Baseball Injury Report

From Injury Watch Notes This Past Week

Rocco Baldelli (OF, TB)
Baldelli’s sore left hamstring has healed enough that he passed a big hurdle on Tuesday; he was able to play in an extended spring training game. A Tampa Bay source at the game indicated to me that he moved without a limp, though he did seem to be favoring the leg ever so lightly. The Devil Rays have him penciled in to play more spring games through Saturday, then he’ll begin his minor league rehab assignment on Sunday. The front office would like to get him 20 at-bats or so before activating him, putting his return date May 5-6.

It’s been a long layoff, and Baldelli owners (I’m one of them) would be wise to sit him a few games as he shakes the rust. He has after all missed more than a season of baseball due to a torn ACL, Tommy John surgery, and a hamstring strain.

Todd Helton (1B, COL)
The diagnosis is in, and it sounds worse than it is, though it is not to downplay the seriousness of his illness. Helton is diagnosed with acute terminal (meaning end of small intestine) ileitis (pronounced ill-eee-i-tis). Simply put, it’s inflammation of the terminal end of the small intestine. In a chronic situation it’s known as Crohn’s disease. Helton will be treated with medication and a modified diet. We won’t know for a few days how long he’ll be out, but seeing Helton return in less than one month from now seems unlikely.

Julio Lugo (SS, TB)
In a classic case of swimming in quicksand, Lugo struggles to make noticeable progress from an intercostal muscle strain in his ribcage on his left side. He’s illustrating how difficult it is to predict a return date or see players rebound quickly from this ailment. It just doesn’t happen. Tampa Bay is speculating he won’t be back for another three weeks. This puts his return date around May 15th, meaning he would miss about six weeks with the injury, which is about two weeks longer than the average recovery time.

What makes his situation more troubling is that this is the second ‘adjustment’ the Devil Rays have made with his recovery rate. They’re either afraid to term it a setback when they announce the return date, or, the ailment just isn’t responding to treatment as quickly as they expected.

He needs to get to the level of recovery where he can go out on a rehab assignment. The longer he is out of the lineup, the longer he’ll need to play in minor league games to get his swing down and to become comfortable at the plate. This isn’t the kind of news you want to hear if you are Lugo owner. Any kind of setback could push his return to the end of May or early June.

From Injury Speculator Notes This Past Week

Brad Lidge (RHP, HOU)
Lidge entered the 2006 season a solid lock to be the dominating closer he’s been the past few seasons. So what is the cause of his decline in control (10 walks) and command (3 HRs in 2006, 5 all of 2005)? I could not find any physical ailment or rumor that would help explain his early season struggles. Not even a hint of a rumor.

The next question relates to his mental frame of mind after his post-season collapse last year. This topic was discussed in great detail at the 2005 First Pitch Forum-Phoenix after the 2005 postseason. I made the point that we had to wonder if Lidge was going to suffer some confidence issues in 2006 because of the 2005 postseason. A closer’s confidence can be as fragile as rare china. Outwardly, Lidge looks like he’s tough as nails. Inside, we don’t know. We don’t have that answer and may never know what he’s going through.

For the record, Lidge says he doesn’t think about 2005. What would you expect him to say? Yes it bugs the heck out of me everyday! On the plus side, his K/9 rate is 12.34. Not as high as the past couple of years but still among the elite in the National League. He’s using 20.1 pitches per inning, mostly due to the walks, so this is 3-4 pitches too many. We’ve already talked about the strikeouts and high walk count early on.

There is enough evidence to point to mechanical issues causing his problems, and that’s what we believe the reason is for his struggles. They are easily correctable, and it should happen soon. He’s too good a talent to pitch this poorly.

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