Chin Music: Mets still banged up

BY foxsports • June 26, 2009

There is certainly a lot going on this week in the MLB injury department and there is no better place to start than in New York, where the Mets really continue to baffle me.

The same day that GM Omar Minaya described Jose Reyes' improvement to the point that he was running and taking infield practice, only to have that story completely refuted by Reyes himself; the Mets added Carlos Beltran to the DL with a bone bruise on his tibia. That list now stands at nine players. But more on Reyes later; for now let's get to Beltran. Most should know he had surgery on both knees at the end of 2007. You should also be aware that one of those knees, the right one, has been bothering him most of this season as well. Let me start off saying that I'm not a doctor, nor am I involved in the intimate discussions in any major league clubhouses, but a bone bruise? Is that what we're supposed to believe? Unless that bone bruise is inside his knee joint affecting a weight bearing aspect of his tibia, and that spot was injured at some point either before or after surgery, I'm just not buying it. Beltran spoke openly of the fact that he wanted to get this better because any chance of making it worse, would force him to sit out and take care of it. He's had multiple cortisone injections, is getting platelet rich plasma therapy, and being fitted for orthotics but all he has is a bone bruise? A bone bruise he's worried is going to get worse? Cortisone injections aren't often used to treat bruises. Platelet therapy is not widely practiced, but when it is it's used for chronic, arthritic type conditions and orthotics imply weight bearing is the issue. Simply that he needs a softer more stable base when standing. Again that all tells me the problem in inside the knee and that's the spot he had addressed already. Minaya also said it probably would be longer than the basic 15-day rest, more likely that he's not coming back until after the All-Star Break. Of course there is a history here that adds to the doubt: Billy Wagner, Ryan Church, Carlos Delgado, obviously Jose Reyes just to name a few. But you get my point. Beware of this situation. Is there a positive to take from this? Yes. Despite the admission that running is mainly responsible for his pain, he was hitting when he went down and he even stole a base recently, so it seems like the pain up to that point at least, was bearable.

As for Reyes, there is no point in estimating a timetable for his return right now. One day you hear he's getting better. The next he's not, even referring to this being the worst injury he's had since 2004, a year where he laced up the cleats only 53 times. There's no way to tell what exactly is going on. He hasn't started running yet so he can have all the BP in the world and take more ground balls than Ozzie Smith, but he's not coming back until his legs have a significant test in some minor league games, and comes out fantastic. You have to figure the earliest he'll be back is a few weeks, so the Mets should have one heck of a minor league roster come the All-Star Break. Now their medical staff has really come under the gun in New York for the recent rash of injuries, but as I've said before, management has to bear this burden as well. They, and a lot of players, are probably making a lot of the decisions that those doctors taking the heat should.

The AL team that is always hard to take at their word is the Toronto Blue Jays. Scott Downs was the most recent in a litany of pitchers to land on the DL with a big toe sprain in his left foot. The injury happened coming out of the batter's box during a June 17 interleague game in extra innings; a game in which they had a five-run lead. Downs admitted he should have left the bat on his shoulder. Why was the closer hitting up 5 runs in extras? Because the Jays only had one player remaining on their bench to pinch-hit, so manager Cito Gaston wanted to save him. For what I don't know, but that was the reason given. I think those games are just as hard for AL pitchers to hit in as they are AL skippers to manage. Initial estimates were he would miss six weeks, but he's apparently been throwing off flat ground already so that's a step in the right direction. Be wary of this if only because it's the Blue Jays and it's his push-off leg. That is always a concern.

Jays starter Casey Janssen also landed on the DL for the Jays last week. It was listed only as inflammation so there isn't much to go by at this point. But needless to say this is a concern; he missed all of 2008 after surgery to repair his labrum and battled pain in spring training this year as well.

At least I think they got it right with staff ace Roy Halladay. I figured there was no way he would pitch last weekend against the Nationals, and it turned out they agreed. Why take that risk? Halladay was DL'ed June 17th but it was retroactive to his last start, so all it should turn out to be is two missed starts. Right now they're eyeing a return next Monday against the Rays. Even though that's a relatively short time in the big picture, seeing him on the mound will still be a welcome sight for a lot of people.

Speaking of aces, Yankee fans got a scare Sunday afternoon when CC Sabathia was removed from their game in Florida in only the second inning. Maybe not as scary as losing two straight series to the Nats and Marlins, but the reports on CC are that it's only biceps tendonitis, which is no big deal. There aren't even plans for an x-ray or MRI yet, but something tells me the investment the team made in this guy will lead to something. As of today he will make his next start Friday against the Mets but keep an eye on his side sessions this week because anything that's not right, and he's going for tests, and we should hear about it.

Same division, same position — Scott Kazmir is nearing a return from a quad strain that cost him a DL stint. The rehab may have involved mechanical improvements as much as anything, but his last start Tuesday night was great. Optimistically he'll be back to his old form as early as this weekend.

The Red Sox have a luxury that many teams do not, a surplus of quality pitching. That may be the reason more than any why Daisuke Matsuzaka was put on the DL, but for now John Smoltz appears to be the beneficiary. There was some talk of moving Brad Penny to make room for Smoltz, but everyone in New England knows Penny is giving them a whole lot more than Dice-K is capable of right now so that had to figure in the decision. The team has maintained that there isn't a definitive injury in his shoulder, that it's just weak, but they took some shots along the way. They have obviously questioned his conditioning, his willingness, or lack thereof, to buy into their philosophy regarding conditioning, and basically blamed the WBC for most of his trouble so far this year. Now that's a discussion for another day but you have to admit it's hard to argue with them. You also know, like the Yankees and forgotten man Kei Igawa, that Boston is able to send guys down who aren't performing and eat some bad money moves that would cripple other teams, all without even blinking. Regardless, if you're counting on big things from Dice-K the rest of the way, you may be out of luck.

Erik Bedard is dealing with pain again in his surgically repaired left shoulder. For some, myself included, that's all you have to hear to be wary. But the reports are mostly positive, and he has been outstanding this year. The diagnosis given is mild case of bursitis that is unrelated to the cyst that cost him most of last year and led to surgery. But as we say every week, you never know. The Mariners believe he's improving and could return on or before the July 4 weekend.

We have just a couple more from the mound. Brandon Webb's situation does not sound good. A week ago he was improving and headed for a bullpen session that would ultimately determine where and when he would make a rehab appearance. Unfortunately, he didn't even make it to that bullpen and now everything else on hold. A couple things stand out here. One, I read that he was already seeing Dr. Andrews for a troublesome shoulder while still in high school. Two, the D-Backs couldn't get insurance on him for a lucrative contract extension last season because of concerns about that same shoulder. They can call it anything they want - a mild muscle strain, normal wear and tear, or whatever, but the point is that these things are always cumulative for pitchers so the more pain, the more problems. Not to mention muscle strains and normal wear and tear for a pitcher often leads to surgery. Just to speculate, if he did have issues with his rotator cuff as far back as high school then he's done his share of rehab, and hopefully he's rested when he needed it. He could have developed enough strength and scar tissue in those intrinsic muscles of his shoulder that they look just fine on an MRI. But if a surgeon looks inside with a scope it could be a much different story. We should hear more on Webb's third MRI this season by the end of the week so stay tuned, but I wouldn't expect good news. As with the Padres and Jake Peavy, where they are in the standings could definitely factor into a decision on his return.

As for the Padres, they lost Chris Young as well this week when he went on the DL with inflammation in his right shoulder. Young would have been depended on heavily without Peavy, but lost his last four starts and got hit hard in the process, so something was wrong. There isn't word yet on the timetable for his return but figure this to be a month at least and count on the Padres, who as of June 22 have lost five straight and 13 of 17, to continue to struggle.

There're always a few position players to detail as well. You got Carlos Beltran. Next up is Raul Ibañez. Isn't it ironic that the same week he had to answer questions about taking steroids due to his standout year so far, that he landed on the DL with a groin strain? It's probably not related at all, but the bottom line is his numbers are better than ever before at an advanced age. Of course it could be the ballpark and the lineup he's in, among other things but that's always one of the telltale signs. And he can thank Roger Clemens, A-Rod, Manny, Sammy Sosa, and Rafael Palmeiro, etc, but it's going to be hard to believe these guys ever again, now matter what they say. I did like the way he responded to those questions — that we could take back every cent he's ever made playing baseball if he ever took PED's. I haven't heard that before but it doesn't change my thinking anyway. It's not fair at all, but that's the way it is. As for the injury, supposedly it's not a big deal and he should be back by next weekend. He did report that it's been an issue since April so it could definitely linger, and he may need an additional rest here and there, but this sounds mostly positive. All things considered he appears on target to return next weekend and should continue to produce. Maybe not at the rate he started the season, but few were counting on that.

Last week I admitted I didn't give a whole lot of thought to Jake Peavy's ankle tendonitis, and it turned out to be much worse. This week, Carlos Guillen falls into that category. My mistake — he's been hurt so many times I figured it was the same old story but that is certainly not the case this time. Guillen, who has always been a great bat, has been out since early May with inflammation in his right shoulder and is still nowhere near returning. He did have the infamous MRI that revealed no structural damage. That was back in late May, but he's still not even able to swing a bat, let alone throw. If you want to call it "no structural damage" or "normal wear and tear," just understand that means something different to baseball players who have more or less abused their arms their whole life. So despite Jim Leyland's recent reaction that he heard nothing of upcoming surgery for Guillen, I wouldn't be too surprised if it's on the way a lot faster than Leyland's willing to admit. And just a small contract note — because we all know that comes into play in these decisions — the Tigers owe him $26 million more over the next two years. You have to figure they will want him healthy for as much of that time as possible. Surgery is probably the only thing that gives them that chance.

Another player to be watched is Jermaine Dye. He missed a couple games for the White Sox this weekend with a left calf strain that's been an issue for a couple weeks already. He was back for a June 23 game versus the Dodgers but he's definitely not right yet. This could linger.

It was good to see Grady Sizemore back in the Indians lineup Tuesday night, so I hope he makes it through the rest of the season and starts to show some of the numbers we are used to. Keep in mind however, that his elbow is going to be a concern regardless of how he fares these first few games back. He's not out of the woods just yet.


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