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!

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  • Not certain why the site has been slowed. Worked much of Wednesday on it and will continue today. Sorry for the inconvenience. I will probably take it offline for a while, but it will be up before the game against the Mets.

    WebAdmin 1 hour 5 min ago view
  • Mine has been really slow to load -- on different computers from different locations.

    JoePepitone 3 hours 26 min ago view
  • Anybody else have issues accessing the site this afternoon/evening?

    Eric S 4 hours 27 min ago view
  • Boras is 63, maybe he'll be retired or dead by the time Bryant, Russell, Almora, Albertos all hit free agency. Doubt he will be before Jake hits there though.

    cubbies.4ever 7 hours 48 min ago view
  • Interesting choices when guys get healthy.

    LaStella, Fowler & Soler replace Coghlan, Almora and Sczcur? I assume they don't want Almora to sit.

    Despite MIggy's demise, I assume they keep him around to mentor Contreras?

    billybucks 9 hours 1 min ago view
  • I believe Willson now has more CS than MIggy. The kid has an arm. Also, Russell is amazingly good on those plays at 2nd.

    billybucks 10 hours 12 min ago view
  • oh yeah...thanks joe/billy.

    poor outing, still got the win, go cubs.

    crunch 10 hours 51 min ago view
  • Although it felt like it, Jake didn't lose to them -- he got the W. (Assuming you are referring to Monday's game)

    billybucks 12 hours 31 min ago view
  • Arrieta didn't lose to the Reds. He got the win -- he just didn't pitch like we expect him to.

    JoePepitone 12 hours 32 min ago view
  • almora's 1st HR!

    crunch 12 hours 40 min ago view
  • it's not like this CIN team is lost-cause horrible, but aside from defense and power this is a truly horrible team.

    kinda crazy arrieta lost to them and yesterday's game had to go 15 innings for the cubs win.

    crunch 12 hours 55 min ago view
  • It looked like Hamilton got screened by Duvall and that Duvall just barely deflected the ball off of his glove--redirecting it slightly without taking away much of its momentum.

    At least it didn't turn into a Schwarber/Fowler situation. Hamilton and Duvall are both pretty important youngish players for the Reds.

    Charlie 13 hours 4 min ago view
  • he walked off the field on his own. aside from a concussion watch and some attention to his leg/knee that buckled a bit under him, the biggest thing hurt was probably his pride after the ball knocked off his skull.

    crunch 13 hours 22 min ago view
  • After last night, an inside-the-park HR seems kind of run-of-the-mill somehow.

    Sounds bad for Hamilton. Hope he's okay--listening on the radio.

    Brick 13 hours 39 min ago view
  • SHOW ME THE MONEY: Jose Albertos has signed with Mega-Agent Scott Boras.

    Albertos has already received his signing bonus and won't see any additional significant money until he reaches the big leagues, so this is a long-term investment for the Boras Corporation.  

    Other Cubs represented by Boras include Jake Arrieta, Kris Bryant, Addison Russell, and Albert Almora Jr. 

    Arizona Phil 13 hours 46 min ago view
  • I am glad Joe is managing this team and not Old and Blue!

    Hagsag 16 hours 8 min ago view