Baseball Injury Reportby Rick Wilton
June 27, 2006
Featured Note of the Week
Mark Mulder (LHP, STL)
My concerns regarding Mulder were well-founded after reports he couldn’t even lift his pitching arm up to his shoulder earlier this week. The diagnosis is shoulder impingement, inflammation of the rotator cuff, and slight fraying of the rotator cuff.
The Cardinals placed him on the 15-day DL and indicated they believe he won’t need surgery. The Cardinals will shut him down for a week and then re-evaluate him. The treatment plan is anti-inflammatory medicine and rest for at least a week. The fraying of the rotator cuff (or labrum as was mentioned in the news conference) isn’t of concern to the medical staff.
The medical staff believes it is just normal wear and tear. The impingement, the pinching of a tendon of the rotator cuff, is usually due to muscle weakness in the shoulder. The plan of action is to reduce the inflammation, build up the shoulder strength, and then get him back on a pitching mound.
Conclusion: It sounds like he’s avoided surgery for the time being. When he returns to throwing after the rest period and treatment, the surgery talk could surface again if the pain is still present. The best-case scenario has Mulder resuming exercise and long tossing early in July and returning in late July or early August. Even if he does return quickly (unlikely), the odds are against him that he’ll be productive the rest of the season. Worst-case scenario has Mulder undergoing surgery and being lost for the year.
From Injury Watch Notes This Past Week
Shannon Stewart (OF, MIN)
The Twins plan on sending Stewart out for a minor league rehab assignment on Saturday. The hope is he’ll be ready for a July 1 activation. The disturbing part of the news from Minneapolis is that Stewart is still feeling pain in the area of the tendon tear in his left foot. Manager Ron Gardenhire indicated “it's good enough" even though he still feels pain.
Furthermore, he admitted they know he’s not 100% and won’t be. There is an unwritten understanding when most players come off the DL they aren’t 100%. That usually doesn’t happen until the offseason. Still, the way the Twins have framed his situation gives us the impression he’s well under 100% and will remain so once he’s activated.
The combination of the type of injury he’s recovering from and this news should give his owners reason for concern once he’s activated.
Adam Eaton (RHP, TEX)
Eaton is a little more than two months removed from surgery to repair damage to a tendon (torn pulley tendon) in the index finger of his pitching hand. To this point in his recovery, he’s avoided any setbacks. Wednesday was a milestone as he threw breaking pitches for the first time. If all goes as planned the next week or so, Eaton is scheduled to go out on a rehab assignment early in July.
The Rangers are so confident in his recovery they have tentatively penciled in Eaton to pitch on or about July 26. This is a couple of weeks later than the original estimate, just after the All-Star Break, but he’d still have a third of the season to pitch.
Kerry Wood (RHP, CHC)
Sometimes you get negative vibes regarding a player's medical condition. This has been the case with Wood for sometime. The setbacks and very slow progress in his rehab work contribute to the air of uncertainty regarding Wood. Now we have a report out of Chicago that backs up our concerns. Wood was working a simulated game while in Cleveland that was cut short due to a continuing problem; he gets to a certain pitch count level (65-75), and his shoulder tightens up.
We could speculate it is just shoulder weakness causing the problem. However, the Cubs think it could be more. Mixed messages are being sent regarding the next course of action. He could sit for a few days, then try another simulated game, maybe more tests, maybe a simulated game. Some believe he should continue to push to get over the hump, stopping only if he feels pain.
How about a move to the bullpen since he can't throw more than 65-75 pitches in an outing? It won't happen. The Cubs indicate he is slow to warm up, due in part to the surgery he had last season. Last season when Wood did some short pitching stints, he needed more than double the amount of time most relievers need to get ready. So working as a reliever looks to be out of the question.
It is not out of the question that Wood hits the 65-75 pitch wall or suffers a serious setback and is shut down for the year. If you are a Wood owner, you better prepare for the rest of the season without Wood, and if you get him back, he'll have very little, if any, value. In some ways, this shouldn't come as a surprise. Pitchers who have labrum surgery (like Wood) are rarely effective the first year back from the surgery.
Keith Foulke (RHP, BOS)
The news regarding Foulke's sore pitching elbow gets more dire with each report. He hasn't made any progress since going on the disabled list on June 12. The combination of electrical stimulation treatments, hot and cold treatments and anti-inflammatory medication hasn't made a dent in the elbow tendinitis. Foulke cannot even do little things like touch his face or tie his shoes with his right hand.
With no signs of improvement or a schedule to resume throwing, the immediate future looks bleak for Foulke. We're looking at a longer-than-expected DL stint, possibly not seeing him in a Red Sox uniform until August.
From Injury Speculator Notes This Past Week
Noah Lowry (RHP, SF)
In his last six starts, Lowry has allowed at least one home run in each outing. His strikeout-per-nine-innings (K/9) rate is 3.74 after posting a 7.56 in 2005. Scouting reports indicate the velocity on his fastball has gone from 88-91 MPH last season to 83-85 MPH this season. The drop in velocity has greatly narrowed the difference between his offspeed pitch and his fastball, making him ineffective at times.
Credit Lowry with using what he had on any given day to get the job done, but it's becoming an uphill battle. Advance scouts have the word out that if you sit on the fastball, you still can handle the offspeed stuff because of the decreased velocity. The Giants coaches and Lowry don’t have an answer to some of his struggles other than to say he’s healthy. Reading between the lines, it could be mechanical in nature. I have another theory.
Lowry spent a month on the DL early in the year with a strained oblique muscle. Even though he says it doesn’t hurt, this injury may have changed his mechanics enough to affect his velocity and command. In any case, Lowry definitely isn’t at his best right now, and with no answers in sight, his owners shouldn’t expect a rebound until he knows what is causing the decrease in velocity and drop in strikeouts.
Rick Wilton is the Publisher of the Baseball Injury Report website, the foremost authority on injuries for fantasy baseball owners. He also published the first of its kind Baseball Injury Annual this spring.