Thursday, February 18, 2010

Bucs Already Battered

Hey, we knew going into camp that a couple of pitchers had bum wings - Jose Ascanio, Tyler Yates, newly-inked Neal Cotts, and Craig Hansen. Well, John Russell announced to the beat gang that another pair can be added to the list - reserve infielder Ramon Vazquez and heavily counted-upon reliever Joel Hanrahan.

Vazquez had his knee scoped in November after injuring it in August and playing through the pain. He should be good to go by the time the team breaks camp.

Hanrahan may be another story. The righty had some pain towards the end of last season, and it returned during mini-camp. The official diagnosis is a flexor pronator strain in his right elbow; a tendinitis-type injury. He could be gone for a couple of weeks; he could, on the outside, face the knife.

"The reality is that Joel probably won't be ready for Opening Day," GM Neal Huntington told Jen Langosch of "Is it May 1? Is it June 1? We'll know more as we get more doctor information."

He visited sawbone Dr. Patrick DeMeo in Bradenton today, and will get another MRI Tuesday; the first test showed no structural damage. Orthopedist Dr. James Andrews will poke and probe him next Thursday in Pensacola.

So it's gonna be treading water for the next few weeks. The Pirates plan to replace him internally - they have a small horde of relievers on hand - although a long-term injury could make them look over the remaining market.

They don't have a likely top-four reliever among their many pick-ups, unless one of the young guys stands out. Ramon Aguero, Jean Machi, Jeff Sues, and Ronald Uviedo may get longer looks now. Kevin Hart may get a nod, too, if he doesn't take the final rotation spot.

As far as the rest of the bruise crew, here's their anticipated return to action:

Jose Ascanio (right shoulder surgery): He's looking at an early June return.

Tyler Yates (right elbow TJ surgery): He's on track to return in July, which will be a year after the original surgery. It's his second time under the scalpel, so that could be a wishful recovery date.

Neal Cotts (left elbow TJ surgery): The Pirates hope for a mid-June to early-July come-back for the lefty, who went under the knife last July. It's an aggressive date, though by all reports he's recovering well.

Craig Hansen (upper, mid-back nerve damage): Hansen has begun throwing, but there's no timetable for his return to action.

Jimmy Barthmaier (right elbow TJ surgery): After missing almost all of the 2009 season, he's hoping for a mid-May clearance, which would be a full year after his surgery.

Cotts and Barthmaier are throwing soft side sessions; Yates and Hansen are long-tossing.

It was also reported that Jean Machi, a highly regarded minor-league reliever, was held out of practice after his physical; there's no announcement saying why, so he's a another wait-and-see arm. (EDIT - Machi is OK; he was cleared to pitch).

The healthy pitchers - and there are 30 of them cleared for camp - will throw side sessions for a week on alternating days, then some BP, as they slowly prepare for the March 3rd opening of the Grapefruit League. Here's knockin' on wood that they all get through it OK.


WilliamJPellas said...

Well, Ron, unfortunately it looks like you're a prophet. I'd be surprised if Hanrahan is able to avoid the knife, given that he is visiting Dr. Andrews. On the positive side, there are about a bazillion arms in camp with the Pirates, and there's still some veteran arms kicking around who have not yet signed with anyone. On the negative side, assuming that Hanrahan's performance for us in 2009 was more typical of his true talent (and not his shellacking while with the Nats)'twould seem he would not necessarily be easy to replace.

I still think we're going to be better than last year in the relief corps, but another major injury could change that.

Ron Ieraci said...

Yah, Will, we'll see how it plays out. As you know, my theory is the four top guys carry the pen, and the team wasn't very deep at its back end. Still, it opens the door for pups like Machi, Uviedo, and Sues; maybe even Hart or Ascanio, if Hanrahan's injury proves long-term.