The Baseball Injury Report

Featured Note of the Week

Justin Duchscherer (RHP, OAK)
A couple of weeks ago, the news that Duchscherer had some minor soreness in his pitching elbow was met with little concern around the A’s. That false hope is likely to change with the latest news.

While doing some rehab work on his pitching forearm and elbow, he felt pain in his pitching elbow. This was just some lightweight work with his wrist, and his elbow started barking at him. This suggests the main tendon in his forearm is either the source of the pain or it is rubbing up against the painful area in his pitching elbow. He underwent an MRI on the elbow, but the cause of the pain was not discovered conclusively. This prevents the medical staff from treating it with a cortisone injection until they know the exact cause.

The A’s haven’t provided any additional information, but this latest report hints that he’s back at square one and a quick 15-day DL stint is a fleeting wish. It’s not out of the question this setback will push his return to sometime after the All-Star break, perhaps late in July.

From Injury Watch Notes This Past Week

Mike Maroth (LHP, DET)
The irritation involving his pitching elbow has returned, and the Tigers placed Maroth on the disabled list Friday. The malady developed this spring and reportedly disappeared for a while in May before returning recently. This is the third time this season where his pitching elbow started barking at him, and he was shut down or placed on the disabled list. No word from the Tigers on how long he’ll be out of action.

He has been healthy enough to post a 5-2 record and a 3.56 ERA, so the inflammation has not had a major impact on his pitching. The concern has to be that the ailment continues to bother him and at some point the Tigers will need to sit him down for an extended period of time to make sure it clears up. Is this that time?

Jayson Werth (OF, LA)
It’s not only starting to look like Werth won’t be back until late in the 2006 season, it’s not out of the question his career will never be the same due to the hand injury he suffered over a year ago. Werth received a cortisone injection into his troublesome left wrist on Wednesday, because he continues to struggle with scar tissue, pain and swelling in the wrist.

He’s back in a cast for a minimum of three or four weeks, which will allow the inflammation to die down and the damage done to the wrist to heal some more. This means he might still be in cast at the end of June, almost half was through the season. In a best-case scenario, the cast comes off and he flies through his rehab (highly unlikely), and he’s back with the Dodgers in late August or early September. If he struggles during the recovery, it pushes his return date into September and by then he might as well shut it down for the year.

Mike Sweeney (1B, KC)
The Royals can’t seem to catch a break, and that bad luck is following Mike Sweeney too. He’s been out of the lineup with a herniated disc in his cervical spine almost a month. He recently suffered a setback when a scheduled cortisone injection treatment was cancelled. No word why it was terminated. The medical staff is evaluating his condition with a new timetable to be offered up shortly.

Sweeney is able to do most of the daily activities but is a ways away from getting the green light to resume any baseball-related activities. This latest setback doesn’t help.

From Injury Speculator Notes This Past Week

Andy Pettitte (LHP, HOU)
This spring, I wrote that Pettitte was being brought along slowly with his annual sore elbow in the spring. It happened the year before, and Pettitte overcame it to post the best season of his career. His season got off to a great start (1.69 ERA/0.89 Ratio) in the first half; it was such a good start that he was mentioned as a Cy Young candidate. Pettitte cooled off some after the break, but he still managed his best season. His numbers in 2005 were: 2.39 ERA, 1.03 Ratio and a 6.85 K/9 rate.

This winter, Pettitte reportedly didn’t do a lot of the work he’s done in prior offseasons. Then he started very slowly this spring. We were told it was to keep him fresh and strong all season long. Maybe the downside to this strategy is that he wasn’t ready to go in April. Or maybe the Astros, wary that he threw the second most innings of his career, decided to baby him some and protect the elbow?

Whatever the reason, he isn’t close to the 2005 version. If you look at his pitching log, there have been some games in which he’s dominated and others, like Thursday’s start against the Nationals, in which he has looked very ordinary. When Pettitte struggles, there is almost always a constant—the health of his elbow and trademark cut fastball. His cutter is an invaluable pitch to him. So far this season, it has been a very average pitch. In fact, there are times when he doesn’t throw it for an inning at a time according to one Astros source.

Using his past as a guide, when his elbow is sore, the cutter and his pitching suffer. There is enough evidence here to suggest his elbow is not close to 100% right now and so far this season. Can the elbow heal and turn around his season? Yes. We saw his ability in a half season last year when he dominated when healthy. Though he’s struggling right now, it’s too early to abandon him and risk not being on the receiving end of some outstanding numbers. If on the other hand, he ends up on the disabled list in the coming weeks with elbow troubles, then his owners (I’m one of them) aren’t likely to get a reprieve at some point this season.

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