Matt Garza will head to the disabled list today, as the Cubs call up AAA lefty Brooks Raley to take his spot in the rotation. The injury is a “stress reaction” in Garza’s right arm, and the Cubs aren’t sure when or if he’ll return this season. He won’t pick up a baseball for at least two weeks, and the Cubs will see where they stand at that point.
“We’ll keep re-evaluating him and will make that decision when he picks up a ball and starts throwing again,” Cubs GM Jed Hoyer told the media. “To speculate right now on his status for the season wouldn’t be right. Today, we got the diagnosis, talked about it and we’ll make a decision when it’s right. It’s too early to speculate on the remainder of the season or when he’ll start throwing.
“He felt really good, as he told [the media] on Saturday, and that’s the surprise of it. Matt’s a competitor and he’ll want to get out there and get going. He’ll be eager to get back and we’ll wind up holding him back to an extent.”
For now, Hoyer says he expects Garza to be a part of the Cubs in 2013. If he doesn’t pitch again in 2012, that’s a very likely possibility.
But how likely is it that he won’t pitch again this year? Just how serious is this “stress reaction” injury thing?
All the media is pointing to Blake Parker – remember him? – who last pitched on June 1, when he suffered a “stress reaction” in his elbow. Parker just made his first appearance yesterday after rehabilitating. Against that backdrop, how can we possibly think Garza will return before the end of the season?
But, wait a minute. Doesn’t “stress reaction” sound like the kind of thing that’s sufficiently vague to cover a wide range of problems and recovery times? Just because one pitcher missed two months with a “stress reaction,” how can we assume the same thing of another pitcher with a “stress reaction”? What the hell is a “stress reaction” anyway? Garza’s elbow got a big test next week? Is it hive-y? Does it have pimples?
I’m no doctor, but I am a licensed Googler. From digging around, a “stress reaction” is some kind of irritation at the back of the ulna bone (the long, forearm bone on the inner side of your arm) – called the olecranon – from bumping into the humerus (the upper arm bone). If the stress reaction gets bad enough, it can result in a stress fracture, which can require surgery. Apparently, it’s frequently associated with young pitchers.
Hearing that description, it’s easy to understand why Garza had trouble articulating just what was wrong in the “back” of his arm a few weeks ago. The pain wouldn’t have been quite in the part of the elbow you associate with serious problems.
The good news – again, I’m not a doctor and I don’t have access to anything in Matt Garza’s medical file other than the words “stress reaction” – is that this is a bone problem, not a ligament problem. The possibly bad news is that the affected area is right there next to where the ulnar collateral ligament (the Tommy John surgery one) attaches in the elbow. Is there a greater risk for injury to the UCL when you have this kind of irritation in the elbow? I haven’t the foggiest, and I’d be a grade A quack if I tried to suggest a connection. All I’m saying is that to suggest Garza’s injury is limited to the “back” of his arm, and not at all related to his “elbow” would strike me as imprecise.
Like the Cubs, we’ll just have to see where things stand in a few weeks. Hopefully – for the Cubs, for Garza, for the fans – Matt is able to make a handful of starts before the end of this season. And hopefully he looks good doing it.