Under The Knife: Safer helmets and false starts for Peavy and Morales
I talk a lot about safety here, but today, I'm going to intermix it with a bit of minor-league vanity. In the minors, the players are more controlled. They have to follow the edicts of the commissioner (and their teams) or they get suspended or sent home. It's due in large part to the lack of a union to protect their rights. Minor league players have a different, stricter drug testing program that includes blood tests (or at least the right to test their blood) and they're required to wear the
This week, the new helmets came up when I was talking to one of my minor league sources, who told me a story about a player who got hit in the back of the head.
"I was hanging in waiting for the ball to move, but it didn't" he said the player told him. "I turned and it hit me in the back of the head. I didn't even really feel it. I went down to one knee not because it hurt but because it was part of turning away."
That player stood up, took his base, and was checked by the athletic trainer as part of concussion protocol. He showed no symptoms, stayed in the game and finished it.
I asked my source if he could go back to that player and ask whether or not the player would wear the helmet in the major leagues.
"No, it's just not cool enough," the player said. "I'd rather look cooler regardless of how this helmet feels."
I should have been stunned, but I expected it. Five other players who heard the conversation agreed. It's more important for them to "look cool" or "fit in" than it is to wear a piece of equipment. I'm a big believer in individual responsibility, so one part of me wants to say "Hey, it's his head." The other part of me knows that there's a kid somewhere who's going to get hit worse and might wear protective equipment if he saw his heroes wearing it. Protective equipment for pitchers is the same thing. Unless these things are mandated, they're never going to catch on, and even then, there's resistance. I hope that the MLB and the MLBPA can agree on some sort of standard for protective equipment in the next CBA, one that would mandate the use of the best available safety equipment, in part to protect the players and in part to protect the kids.
Now, let's get to the injuries:
A lot of people have e-mailed to ask about Evan Longoria and why he's been absent here for so long. The simple answer is, when there's nothing to report, I tend to ignore it. I'm a believer in the old "no news is good news" adage and in rehab, that's true. We sometimes call it T.R.I.P. -- typical rehab in progress. That's what's happening with Longoria -- he's spending a lot of time with Ron Porterfield and the rest of the medical staff, healing up and getting ready. Longoria is finally making some visible progress as he took some swings on Tuesday. If he responds well, we'll see him amp things up as he moves toward his April 29 return.
Sometimes, it doesn't pay to come back early. Victor Martinez came back Monday after missing Sunday's game with what was termed a minor groin strain. Instead, he aggravated it and appears headed for the DL now. The strain itself isn't significant but the team doesn't want to play a man down and feels that Martinez would do well with a significant rest to get the groin back to full strength. Martinez was supposed to be the 1A catcher with Al Avila, but they're platoon doesn't follow any discernible pattern. That leaves it to be more of a "rest" platoon that exposes Avila a bit and didn't serve to keep Martinez healthy either. Based on what we know now, I'd expect Martinez to hit the DL. (
It could have been worse, which seems to be a recurring theme for Jake Peavy. Peavy had some tenderness in the area near where his lat was reattached last year and the Sox took no chances. He had some images done and the MRI showed no problem in the area. The Sox will slow down his rehab, adding perhaps a week and a rehab start to it, assuming all goes well. The worry with this specific problem is that there are small changes, likely unconscious and imperceptible, in Peavy's mechanics, leading to varying problems as he tries to get himself back in shape. The irony here is that Peavy is in Birmingham, a few miles away from the American Sports Medicine Institute, where the White Sox could get a real idea of what's going on with Peavy. For now, the Sox will keep being patient and let Peavy come back slowly.
The Mets waited a couple extra days for Jason Bay. What they saw from him in his rehab starts wasn't that the strained intercostals were a problem, but that he needed more looks at live pitching. They sent him back to Florida (to avoid a trip to Buffalo) and expect to activate him on Thursday. One source admitted that his results Tuesday and Wednesday could lead them to extend his rehab, but at this stage, it's about baseball results and not medical issues. The Mets feel like Bay can help them, though it's certainly a work in progress in New York right now. The decision to place Brad Emaus on waivers shows that the Mets are not going to be terribly patient during a process that could start to see as many scouts as fans in the stands.
The Yankees have held Alex Rodriguez out again with a confirmed strained oblique, but continue to call the injury day-to-day. This one seems to be exactly that case, with Rodriguez waiting on the clearance from the medical staff before coming back. Oblique strains tend to linger and can have harsh setbacks, making this conservative play the smart one. Rodriguez could miss a few more days, but the DL isn't a consideration absent a severe setback.
The Angels haven't seen as much progress from Kendrys Morales as they'd expected. Morales' freak injury just hasn't gotten back to functional. At this stage, it's less about fixing something as it is figuring out how to make him productive at a point different from where he started. The term M.M.I. is used for this, meaning maximum medical improvement. That doesn't imply any sort of failure, but 100 percent is usually a false goal anyway. Morales will amp up the running and the baseball activities over the next 10 days, but there are a lot of chances for a setback along the way. He'll need about 10 games worth of at-bats on a rehab assignment, though some of that may come at the complex.
One of the persistent myths I deal with is that a trip to see Dr. James Andrews is always a bad thing. It's never bad in any sense, though for fans, seeing your pitcher come out with a scar and the promise of a long rehab isn't good. Often, however, players see the good doctor and come back without a new scar. Pedro Feliciano is one of those, though in this case, no surgery isn't as positive as it might seem. The fact is that shoulder capsule surgery is one of the more speculative in the business. Like all surgeries, it's better to try everything else before saying "Yeah, we have to cut." Feliciano will be on a throwing program over the next few weeks as the Yankees hope he can contribute in the second half. Odds are, it should be clear, against that happening. I came really close to putting an ERD here, but there's just not quite enough clarity just yet.