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Wednesday, June 11, 2008
Ailing Albert

By Stephania Bell



The Braves deserve a free pass. They have just had their unfair share of injuries. Add the Padres to that group as well. And while you're at it, throw in the Angels. The Mariners had been pretty lucky, until today when J.J. Putz left in the ninth inning with soreness in his right elbow after throwing just 10 pitches. This does not sound encouraging. More on his situation should be known later this week, but for the other folks suffering setbacks, please, continue on.

Albert Pujols
Pujols will miss at least three weeks with a calf injury.
Albert Pujols, 1B, St. Louis Cardinals: Surprise, surprise! It's not his elbow that's sending Pujols to the DL. It's his calf. Pujols first strained the left calf muscle on June 3, then sat out Wednesday's game and most of Thursday's doubleheader, coming in only to pinch hit. The calf never really seemed to be 100 percent, though as Pujols was still sore heading into Friday night's contest. Then, in the bottom of the seventh Tuesday night, Pujols only made it a few steps out of the batter's box when he fell to the ground, clearly in pain, as the calf made it clear that it was not going to cooperate. Pujols appeared to have difficulty bearing any weight on the leg as his teammates helped escort him from the field. There doesn't seem to be much doubt about where he's headed since manager Tony LaRussa told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, "I don't think there's a way he's going to avoid the disabled list." Pujols will be examined by the Cardinals' team physician Wednesday and the team will no doubt make it official after that. Given that this is an exacerbation of a milder strain from a week ago, and Pujols strained the same calf fairly seriously in September of 2007, it would be wise for him to shut it down completely to allow the muscle more recovery time. Though we haven't heard much about Pujols' elbow bothering him (and we know he has at least a partially torn ulnar collateral ligament), and he certainly hasn't suffered at the plate so far as a result, the forced rest can only help prolong the life of his elbow too. The Cardinals had indicated prior to the start of the season that they planned to rest Pujols more to help maintain his overall health and not abuse his body, but that really hasn't been the case. Pujols has sat out only two games this season, so the Cardinals may have been lucky that he hasn't broken down sooner. This trip may be just what the doctor ordered.

Tom Glavine, P, Atlanta Braves: It was just about two months ago when we were remarking how Glavine was being forced to the DL by a hamstring injury for the first time in his career. Now he's making a repeat visit, but for another, perhaps more worrisome, injury. Glavine left Tuesday's game against the Cubs in the fourth inning with what is being called a strained left elbow. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution is reporting that Glavine will undergo an MRI on his elbow later this week. Apparently Glavine has been dealing with soreness in his elbow since May, unbeknownst to anyone outside of the organization. Glavine said that originally the stiffness would occur just between starts, and then gradually the elbow began to stiffen as the games would wear on. Glavine added "the last two games it's been pretty much every pitch I've thrown. It's not getting any better." This is not exactly what the Braves want to hear. They have lost John Smoltz from their starting rotation as well as Hampton (though you could argue that he was never really there). Soriano is day-to-day and remains a concern because of lingering elbow symptoms. Now add Glavine who will, at the very least, miss two weeks, but likely more as he will have to gradually resume a throwing program if and when his symptoms settle down. More will be known as to whether there is an obvious structural issue in Glavine's elbow after Thursday, but until then, the Braves will simply be keeping their fingers crossed that they are not about to lose their third starting pitcher this year.

Chipper jones
The oft-injured Chipper has another nagging ailment.
Chipper Jones, 3B, Atlanta Braves: The injury was not new, but keeping Jones out of the lineup for more than a day was. Jones, who reportedly has a small tear in his right quadriceps muscle, sat out Sunday and Tuesday, with the exception of a single pinch-hit appearance Tuesday. Jones acknowledged that the quad is still sore, but was able to take some swings during batting practice and field some grounders, according to the Braves' official Web site. Originally slated to be out until Thursday or Friday, Jones says he hopes to return to the lineup Wednesday but admits he couldn't run the bases. It still seems like a risky play to have Jones in the lineup when he is so clearly not at full strength. Of course, when a batter is hitting .420, there is a delicate balance to maintain so he doesn't lose the zone that someone like Jones is in. But consider that Jones originally injured his quad April 9 on a cool night in Colorado. Then, on April 20, Jones was forced to leave the game in Atlanta after aggravating the injury. Now it's June, and that same quadriceps muscle acted up just steps out of the batter's box Saturday night. According to the Braves' official Web site, their medical staff considered using a needle to extract blood from around the muscle. But Jones opted for a less invasive pressure wrap instead -- and who could blame him? Nonetheless, the presence of blood indicates that the injury was more than just microtrauma. The risk is that this injury gets still worse instead of better, potentially sidelining Jones for a extended period of time. The Braves could opt to utilize Jones as a DH initially in upcoming interleague play, which would spare Jones the sudden movements associated with playing defense. It does not, however, prevent him from having to run from home to first, which is exactly how he aggravated the injury this past week.

Ryan Church, OF, New York Mets: Church had a nasty collision with Yunel Escobar on May 20 and has not felt like his former self since. Church, who managed to return for four starts since sustaining the concussion injury, is still having symptoms. Intermittent dizziness, fatigue and a sensitivity to light are continuing to bother Church who has now had two concussions this year, the first of which occurred March 1 during a spring exhibition game. According to the Mets' official Web site, Church most recently experienced a pulsating feeling which he described as "a heartbeat in my head." These are not the type of symptoms an athlete should continue to play through and Church is wisely being held out for a fixed period of time via the disabled list. The challenge with concussions is that there is no specific time frame for all the symptoms to resolve, and in fact, concussion severity can only be determined after the fact. Church told Newsday that he will not change his style of play when he does return, other than with the next ground ball, he "might be sliding halfway."

Jake Westbrook, P, Cleveland Indians: We knew it wasn't sounding good, but the worst fears have been confirmed. Westbrook will undergo reconstructive surgery on his elbow and is done for 2008 and certainly a portion of 2009. Keep him in mind for a midseason pickup next year.

Rafael Furcal, Los Angeles Dodgers: The Los Angeles Daily News is reporting that we will not be seeing Rafael Furcal for at least three more weeks. A follow-up visit with doctors resulted in the announcement that it will be at least two weeks before he could play in a game. Then there comes the rehab assignment. Then, well, we're almost to the All-Star Break, so you get the idea. What looked initially like a simple trip to the DL has grown ever longer, yet the pattern is not inconsistent with how back pain behaves for all of us. Keep in mind that this schedule is by no means definite.

And in the good news department...


Jake Peavy, P, San Diego Padres: Peavy is scheduled to return to the mound Thursday after missing roughly three weeks with elbow inflammation. With Chris Young's time off being extended, this is good news for the Padres and Peavy has not reported any pain since the last week of May. Now let's hope it lasts...