Contreras Owners Should Get Mad Son

Man down! Yet another purveyor of the ninth has fallen to the injury imp. Jose Contreras was placed on the 15-day DL with a strained right flexor pronator. I have no clue what that means other than the fact that someone else will be closing games for the Phillies. Fortunately, our resident physical therapist Don Brown knows what a strained protractor means for all of us who have a piece of Contreras. We’ll give the floor to Don and then speculate on what Charlie Manuel will do when a save situation presents itself.

Time for the resident PT to chime in on Feliz and Contreras. I will preface this by saying that this analysis is based on the information available, which in both cases is minimal.

[Editor’s Note] Don gave his three cents (he has more than us) on both Neftali Feliz and Contreras. The Feliz diagnosis can be found in the updated Damn Commies post.

Contreras I’m actually more concerned about. It’s VERY early, and more information could surface, but one thing we know is that he’s got a “flexor pronator strain”. There’s no single muscle called the “flexor pronator”, it refers to a group of muscles that attach at a common point on the inside part of your elbow (turn your hand up toward the ceiling, make a fist and bend your wrist towards you, feel the forearm muscles near the inside elbow region contract, that’s the injury area). A “strain” is technically a tear, the severity varies of course but he’s got partial tearing of muscles in his throwing elbow, with resulting pain and inflammation.

Now this could be a purely precautionary move and no big deal, but it’s an ominous area to be having troubles. Everybody knows the UCL (Tommy John) ligament is a bad thing to injure. Guess what? The flexor pronator tendons attach to the same place as the UCL! It’s common for pitchers to injure both areas, or for pain in these muscles to be secondary or in addition to issues in the elbow ligaments, which is why Jose is on a flight to Philly for an MRI. Contreras, in case you forgot, is old. His body will not recover from injury as quickly as a 20-year old’s would.

Prediction Perhaps I’m going out on a limb a bit too much here, but Adam Wainwright had pain and inflammation in his elbow too, and guess what, he’s not pitching again in 2011. I think Contreras might be heading down a similar path. Even if he returns this year, Madson could easily take the closer job and run with it and Lidge is waiting in the wings as well. If Contreras misses any significant length of time he may not see another save chance. If you have a DL slot go ahead and throw Contreras in it, but I have a feeling his contributions in the saves category might be minimal the rest of the year, and if he ends up needing surgery, his career could be over. The MRI results will be very telling, but if you’re relying on Contreras you’d better have a backup plan.

Ouch. Don paints a grim picture for Jose. The last time Don shared ominous words about a pitcher, Adam Wainwright, I decided to chop off 20-30 innings from my Wainwright projection; the doctors decided to chop off his arm. Ryan Madson makes the most sense for anyone filtering through the free agent pool. Antonio Bastardo should also be rostered in deeper leagues.

Madson picked up the save on Saturday in the 11th Inning, but Bastardo pitched the 9th Inning of that game (tied game) and then picked up a one-out save on Sunday. Madson has struggled in the Closer’s role in the past and was bypassed by Contreras when Brad Lidge went down. If Madson is already owned in your league, go ahead and make the move for Bastardo if you have the room. Even if you don’t get a save, you should get good stats and an even better team name: The Inglorious Bastardos.

Ryan Madson 9 IP, 10 K, 0.89 WHIP, 1.00 ERA, 2 W, 2 Saves
Antonio Bastardo 9.1 IP, 14 K, 0.75 WHIP, 0.00 ERA, 1 W, 1 Save 

Brad Lidge update: he says things are going well and the rotator cuff is healed. It sounds like he’ll need two weeks to strengthen the shoulder before starting a throwing program. Best case scenario: a return in late-May, early-June. Worst case scenario: Brad Lidge is on your team.