How soon can Utley return?  Is Johnson done?

From Injury Watch July 27…
Chase Utley (2B, PHI)
Utley suffered a fractured right hand when he was hit by a pitch during Thursday’s game. It didn’t look serious at the time because he was able to take two more at-bats before the end of the game. After the game, X-rays revealed a fractured fourth metacarpal bone, which is toward the outside of the hand below the ring finger.

The Phillies were saying after the game that on a scale of 1 to 10, this is probably a 2-3 fracture. They are hoping for a return in about three weeks. Utley underwent surgery Friday morning to insert a pin to support and help facilitate healing. The procedure was done arthroscopically and took only 20 minutes. The new estimate from the hand specialist is that he’ll miss about four weeks.

Even if he does beat the four weeks, Utley has another hurdle to overcome. Players coming off wrist and hand injuries rarely regain their normal power levels for up to a year after the injury. Even if he can regain his power stroke in less than a year, he sure as heck isn’t going to find it in September. All we have to do is look at Derrek Lee as an example to see how a wrist injury, albeit a much more serious one than Utley’s, causes a player to lose some power for an extended period. The standard guideline for that power drop is at least 12 months.

From Injury Watch July 27…
Randy Johnson (LHP, ARI)
Johnson will have surgery to repair the same disc as last year. He is done for the year, but Johnson was adamant he was not done in baseball. We have to give Johnson kudos for being in top shape. We also have to acknowledge that he’s needed that superb condition because of a problematic back his entire career.

Until last season, his conditioning and dedication to taking care of his back have allowed to him be an elite pitcher for a good portion of his career. Father Time is advancing quickly, though, and all the specialized exercises can’t roll back the clock. He’ll be 44 years old next year, and unless there is a miracle, his career is likely over.

From Injury Watch July 27…
Huston Street (RHP, OAK)
Street looked decent Monday in his first appearance since coming off a two-month stint on the DL with a sore elbow. We are watching Street closely, because he underwent a radical (by U.S. standards) treatment for ulnar neuritis in his pitching elbow in Canada. In a way, we look at him as a test case for this new type of treatment that we have talked about many times in this column.

He was scheduled to get Tuesday off, and we learned yesterday that he would have pitched on Wednesday only in an emergency. The reason is that he had some soreness in his elbow after that first outing. The next question is whether this soreness is normal or if it’s a hint of things to come. It is too early to make that declaration, and we will be watching the situation closely.

From Injury Watch July 25…
Bobby Crosby (SS, OAK)
The A’s placed him on the disabled list Wednesday with a fractured left hand. He was hit by a pitch (thrown by Justin Speier) and was removed. The X-rays done on his hand revealed multiple fractures. Reportedly, he has fractures of the third and fourth metacarpal bones, the bones at the base of the middle fingers. The fractures are clean, but in alignment, thus surgery should not be needed. The initial estimated down time is four to six weeks, which would put him back with the A’s early in September. Because the injury involves bones, it is unlikely he will heal faster than normal, thus ruling out an early return.

From Injury Watch July 25…
Jason Giambi (1B, NYY)
He is slated to begin a minor league rehab assignment at Single-A on Friday and Yankees believe he will be ready sometime the latter part of next week. He is recovering from a torn plantar fascia tendon in his left foot. At the time of the injury, there was a lot of skepticism, including from yours truly, that he would not be able to return from this injury this season. We are not convinced he will be able to hold up during a rehab outing or once he returns. Giambi owners should take the cautious route and leave him on the reserve roster until weekend to determine if his foot and he will indeed hold up.

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