Felix Hernandez (RHP, SEA)
Tests revealed a flexor pronator strain in his pitching elbow. He will not throw a baseball for five days and then he’ll be re-evaluated. The good news is there is no involvement with his ulnar collateral ligament in his pitching elbow. The early projection says he’ll miss two starts with a decision as to whether he goes on the DL yet to be made. It does not look like a serious injury and Hernandez was wise to notify the team after the first pitch he felt the tightness. (He’s scheduled to throw April 24-25)
Zach Duke (LHP, PIT)
Duke worked 192 innings in 2005 (Triple-A and the Pirates) and 215 innings this past season at the age of 23. This spring, he posted a 1.38 ratio in 16,2 innings of work. His spring was uneventful and it didn’t offer any signs he would get knocked around once the regular season began.
His strikeout rate is currently sitting at 2.37. Last season it was a borderline 4.89, and in his rookie season it was 6.17. The downward trend is troubling because he’s not missing enough bats to be successful. Is his paltry strikeout rate due to inexperience and a lack of a dominating pitch, or is he showing signs of shoulder/arm weakness?
He’s a talented pitcher; we saw that in his rookie season back in 2005. No one around the Pirates will say he’s hurt or his shoulder is weak. Everything is okay, as far as they know. Is his 1.89 Ratio and 9.00 ERA just a bad stretch of pitching? Veteran Pirates observers think so. If his strikeout rate wasn’t so low and ratio so high, I’d believe them, but with that kind of rate, something is going on.
We should keep a close eye on his situation and see if he turns it around in the next three to four starts. If it doesn’t, then maybe the talk of some sort of arm problem will surface in Pittsburgh.
Ben Sheets (RHP, MIL)
Three starts into the 2007 season and Sheets’ strikeout rate is all the way down to 4.00 after being 9.85 last season. Why is this significant for Sheets? When his strikeout rate falls below the 6.00 level, at least in the past, some sort of physical ailment ended up being the cause.
For the record, Sheets says he’s healthy and his velocity readings in his three starts this season don’t signal any physical problems. This should tell us his shoulder strength is where it should be. A closer look at his statistics, specifically, walks and ground balls, don’t point to any problems in those areas either.
Right now it doesn’t look like Sheets has any physical problems causing the decrease in strikeouts (and struggles in two of his three starts). However, because of his past history of various injuries, we’ll be watching the strikeout totals and radar gun readings, looking for any signs of shoulder problems.
B.J. Ryan (LHP, TOR)
This is one of those times where the general announcement regarding a player’s injury is misleading. When it was first announced, the down time was four to six weeks. Simple enough. Now, the Jays are saying he won’t even begin to throw a baseball for the next four weeks! Then he’ll start a long toss program, then be eased into a pitching regime that will get him game ready. Working in his favor is the fact that he’s a reliever.
They don’t have to build up their pitch counts during rehabs into the 80-90 pitch range, so that saves him some time. That being said, it’s not like Ryan will start throwing on day 31 and be ready for game action on day 40-42. On top of the four to six week proclamation, any kind of setback or need to give him a few more days to get game ready isn’t factored into this timetable.
Relievers, who typically don’t throw for 30 days, need at least 21 more days after they resume throwing before returning to major league action. We doubt Ryan will be any different. The more accurate projection for his return should be 6-8 weeks, putting his return early-to-mid June. This doesn’t mean he won’t return sooner than this timetable, just that the odds are against it.