With September comes a big change, both to MLB rosters and the way I have to do my job. The Disabled List stops being needed. It's only there to offer a team roster relief when a player is injured, and with most of those players coming up as minor league seasons end, there's no value. There's also some accounting and insurance reasons, but I won't bore you with that. What it does is leave a way for teams to move players around without the need for a formal shelving. That allows some players to be hidden with minor injuries and minor spin, but the media landscape doesn't let the big things get past.
When I started doing this column, it was easier for teams to just wave their hands as a distraction, and it was more Lance Burton effective than today's Gob Bluth attempts. It's getting to a point where, all season long, there are teams that have learned it's better to just tell the truth and to own the story than spin it. Of course, there's still plenty of room for me to dig, to explain and to analyze. There's still plenty more to learn, plenty more to study, and with the tools we're seeing develop, who knows what's next? I do know that September is going to be one heck of a month for baseball, but I have no idea how it's going to turn out. Well, that's not true. I do read the Playoff Odds Report every day when I wake up. Powered by voting -- you are registered to vote, right? -- on to the injuries.
(Note: DXL is "Days eXpected Lost", or how many days I am estimating the player will lose. The dollar figure after the slash is "Injury Cost," an estimation of how much value is lost, using the player's PECOTA-calculated value divided by 180, then multiplied by the DXL. It's calculated in millions of U.S. dollars.):
Zambrano isn't "feeling good," and even Lou Piniella, days after insisting that Zambrano was fine, is admitting that something's wrong. After five innings of bad ball, the Cubs are sending Zambrano to see the team ortho and likely shutting him down, which at this time of year is tough to do. If Zambrano is shutdown for two weeks, he'd have to come back ready to go in order to get a couple of starts before the playoffs. Would the Cubs be willing to put Zambrano out there in the Division Series without at least one good regular season start? This isn't exactly an Aaron Cook situation; Zambrano is clearly the ace of this staff.
The most worrisome things coming out of Zambrano's start were the arm angle and the quick drop in velocity. By the third inning, he was down to 90 from 93 and in the fourth and fifth, he was exerting more effort just to stay in the 90 range. The extra time off might have made him stronger in the first, but it didn't last. The Cubs are going to have to make some tough decisions soon, but they're going to have to wait on word from the doctors first. I don't anticipate good news. Zambrano had some tests done on Thursday. Those tests apparently showed that Zambrano is having another bout of rotator cuff tendinitis, and he had a cortisone shot. Given his results since last time, I'm not sure that this is going to be comforting news to Cubs fans, especially if he comes back next week with his lower arm slot.
Seeing an article like this one is a topic that came up on Friday night. People mentioned to me than in the past "X" years that they'd been reading BP and UTK, they'd learned more and that they were seeing more articles that intelligently discussed sports medicine. I agree and also tip my cap to Rick Wilton, the dean of injuries. The thing is that articles like Bradford's can make it tougher for me to find an angle for analysis. Bradford -- a longtime friend of UTK -- nails everything, adds in some video and leaves me nothing more to do here than nod. It looks as if Beckett is on track for a recovery and that his trip to see Dr. James Andrews was the confidence boost he needed to get back out there. I found it interesting that John Farrell had TJS, something I did not know and might make him the first TJ Survivor to be a pitching coach in the bigs. (Am I missing anyone?) I'm not worried about Beckett going forward, and in fact, the results of the exam might reduce the risk Beckett carries going forward.
Things look good for Wagner, making the doctor's advice of a couple weeks rest look better. After a bullpen session went well on Monday, he was able to go 36 pitches on Wednesday with no problems. If there's any downside, it's that one observer who saw the session said Wagner is still not throwing "in anger. It's 85-90 percent." This is important because Wagner had no problems last time until he threw all-out. The Mets will have Wagner throw again on Friday, then will have Wagner help close a minor league season with an outing. Note that he's not throwing on back to back days, something that could portend a limitation.
The Mets are also a bit concerned about Pedro Martinez. Martinez said he couldn't "get loose" in his last start, showing velocity and command problems, so the Mets have sent him back home to work with his rehab guru, Chris Correnti. The Mets are prepped to skip Martinez's Saturday start if Correnti doesn't give them the green light.
It's about as much surprise that Hurrican Gustav made landfall -- really, I understand that it's big news, but it's hardly "breaking news" when the eye is in Baton Rouge, is it? -- that Jeff Kent elected to have knee surgery. The news here is that it's going to be a minor scope and that he's not necessarily done for the season. In talking about Kent, Joe Torre said that Kent could come back as a pinch hitter even before he could play defense. The Dodgers have a proud tradition of gimpy playoff hitters, but without Kent, they have an uphill battle to get there in the first place. Given a normal recovery from the clean-up, Kent could be back for the final week of the regular season. He was placed on the DL as a procedural move, opening up the Frankie Rodriguez loophole for the Dodgers playoff roster.
"Very, very minor." That's how Sheets described his groin strain. I'm not changing my position on players being the worst judges of their own injuries, but Sheets is known to be a bit of a hypochondriac. If he's not that concerned, it's probably, well, very minor. This is the same area that cost Sheets the last two weeks of the 2007 season, but this isn't as serious. Sheets will be watched closely and delayed or pulled quickly, but no one seems terribly concerned that he won't make his next start. The team needs Sheets to be healthy to prevent the exposure of their bullpen, though the news that Yovanni Gallardo might be available soon is opening up some interesting possitibilities.
After nearly two months out, Upton returned to the D'backs lineup only to take an errant pickoff throw off the head. He was clearly dazed by the impact, but was able to walk off on his own. The team was very cautious with him, but doesn't expect him to miss much time, though with their outfield glut, they can be conservative. He was having headaches still on Thursday, an indication that yes, it was a concussion, so that gives a very difficult time frame. He does still look a bit affected by the oblique at the plate, but that could be rust, hesitance, or a bit of a "catch" in the muscle as he rotates. My guess is that it's much more of the first two than the last.
After a good bullpen session, the Cardinals decided it was time to go ahead and activate Carpenter. His shoulder feels strong enough that the team feels comfortable pitching him from the bullpen, though there's no indication of how they intend to use him or what restrictions, if any, they've put on him. Indications are that he'll be used with limits, but on something of a "rehab plan," with increasing pitch goals for each outing. That would indicate that they'd keep him out of high leverage situations, so he's not much of a fantasy answer. The Cards do expect Carpenter to be ready to rejoin the rotation next year and that's certainly reasonable, though he'll be a very risky play.
On Saturday, I got a chance to speak with Garza on the field at Tropicana Field. Recently, a writer who I know believes what he wrote, said that Garza, due to a minor mechanical flaw, was doing damage to his elbow "with each pitch." Only time will tell, but I explained what was written to Garza and asked him what he thought. Of the flaw -- a pronation of his wrist during his takeaway -- Garza said he "didn't realize he was doing it." He did a quick motion, watching his wrist and yes, he pronated. I asked if he felt any tension in his arm, and he said "no, this is what feels good. It's what I've always done." Explaining that the writer thought he was destroying his elbow by doing that, Garza laughed. "I guess we'll see," he said, "but I had an operation when I was in high school, and they said I have some scarring at the ends and that the structure of it makes it tougher, stronger." I asked if his innings increase, noted on Friday, had him worried; he said, no, that "I feel as good as ever and we're winning and I'm pitching well. That's what counts to me." While he agreed that major league innings are more stressful than minor league innings, he said that he's had no problems at all since his nerve problem this spring and again insisted that he felt great. I've often said that players are the worst sources of info about their own health, but in this case, I think Garza is right and that writer is dead wrong.
Hey! Football started last night and for another season, I'll be writing football injury content at SI.com. You can read me every Thursday to find out thescoop on the week's injuries, then around noon each Sunday, just in time to set your fantasy lineup as I do the "Last Minute Med Check" ... Carlos Quentin is expected back in the lineup on Friday ... Evan Longoria isn't back yet and isn't even swinging a bat yet. His delay isn't so much setback as it is further evidence of a deep conservatism on the part of the Rays medical staff ... Ian Kinsler will have surgery on his sports hernia next week and is done for the season ... Rafael Furcal might make it back before the end of the season. His recovery from back surgery has gone "perfectly", my sources say ... RyanFreel? Yeah, the Reds are saying he could be back this season. But why? ... Kevin Gregg's season isn't as done as I suspected. He thinks he could be back late next week ... The Tigers sound like they're thinking about shutting some guys down.