Under The Knife: Rangers run of good health runs out of time
For some teams, the medical staff is closely involved in trade talks. They act as scouts, in a way, checking eBis for injury clues and calling around to friends in the business to see if there's more than the medical files show. The same is true in the off-season, but at the deadline, things move faster. Of course, I said "some teams." There are teams out there where the medical staff is barely consulted. They count on catching problems at the physical or even ignore the risks. While you often see the "our guy's better" routine factoring in on known injury risks that can be acquired at a reasonable value given that risk, it's not often factored in on pure baseball trades. We'll see this over and over, in simple situations and much more complex ones where the short-term gain has to be weighed much more strongly than any longer-term risk. Yes, flags fly forever, but so do scars.
At one point in May, the Rangers were injury free. Anyone around baseball knows that a streak doesn't last forever, so there was going to be an injury at some point. Actually, more than one, and the Rangers have gone on a streak of injuries. Their depth hasn't allowed this to be much of an issue, but losing Lewis for the season certainly doesn't help. Lewis came off the DL only to feel his arm tighten up in his first outing back. Scans revealed on Monday that he had a significant tear of the flexor tendon that will require surgery. Pitchers return from this, though there's not the precise recovery time frame that we see from Tommy John surgery. Lewis should be throwing around the time the Rangers open camp next February, but whether he's ready to pitch at that point remains to be seen.
The worry about Oswalt is that his injury history would catch up to him as he fatigued. Missing a start with back stiffness certainly brings up the worst fears from his time in Philly. He's only made nine starts between the Rangers and their affiliates this season, less than the 13 he made in Philly before his back first acted up last year. It's not a good pattern. The Rangers do have the benefit of having Oswalt's spinal surgeon, Drew Dossett, close by in Dallas, and a top-notch medical staff to try and get him to a productive point. Oswalt had a cortisone shot and is feeling better, but with the trade deadline closing in, GM Jon Daniels is going to have to take a hard look at Oswalt and decide if he can count on him going forward. He'll get one last look on Sunday, when Oswalt is scheduled to start.
I was talking to a team official when he asked me if I'd heard any update on Longoria. It turns out, Longoria had just been shifted to the 60-day DL, a roster move to free up a spot for Sam Fuld that means nothing for Longoria. "How bad was that hamstring strain?" the official asked. "Did he lose a leg or something? Is he going to come back with the spring like the
Longoria didn't just reinjure the hamstring during his aborted rehab, he actually made it worse. It's an atypical happening, especially for the conservative Rays medical staff. Sometimes injuries like this aren't so much a re-injury as a closely related injury. It's difficult to explain, but picture the hamstring as a rope. One big chunk torn out of the rope is bad, but two separate, distinct, but anatomically close tears is even worse. It functions as the worst of both worlds -- healing like two distinct problems, but taking function out like one long defect. Longoria seems closer to a rehab assignment, which could come as early as next week if he continues to pass the milestones that the medical staff has set up. As to the 60-day move being nothing -- remember that Longoria did not come off the DL, so the 60 days is dated back to the beginning of May. He could come off that DL at any time, so as I said, it's a meaningless roster trick.
Rodriguez took a Felix Rodriguez pitch off the hand, and from the time it cracked, it was clear that
Batteries, recharged. Greinke came back after an 11-day layoff and faced the Phillies. Some were worried about rust, but the Phillies saw gas. Greinke had lost nothing in the way of stuff or control. He went seven strong innings with five strikeouts, but the team flopped after he was out. The time off seems to have been a good idea on all fronts. If Greinke is traded, he gets this and maybe one more start before a deal, showing that he's got good stuff and that there's no arm problem. That maximizes value. If Greinke moves, the Brewers will fill the slot with Marcum. He isn't going to be ready by the deadline, but it doesn't look like he's far beyond that. He had his first work off a mound on Tuesday with no issues. He'll do a couple more before moving out on a rehab assignment. Marcum sounds like he thinks he'll only need a short time, meaning he would be back around the second full week of August. It's impossible to gauge his stamina -- he's missed almost two months -- at this stage, so it could be longer if he needs more time to build up arm strength.
Flores has been a solid catcher when healthy. The downside is that the "when healthy" hasn't happened much. He's never played more than 110 games in any season at any level, missing a lot of time with some traumatic injuries. The back injury that cost him a couple days isn't major in and of itself, but it's a reminder that he's very risky. Flores was back in the lineup on Tuesday, but with all the furor over Stephen Strasburg's workload, one can only hope that seeing Sandy Leon for a couple days might make GM Mike Rizzo put a limit on Flores.
The immediate thought when seeing Latos roll his ankle is to think of Johan Santana. Latos' injury didn't appear as serious initially, but it's really the body's individual response to the injury that matters here. If Latos can make his side session, getting him back on the mound as scheduled next Sunday shouldn't be an issue at all. The worry is that even a minor ankle problem can cause a compensation, leading to a cascade injury. That's a bigger concern for Santana with his weakened shoulder and slighter build. Latos is a bigger guy, and while that is more weight and force it has to hold up, it's a relative issue and one that tends to be equalized by muscle and athleticism.
Don't get too encouraged by