Will Carroll
Friday May 6th, 2011

I've been craving Cooper's BBQ for a while. If you've never been to the Texas landmark, you don't know what you're missing. For me, it's the best BBQ anywhere, though tastes differ. Some swear by Kreuz or Snow's or Salt Lick, and those are just the Texas contenders. Interstate, Dreamland and Bryant's are all going to get mentions, among hundreds of others. While at it's heart, they're all pretty much the same, it's the slight differences that make all the difference. In BBQ, it's the meat, the smoker, the sauce or hundreds of other little secrets. It's the same in sports medicine, as every trainer and doctor have their own methods, biases and timelines. In taking any injury or injury situation, there are a lot of things in play besides just the injury itself. A sprained ankle is not just a sprained ankle, and like fine BBQ, there are going to be subtle and not-so-subtle differences. Unless you understand all of them, the information is going to be slightly off at best and often completely off. Over the years I've been doing this, I've learned that it's more than just knowing the recipe, but also knowing (and talking to) the cooks. Anything else just isn't going to taste right.

Powered by the best Indy BBQ, on to the injuries:

The Dodgers sent Broxton to have some imaging done on his elbow after his latest performance. With a 10:9 K/BB ratio way down from his historical levels, the lack of control can often point to a proprioception issue. Proprioception is the body's ability to locate itself in space. You can close your eyes and still know where your arms are at if you move them because of proprioception. When this is broken, there's some sort of neuromuscular issue, often a breakdown in the way a joint is functioning due to an instability. Since a 1/8 inch change in release point can cause an 8-inch change in location at the plate, this is a huge issue for a pitcher. Some, including myself, have speculated that a loss of proprioception can be a predictor for more serious elbow injuries. the first indication of that came Friday, when the Dodgers DLed Broxton with a bone spur.

There are a lot of changes coming to the Astros in the next few months, from a new owner on down. Unfortunately, the first change will be at closer, with Lyon heading to the DL with what could be a very significant shoulder injury. Lyon has biceps tendinitis and a partial tear of his rotator cuff, an odd combination according to a couple doctors I spoke with. The cuff is the most problematic, as it functions as the "brakes" for the shoulder and dissipates much of the energy in the pitching motion. Word from Houston is that Lyon's labrum is "clean", but cuff plus labrum is a much tougher situation than one or the other. There's no solid timeframe yet on Lyon's return, but this one is likely to be a month or more, making Mark Melancon a solid pickup.

There's some progress to report on the Mauer front, but there's also some new information that's a bit confusing at this stage. Mauer took some swings in the batting cage on Wednesday, then went out and threw a bit, in what amounted to a long toss session. The latter was to test his overall fatigue level and see if his leg and back issues were causing soreness after activity. Early reports are that Mauer made it through the session "OK" but that there was some greater than expected soreness afterwards. The Friday morning soreness will be more key, but the location -- the back -- is problematic and points toward Mauer's version of events. Mauer will continue to progress toward a rehab assignment, with the outward signs to watch for being more varied workouts, more baseball activities and day-after-day progressions. Behind the scenes, I'll be watching for how serious the recurrence of back problems really is. Mauer is at least a week away from a rehab assignment, putting his return date toward the end of the month rather than the middle. The key to the date might be whether Mauer is willing to return as a DH rather than only catching.

The .872 OPS might disguise it if you're not watching closely, but Stanton still isn't right. He admitted as much this week, telling the press that his legs were "not under him 100 percent," which sounds very similar to the guy we just talked about. Stanton seems to be coming around, as his power has jumped up. It's hard to tell whether Stanton's power streak is just that -- a streak -- or whether it's a sign that his legs are finally close to being right. The Marlins will have to watch him closely, since chronic leg issues could sap the power that makes him special. For Twins fans, his path back to "being himself" is a nice comp, though Stanton doesn't have to squat like Mauer does.

"Pride of the Yankees" is more than a movie for the team in The Bronx. It's a strategy that the team had in re-signing Jeter. The literal face of the franchise in this era, Jeter has struggled to start of the season, but many expect that if he can't play at his expected level, then he'd step aside, telling Joe Girardi to put someone in his slot. It's unclear whether that would be at shortstop or the top of the lineup first, or both, but like Cal Ripken and Joe DiMaggio before him, it's going to take the player stepping aside. Jeter's most recent physical issue is a minor hip flexor strain, but won't keep him off the field long -- for now. If that situation gets straightened out, Yankees fans might notice that Jorge Posada is playing pretty poorly as well.

A year ago, ranking Bautista just below Jeter would have been worth a chuckle. Bautista was just another guy who was off the fantasy radar. But by the end of last season, Bautista had finished an all-time-great fantasy season. His swing change appears to be something that's sticking, with pitchers not finding a way around Bautista despite plenty of chances. Bautista has been sidetracked a bit by a strained neck, which the Jays think is nothing serious. There's a chance of some sort of nerve impingement or spinal involvement, but in most cases, this is relatively transient. The Jays think Bautista will be back this weekend, but it bears watching even if he comes back.

There's a lot to strain with Niemann. The 6-foot-9 pitcher has long levers, including his arms and back, which can put more strain than on a normal pitcher. Of course, his body has adjusted to that as well; it's not like he got tall yesterday. Niemann's back strain could happen to anyone and isn't more serious than it would have been with someone else. Niemann will head to the DL, just to make sure, a move helped by a schedule that won't call for a fifth starter for the next 10 days. The Rays are likely to call up a hitter (but not Desmond Jennings, just yet) and then replace him with a starter when needed. This shouldn't be a long-term concern for Niemann or the Rays, who have started taking inquiries on a couple of their starters in anticipation of a very hot trade market.

Romero made it through a flat ground session on Thursday, but manager John Farrell is very tentative about giving his ace the ball on Saturday. There's going to be a lot of discussion before Romero goes out there, and if Farrell feels like Romero is at risk for any kind of setback, he'll wait and let the oblique heal up. If you're counting on Romero taking the hill, you might want to look for Plan B. Right now, it's a coin flip as to whether Romero gets the start at all, and it's possible that he could be pulled quickly or on a pitch limit even if he does get the ball.

The Sox played a bit of a shell game with their bullpen, putting Jenks and Wheeler on the DL, replacing them with Rich Hill and Scott Atchison. Hill's an interesting story in his own right, recovering from shoulder problems as a result of a huge jump in innings back in 2007. ('07 was Lou Piniella's first year, so we can't blame this one on Dusty Baker!)

Jenks has a strained biceps (elbow side), while Wheeler's problem is with his calf, causing problems with his push and mechanics. Neither is considered serious, but the moves give the bullpen some fresh arms while Curt Young and the medical staff work to get Jenks and Wheeler back to effectiveness. While neither injury is considered serious, their returns will be based as much on what they're able to do, which could include a rehab assignment, as their health.

I'm ignoring Phil Hughes today for two reasons -- first, there's no new information besides the "speculative" cortisone shot he had, and second, the best case scenario now is that he comes back around the All-Star break ... Chase Utley will start playing in XST over the weekend ... Jake Peavy is getting close. His rehab was reset after a setback, so he could stay on, but it looks like he'll start for the slumping White Sox next week. His velocity remains problematic ... Nelson Cruz is still day to day with his quad strain, but is expected back this weekend ... Remember what I said about proprioception and control issues earlier? Aroldis Chapman is having control issues suddenly ... Tony Plush -- I mean, Nyjer Morgan broke his finger on a bunt and will miss a couple of weeks ... Carlos Guillen's rehab has hit a plateau and there's some question whether he can make it back at all now, let alone soon ... Victor Rojas is awesome ... Eric Chavez broke a bone in his foot when he fouled a ball off it. He's out a month ... Aaron Hill started a rehab assignment. If his hamstring doesn't show any issues, he could be back by the start of next week ... Luke Scott has been playing through some shoulder problems, but an MRI and likely DL stint is nicely timed to take him out of the public eye for a bit ... Miguel Cairo's knee is still keeping him out, forcing Dusty Baker to shuffle his lineup and hope that Juan Francisco can hurry back ... Next week, we're going to have the first contest of the year. Stay tuned.

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