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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  • J-Hey not finishing with an offensive onslaught.

    If Geoff Blum could be a Playoff hero, there is hope still...

    The E-Man 3 hours 27 min ago view
  • Giants scare me. I think you're wrong about Bumgarner, he would pitch on short rest for Game 2 and then full rest for Game 5. Cueto would go Game 1, then short rest in game 4. Add in some really tough outs in that lineup and I want nothing to do with them. With that rotation they can easily steal a series.

    Cards are a tough matchup. The rivalry evens out their comparable lack of talent. And like someone said, they love HRs, which is how to beat the Cubs. The upside is that I would feel really good about Lester twice against STL.

    John Beasley 4 hours 12 min ago view
  • j.buchanan with a nice start...5ip 2h 1bb 3k, 0r/er

    zobrist with 2HR and a double through 8

    heyward 0-4 :(

    crunch 16 hours 13 min ago view
  • Mark Gonzales @MDGonzales

    Soler likely to return Sunday, Maddon says

    crunch 18 hours 50 min ago view
  • Right now, I'd like to see the Mets first, Giants 2nd.

    I believe that since most of the team from last years' NLCS is on the squad this year, they will really amp their game up even more to kick their ass in payback for 2015.

    The Giants just do not have the depth in years past, and I think all things equal - and at Wrigley - they could handle them.

    I do not want to see the Cards, period. Or their fans, media, or Joe Buck.

    The E-Man 19 hours 10 min ago view
  • I don't want to play Braves in the first round. Any friggin team in the league can win 3 of 5..I hate the first round. Furthermore, I wanted to play the Marlins in 2003 and the Mets over Dodgers last year.

    With that said in reverse order:
    3. Cardinals: It will be devastating to lose in the first round, but even worse to their main rival. It is increased incentive for the Cardinals, especially after last year. Cards would have nothing to lose, Cubs have everything to lose.

    2. Giants: Rotation in the playoffs scare me a bit, but what a lousy team.

    blockhead25 19 hours 53 min ago view
  • 1. Mets--because of the losses in the rotation
    2. Giants--because they're not the team they were BUT they maybe have bullshit even-year magic?
    3. Cardinals--because rivalry and not making the playoffs hurts them more than losing in the NLDS plus getting eliminated by them in the playoffs would make for horrible sports commentary next throughout next season.

    Charlie 21 hours 36 min ago view
  • Who's asking?

    jacos 21 hours 38 min ago view
  • #TeamEntropy

    http://www.si.com/mlb/2016/09/30/team-entropy-update-wild-card-races-al-...

    CLE/DET rained out last night already, possible rain-outs in New York (vs. Baltimore), Boston(vs. Toronto) and Philly(vs. Mets) this weekend too.

    Not only games involving playoff spots that would need to be played, but any that involve home field advantage.

    Rob G. 21 hours 47 min ago view
  • I got the first one! Second one I'm not even sure what even/odd betting is.

    johann 22 hours 34 min ago view
  • any opponent preference for NLDS?

    Mets are down to 1 great pitcher instead of 4. Syndegaard may pitch Sunday which means if Mets win the WC game, he'd be set up for Game 1. There's a chance they clinch a spot by Sunday so he'd pitch the WC and then we'd probably get Colon for Game 1. They've certainly had the hottest bats over the last week and month out of the WC options.

    Rob G. 22 hours 55 min ago view
  • Rob Richardson 1 day 3 hours ago view
  • Can't teach height and thinness

    jacos 1 day 5 hours ago view
  • Hopefully Pirates don't call up A. Lincoln.

    jacos 1 day 15 hours ago view
  • j.buchanan going friday...should be...baseball...or something like it.

    crunch 1 day 15 hours ago view
  • Wow. I didn't know they could do that.

    Nice for Willson, not so much for Addy.

    billybucks 1 day 15 hours ago view