Sunday, February 26, 2006

The Silver Shoulder Lining

Nats expected #3 starter Brian Lawrence is out with a torn labrum. Depending on how severe the tear is, Lawrence could be out for 3-4 months, or he could be out for the year.

Essentially the labrum is a sheath of cartilege inside the shoulder joint that acts as padding where the arm meets the body, and it helps to stabilize the joint. As the ball of the arm rolls around in the joint, sometime tears occur.

Last year, Jon Rauch suffered a minor torn labrum. Surprinsingly, he was able to come back the same year, pitching a few decent innings down the stretch for the Nats. Tony Armas also suffered a torn labrum a few years ago. His came in concert with a torn rotator cuff. The double combo of shoulder injuries are the primary reason he's worn the 'potential' label for so long. Ryan Drese also had surgery on a torn labrum last year, and claims to be fully healthy for the season. On the hitting side, Jose Guillen is recovering from the same injury (as a separate story, it seems like he's hurrying back too quickly). At least with this team, it's a fairly common injury!

To read Tom Boswell, the season's over. It's not. While having Lawrence in the rotation would be a good thing, the dropoff from him to the other stiffs isn't THAT great.

While Lawrence was penciled in as the third starter, it wasn't for his expert pitching ability, but for his innings-eating abilities. When he's going well, he's a league average pitcher (when you adjust for home park). In fact, each of his last three seasons have had an adjusted ERA below average.

Lawrence is a sinkerballer who gives up lots of hits, doesn't walk anyone, and strikes out almost no one. Do the Nationals have anyone like that? Yep!

One of the Nationals' spring training 'problems' was how they were going to cut through all the starting pitching depth (even if it's mediocre depth). Ryan Drese, Jon Rauch, Tony Armas, and Ramon Ortiz were fighting for the last two spots in the rotation. Now they're fighting for the last three. Yeah, it'd be nice to have a little more depth to play with, but not all of those pitchers were able to break camp anyway. And I'd expect Bowden to ramp up his interest in Pedro Astacio, too.

Randy St. Claire has said that Tony Armas is looking as good as he has since he's worked with him. (Spring training fluff?) If you were reading me last year, you know that I'm a Ryan Drese man. As I wrote many many times last year, something was off with his arm angle -- something the surgery has corrected, or so he says.

Regardless of who slots in, the Nationals weren't going to win the World Series this year. Losing Lawrence probably isn't the difference between being a playoff team and not. I mean, think about that! Brian Lawrence a difference maker? If your team is constructed so that he is, you've got other problems to worry about!

Sure, it'd be nice to have 200 league-average innings. But it'd be nice to have a shortstop who hit league average, too.

(If you're one of those that thinks that a day where I'm more positive than Tom Boswell is a sign of the Apocalypse, you better drop to your knees and repent!)

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