NEW YORK – Tommy Hanson had another MRI on his sore shoulder Friday, after which he and Braves heard words no pitcher wants to hear: tear in the rotator cuff.
The Braves, however, said the specific type of injury that Hanson has – a small undersurface rotator cuff tear – usually doesn’t require surgery, and general manager Frank Wren said the team remained hopeful that Hanson “can return in the next few weeks.”
But with just 30 games left in the regular season, it’s uncertain if there’s enough time left for Hanson to make it back even if he has no further setbacks. He’s been on the disabled list nearly three weeks and hasn’t pitched since Aug. 6.
Two other words that raise red flags when it comes to pitchers’ injuries: James Andrews. The renowned orthopedic surgeon will meet with Hanson on Monday at Andrews’ clinic in Pensacola, Fla. Andrews will presumably look over the MRI and give his recommendation.
Hanson has been on the disabled list since Aug. 7 with what had been diagnosed as tendinitis. An MRI Aug. 9 showed no structural damage, just as an MRI in in June showed no structural damage. Both times, Hanson was diagnosed tendinitis and given a cortisone shot.
He came back from the first DL stint and pitch well for several starts, though he conceded that the shoulder was still tight at times.
The MRI Friday was a more sophisticated dye-contrast, where dye is injected in a vein in order to provide a more clear, detailed picture of the area to be examined.
“It was not a new injury, based on the MRI reading,” Wren said. “It appears to have been the source of Tommy’s discomfort.”
Monday’s session at Wrigley Field was the first time Hanson threw on a mound since Aug. 6, when he was rocked for a career-high four homers and seven runs in 3-1/3 innings against the Mets. He has a 1-3 record with an 8.10 ERA and .313 opponents’ average in five starts since the All-Star break, after going 10-4 with a 2.44 ERA and .190 OA before the break.
Rookie left-hander Mike Minor will continue filling in for Hanson. Minor is 4-2 in 10 starts, including 4-0 with a 3.38 ERA in his past five.
Rotation could be shuffled
Jair Jurrjens and Minor were the Braves’ scheduled starters Saturday and Sunday against the Mets, but now those games have been postponed because of Hurricane Irene.
Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez wasn’t sure how he would line up the rotation after the Braves have what nearly amounts to another All-Star break in late August – they’re off for the next three days, including Monday’s open date on the schedule. Gonzalez planned to hash it out with pitching coach Roger McDowell and announce pitching plans later this weekend, perhaps at the Braves’ planned workout Sunday at Turner Field.
Gonzalez wants to avoid a repeat of the situation the Braves had at the All-Star break, when a couple of pitchers ended up getting nearly double their normal rest and not pitching well coming out of the break. They could have a pitcher throw in simulated game conditions at the workout Sunday, or Gonzalez also mentioned the possibility of having a pitcher make a minor league start.
If a pitcher was sent to a minor league affiliate that’s finishing its season, that pitcher would not have to wait the normal 10-day period to return to the majors after being optioned to a minor league team. He could return as soon as that affiliate’s season concluded, which would next week for some Braves minor-league teams.