who diagnosed some shoulder inflammation, but that's pretty minor. Expect the Reds to be very conservative with him over the next few weeks and maybe beyond. It could just be that Chapman will be the key point of evidence in the idea that there's an upper limit for what the human body can withstand in terms of force.

You have to be suspicious anytime Young -- or any of the Mets -- come up with something wrong with their pitching arm. Young's missed the better part of two seasons before returning to Phi Beta Pitcha, the Mets' brainy rotation. It's good news in a way, that it's nothing more than transient tendonitis rather than something more serious. Terry Collins will juggle his rotation to give Young a bit more time, a smart move. Young's Thursday pen session gives hope that this is just a bit more than normal soreness. Young's unlikely to go deep into the season, so seeing him make it to 125 innings would really be victory for the Mets' gamble on him, more so if they were effective innings.

With all the drama surrounding the Yankees signing of Feliciano and charges that he was overused during his time with the Mets, it has to be more than a coincidence that Feliciano has come down with precisely the type of injury that put Mets ace Johan Santana on the surgeon's table. Feliciano will head to see James Andrews before a final determination is made on surgery, but that looks likely given the torn capsule. One does have to wonder -- out loud if you're Brian Cashman -- whether the Mets are doing something mechanically that's causing this sort of issue. The one fact that sticks out to me is that the Yankees did clear Feliciano to be signed and one would hope that the physical took a long, serious look at the arm. If Feliciano does have surgery, he's done for this season but could return in the spring of '12.

The Cubs have been playing a man down this week as Fukodome makes slow progress with the hamstring he strained on Sunday. The team had expected him back at mid-week, but things have lingered and there's some discussion of the DL. Mike Quade is hopeful that he won't need to do that, but a decision will be made by the weekend. The Cubs don't seem to have been at any sort of disadvantage playing a man down, but they are a team with a lot of moving parts. That makes figuring out one part difficult, but it does appear Quade has a lot of influence on these decisions at this stage.

Thanks, Jacob ... Reaction to Josh Johnson's new curveball? "I hope he doesn't throw that too many more times," said Chipper Jones. I wonder if any other pitchers are throwing new pitches this season. I know none of them have flirted with no-hitters twice ... Chone Figgins was back in the lineup for the Mariners on Thursday. (No, I'm not sure how he got switched back to the Angels in Wednesday's column) ... Grady Sizemore has shifted his rehab a bit south, to AAA Columbus. He'll spend a week to 10 days there before returning to Cleveland. My bet is that he's on the low side of that ...Brandon Morrow will make what should be his final rehab start on Sunday. That puts him back in the Jays rotation next weekend ... Justin Duchscherer isn't going to be back any time soon as he continues to need injections in his back/hip. The O's have enough pitching to get by, with Duchscherer one of those gambles that can pay off for a team like the O's, and at worst, not set them back much ... Brian Tallet broke a bone in his wrist on a fluky tag play on Wednesday. He'll need a pin in there, but it's not his pitching hand, so it's unclear when he could be back. It wouldn't stun me to see it be a minimum stay on the DL ... I'm a cancer survivor and lost my mother to cancer a few years back. So when I found out this baseball seminar in Boston was going to raise money for The Jimmy Fund, how could I say no to letting you know about it. If you're in the area, go. If you're not, whether it's The Jimmy Fund or some othercharity of your choice, give your money and your time as available. It's important.

Follow Will Carroll on Twitter (@injuryexpert). He is a member of the BBWAA and PFWA.

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