Nathan Grimm

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Zack Attacked

Friday, April 12, 2013

It's all fun and games until someone's $147 million pitcher breaks a collarbone.

A relatively harmless mid-April game between the Padres and Dodgers got contentious after Carlos Quentin was hit by a Zack Greinke pitch in the sixth inning. Quentin, who gets hit by pitches more often than Mark Reynolds' bat, took exception to the plunking and charged the mound, starting a bench-clearing melee in the process. Quentin, Matt Kemp and Jerry Hairston Jr. were tossed in the aftermath, but Greinke also left the game, though for a different reason.

Greinke sustained a fractured left collarbone as a result of the collision with Quentin. Though the Dodgers didn't put an immediate timetable on the injury, Yahoo!'s Jeff Passan speculated the injury might keep Greinke out up to two months. That would put Greinke on target for a return around mid-June.

It's terrible news for owners of the 29-year-old. He was one of the biggest question marks coming into the year after dealing with right elbow inflammation during spring but had seemingly shaken the injury off in the early stages of the season, having allowed just one earned run in 11 1/3 innings before the incident. We'll be waiting a while to see how he returns from this latest setback.

Comings And Goings

Before Greinke's abrupt exit, Thursday brought both good and bad news for a few teams on the injury front. The good included Ryan Madson throwing a 30-pitch bullpen session in hopes of facing live hitters soon and Chase Headley likely starting a rehab assignment as early as Sunday. Headley will likely be back before the end of the month, barring a setback; Madson, while still with some hurdles to clear, could be back by early-to-mid May. Darwin Barney, who will rehab with Triple-A Iowa beginning Saturday, will also be returning shortly.

The bad news, then, came in the form of Michael Saunders and Gordon Beckham hitting the disabled list. Saunders was placed on the DL with a sprained right shoulder he suffered while running into the outfield wall on Wednesday. Beckham left Tuesday's game with what was believed at the time to be left wrist irritation; tests later showed there to be a fracture in the hamate bone in his left hand. Saunders will likely miss something close to the minimum of 15 days, while Beckham's injury requires surgery and will sideline him for 6-to-8 weeks.

Looking Ahead

Exciting young Braves pitchers have been around since the team's inception, it seems. Twenty-five years ago, it was John Smoltz. Today, Julio Teheran headlines the next crop of talented arms.

Past and present will converge in Washington, D.C. on Friday night, as Smoltz and Matt Vasgersian will be on the call for MLB Network when Teheran and the Braves take on the Nationals at 7 p.m. EST. I had a chance to speak with the former Braves phenom to get his thoughts on the current, as well as what he thinks about Roy Halladay, some closers' early struggles and the Next Big Thing:

On the expectations of Teheran:

"He just needs time. That's something not everybody gives a young player is time. I think if he's given the time to mature like we all did then it'll be right for him.

"Because he's so young, I think the upside is always great. I think the fact that he is going to learn how to pitch ... on a team that's really good can go either way for a kid's personality. It just all depends on his personality and how he handles it, because the expectations go right through the roof.

"The three of us (Smoltz, Tom Glavine and Steve Avery) got to get our brains beat in on a team that wasn't very good. There's a lot to be said for that."

On Roy Halladay:

"I expect him to figure it out. I don't know to what level, but if he's healthy he'll figure it out. That I know.

"Pitching has so many moving parts and so many facets to it, there's too many things to pinpoint and say, 'Well this is the reason or that is the reason.' I just know that if he's healthy he will be the pitcher that they have gotten used to seeing. I know what happens when people get hurt or they get older, (people) start thinking, 'OK, he's going to have to learn how to pitch different, he's going to have different expectations, etc.'

"But I just don't see that as the case. The way he works out, the way he does what he does, I just believe that if he gets healthy or if he is healthy he will figure it out."

On John Axford, Carlos Marmol and other closers struggling early:

"It's not foolproof, but I would argue that when you lose your mechanics, you lose your feel. When you lose your feel, you lose your confidence. When you get your mechanics back, you'll get your feel, you'll get your confidence back.

"But both guys, I think from afar, have struggled with mechanics to throw strikes and put the ball where they want to. When you're searching for strikes in that role, you're in trouble. And the more that you struggle, the more you're unable to stay locked in and feel confident. I'm a big believer that the old 'monkey' or the guy gets the yips or whatever it is, I think it's a breakdown of mechanics first, then it's mental. I rarely think that it's mental first -- that you launch a ball or you yip a putt and the next thing you know you think you're going to do it every time. I think there's a mechanics breakdown. You lose all perception of where the ball is and you start searching for release points, and that's never good.

"When you look at guys that throw 100 (mph), when you look at Aroldis Chapman, the reason he is now as great as he is is because he commands his fastball. When he walked a bunch of people and created problems and havoc, he was mortal. So (Axford and Marmol) have dynamic pitches, they just have to be able to repeat them."

On who he thinks is the next pitcher to take a big step forward:

"The one guy that comes to mind that I really, really think his upside could be a superstar ... watching (Matt) Harvey a few times for the Mets, that is about as electric of a young pitcher as there is that I have seen."

National League Quick Hits: Sergio Romo recorded his league-leading sixth save of the season ... Jorge Soler, playing for the Cubs' High-A affiliate, has been suspended five games for wielding a bat during a benches-clearing brawl Wednesday ... Rafael Soriano saved his fifth game of the year. He'll likely get the day off Friday ... Denard Span went 2-for-4 and now has a .475 OBP as the Nats leadoff man ... Ryan Vogelsong got his first win of the season despite allowing five runs in six innings. He's sporting a 7.15 ERA ... The Dodgers will make a decision on what to do with Ted Lilly (shoulder) following his next bullpen session. They currently don't have a place for him in the rotation.

American League Quick Hits: Michael Morse sustained a fractured pinkie finger and will likely miss 3-to-7 days. Manager Eric Wedge said a trip to the disabled list won't be necessary ... The Mariners acquired Aaron Harang from the Rockies. It remains to be seen how Harang will be used by the M's ... Brett Lawrie went 2-for-2 in an extended spring game and will be activated some time in the next two weeks, according to manager John Gibbons ... Carlos Santana (thumb) caught a bullpen session and hit in the batting cage. It'll likely still be a few days before he's back in the Indians' lineup ... Scott Kazmir (rib cage) threw from 120 feet. He'll throw a bullpen session on Friday ... Josh Johnson was touched for six runs in 1 1/3 innings. He's now got an 11.05 ERA and 2.73 WHIP through two starts ... Curtis Granderson (forearm) began throwing. He hopes to begin swinging a fungo bat this weekend ... Mark Teixeira (wrist) hopes to begin swinging a bat Friday. Assuming all goes well, he could progress to live batting practice as soon as next weekend ... Josh Reddick (wrist) will return to the lineup Friday ... Scott Sizemore will undergo surgery on his left ACL on Tuesday. It's possible he won't be ready for the start of the 2014 season.

Nathan Grimm is a baseball writer for Rotoworld. He can also be found on Twitter (@Nate_Grimm).
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