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Monday, June 23, 2008
Updates on Zambrano, Young

By Stephania Bell

What a week it has been in the injury world! The Yankees lost ace Chien-Ming Wang to a Lisfranc sprain, an injury that rarely affects baseball players. Wang is their second pitcher to suffer such an injury this season. (Brian Bruney sustained a similar injury earlier in the year.) Apparently, lightning can strike twice. Then, the golf world was rocked by the news that Tiger Woods had played throughout the year with a torn ACL and, more recently, stress fractures. Golf is losing its biggest name for the remainder of the season, as Woods plans to undergo reconstructive surgery followed by a lengthy rehabilitation.

Also undergoing season-ending surgery is Curt Schilling, who announced Friday that because of persistent problems in his throwing shoulder, he will undergo season-ending, and perhaps even career-ending, surgery Monday. And in what might be the biggest injury news of the week, at least in my little world, I have seriously injured my knee to the point that walking has become a great effort. My sympathy for the walking wounded has increased dramatically. On that note, we take a look at who has been added to the wounded list of late.

Carlos Zambrano
Carlos Zambrano was hesitant to leave Wednesday's game and to go on the DL, but hopefully he dodged major injury.
Carlos Zambrano, P, Chicago Cubs: Zambrano made a face after throwing a pitch Wednesday night that said it all. Pain in his throwing shoulder had forced him to drop his arm because he felt like he "couldn't go back to the top." The Cubs wisely removed him from the game and held their breaths while waiting for the test results that would determine his future. On Friday, Zambrano underwent an MRI arthrogram, a procedure in which dye is injected into the shoulder before the MRI to provide better detail of the joint during imaging. The conclusion? A minor right shoulder strain, which is about as good an outcome as the Cubs could have hoped for. Zambrano was placed on the 15-day DL, and although he was not pleased, he seemed to understand that the move was in both his and the team's long-term interest. Zambrano told the Chicago Tribune that he was worried about his shoulder because "this never happened to me." If indeed the strain is minor, a brief period of rest followed by a gradual return to throwing should allow Zambrano to return to action when he is eligible to come off the DL or shortly thereafter. If that's the case, he'll miss only two or three starts. Zambrano's improved physical shape this season may have helped him dodge a bullet and should continue to help his recovery. The Cubs have to be breathing a big sigh of relief now.

Chris Young, P, San Diego Padres: Who could forget the scary sight of Chris Young taking a shot to the face off an Albert Pujols line drive back in May? Young, who bled profusely on the mound, seemed to have escaped with only a broken nose and some cuts. It was later discovered, though, that the damage was a bit more extensive. Young also suffered a small skull fracture and, as a result, had to refrain from any vigorous activity until that was fully healed. Young has begun to throw the ball again, but unfortunately, as the San Diego Union-Tribune reports, Young will not be able to postpone surgery on his deviated septum until the postseason because he is still experiencing some labored breathing. Knowing that he will face additional downtime after the nasal surgery (approximately two to three weeks), Young is now focusing on trying to increase his arm strength so that he does not have as much to overcome later. He even is hoping to get in a simulated game before surgery, which is scheduled for June 30. After surgery, rest and recovery, Young will need at least one or two rehab starts before he can rejoin the rotation. Young is hoping to return to his team by late July, but early August may be more realistic. And that presumes that he does not have any physical nor mental setbacks when he has to confront live hitters again. Young is smart to get back to throwing sooner rather than later (Of course, the Princeton Tiger that he is!) and if all continues well, the Padres can look forward to his contributions in the second half of the season.

Brian Giles, OF, San Diego Padres: Giles strained his right hamstring while making a diving catch in Yankee Stadium on Thursday, then managed to aggravate the injury Friday. Giles remained out of the lineup Saturday, but according to the San Diego Union-Tribune, he is hopeful that he will be able to avoid a DL stint and return to the lineup Tuesday. Fantasy owners beware. We know how fragile these hamstring injuries can be. Consider that many athletes thought they could avoid the DL, but when push came to shove, the hamstring did not cooperate with the rapid timetable. Also consider that Giles had a microfracture procedure on his right knee in the offseason, making it all the more important that he have strong, healthy quadriceps and hamstring muscles to protect the joint. It is great that Giles is optimistic, but don't be surprised if his rest is extended this week.

Shaun Marcum
Shaun Marcum was leading the AL in ERA when he got injured.
Shaun Marcum, P, Toronto Blue Jays: The words you never like to hear associated with your pitcher: He will visit to Dr. James Andrews. That's what the Toronto Globe and Mail is reporting about Marcum, who was placed on the 15 day-DL Saturday for what the team is calling a right elbow strain. Not that Dr. Andrews is a bad guy. In fact, he's anything but. He's a wonderful, talented orthopedic surgeon with a comfortable Southern demeanor and unparalleled experience when it comes to treating pitchers. It's just that you don't go to him for a social visit in the middle of the season. The likelihood is that the team is concerned about the health of Marcum's elbow and that he is now getting a second opinion from Andrews. Pitching coach Brad Arnsberg indicated that Marcum had been dealing with discomfort in his elbow for a couple of weeks now, but it had not yet affected his desire or his ability to pitch. Then Marcum had an atypical outing Wednesday, giving up four earned runs on six hits in a loss to the Brewers, a performance that's likely a sign that something is amiss. The specifics will not be known until after Marcum has seen Andrews, but we do know he is out at least the minimum 15 days. The Blue Jays just hope that the interruption is temporary and not season-long. Stay tuned.



Chipper Jones, 3B, Atlanta Braves: The quad continues to be an intermittent source of aggravation for Jones, and the latest setback was the worst for him this season. Jones aggravated the muscle injury in the fourth inning Friday and told the Athens Banner-Herald later, "I missed a couple [games] last time and it's worse now." Jones was out of the lineup this past weekend, although he did pinch-hit Saturday, and he's expected to be out of the lineup again Monday. Jones has been impressive in his ability to slug through this injury, quite literally in fact, as he maintains a near-.400 batting average. But is he risking more severe injury while doing so? Perhaps, but so far he has been able to balance productivity with the occasional days off. Keep an eye on this one, though. If he has another setback, he may not be able to avoid a trip to the DL, even as stoic as he is.

And in the good news department ...

Kelvim Escobar, P, Los Angeles Angels: It's about time the Angels got some good news in the injury department. Escobar, originally thought to be lost for the season, if not for good, is making significant progress with his shoulder. Escobar has a torn labrum in his right (throwing) shoulder, which caused him great pain in March. Knowing that painful labral problems are not often successfully overcome with conservative treatment in throwers, I did not have much hope for Escobar's return this year. But every athlete's experience is unique, which is why we never say never. It is also a good reminder as to why specialists such as Dr. James Andrews and others typically recommend a course of conservative action first. Sometimes it works. Although he still has a number of hurdles to cross before he makes an appearance with his team, and there is still potential for setbacks along the way, Escobar has begun throwing from the mound for the first time since October. A representative from the Angels told me that they would like Escobar to get in a couple more simulated games, and if all goes well, he could see a rehab assignment within a week to 10 days. Manager Mike Scioscia told the Orange County Register, "He's going to pitch again for us this year, there's no doubt about that." That kind of confidence, while no guarantee, is indeed inspiring, although Escobar's role if he is able to return is unclear at this point. Right now, that is not so important. The fact that Escobar is actually excited about the possibility of returning is.