Wounded pitchers

From Injury Watch June 21, 2007
Jason Schmidt (RHP, LAD)

Wow! I said early this spring that Schmidt had been dealing with a damaged shoulder, but I never envisioned the damage the surgeon found when he opened up the shoulder Wednesday. Schmidt has some scarring of the bursa sac, a frayed biceps tendon and a partially detached labrum. The labrum injury is the most severe and one that did not show up on the MRI. The labrum was re-attached to the bone and he will still need considerable time to allow it to heal properly. The Dodgers speculate that the damaged labrum prevented Schmidt from having complete range of motion. Thus, he lost a considerable amount velocity on his pitches.

In 2000, Schmidt had a torn labrum and frayed rotator cuff while pitching with the Pirates. He ended up missing 129 days of that season. According to several sources, this surgery is much more extensive. While Dodgers trainer Stan Conte states that Schmidt will be throwing in spring training, it is highly unlikely he will be ready for the early part of next season. Now that he has had two labrum injuries, with the most severe just occurring, his ability to pitch effectively in 2008 is a longshot.

From Injury Watch June 22, 2007
Anibal Sanchez (RHP, FLA)

Dr. James Andrews arthroscopically repaired Sanchez’ labrum in his pitching shoulder Thursday. He will not be allowed to begin throwing until September-October. Reportedly, there was some concern among the Marlins medical staff that Sanchez had nerve damage in the shoulder. Andrews did not find any evidence of nerve damage. Sanchez developed shoulder discomfort in early May, but didn’t tell the Marlins until he was demoted to Triple-A. Since then, he’s attempted to rehab the shoulder, but to no avail. We are always very cautious of pitchers who need labrum surgery, and Sanchez is no different. There is no guarantee he’ll be ready for the start of the 2008 season.

From Injury Watch June 22, 2007
Rich Harden (RHP, OAK)

Harden has been activated by the Athletics and will be used out of the bullpen, at least initially. The thinking in Oakland is, rather than waste Harden in several rehab assignment outings, why not use him as a reliever at the major-league level? This will allow him to rebuild the strength in his strained right shoulder.

Harden owners should not get comfortable with the idea that he’ll work three to five relief outings and then move back into the rotation. It may mean the medical staff does not feel confident enough for him to work as a starter, but feels his shoulder could hold up in a structured relief role. As always, lurking in the background is his medical history. He just can’t seem to stay healthy.

From Injury Watch June 21, 2007
Curt Schilling (RHP, BOS)

The MRI on Schilling’s ailing right shoulder did not reveal any damage to the rotator cuff or labrum. We’ve seen numerous times that MRI examinations can and often will miss injuries. Right now, the Red Sox say he has a sore shoulder. Schilling says he has tendinitis. He received a cortisone injection Tuesday, with the full benefits not being known until Friday. Working in both Schilling’s and the Red Sox’ favor is a huge lead in the American League East that gives them the luxury of placing him on the DL when normally they might not.

Schilling is the rare pitcher who was able to overcome a damaged labrum and have a highly successful career. He damaged the labrum in 1995 while with the Phillies. Schilling said that when he had that injury, he lost a considerable amount of velocity between two starts and had pain when he woke up in the morning. He indicates that this time doesn’t feel pain in the morning.

With the available information, this appears to be a case of inflammation in his shoulder. That should be cleared up by the cortisone injection, a little bit of rest and the rehab program. That being said, we are close enough to the All-Star break that the Red Sox may use that time off along with the disabled list stint to make sure Schilling is healthy for a second-half run.

From Injury Watch June 21, 2007
Dontrelle Willis (LHP, FLA)

When a pitcher refuses to take an MRI and tells everyone that his shoulder is okay, that should raise a red flag. After his last start, Willis felt some tightness in the muscle just below his elbow but indicated the next day that the treatment helped clear it up. In his latest start, Willis was seen shaking his pitching arm numerous times. His velocity was down and control was off. The Marlins indicate he was pulled from his last start only as a precaution, not because he is hurt.

Could Willis be hiding an injury that has caused him to struggle this season? Marlins sources deny it, and his numbers paint a confusing picture. A big concern is the number of walks he’s allowed so far (44), though his K/9 rate of 6.2 is right in line with the past three seasons. Velocity and movement don’t appear to be a problem. His GB/FB ratio is 1.80, the highest mark of his major league career. Because he’s able to keep the ball down in the strike zone more often, he should have seen more of a benefit, but he hasn’t.

He’s only 25 years old, and one has to wonder if his more than 600 innings pitched the past three plus seasons is catching up with him this season. Willis owners need to watch his forearm-elbow situation closely. It doesn’t look like it’s serious now, but it could become a problem.

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