Wednesday was the tale of two elbows, and while the news was bad for one (Drew Storen) and worse for the other (Scott Baker), it wasn’t the worst (Tommy John) for either.
Again, the news for Storen — he’s sidelined indefinitely — was hardly glowing, but unlike Baker, he will pitch in 2012. Although the circumstantial evidence suggested Storen was headed for UCL replacement, he instead required "only" the removal of bone fragments during his Wednesday surgery.
According to MLB.com’s Bill Ladson, the Nats are optimistic he’ll take the mound before the All-Star break after being limited to two innings this spring. In the meantime, Washington will continue to go with a ninth-inning duo of Brad Lidge and Henry Rodriguez, and it’s unclear who — if either — will turn it into a one-man committee.
Rodriguez passes the eye test with flying colors (and has put up some pretty decent numbers to boot), but Lidge, of course, has far more ninth-inning experience, and we all know how much major league managers love ninth-inning experience.
That being said, the smart money remains on Rodriguez, who along with his 100-MPH fastball fanned two in a perfect ninth in a non-save situation against the Mets Wednesday. For now, though, Storen owners would be wise to hold onto both if possible.
For the better part of two seasons, Baker seemed to be fighting a losing battle with his pitching elbow. On Wednesday, he finally admitted defeat.
Although Baker was able to make a combined 50 starts the past two years, he did so pitching through nearly constant elbow pain, and was limited to 24 frames after the All-Star break last season. His results — he’s turned in a 3.90 ERA, 1.27 WHIP and 271/75 K/BB in 305 innings since Opening Day 2010 — never seemed to suffer, but the pain finally became too much to bear this spring, where he made zero appearances before he "just didn’t feel right" in a rehab outing last Thursday.
He’ll undergo surgery on his “flexor pronator tendon,” and has been ruled out for the remainder of 2012. The good news is that his MRI revealed no UCL damage, and barring setbacks, he should be full-go for spring 2013.
Where he will be pitching is up in the air, as the Twins are now all but certain to decline his $9.25 million team option. Baker’s injury opens up a permanent rotation spot for 23-year-old Australian Liam Hendriks, who’s been quite effective throughout his minor-league career, but was less so during four 2011 spot starts. He’ll make his first 2012 start Sunday at home against the Rangers. He’s worth a look in AL-only leagues.
Header for Hellickson
The news was better for Jeremy Hellickson Wednesday, but could have been far, far worse. Three days after coming within one pitch of shutting out the Yankees, Hellickson was minding his own business during batting practice when, somehow, he took a blow to the head. Details remain scarce, but Hellickson was throwing in the bullpen at the time, and taken to the hospital as a precaution.
He never lost consciousness, or even any blood for that matter, and remains on track to make his scheduled Saturday start against the Red Sox. That could change if he wakes up with a headache today, however. If you’re an owner, he’s certainly worth checking in on some time during the next 48 hours.
A Bad Three of a Kind
Three aces flopped for the second straight start Wednesday, but it wasn’t a winning hand. Josh Johnson got tagged for six runs on 11 hits in just 3 2/3 innings of Miami’s loss to the Phillies, while CC Sabathia got roughed up for four runs on eight hits in six frames against the Orioles.
Things were the most grim for Tim Lincecum, however, who got shelled to the tune of six runs on eight hits, two walks and four extra-base hits in just 2 1/3 innings of San Francisco’s blowout loss to the Rockies. It was the shortest outing of Lincecum’s career, and leaves him with a 12.90 ERA through his first 7 2/3 innings of work.
The silver lining for all three is that their issues appear mechanical, and not injury related. Lincecum, in particular, has gone through prolonged funks in the past only to emerge unscathed and dominant. His velocity was not an issue Wednesday. Johnson’s struggles are the most concerning since he’s coming off a year all but lost to shoulder woes, but for now, there’s no reason not to keep running your aces out there and expecting dominance. Things should turn around, and quickly.
Game Notes: Jason Heyward and Curtis Granderson both launched their first home runs. … J.D. Martinez roped his second, and is batting .364/.391/.682 through Houston’s first six games. … Peter Bourjos needed 14 seconds to round the bases on an inside-the-park job against the Twins. … Stephen Strasburg blew away the Mets. … Justin Verlander allowed just one hit on 81 pitches through eight scoreless innings Wednesday before being charged with four ninth-inning tallies in Detroit’s stunning 4-2 loss to the Rays. … The third time was the charm for Sergio Santos, who finally nailed down his first save. Although he’ll be away from the team today through Saturday for the birth of his child, his ninth-inning leash remains long in Toronto. … The same cannot be said for Jonathan Broxton in Kansas City, who hit two batters and issued two free passes in an ugly blown save Wednesday. Owners should have Greg Holland at the ready. … Kevin Millwood turned in a successful Mariners debut. He’s officially on the AL-only league radar. … Jesus Montero made his first start at catcher, going 1-for-3 with an RBI at the dish.
National League Short Hops: Giancarlo Stanton (knee) returned to the lineup, roping two hits off Roy Halladay. It was what he said before the game, however, that was most noteworthy. "There is no specific injury to it. It's something that I'm going to have to deal with. There are times I'm going to have to deal with that, and some stretches that I won't." Slightly ominous words, though exams haven’t revealed any structural damage. For now, sit tight, and don’t worry. … Troy Tulowitzki revealed he’s dealing with a right hip flexor injury, but won’t be sitting out. He went 2-for-6 with two RBI and two runs scored in Wednesday’s rout of the Giants. … Buster Posey was sidelined with shingles. Yes, shingles. He’s expected to play today, though he could need regular rest until he’s back to full health. … Brandon Belt was benched for the second straight day. It could be another long year for the Giants’ top hitting prospect. … Stephen Drew (ankle) will take four at-bats in an extended spring game this afternoon, and will be allowed to “lightly jog” out of the box after making contact. He remains on track for a May return.
American League Short Hops: “New hope” that Victor Martinez (knee) could play this season surfaced. However, it remains a long-shot that he takes the field in 2012. … Mike Napoli sat out after getting hit by a pitch on the forehead Tuesday, but passed his concussion tests, and is tentatively expected to suit up this afternoon. … Johnny Damon hinted he’s on the verge of signing with the Indians. A deal could be finalized as soon as this morning. He’s worth scooping up in AL-only leagues.