Will Carroll
Wednesday May 18th, 2011

With new ownership in Houston, there's going to be a lot of speculation about their front office. Drayton McLane and Ed Wade haven't left a lot on the table for Jim Crane and his partners, which is much the same way the current management of the Houston Rockets found the team when they got there.

George Postolos, a former team president with the Houston Rockets, is taking over as president of the team. His role in bringing the analytics-driven Daryl Morey in to be the Rockets GM is leading many to think the team will follow a similar path. Early speculation is focused on Houston native Andrew Friedman, GM of the Rays, but even as a hometown guy who grew up rooting for the team, Friedman's connection to Rays owner Stu Sternberg would be difficult to replicate. Freidman's assistant, Gerry Hunsicker, a former Astros GM, will see his name mentioned as well, though Hunsicker has declined to interview for several available positions, leading most to think he's comfortable in his current role. Outside of those two, the Rays office doesn't have a ready candidate, according to several I spoke with. "It's full of great young minds, but I'm not sure any is ready to make the leap yet," one NL exec told me on Tuesday. Names you are likely to hear are a trio of assistant GMs -- Jason McLeod (Padres), Thad Levine (Rangers), and Tony LaCava (Blue Jays) -- as well as one internal option in Bobby Heck, who's done a solid job since coming into the organization as scouting director.

From a fantasy perspective, ownership and front offices seldom factor into decisions we make, but remember that they're the ones finding, developing and organizing the players that we'll draft. Knowing their biases and strengths are important to understanding what those players will do. As Friedman once said at an event we did together in Tampa, "Give me all the information and I'll decide what to do with it." You should do the same as a fantasy player.

Powered by a flat-out amazing SI cover, on to the injuries:

It's a bit confusing to hear things like "broken back" and not hear "out months." It's equally confusing to hear "stress fracture" and then hear about event where Wright knew he hurt himself. These aren't normal, but it is understandable once a more complete picture of what's going on with Wright comes into focus.

First, let's clear up what Wright's injury is. While "stress fracture of the vertebrae" is technically correct, the actual term for the injury is spondylolysis. A stress fracture occurs due to repeated stress or hyperextension (bending back) and occurs in the pars. If the spine shifts due to instability, it causes a condition called spondylolisthesis. (Don't try to say these at home. I'm a professional.) I won't bore you with detailed descriptions, but this is a serious injury that is both painful and debilitating, often creating a need for surgical intervention.

What Wright has is a stress fracture, but not a disunion. Images are likely showing a weakness, but not a displacement, and according to doctors I've spoken with, are also likely showing a healing response. That would show that Wright isn't hurting himself more by playing, but that he's slowing the complete healing. Ten days of rest will give them a chance to make an A/B comparison without the stresses of baseball. The Mets didn't miss this. Instead, Wright never described symptoms that would lead them to take the images up to this point. Assuming the information we have holds, Wright should be back in the short term, and while risky, he should be able to perform at the level he has over the last month, if not improve physically. I'm setting the ERD at just past the 15-day minimum, but it's fluid.

Lackey hits the DL with a strained right elbow, after a strange sequence of events that Peter Abraham details. The key, at least in regards to my beat, is that the Sox are calling this a strain, which is a tearing of muscle or tendons, rather than the more common sprain, which involves ligaments. While flexor tendon strains are common in pitchers, the "tugging" that Terry Francona describes doesn't exactly match up with what we'd expect. Then again, Francona is the manager and not the trainer, so something could get lost in translation. Lackey is obviously having some mechanical issue, and in working with the pitching coach, has made some alterations. In the short term, that can actually cause more problems even when it will help in the longer term. Pitchers arms are tender things. An elbow injury could certainly explain Lackey's poor control recently, so we'll have to wait and watch, but this one doesn't seem like it will be a quick DL trip. While surgery is not in the offing, according to sources, it's more likely to be a month off for Lackey.

Reading tea leaves is a tough gig. Sometimes we see things that are meaningful and put them in context while other pieces of information float in and serve only to confuse. I'm not sure what we have with Colby Rasmus and his ongoing abdominal issue. The problem starts with what to call it. Rasmus is saying that the issue isn't structural, which might or might not rule out a hernia, depending on which doctor you speak with. "Structural" is one of those words that sounds important and specific, but isn't when it comes to sports medicine. Rasmus' history with hernias points us this way, but there's more here. Rasmus had an ultrasound test, which would likely be used for detecting a hernia. It's a cheaper test than an MRI, which he reportedly has had, though I couldn't confirm this, and as accurate for this type of diagnosis. Complicating matters is that Rasmus saw an internist who specializes in intestinal disorders like Crohn's disease. It doesn't appear that this is related; the doctor does other medicine outside that sub-specialty and is associated with the hospital that the Cards use, so it's just one of those 'tea leaves' that show up. Rasmus has been cleared to play, but the strain -- the most likely diagnosis -- does have a bit of recurrence risk.

The hardest part of any rehab is getting back to 100 percent, and success up to that point is often illusory. Even when a pitcher can make it through a "full go" side session, he doesn't have a crowd, a competitive batter, or the adrenaline that truly replicates the situation that led to the problem in the first place. Time and again, we'll see pitchers make good progress, only to run into a wall once they get up on a mound. Brandon Webb's three-year recovery is famous for this type of plateau. This time, it didn't even get to that stage. Cashner had a "full setback", re-injuring the shoulder and putting him back at Step 1 of the rehab. He'll be shut down for "several" weeks, according to most reports, while some more pessimistic observers are saying that for all intents, Cashner is done for the season. With Cashner headed back for more tests, the Cubs will bring him back slowly, but have all but taken him out of their pitching plans. I'm not that pessimistic, setting the ERD around the ASB. The Cubs are going to have to re-assess their decision on making Cashner a starter at some point in this process as well.

The Phillies saw Utley play back-to-back games on Sunday and Monday, but elected to hold off activating him. "He needs more at-bats," said GM Ruben Amaro and given the way Utley has played, we have to take him at his word. Utley is 5-for-18 so far at A-ball, but sources tell me the 5:1 K rate is the issue that they're more concerned about. "If he's not recognizing A-ball pitches, what's a major leaguer going to do besides serve him up a bunch of breaking balls?" It's a valid concern but it's a bit more surprising that he's staying at Clearwater. "He's comfortable there," I was told. There's no magic number for Utley here. It's all going to be about getting good swings and showing that he's ready. While it might look like he's rehabbing the knees, he's really just maintaining them while having his own version of spring training in Florida.

The general rule is that velocity = shoulder and that control = elbow. It's a general rule, not a law. When it comes to Chapman, he breaks all the rules anyway. Generalizing about an outlier is impossible, even stupid, and 105 mph is an outlier. (I'm curious how much of an outlier it is. With Michael Pineda having the highest average velocity thus far at 96, I'd think Chapman's would have to be a standard deviation out, but there seem to be a lot of guys in the mid and high 90s, including some middle relievers that are relatively anonymous -- and hittable.) Chapman's control has vanished since returning from his first bout of inflammation, leading me to wonder about his elbow. The Reds are going to have to figure out something quick, because this isn't working. The fact that he can't warm up quickly enough to be a normal middle reliever leaves the team caught between returning him to a starting role, a place where the Reds have real depth, or trying to create a role. While I call this the "Mike Marshall '74" role, it's not an everyday thing. Essentially, Chapman would need to be used every third day for two innings, though he could go one or three if the situation called for it, or not used at all if the starter was rolling. There's no guarantee it would work, but we know this pattern, this role, doesn't.

The Indians elected not to take any chances with Sizemore, placing him on the DL due to his bruised knee. It's the opposite knee, which made many wonder if he was going to need microfracture on that knee. That's a big jump. The worry here was really that even a slight limp or change in how he runs could cause problems for the repaired left knee. It goes back to that unknown factor that Sizemore will always have. Could a small change set back a year's worth of work and positive results? The Indians are smart to not find out right now. He shouldn't be on the DL any more than the minimum.

Mauer is headed to Fort Myers to work with the Twins rehab staff. The Twins continue to insist that he is coming back only when he's able to take on the full-time catching duties, but at this stage, I'm not sure that makes sense at all. While I've long been an advocate of him catching less gradually, I've also realized that the Twins (and Mauer) have fought this. Assuming that Mauer isn't back before June 1 and the team continues to slide, wouldn't this be the perfect time to experiment?

There's already some discussion about the Twins becoming early sellers of some players, though that seems against the general model of the Twins. Then again, so does a $100 million payroll, so anything can happen.

The Twins have to think long term, due to that contract and the decreasing likelihood that they could trade him. (Not that they would, or should, but $20 million DHs aren't a big market.) The problem, I think, is that there's never been someone like this. The ideal role would be a split C/DH, but breaking new ground -- well, that's definitely not in Minnesota's DNA. They look at Mauer and see Mike Piazza, Carlton Fisk or Shanty Hogan. (Who? I don't know. Baseball-Reference.com thinks that's Mauer's most similar player, oddly.) Maybe Bill Smith can't squint and see Yogi Berra or Joe Torre, but right now, he also can't see Mauer on Target Field.

The Yankees are dealing with a lot of stuff. If we hear that someone's eyelids are stuck or that they're getting a live rooster, I wouldn't be surprised. Soriano is heading to the DL and out for a second opinion on his elbow. There's been no discussion of the actual problem, but a visit to the Yanks team doctor didn't shake loose whatever's going on. The initial MRI showed no "structural" damage (see above), but there's still an issue. There's been quite a bit of speculation regarding Soriano, who's at the tail end of the Tommy John "honeymoon" period. If the ligament and tendons aren't the problem, the symptoms match up with bone spurs, which could be easily fixed.

Sources tell me that Chipper Jones is hoping that a cortisone injection and Synvisc will get him close to the ASB. He'd then use the time off to minimize time lost to minor surgery ... Jason Heyward was back in the lineup for the Braves. Looks like they have his shoulder impingement under control ... Shane Victorino will have an MRI on his hamstring and the DL is likely ... Adam Lind still wasn't ready to go and was placed on the DL with a strained back ... Jordan Zimmermann was skipped in the rotation, but he's not hurt. This is evidently part of a plan to limit his innings by the occasional skip ... Nelson Cruz played two games at DH. Now he'll play two games in the field for AA Frisco. If that goes well, he'll drive across town to Arlington for the weekend ... The Padres are trying to figure out how to deal with Cameron Maybin's knee tendinitis. A speed player with a potentially chronic knee injury is a bad thing ... Derrek Lee is out of the O's lineup with an oblique strain and is likely heading to the DL. That will shift the O's outfield again as Luke Scott moves to 1B ... Good and bad for the Sox Japanese contingent. Daisuke Matsuzaka goes on the DL while Junichi Tazawa is making progress in his return from Tommy John ... Mark Teahen is back on the DL with a strained oblique. When you talk about Royals prospects, is Teahen a success or failure? ... One word for next week: contest.

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