Will Carroll
Monday April 25th, 2011

Sometimes, what looks like a pattern is just a coincidence. When we see that three players -- Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau and Delmon Young -- have had the flu on top of injuries, it makes me say "hmm." I did so on Twitter and got quite the reaction. Mauer is on the DL with leg weakness, which the team says is a result of the flu, but Mauer says is unrelated. I usually side with the the team on these matters, but Mauer also made that visit for a re-check on his SI joint. Morneau needed work performed on his neck and Young has a ribcage injury that he requested an MRI on. It's just an odd coincidence, if that's all it is. On top of that, the Twins are one of two organizations that have a poor record returning players from Tommy John surgery. They've had three in the last few years and all three haven't returned to level during the normal 12-month recovery. While I think Joe Nathan will get back to level, it's just taking longer. The three surgeries were done by different surgeons and the rehabs weren't handled completely by the team in two of three cases, so there's no single factor here. The argument that the Twins are conservative doesn't fly either, since there's no indication that they slow things down. In the case of the TJ pitchers, they all returned in the normal window of time, but took extra time to get their stuff back. (Specifically, it appears to be control, a matter of proprioception and one of the main reasons that new TJ rehabs are much shorter.) When you take a look at the Twins, a team that once was among the leaders in sports medicine, they've got some things to look at. It's not that I have all the answers, but that it doesn't appear like the Twins are asking the right questions.

I'll leave it to Joe Sheehan to talk about long bullpens and short benches, but I'm not sure if the DL move for Scott Rolen exists in a world that doesn't think that 12- and 13-man bullpens are standard. Rolen has been on the bench since April 20th with shoulder and neck problems. This is a longstanding issue for Rolen and one that he's had to maintain through his various stops. It doesn't affect him significantly in the field, but it does throw off his swing. Given his early season stats, it's reasonable to think that this has been going on a while. A DL stint has to be baked in on Rolen at this stage, but keeping him relatively healthy and productive is one of the top priorities for the Reds medical staff. This is likely to be a near-minimum stay while the doctors and trainers try to get a good handle on this issue and how to deal with it for the next four months. Miguel Cairo is the fill-in for now with Juan Francisco also out, so this is a situation where a long term issue could force some moves.

Chipper Jones is playing through an injury. That's no surprise, though some had hoped that his advancing age, knee problems, and the absence of Bobby Cox in the dugout would mean that Jones was on a bit of a shorter leash when it came to writing his name into the lineup. It looks like even with the cascade soreness on his knee, he's going to try and play through it. The Braves only gave him one game off, so it's not as if he's going to get any real rest with a here-or-there kind of off-day. The Braves are going to have to watch him to some extent, but there's a school of thought that a player like Jones -- injury-prone, on a short-term deal and close to retirement -- has to be ridden hard to try to extract the maximum value. I'm not sure which is best, but Jones is back because he wanted to go out on his terms. I'm sure he'd like that to be in October, not May.

I guess this weekend was bad for third basemen as yet another is dealing with injury. Kevin Youkilis shifted back to 3B this year to make room for Adrian Gonzalez, but that had nothing to do with his latest injury. Youkilis fouled a ball off his shin, costing him one game. There was nothing more than a bruise and he came back on Saturday, showing some power. It doesn't appear that this is anything to be concerned about, but man, it looked like it hurt. The real worry with Youkilis is that he's one of those "full go" players like Dustin Pedroia or Josh Hamilton. He always seems to be on the edge of something bad and at 32 is older than most expect.

The last of the 3B crop is Geoff Blum and his news isn't nearly as positive. The best Kirk Gibson could say about it was that it wasn't going to be microfracture. It's unclear what the problem is exactly, but it sounds like Blum is having bone-on-bone in the knee or some sort of severe arthritic change. At 37 and with a history of minor knee issues, this isn't that terrible, but it does bring up the uncomfortable question of how Blum passed his physical before signing a two-year deal with the D-backs. Arizona has shown a willingness in the past to take some risks, relying on Ken Crenshaw and his staff to keep people healthy, but Kevin Towers didn't do that much in San Diego. Blum's expected to be out until July, but the recovery could be even slower as we've seen in similar cases.

When Jamey Newberg starts a column with "uh oh," the news is never good for Rangers fans. Still, there's not reason for panic with Neftali Feliz. It's certainly not good that the team put him on the DL, for him or for the confusion in the back of the Rangers bullpen, but this is the same diagnosis that shut down Aroldis Chapman not too long ago and it didn't even take a DL stint to get him back in triple digits. The Rangers are almost always conservative with timelines, so it doesn't surprise me that they'd DL him. I also remember something that Jon Daniels told me a couple years back, that there were a couple ways to hold someone's innings down. You can start them slow or shut them down early and since he was trying to build a team for October, he was more apt to start things slow. That, I'm sure, factors in here. Feliz is much more important in October than he is in May to the Rangers. The key here is getting the shoulder calmed down without losing too much time. Watch for Feliz to begin work within a week, even if its as simple as playing catch.

Jose Contreras isn't the opposite of Neftali Feliz, but he's always been more in the mode of the durable, "rubber armed" pitcher than the blazing fireballer. Contreras relies on the same guile that allowed him to sneak out of Cuba, not pure stuff. That said, he does throw hard and using a split finger grip that has to be seen to be believed. If you try it at home (gently, please), you'll see just how tense that makes both the forearm and the elbow, and why the splitter isn't taught as much as it used to be. Rest didn't get the swelling out (and we have to assume modalities and medication didn't work either) in time, so the Phillies went their normal conservative route and put Contreras on the DL. Ryan Madson will get the titular closer slot, but Charlie Manuel went with Antonio Bastardo for the save on Sunday. It could be a bit of mix and match, especially if Madson doesn't lock things down every time out. For some reason, Manuel has never shown the same confidence in Madson that he has in most of his guys. (Is Madson not one of "his guys?") The slow move to the DL tells us that the strain isn't too significant, but there's not enough info yet to get a solid ERD. Madson is a good play for saves in the short term.

Sometimes specific information doesn't tell us much. Skip Schumaker is out for up to six weeks with a strained tricep muscle in his throwing arm. Earlier reports that it was an elbow injury were actually more telling. Yes, triceps is correct -- it's a severe strain near the distal end of the muscle -- but saying it's an elbow issue is probably more clear as to the loss of function for Schumaker. He'll have to let the area heal up and it's a thin portion at our near the tendon, which led him to worry that he'd popped the UCL. The Cards are leaving some room for optimism, but the month they're discussing he could miss is the low end. That means the Cards will have a middle infield of Nick Punto and Ryan Theriot ... and yes, this is a team that understands advanced metrics.

The Rays are letting Johnny Damon play through a hairline fracture to his finger. While the team reported that there was no fracture after he was hit, it turns out that there was. Damon admitted to the distal fracture, but there's no real issue with it over and above what we knew. The issue is gripability and whether the injury could recur. The Rays staff is comfortable with Damon hitting, but I'm a bit confused why he's suddenly persona non grata in left. Part of it is getting a look at Sam Fuld, who's a better fielder, but I'm curious if there's something more going on here. The Rays should get a look at Evan Longoria this week. He took hitting practice with the team and will do so again on Monday if he feels comfortable. If that goes well, he'll head to either Durham (AAA) or Montgomery (AA) for a short rehab assignment and be back at the end of the week. It's a tough call on weekly move leagues as to whether Longoria should be put back in the lineup, but I'm leaning no. A short week on top of the risk of setback is too much for my comfort.

Quick Cuts: One thing to watch with the Dodgers protectorate will be how, if any, it influences their medical staff. Led by Stan Conte, it's known as one of the most innovative, focused on prevention and data-driven. During the period where the Expos were run by MLB, the medical staff was cut to the bones in terms of personnel and budget, something they may not have recovered from even today ... Roy Oswalt is enough of a pitcher that he can afford to lose a little off his fastball. The fact that he's pitching through back problems bears watching, but not worrying ... Jake Peavy will make another rehab appearance on Friday. He has time on his rehab clock to make three more starts ... Corey Hart is expected back in the Brewers lineup on Tuesday. He's good for putting in weekly leagues ... Zack Greinke made it through his second rehab start without issue. He'll work on stamina in his third and final one this Friday. He's expected to make his first Brewer start on May 4 ... Andres Torres won't come off the DL early this week. He'll have an MRI to see why he's having so many problems getting back to full speed... Rickie Weeks came back from a sprained finger with a steal and homer on Sunday. He's fine for all formats ... Reports from Tacoma have David Aardsma looking healthy, but rusty. It could be a while before he's back, let alone closing ... The Jays are sending Aaron Hill to the DL with a retro move as his hamstring hasn't made enough progress to continue playing a man down ... The Jays can't turn to Jayson Nix with Hill out, since Nix injured his knee on a hard slide. He may end up on the DL as well depending on how he recovers ... Jared Burton lost most of last year to a thyroid condition. He'll lose all of this one after upcoming shoulder surgery ... Sox top prospect Ryan Kalish tore his labrum in his shoulder and sounds like he could be headed for surgery. That would end his season ... Franklin Gutierrez was diagnosed with IBS at the Mayo Clinic. The hope is that new medication will get him back on the field and keep him there ... If you're desperate for a starter, Kevin Millwood has to be picked up by the Yankees by May 1 or released. Given Ivan Nova's recent starts, he's a safe bet ... Not sure the Daily News found anything new in the search for the cause of the oblique epidemic, but their choice of quotes is very intriguing ... Interesting to see Dusty Baker and Tony La Russa playing games already this season. Is there any league rule about declaring starters? I know there's some that were put in place to combat some Earl Weaver moves.

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