Update on The Latest Cub Unicorn

There is this article in today's Sun-Times about Rich Harden's winter rehab. He's working on a  6 day a week strengthening program that could be the most rigorous of any Cub this offseason. It's designed to "ease" him up to pitching conditions "by the end" of spring training. Fine. I remember this somewhere in the not too distant Cub past (including the Larry Rothschild quotes). Flushed with a strong sense of Déjà vu, I finally saw some new information in the article:

But sources also confirmed Saturday that Harden has a tear in the joint, just severe enough that some players might seek surgery but slight enough to be in a range often treated effectively with a strengthening program, therapy and a well- managed work schedule.


Gordon Wittenmyer in the Sun-Times doesn't give enough info to make me absolutely certain but the implication is Harden is putting up with a "Kerry Wood type" rotator cuff tear. I do recall that Harden underwent an MRI/Arthrogram after the season to better assess his shoulder issues and before the team decided to pick up his $7 Million option. The press was told this on October 8th:

General manager Jim Hendry said an MRI-arthrogram on Harden's shoulder revealed no tears of the labrum or rotator cuff, referring to Harden's problems as "subtle instability in the shoulder."

At the Cubs Convention yesterday GW's article says "sources" confirmed Harden has "a tear in the joint." This implies the rotator cuff tissue has an area that is showing structural damage on the MRI/Arthrogram, but not involving the full thickness of the cuff tendon and thus without any detachment from it's insertion on bone (greater tuberosity). Any surgical repair has to take down some degenerative tissue that is worn but not detached. The results of surgery on that type of situation would be iffy for a high end starting pitcher, especially if they were counting on him for 2009. Hence he's on a non-surgical treatment protocol analagous to what Kerry Wood went through after his MRI/Arthrogram in July 2006.

Just for grins, here are two of the quotes leaning toward non-surgical treatment after Wood's MRI/Arthrogram:

(Cubs trainer Mark) O'Neal said: "In all reality, there are significant number of people who have successfully returned conservatively."

"My gut feeling is saying no surgery and strengthen it," Wood said Saturday. "I've still got to get more opinions. 

And since I was trying to reflect on previous prognostications, I dug up this Will Carroll (Baseball Prospectus) piece on Wood and Prior from February 20th, 2006:

You can't have spring training anymore without pitcher problems or at least rumors of said problems. Those usually start with the Cubs, and this year is no different. Reliable sources--the same ones that tipped us early to Mark Prior's Achilles problem--now tell us that Prior is having shoulder problems. The Cubs deny this and point to Prior's work on the mound. Prior was doing towel drills on Saturday, but this is the same type of work he was doing last year when there was a problem. According to our best sources in Mesa, Prior looks "weak and sick." Until he throws, we just won't know, though I'd like to believe Larry Rothschild.

News is better for Kerry Wood, on track to get back in the rotation by May. The Cubs have depth in the rotation and a favorable early schedule to give them time, even if Wood has a small setback. Wood will return to the rotation. If he's ever a bullpen guy, it won't be for the Cubs.


I agree that this is the right course of action for Harden but his status is analagous to the unicorn in Tennessee Williams classic play "The Glass Menagerie". This shouldn't be a surprise to anyone as Jim Hendry knew he was getting an ace pitcher made of glass. It's just that he's lacked a diagnosis that matched his situation up to this point. Hmmmm, the downside of this problem can go pretty low, but it's not a long term contract as Harden is on a one year deal. When Hendry traded Sean Gallagher, Josh Donaldson, Eric Patterson and Matt Murton for Harden last July 8th, he made enough of a statement that clearly he's going to play out the hand he's ante-upped for. We're going to see if Harden can functionally start on a regular enough basis to not be overly disruptive to the rest of the pitching staff, which is what we got in 2008. Clearly, he's awesome when his shoulder isn't bothering him.

It makes me wonder if he too will become bullpen material at some point in his career.

Déjà vu? Oh, and please remind Mr. Harden of the hazards that await when slipping while getting out of the hot tub.

Comments

and don't forget to check out the links to this article...

particularly the "Rich Harden" and "downside" links

Nicely done, Dr. Hecht. But dammit.

Looks to me like, unless the Cubs are ready to have both Marshall and the Shark or Marshall and Gaudin in the starting rotation for some time this year, they may need to go out and get another guy who can start. Someone who could be effective but won't block Marshall? Guess that might be asking too much.

by the way Rob...that's a great pic of Harden!

Recent comments

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  • obviously....

    dusty would have to start baez because both lastella + castro would be pitching because everyone's arm would have fallen off months ago. it would piss dusty off because he's a rookie and theo couldn't go out and get him a 39 year old DH to play 2nd so he would go through like 100 toothpicks during the game.

    lou would have quit his job already, so that's irrelevant and a trick question.

  • just a theoretical thought...if Dusty was manager (WWDD) or if Lou (WWLD) was manager...

    would Javy Baez be in tonight's lineup?

    my thought is:

    Dusty... Bonifacio would have been brought up and started at 2B
    Lou..."I like playing the kids, really I do, but but but Jonathan Herrera really needs to play to stay sharp."

  • He was replying to tweet who said error should have been hit

  • Added a 'recent comments' block to the bottom of every 'story' page. Thought it might be helpful. Comments welcome

  • Jeff Russell and Rafael Soriano DFA's to make room for the callups (Berry and Cahill)

  • The next 4 weeks should answer this for us. If Castro starts hitting again and neither Baez or La Stella perform, he'd be on a playoff roster. If not, and one of those other two guys does well, I wouldn't be surprised if he was left off. A key error or mental lapse in a one game playoff would be killer and he is too prone to them.

  • To put a finer point on it, Baez playing second and hitting 7th tonight.

  • "This is the show. We have certain expectations here. That's why you don't play." from a Tweet from Arrieta. I who do you think he is talking about.

  • "This is the show. We have certain expectations here. That's why you don't play." --Jake Arrieta on Twitter.

    Whoa!

  • I'll check back in on a day that Starlin doesn't make three errors. But for now I would say him not making the playoff roster is a stretch. Who do you trust more than Starlin to be a RH backup middle infielder? Herrera has no bat at all, and Baez has been in AAA all season and may be as error prone as Castro and may strike out a giant proportion of the time he's at the plate. I'm also less than convinced that La Stella will step in and be a significant contributor. Starlin is at least a big part of the 2B picture for the remainder of the year.

  • Sadly, nothing is sticking to the wall. The only thing still lingering is the smell from their pitching outings.

  • i think they were just throwing shit at the wall to see what sticks.

    they wanted to push for the post-season without giving up anything. thank gawd for the cubs winning tear and SF's failure tear...hopefully that holds up until the season ends.

    once we're into the post-season (if that happens) then it doesn't matter about the 4-5 slot pitchers. arguably, the pen is much more important at that point when it comes to anyone but the top-3 starters.

  • Signing Haren was very curious, at best. An over-the-hill fly ball pitcher can survive at Wrigley in April, May & June, when it's cold and the wind tends to blow in (i.e. the ballpark plays "big"). But, signing him to pitch at Wrigley in July, August & Sept., when it's warm and the wind tends to blow out...well, Theo, what did you expect? Gotta believe the Reds will be running up to the plate to get their swings against Haren tonight.

    Come on, offense -- we're gonna need another 6-7 runs tonight!

  • ...or they could wait until tomorrow and haren can be DFA'd...maybe...probably not...sigh.

    gotta imagine j.russell is on his way out at the very least.

  • I don't think they have officially been called up yet. They will be today, at which point we will also hear about the corresponding roster moves.

  • Baez, Wada, Cahill and Quintin Berry have called up, so two spots will need to open up on the 40-man.