Under The Knife: Hanson's DL stint clouds Braves playoff push
Football season started on Saturday, but really kicked in on Sunday. Not the NFL -- which I, of course, cover here at SI -- but the English Premier League. Riots only cost the league one game, but all of the favorites in 2011-12 kicked off save for Manchester City, who goes on Monday. My interest in English soccer (and Spanish) has grown by leaps and bounds over the last five years because I had good teachers and because I realized that injuries are injuries. A dislocated shoulder like the one suffered by Rafael da Silva would be the same injury that Matthew Stafford or Dustin Moseley had in a physical sense. It's only the context that changes. The more we can all learn about injuries, across sports, the better off we'll all be. Powered by Peet's Kenya Auction Lot, on to the injuries:
The Braves looked at Hanson's shoulder over this weekend and then at their depth chart. Those two factors added up to a DL stint for Hanson after a cortisone shot didn't clear up the pain and swelling he's getting in his shoulder. The team is worried that the impingement is something that could develop into a bigger issue, so they're going to take the next couple weeks to work on a longer-term fix. The downside here is that the mechanical changes that might be necessary are going to need more time than just a couple weeks, especially in the midst of a playoff push. The Braves have enough of a cushion that they can work on things, but this is going to be something to watch out for in the longer term for one of the best young pitchers in the game. The Braves do get Brian McCann back in Hanson's roster spot, with Randall Delgado taking the starts Hanson will miss.
The Yankees aren't in a rush to get Rodriguez back, knowing that his long-term health is more important (and valuable) than a week or so of him, even in a tight race. Rodriguez is playing down in Tampa, but hasn't yet taken the field. He's been limited to DH so far, though he's expected to play a game or two at 3B this week. Rodriguez is still on target to return on Thursday, though this is a very fluid target. The key is going to be no sign of any gait change or strength deficit in his legs.
It was a bad week for pitchers and sharp implements. At least Carlos Zambrano didn't have one handy. After Chris Narveson injured himself, it appears Garcia did the same. There are varying versions about how the injury actually happened, but no one seems to dispute that this was just an accident. Garcia, who said he cut his finger in a kitchen accident, is out of his next start, but the Yankees aren't sure yet about his next. With both Ivan Nova and Phil Hughes pitching well lately, this isn't a big issue for the Yankees. It actually works out, giving Garcia a bit of a rest heading down the stretch. The Yankees playoff rotation is basically CC Sabathia and whoever's on a hot streak at that point, so the next 45 days will be as much about figuring that out as it will be chasing the Red Sox.
Polanco was scheduled to take batting practice on Sunday in hopes that his sports hernia wouldn't require surgery before returning. The workout on Saturday went "pretty well" with fielding and running, though there's still a bit of a gamble with the timing around surgery. If Polanco comes back next week, he'll be bumping right up against the time it would take to return after surgery. That six week cushion means that any setback through the end of the regular season would likely mean Polanco's season was over and that he would not be available throughout the playoffs. The Phillies are focused on the playoffs, so they'll think long and hard before making this decision.
The Marlins made a lot of switches over the weekend, dumping Wes Helms and sending the slumping Logan Morrison back to New Orleans (AAA). Don't divorce the DL move made last week with Ramirez from the "off field" issues many are claiming are behind the Helms and Morrison moves. Sources tell me that Ramirez is one of many who have been at odds with manager Jack McKeon and that when Ramirez was pushed to the DL, he wasn't told until the move was in ink. Ramirez is injured, yes, and any team can make a move with a player who is injured, whether he likes it or not. The player doesn't even have to be consulted, but usually is involved in the process, even if it's something as simple as him saying "no, I don't think I can play today." Given McKeon's short term stint as manager, none of this makes sense ... unless people above McKeon, thinking long term, agree with him. Helms can be replaced, but Ramirez can't.
I'm sure someone is blaming the Mets medical staff for Pelfrey getting hit with a comebacker. X-rays showed no fracture, but they'll keep an eye on it. After last week's scary incident with Juan Nicasio, I got a lot of e-mails and tweets pointing out that many pitchers didn't help themselves with poor defensive positioning after releasing the ball. This is true, but I'm not sure this is a new phenomenon. Greg Maddux is continually cited as an example of how to field the position, but he's clearly the exception. Defense is seldom taught or even mentioned. Watching baseball at all levels, down to Little League, there's little emphasis on defense, especially if it's at the cost of velocity. That max effort, falling-over style is likely here to stay, which means we can either hope for a sea change or make an immediate change in protective equipment. I'm not denying defensive positioning would help, but my stance is one of pragmatism and timeliness.
Moments after I finished writing the above on Pelfrey, Marquis took a hard shot off his leg. He was checked, continued and then collapsed. X-rays showed a fractured fibula, but there's no way to say whether it happened at the trauma or if it was weakened there and snapped with the pressure of pitching. Marquis was clearly asking to stay in, so it's hard to fault the medical staff. Marquis is done for the season, but something like a small, thin soccer shin guard could have had him back out there with nothing more than a bruise. It's a $10 piece of equipment to protect million-dollar talents, plus no one has ever given me a good reason for not wearing it. It's time for some pitchers to take this into their own hands and protect themselves.
You know those warnings about watching out for foul balls they put on tickets? Maybe they should give the players those as well. Alburquerque was hit in the head by a liner while he was walking to the bullpen during batting practice. The reliever went down quickly and was in clear pain, which is actually a slight positive. It's certainly not good for him, but his immediate reaction showed that he was conscious. Alburquerque was placed on the concussion DL and will be monitored. Early signs are that he could return near the minimum.