Baseball Injury Report

Welcome to This Week in BIR. Keeping up with the injury status of hundreds of players is a time-consuming and difficult job. This Week in BIR and the Baseball Injury Report are here to help you keep up with all the injury news before your draft.

Featured Note of the Week

Rafael Furcal (SS, LAD)
The MRI on Rafael’s Furcal’s lumbar spine (lower back) revealed he has an “annular strain of the disc fibers.” Simply put, this is a slight tearing if the outer fibers of the disc in his lower back. One medical advisor explained it to me as ‘kind of like the step before herniation’ of the disc. Herniation is when the disc is damaged and the inner contents are able to escape from the inter part of the disc. This is commonly known as a slipped disc. He’s listed as day-to-day with progress being shown in the past 24 hours. It’s difficult to project returns from back ailments, so it’s not out of the question that Furcal begin the season the disabled list.

Furcal doesn’t have a history of back ailments as far as we know, and the fact they caught this ailment in the early stages is a good sign. The Dodgers’ medical staff will be on the watch to make sure he takes care of his back, including building up the abdominal muscles and stretching to take the stress off of it. If we’ve got the complete story, Furcal should avoid any further back trouble once he returns to the lineup.

From Injury Watch Notes This Past Week…

Eric Gagne (RHP, LAD)
Reports the day after his first back-to-back outings revealed some interesting information. First, he didn’t have any swelling or discomfort, just the normal soreness that comes with pitching. The tightness he felt on Wednesday is attributed to adhesions (scar tissue). His velocity Wednesday was 3-4 MPH below Tuesday. Gagne admits his shoulder strength isn’t where he wants it to be, but he’ll adjust. He indicates he’s pitching more like a starter, mixing up his pitches. He’s now a pitcher and not a thrower. It wouldn’t come as a surprise if he struggles early in the season as he builds up his arm strength and sheds the rust from the long layoff.

Dustin Hermanson (RHP, CHA)
All of the reports this past winter regarding his back pointed to continuing trouble. The fact that he did not get any relief from not playing baseball for almost three months after the World Series was a huge red flag. Now we’re getting more information regarding his back condition, and it’s not good. He’ll stay behind in Arizona because it’s his home, and he’ll rehab his back. The hope is he can improve enough to return in the second half of the season.

Hermanson was scheduled to have his third epidural injection in as many weeks last Tuesday when he cancelled the treatment. He’s received very little benefit from the first two and probably figured why go through a third injection when you know you won’t be back for a while. He also revealed they’ve talked about “singing the nerve” to help deaden the pain. This is a very painful procedure, and in some medical circles it is considered a last resort before having surgery.

Speaking of surgery, it’s now a viable option. Hermanson stated they’ve discussed the need to a vertebrae fusion procedure, which would end his career. No player has ever made it all the way back from this surgery. From the sound of it, Hermanson’s career might just be over. Bobby Jenks and Neal Cotts now have more value with the knowledge Hermanson isn’t going to back them up in 2006.

From Injury Speculator Notes This Past Week…

Is Jeremy Bonderman the key to the Tigers season? With Jim Leyland in Detroit to run the show, some of the spotlight has been removed from the Tigers and the deficiencies of their roster. In the end, they need their pitching to come through. Leading the rotation is 24-year-old Jeremy Bonderman, the only true ace on the staff.

At times last season (in the first half), he was starting to live up to the billing. Later in the year, he developed some elbow soreness before hanging it up during September. We’ve seen flashes of the dominating right-hander, and at other times we’ve seen problems. In his latest outing, he allowed three homers to Jason Michaels, Travis Hafner and Jhonny Peralta of the Indians.

A baseball observer told me Bonderman was struggling with his release point at various times during this outing. This may or may not be traced to elbow problems. His velocity was good, as was the movement on his pitches so it’s not a clear-cut answer. April hasn’t been kind to Bonderman in the past, so it’s a good gauge to judge him against this season.

If he produces a lower Ratio and sub-4.00 ERA, it would signal a healthy elbow and maturity on his part. A high ratio and poor ratio (and maybe a bunch of homers) could tell us his elbow isn’t 100%.

Keith Foulke (RHP, BOS)
The word coming out of Boston is Foulke’s fastball is looking very good, and he has a lot of velocity separation between his fastball and changeup. Most pitchers are effective when they have 10 or more MPH difference to keep hitters off stride in their timing. Missing in the reports is an examination of his velocity.

His fastball is improved over last year and is clocked in the 85-86 MPH range. What he hasn’t found yet is his ability to push it to 90-91 MPH, as he could in 2003-2004. His inability to get his fastball ramped up that high is likely due to two factors. While his knees are much better than last year, he still hasn’t regained all the strength and confidence in them. This will come in time; second is his arm strength.

He’s done a moderate amount of throwing but not a normal spring’s worth. He just started facing hitters within the last week, and long tossing and throwing on the side can do just so much to build up your arm strength. This too in time will improve. As long as his knees stay pain free and strong there isn’t any reason Foulke can’t rebound and pitch much closer to the 2004 version that the 2005 edition.

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