Under The Knife: Aches slowing veterans Carpenter, Hudson
I've often compared the injury beat to a weatherman. Sure, the anchor could read the forecast off the teleprompter, but there's something about having a specialist there that gives a level of trust. In many communities, the weatherman is beloved and often an institution. Here in Indy, all you have to do is mention "Swoop" McLain or Bob Gregory, or today's equivalents, Angela Buchman or Chuck Lofton, and people will nod. Where the metaphor doesn't work is that old phrase that "everyone talks about the weather, but no one does anything about it." Baseball teams are starting to do more, but too many times it's running from a storm rather than building a structure that can stand up to the inevitable wind and rain. You may not need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows, but there's a reason Al Roker makes the big bucks. Powered by an afternoon talking baseball with Joe Sheehan and Rany Jazayerli at Foley's in NYC, on to the injuries:
A few months ago, a comparison to Peyton Manning would have been a bad thing. Today, with Manning suddenly the hottest free agent in the NFL, I'll bet Carpenter doesn't feel quite so bad. Carpenter is dealing with a herniated disc in his neck, much the same problem that Manning had. But hit rewind -- remember that Manning played for several years with the problem and was able to get by with a couple minor procedures before he had to have a fusion done. Even then, Juan Nicasio is showing that a pitcher can come back from a much more serious issue.
The downside with Carpenter's struggling through is lost time and the chance that the Cards medical staff won't be able to control this. Things look promising but Carpenter is always an injury risk. The Cards seem to have Carpenter and Wainwright trading time off. If Carpenter is back throwing in the next two weeks, he may be limited at the start of the season, but he should be fine for at least a while. The long-term prognosis is murkier, but since Carpenter is almost 37 years old and in the last year of his Cards deal, his career probably doesn't have that much of a long term anyway.
More people seem concerned with Tommy Hanson, and for good reason, but it seems like a lot of people haven't yet noticed that Hudson is going to miss the start of the season. The Braves have some young pitching depth, but Hudson is as close to an automatic as there is. His downside at the back end of his career has been some fragility, first with an elbow reconstruction and now a serious back surgery. Hudson had a herniated disc in his lower back and is just getting back to throwing. Hudson won't be back before early May and even that's a bit shaky. He'll need to be cleared to throw off a mound, which is expected this week, and then have no setbacks. We'll have to keep a close eye on this, not only for Hudson, but because if he is out longer, the Braves will have to expose one of their younger pitchers more.
Injuries are not personal. When I
I write the above as a preface to tell you I have nothing against Pineda, or for him, for that matter. He's a talented young pitcher and the more talent that's on the field, the better the game is and the more people want to read about it. Pineda is still searching for both velocity and control and showing signs of seasonal fatigue early. Which one he gets back first is key. Getting both back will make him a real No. 2.
The Pirates said Burnett would be out 2-3 months after his orbital bone was fixated. It sounded conservative to me, but the Pirates tend to be a bit conservative with their estimates. With a new medical staff, it's tough to get a solid read. Burnett is already back in camp and doing some activities. He's a ways from doing "baseball activities," but
Whatever name you use for him, there's a major problem. Stanton has a wrist problem and that's about the worst thing a power hitter can have. Even in the best case, a sore wrist slows the bat and causes a reduction in power over the short term. Stanton took a hard pitch off his unprotected wrist, but X-rays showed no break. The worry now is getting the inflammation down and getting him comfortable. He can take all the time he needs in spring training. Once he gets back at bat, watch his swing-and-misses more than his power. The fine bat control is a better early indicator.
A second instance of back stiffness isn't a good sign for Ethier or the Dodgers. A free agent after the season, Ethier stands to be an early beneficiary of new ownership, if he wants to stay, and proves healthy. The back stiffness is thought to be a muscular problem, but recurrent muscular problems aren't normal. Ethier is having something cause it -- some activity, some weakness, something -- and the Dodgers are going to have to figure out what it is quickly. That it's happening so early in camp usually points to a weakness or conditioning issue, something I have a hard time imagining with Ethier. Watch for the Dodgers to be a combination of conservative with timing and aggressive with therapy.
I was on MLB Network's Clubhouse Confidential yesterday when Brian Kenny asked me why oblique injuries suddenly seem to be on the rise. The human body didn't just develop these muscles. It's the specificity we get from imaging and medical professionals rather than any anatomical change. There is a change and it's likely the core. Athletes like to look good on the beach like anyone. One theory that was brought up at this year's ASMI Injuries in Baseball course was that there was an imbalance between the abs and the obliques. Wright's lingering oblique strain was given an image-guided cortisone injection. While some reports had this as an "MRI guided" procedure, that's tough, since needles are metal and don't play well with large magnets. The more normal procedure is done with ultrasound, which I was able to confirm was used in this case. Wright isn't "behind" and this procedure doesn't indicate that it's more severe. This is about making sure Wright gets back and stays back.