Greetings from California. After a great rehearsal and some In-N-Out Burger, I'm ready for a great season of baseball. Teams are making their last preparations for Opening Day -- which should be a national holiday -- and the disabled list is already filling up. Many fans think some teams "fake" injuries, hiding players on the DL. It happens, but not nearly as often as most think. The DL has defined procedures and rules that prevent it from being used like that.
Speaking of prevention, it was mentioned by Rays GM Andrew Friedman as the
The parallels between Pineda and Phil Hughes are too perfect. Well, not perfect, since we're talking about young pitchers and injuries. Hughes injured his leg, started overthrowing a bit, and ended up with a sore shoulder. It set back his career more than we realize, even now. Pineda came in out of condition, still showing signs of last year's workload, and finally admitted that his arm was hurting.
Pineda's issue is in the back of his shoulder. Many immediately thought the worst, that the injury was to the either rotator cuff or labrum. An MRI came back with "no structural damage" and the calming diagnosis of tendinitis. Don't be fooled. The biceps tendon is a structure, one that's important to a pitcher. One of the buzzwords in sports medicine is the "biceps-labrum complex." Essentially, the labrum and biceps tendon work in concert, in ways doctors are still figuring out. The classic "buckethandle" labrum tear might have a different mechanism than doctors long thought.
As for Pineda, he might be better served looking to another starter on his staff for a better comp. CC Sabathia had some shoulder issues early in his career. A trip to Glenn Fleisig's lab in Birmingham helped him change some things, and the results speak for themselves. Why Pineda isn't heading down there is beyond me. Expect the Yankees to be very cautious with him, especially if Andy Pettitte is ready on the same timeline.
At one time everyone expected that Tim Lincecum would end up on the pitcher's scrap heap. His unique delivery, size and velocity seemed to conspire against him, but while everyone was focused on his elbow and shoulder, I was watching his back. All of March, I had reports from scouts and other people that saw Tim Lincecum pitch that he was fine, but one scout I know told me that his back was still something of an issue. Not that it was hurting him, but that the flexibility, the "arch" that Lincecum uses as a big part of his force generation, wasn't quite there. It's admittedly subtle and I have no way of knowing how much of an issue it is, but it's simple to explain why it's an issue. Lincecum is throwing at his normal velocity during the spring, so the total force is the same as well. If he's not getting the same amount from his back, something is working harder. Maybe it's the legs or maybe it's his shoulder. Don't include me in the doom and gloom camp convinced that Lincecum is bound to break down. But it should be noted.
Remember what I said about tendinitis being a real issue for Pineda? Well, everything is relative. Storen had some mild tendinitis and tightness in his shoulder. The Nationals are being conservative with their pitchers (gun shy?), and Storen is just behind. They'll give him a couple extra weeks to make sure the arm is not only healthy, but ready for a long season. Relievers have it tough, in that they don't have the normal tools to measure their workload. That the Nats are watching Storen so closely is a good sign for all the pitchers there, though they might go a bit too far if Stephen Strasburg's innings limit is any indication.
The Rays aren't too concerned about Upton's back, which he injured in a collision during the spring. While he's sore, the long-term issue is minimal. The Rays are almost always conservative with injuries, especially this type, which is the kind that can extend into something chronic. If there's a defining characteristic to Ron Porterfield's medical staff, it's caution. Upton will be back quickly since the DL move is backdated, something several teams will do and are keeping open. Upton should be fine once he's back, though watch to see if the Rays rest him at home due to the turf. It could cost him a game a series or so through April.
The Pirates are still saying Burnett won't be back until May. The results on the field make that conservative estimate either wrong or just wrongheaded. Burnett was able to go 54 pitches in "three innings" of a camp game. Camp games are essentially scrimmages and are tough to get real reads on, but the word was that Burnett had no issues, a couple strikeouts and gave up a hit to Starling Marte. He's not going to be ready to start the season, but it doesn't appear that he'll need more than a of couple starts to build stamina. If the Pirates slow him down much more than that, I can't think of any real reason for it.