Big-name closers dealing with injuriesby Chris Neault
April 28, 2009
Carlos Marmol suffered a mild left knee sprain last Friday night after delivering a pitch to Albert Pujols. He then felt more pronounced pain on a 1-1 offering to Ryan Ludwick, coming up limping after apparently twisting awkwardly on his follow-through on the planting leg. The Cubs training staff did a great job here by not allowing Marmol to continue, as this is the type of injury that could easily go from a mild, grade I strain to a more serious injury in no time.
The MRI came back showing only a grade I sprain, and nothing more. More importantly, Marmol is feeling fine now, and he was able to throw a pain-free bullpen session today. He is going to be available to pitch on Tuesday. This is nothing for fantasy owners to worry about going forward. With Kevin Gregg currently in the doghouse, Marmol seems to be entrenched as the closer for the Cubs. It was ridiculous for Lou Piniella to tab Gregg as the closer at the beginning of the season, when Marmol was clearly the better pitcher. Place Marmol back in your lineup with confidence.
Trevor Hoffman was activated on Sunday, after spending time on the DL since March 30 with an oblique strain. When I think of Hoffman, I can't help but think of Troy Percival. Other than their proximity in age, these are two guys who are going to be injury prone for the rest of their careers. With Hoffman back in the closer's seat, Carlos Villanueva shifts back to a setup role, and makes for a fine addition in leagues that count holds. In Yahoo leagues, Villanueva has dual eligibility (SP/RP). Hoffman owners may want to keep him on speed dial, if not on their roster.
Jose Valverde's strained right calf is going to keep him out at least through mid-week, as he aggravated the injury on Sunday after pushing off to run towards first base on a grounder. He had already been out of action from last Wednesday through Friday. The fact that his injury was aggravated without much activity, and that he has what is called "pitting edema" in his lower leg (i.e. moderate swelling that leaves an indentation in the skin when pressed) indicates that it was probably a grade 2 strain. He is still limping quite noticeably, so the prospects of having him ready by Friday are poor. The Astros are trying to avoid placing him on the DL, but I wouldn't bet on a return this week, so I would say he is probably 70 percent likely to hit the DL. Latroy Hakwins is the de facto closer in his absence. You've got to be pretty desperate for saves if you want to add Hawkins.
Joakim Soria is going to be treated with kid gloves, so if there is any hint that he isn't right by the end of the week, he probably will be sent to the DL. He is clearly the most valuable pitcher in their bullpen, if not their entire staff, so don't be surprised if he doesn't return this week. He has been dealing with a sore, stiff right shoulder. As we have learned, this type of nomenclature can be misleading. This phrase has been used in situations where the injury ended up being a rotator cuff tear, labrum tear, tendonitis, and more, so you never know.
An encouraging sign was that Soria threw 30-35 easy throws yesterday in a bullpen session on flat ground, without pain, but it was well under maximal effort. If the Royals were overly concerned, or if there was something more serious going on, he would not have been allowed to even pick up a ball. This tells me that there is probably no rotator cuff or labral tear to worry about here. This could be a situation similar to what Matt Lindstrom dealt with earlier this spring. With Soria likely to be out until the weekend at the earliest, Juan Cruz and Kyle Farnsworth are the options to close out games. Cruz is the one I would target, and the better pitcher overall for the job.
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