The Baseball Injury Report

Featured Note of the Week

Keith Foulke (RHP, BOS)
For those of us hoping for an eventual return to the closer role for Keith Foulke, that dream took a hit yesterday. It isn’t so much how well Jonathan Papelbon is pitching, but Foulke’s knees. He admitted the Synvisc injections he received in the spring have started to wear off recently. He’s feeling some discomfort, similar to what he felt before the injections, just not as severe. One of the main reasons he received the injections this spring was to help accelerate the healing process in both knee joints. It’s working just not at the pace he and the Red Sox had hoped.

He does have improved range of motion and less pain, allowing him to pitch with less pain. The fact the Synvisc injections are having a less positive benefit this soon is reason for concern, though the Red Sox downplay this idea. There are a couple of options. One would be to place him back on the DL and allow the medical staff to structure a program to build up his leg strength further, and with some rest the inflammation in the joints could healer quicker.

The other option is another round of Synvisc injections. To the best of my knowledge, none of the major players in the majors who have had this treatment have needed or experienced a second round of injections so soon after the first round. In Randy Johnson’s case, he reportedly went from spring training to the All Star break on the initial Synvisc injections.

What does the future hold for Foulke? It sounds like the Reds Sox and Foulke will wait a bit longer to see if his knees stop barking at him. If they do, maybe the inflammation has settled down. More likely, I suspect he’ll go back on the DL in the short term, receive the injections, then take the 15 days to get ready for activation.

From Injury Watch Notes This Past Week

Brad Wilkerson (OF, TEX)

We’re reading and hearing a lot of talk regarding a revamped swing for Brad Wilkerson. This talk also includes speculation that he’s working on becoming a more patient hitter and is still adjusting to American League pitchers. All of this might just be window dressing to cover up the real problem. His right shoulder.

He’s already had one cortisone injection and may need several more during the season. While we haven’t got the details of the exact shoulder ailment, it’s serious enough that Wilkerson appears resigned for the need for surgery once the season ends. What does he have to lose if surgery is inevitable? Nothing. So we’ll read and hear more stories about him tweaking this or that, hoping to see his bat come around. Yet, his strikeout pace remains above 200 for the season—if he lasts that long. David Dellucci would have come in handy as a replace if/when Wilkerson breaks down.

Anderson Hernandez (2B, NYM)
The result of the MRI done on Anderson Hernandez’s ailing back isn’t good. He has a herniated disc in the lumbar region (lower back). He’s struggling to do just the normal day-to-day things like walking and sleeping without feeling noticeable pain. One look on his face in Wednesday’s clubhouse pointed to a protracted DL stint.

Typically, one would expect a player to miss 4-5 weeks with this type of injury. With the addition information from Hernandez that he’s not a fast healer, we’ll point to a six-week recovery period. This would put his return just after Memorial Day. If Kaz Matsui plays well in his absence and stays healthy, Hernandez would likely be headed down to Triple-A.

Sean Casey (1B, PIT)
Sean Casey was released from the hospital on Tuesday. He’s recovering from the fracture of the transverse processes in two of the lumbar vertebrae in his back. After discussing this injury with a back specialist, Casey isn’t likely to begin any kind of noticeable rehab work until the bones heal. This could be four to six weeks after the injury. Casey will then need time to build up the strength in his back and flexibility after a long period of inactivity.

Then of course, baseball related activities. He’s going to be hard pressed to return in six or seven weeks. A solid eight weeks is the likely recovery time, putting his return the middle part of June. Any kind of setback or slow healing likely will send his return to the end of June.

From Injury Speculator Notes This Past Week …

Adrian Beltre is 70 at-bats into the 2006 season and he has yet to hit a home run. His power outage is so bad that his .200 slugging percentage ranks him 192nd in the majors at the moment. Can the strained right hip flexor he suffered while playing in the World Baseball Classic be the main cause? Beltre and the Mariners say no. Could it be the sore wrist he suffered earlier in April? That’s not it either. Supposedly, he’s healthy and just is slow getting out of the gate.

Last season, there isn’t a month where he struggled even remotely close to what we’ve seen so far this season. So far he’s in un-chartered waters as far as the depth of his early season slump.

Beltre’s struggles in 2006, followed up with a look at his 2005 season compared to his career 2004 season with the Dodgers fuels the steroid speculation. Like Mike Lowell of the Florida Marlins last year, speculation around the National League hinted that might be the reason. It’s impossible to prove whether this is the answer or not. Unless an injury surfaces that would explain his slow start, one has to wonder if it’s the reason. Of course, a 4-5 home run, 9 RBI .397 average week would likely end this speculation. The sample size (70 at-bats and counting) is too small to lean to heavily in one direction or another.

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