We lead off the first in-season BIRNewsletter with a detailed analysis of Kenny Rogers‘ injury…
Kenny Rogers (LHP, DET)
The Tigers initially indicated Rogers would start the season on the DL due to a tired arm. They expected him to miss only one start. There weren’t any signs in his latest outing (6 IP) that he was having problems with his left shoulder. Friday morning, Rogers underwent surgery to remove a blood clot from his left shoulder and damage to several arteries. The surgery was a success and initial reports indicate he’ll resume throwing in six to eight weeks.
Two pitchers come to mind who underwent surgery to remove a blot clot in the pitching shoulder. One was Kip Wells last year. The other was Woody Williams in 2000. Wells (RHP, with PIT in 2006) went on the disabled list April 3 and returned June 18, 2006 (76 days). His diagnosis was a blood clot in his right arm, similar to Rogers.
Williams’ (RHP, SD in 2000) situation was somewhat different. He developed an aneurysm under the armpit of his pitching shoulder in May 2000 and had surgery to repair it. He spent 56 days on the disabled list.
The difference between Wells and Rogers is noticeable. Wells was 13 years younger than Rogers when he had his surgery. Based on available information, Wells did not need additional surgery to arteries in the area of the clot, as Rogers did. This is the wild card. Depending on how much more extensive the surgery was, Rogers may need more time to return than Wells did.
Projecting his recovery time using Wells as a comparison, 76-90 days puts his return late-June to mid-July. Because of his age and the nature of the surgery, it is unlikely he can make it back quicker than the expected recovery time frame. Wells struggled his first few starts after returning from the DL before pitching effectively in July 2006, only to have a sprained foot end his 2006 season. We could expect a similar pattern from Rogers. But with only one good comparison, expecting Rogers to bounce back quickly is a risky proposition.
Esteban Loaiza (RHP, OAK)
The good news is the latest shoulder malady for Loaiza does not include the rotator cuff and he doesn’t have a torn muscle. He does have spasms in his right trapezius muscle. He battled this ailment off and on most of spring training. If he doesn’t have an underlying cause, such as a torn muscle or structure, this should be an ailment that the medical staff can clear up with treatment and rest.
Rocco Baldelli (OF, TB)
Baldelli’s strained right hamstring is improving and he avoided the DL at the start of the season. One thing is apparent from comments by his manager and observers who have seen him play this spring: He won’t be running a lot early on, in an effort to protect his leg (though he stole a base in Tampa Bay’s opener Monday). If you were counting on 20-plus stolen bases (he stole 27 in 2003) you’ll be disappointed.
He does have one thing working for him: the Devil Rays’ schedule in April. Other than the Yankees to start the season, Tampa Bay does not play a game in cold weather and that has to be a plus for Baldelli and his hamstring.
Eric Gagne (RHP, TEX)
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that he will start the year on the disabled list. The Rangers are taking the cautious approach, and that’s a plus. He worked just half the planned 12 innings in spring training, due in part to weakness in his pitching shoulder. The current estimate has Gagne returning in the middle of April.
Gagne owners shouldn’t expect him to be awarded the closer job as soon as he returns, either. He needs to show he can maintain his arm strength and get hitters out consistently.
As we’ve said many times this spring, Gagne needs to show he can be an effective reliever while not throwing a high-90s heater. Those days are gone. Is his elbow fully recovered from the surgery early last season? Can he learn to pitch effectively even though he doesn’t have all the feeling in his pitching arm? There are lots of questions regarding Gagne and few answers at the moment.
From our avoid-due-to-poor-spring-training-stats list, March 29, 2007…
Aaron Harang (RHP, CIN)
Last year was his career year and he was second in the majors with 3,747 pitches thrown. Harang had nothing to prove this spring and it’s a good thing. It’s hard to find anything positive about his 2007 spring training. Could all those pitches have taken something out of his arm? His ERA of 6.66 (I’m not even going to go there) and 46 hits was good for a 1.87 Ratio.
Last spring his ERA, Ratio and hits allowed were: 2.84 ERA, 1.10 Ratio and just 20 hits in 19 innings of work. He can’t blame it on an annual “I don’t pitch well in spring training” excuse.
And then he went out and won the Reds’ opener Monday.
Cliff Lee (RHP, CLE)
Lee is making solid progress from the strained abdominal muscle that landed him on the DL at the start of the season. His first bullpen session was scheduled for Thursday and the results of that outing will go a long way to judge how far he has to go. Most likely, Lee will need another three weeks or so to get game-ready. This puts his return around April 18.
Toby Hall (C, CHA)
Hall is looking to avoid surgery on the torn labrum in his pitching shoulder by visiting several physicians to get another opinion on his ailment. He already knows that if he has surgery he’ll miss the season. There isn’t any risk in trying a rehab program first, and if that fails, having the surgery later. In our experience, the rehab program rarely works and surgery ends up being the only option with success.