I started off the most recent blog talking about the bad luck the San Diego Padres' pitching staff has had recently. Apparently that streak had not fully run its course just yet, and it has now extended beyond their pitching staff as catcher Josh Bard is among the wounded. Closers continue to struggle with their delivery and their health, and Eric Gagne is the latest to be put on mandatory rest. But how long will he be out? Hmm. The latest injuries remind us that there is often some overlap between injury and poor performance, and the trick is figuring out the ratio in order to make the fix.
Chris Young, P, and Josh Bard, C, San Diego Padres: Albert Pujols is single-handedly taking down the Padres, not only with his bat, but with his body as well. Wednesday night during the third inning of the St. Louis Cardinals' visit to Petco Park, Pujols lined a shot off the face of Padres pitcher Chris Young. The hit netted Pujols a single, but Young ended up with a broken nose, a facial laceration and a trip to the hospital according to the North County Times. Two batters later, Pujols headed home to score but arrived at the same time as the ball in Josh Bard's mitt. On the slide, Pujols' front (right) leg collided with Bard's extended left leg and Bard clearly lost that battle. Bard was assisted from the field, in a great deal of pain with his leg visibly impaired and, per the North County Times, the injury was called a high left ankle sprain. Bard has been placed on the DL, and we know from past experience that high ankle sprains often mean at least a month of missed time, generally more. Considering that catchers spend a good portion of time in the crouch, which places extra stress on the ankle, and then have to push through the ankles to jump into position, Bard's recovery may be on the slower side.
The good news here is that the bloody and battered Young, who was treated at the hospital and released, did not suffer any worse damage. The nose provides a barrier for the face that slows the impact of an object, such as a baseball traveling at warp speed, and hopefully that slowing prevents brain injury. A hard-hit line drive that hits a pitcher in the face runs the risk of shoving the nose back toward the brain and causing further damage. The ball could also hit another portion of the face or skull, resulting in a facial or skull fracture, which can result in surgery and significantly worse potential complications. The Padres have not yet indicated whether Young will be placed on the DL, but it would not be surprising for him to at least miss his next scheduled start. All this happened, of course, in the wake of the Padres' announcement Tuesday that their young ace Jake Peavy would be placed on the DL for inflammation in his throwing elbow. An MRI reportedly showed no structural damage to the ulnar collateral (Tommy John) ligament, but Peavy himself told the San Diego Union-Tribune that this ailment is much closer to the ligament than the injury that took him to the DL in 2004 (a flexor muscle strain that kept him out for six weeks). There is no set timetable for his return at this point, but given the nagging behavior of his condition, expect him to miss more than the automatic 15 days.
Eric Gagne, P, Milwaukee Brewers: Gagne has been instructed to rest by team physician Dr. William Raasch after receiving a cortisone shot to address rotator cuff tendinitis. Gagne will not be permitted to throw for at least three days, at which point he will be re-evaluated. He will rejoin his team Friday and at this point does not appear to be headed to the DL, although the team has indicated that that could change. Gagne has struggled this season to close consistently, and was removed from the position briefly to get a mental break. According to ESPN reports, Gagne said that he originally developed some soreness in his shoulder a week ago when he threw daily in an effort to address problems in his delivery. Then Tuesday, while facing the Pirates, Gagne developed stiffness in his shoulder and was removed from the game. Gagne has a history of elbow problems in his throwing arm, including recurrent nerve-related pain which was causing him to have numbness in his fingers and ultimately resulted in surgery. Gagne did experience a bout of shoulder tendinitis last fall which caused him to miss a couple of weeks, but after he rested during the offseason there were no reported lingering issues. Three days is a short recovery time if indeed there is significant inflammation. Even if his symptoms have resolved with a few days' rest, the likelihood is that the team brings him back via a throwing progression that will unfold over at least a week. Don't be surprised if Gagne is out of the mix for at least a week, or even if he ultimately goes the route of the DL in an effort to address all that's been ailing him this season.
Austin Kearns, OF, Washington Nationals: Kearns has been dealing with a sore right elbow and is going to have it addressed, surgically. Kearns is expected to undergo arthroscopic surgery Friday to remove some bone chips in the elbow. Initially it did not appear that Kearns would be going under the knife but with the swelling and soreness persisting, and after collecting several opinions, the decision was made to treat the elbow surgically. At this point Kearns is expected to miss three to four weeks, assuming that there are no additional findings during surgery, and assuming recovery goes as planned. He will need to regain his range of motion, his arm strength and, given his role as an outfielder, will have to progress his throwing program to long range. If Kearns' elbow is otherwise healthy, he should be able to recover from this episode and return to his role successfully.
Andruw Jones, OF, Los Angeles Dodgers: Jones definitely has something going on with his knee; the question is whether he will have surgery to address it or whether he will be able to play through it. According to a report in the Los Angeles Times, one of the main factors in the decision is whether the swelling persists in the knee. Jones, who had been feeling increasing discomfort in the knee over a couple of games, underwent an MRI early in the week which revealed a small cartilage tear. The Dodgers' official Web site also describes the presence of a Baker's cyst in Jones' knee. Such cysts, which are really fluid-filled pouches, are problematic because the swelling occupies a great deal of space in the back side of the knee and, in addition to being painful, can severely limit the range of motion. Interestingly, these "cysts" often develop in association with meniscal or cartilage injury, and when those injuries are addressed, the cysts can spontaneously resolve. The Los Angeles Times reported that Jones felt better after a few days' rest and was hopeful that he might be able to play Friday if the swelling remained minimal. Jones, who has never made a trip to the DL, would like to do all in his power to continue to avoid it. There is a possibility that Jones is in the lineup Friday, but if he suffers any setbacks, the next step is sure to be surgical intervention that would likely keep him away from the game for at least four to six weeks.
Roy Oswalt, P, Houston Astros: Oswalt made his scheduled start Thursday at Minute Maid Park to face the Philadelphia Phillies despite dealing with hip pain over the last week. Oswalt, who left Saturday's game with what the team referred to as a groin strain, skipped his bullpen sessions this week to allow the hip to rest. Oswalt, who has faced groin injuries in the past, had indicated that this pain felt deeper in the hip itself and did not feel muscular, always a flag raiser in a pitcher where labral tears and degenerative arthritis can become serious matters (for example, Jason Isringhausen had surgery on his hip prior to the 2007 season). For the time being it appears that Oswalt escaped something more serious as he managed to throw for six innings Thursday, but it was a rough outing nonetheless (five runs, 11 hits). We will keep an eye on Oswalt to see if this is something that crops up again.
And in the good news department
Rafael Furcal, SS, Dodgers: Furcal has been testing his back in every possible way (fielding drills, running, batting practice) and has survived them all without incident. This has prompted optimism that he could return to the lineup for the Dodgers' series against the Cardinals this weekend. According to the Los Angeles Times, Furcal said he would resume his position straightaway if healthy enough, with no minor league stint as an interim measure. The suggestion has been all along that Furcal would return this week if everything went as planned, so expect to see him at some point during this series.
Doug Davis, P, Arizona Diamondbacks: Welcome back Doug!! Now that Davis has tackled his thyroid cancer head-on and beaten that, he will face the Braves Friday as he returns to the Diamondbacks' rotation. After several rehab starts, Davis is looking and feeling well, and will no doubt provide inspiration to everyone around him.
Be sure to check back throughout the Memorial Day weekend as we update these and other injuries. In the meantime, enjoy good weather and good health, and may all your fantasy players stay active on your roster and avoid the DL!