They don’t teach you much about the “lat” muscle in school. But if they did, they’d probably tell you it’s not only the broadest muscle in your back, but apparently absolutely essential to the fortunes of any would-be No. 1 starter.
Johnny Cueto and Stephen Strasburg are both wishing they had learned that when they were 13 instead of atop National League rotations. Both were disabled with strained lats Wednesday, which is troubling news considering their injury histories.
The development is more ominous for Cueto, who has dealt with lat/oblique issues since at least September 2011. Then, they ended his season with two weeks to go. He made it through 2012 without incident until his side/back acted up at the most inopportune time: in the first inning of Game 1 of the NLDS. Cueto wouldn’t throw another pitch as the Reds went on to lose in five games to the Giants. This season, he has nearly as many DL stints (two) as wins (three).
The Reds have yet to provide a timetable for his return, but it’s safe to assume he’ll miss at least 2-3 starts despite claiming the issue isn’t as severe as it was earlier in the year. The bigger question is how much longer Cueto can stick with the current iteration of his corkscrew-ish delivery. It seems to be putting undue stress on his back and side. Four DL-worthy injuries to one part of the body in only 21 months doesn’t just happen.
Regardless, Tony Cingrani is back to hold down the fort after his impressive six-start cameo earlier this season. Cingrani is not going to be the pitcher he was in April (1.50 ERA, 0.89 WHIP and 28/4 K/BB ratio over 18 innings), but should be able to get you a quality start more often than not.
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With Strasburg, the takeaway is that his lat strain is yet another injury for a player with an increasingly lengthy history of them. The silver lining is that it’s not to his elbow or shoulder.
Does that matter?
Yes in that if you had to pick something for Strasburg to injure, it would be anything other than his elbow or shoulder. No in that a DL stint is a DL stint, and arm ailments aren’t the only injuries than can foretell future breakdown (just ask Mark Prior).
For the short term, there’s a pretty good chance Strasburg will actually be activated when first eligible on June 16 and start against the Indians. For the long-term, however, the fuse to the ticking time bomb that appears to be Strasburg’s arm has just burned a little shorter. Again. The time to figure out how you really feel about Strasburg in your keeper league is now.
Bucket of Trouble: Beckett Fried For 2013?
Josh Beckett has been shut down for a minimum of four weeks as the Dodgers try to get a grip on the nerve issue in his pitching arm. Manager Don Mattingly isn’t certain “at all” that Beckett will pitch again this season, but the hurler himself is “absolutely” expecting to still pitch in 2013.
As Chris Carpenter has proven, nerve issues aren’t exactly a walk in the park for pitchers, so we’d err more on the side of “don’t expect to see Beckett again” than stashing him over other injured hurlers. Making the decision easier is the fact that Beckett wasn’t any good before going down, posting a 5.19 ERA, 1.50 WHIP and 41/15 K/BB ratio in 43 1/3 innings over eight starts. One of the 2000s’ most dominant pitchers is very much on the downside of his career.
Fourth Horseman of the Pitcher Injury Apocalypse
Last but not least amongst the notable pitchers getting bad news on Wednesday was Jake Peavy, who’s been diagnosed with a left rib cage fracture after his fastball failed to top 90 miles per hour in a brutal Tuesday outing.
He’ll be sidelined a minimum of 4-6 weeks, which could push his return to late-July/early-August. If nothing else, Peavy — who’s still going reasonably strong at the age of 32 despite a long and winding injury history — is hope for a pitcher like Strasburg. Hector Santiago will take his place in the White Sox rotation.
American League Short Hops: Byron Buxton had an epic night on the farm. The No. 2 pick of the 2012 draft is having a monster year. … Jacoby Ellsbury (groin) has missed five straight games, but is “confident” he’ll return this evening. … Brett Lawrie's ankle has yet to produce “noticeable signs of improvement,” and is “still swollen, still painful.” In other words, it could be weeks before he even begins a rehab assignment. … David Price (triceps) will throw a bullpen session on Friday. It will be the first time he’s thrown since landing on the disabled list on May 16.
National League Short Hops: Brandon Phillips (forearm) is expected to return on Friday against the Cardinals. … Tyler Chatwood (triceps) won’t make his scheduled Saturday start, but will supposedly miss only one outing. … Wandy Rodriguez left his start against the Braves with forearm tightness. For now, he appears to be day-to-day. If that changes, it might be Gerrit Cole time in the Steel City.
Game Notes: Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez combined to go 8-for-10 with five home runs and nine RBI in the Rockies’ win over the Reds. The most impressive part? The game was in Cincinnati, and not the thin air of Colorado. … R.A. Dickey flashed his 2012 form, tossing 8 1/3 dominant/scoreless innings in a win over the Giants. … Paul Goldschmidt hit his second grand slam in five days. The kid is what you’d call “for real.” … Kyle Seager nearly made Hawk Harrelson very sad. … Julio Teheran dominated the Pirates. … CC Sabathia pitched a complete game, but not a quality start. … Adrian Beltre (hamstring) homered in his return to the lineup. … The Astros hit a lot of home runs.