Did Josh Johnson owners order up a Marlins ace or a fish filet? Photo credit: regisc
The world didn’t end on 5/21/11, but try telling that to anybody with Josh Johnson on his or her fantasy baseball team. Johnson’s surprise placement on the DL is obviously a very alarming situation for both his real life and fantasy owners, and I’m here to help read the tea leaves and explain what we’re dealing with here. In case you were wondering, I treat all forms of orthopedics injuries, but my specialty is shoulder post-operative rehab, I’m the shoulder guy and Johnson has a shoulder injury, you may want to pay attention.
I hate to say I told you so, but I did tell you so. For anyone familiar with my injury takes from MillionDollarSleeper.com, I advised folks to avoid JJ this year unless he came at a steep discount. I said you’d be playing with fire drafted him as your staff ace. Of course I was one of many people across the web who warned of JJ’s health going into drafts this year, but that’s not important, what is important is that I was right. He’s shelved with “shoulder inflammation”, the same issue that forced him to be shut down late last season, flared up again in the preseason, and according to Johnson himself, has been bothering him all season long. Imagine what his numbers would look like if he wasn’t dealing with an injury, damn.
You might be thinking to yourself, “Don, didn’t Neftali Feliz have shoulder inflammation when he went out, and you said he’d be fine and return from the DL on schedule? Why would Johnson be any different, isn’t it the same injury?” Well my friend, it’s absolutely NOT the same injury, and that’s why I do the thinking around here. This is not an isolated incident as a result of goofy role changing like Feliz. This is a guy with a history of throwing arm trouble, including TJ surgery. This is a guy who’s had lingering shoulder soreness since the end of last season. Sure things felt better during the off-season as he was able to rest and rehab the shoulder, spirits were high and all was well in the world. What happened when he started pitching again? The soreness returned. Not a good sign. He’s had soreness all season, meaning he’s tried to pitch through it (great way to make it worse) to see if it’s just some of the general soreness all pitchers experience or if it’s something more. Seems obvious to me that it’s something more, and always the pessimist I’m concerned about his viability this season.
I’ve discussed at length in previous pieces why shoulder inflammation is bad, I’ll spare the lengthy explanation again. The general course of treatment is rest and anti-inflammatory course, followed by rehab and a gradual throwing program. If all goes well the athlete returns to duty, timeline anywhere from 2-6 weeks. As of this writing I have yet to see any reports of an MRI being planned or taken, but it wouldn’t surprise me if they did one. You can’t be too careful with your young ace. I also wouldn’t be surprised if there’s a cortisone injection in his future both to wipe out the swelling and expedite his recovery. His return to the mound will depend on his symptoms, imaging and overall quality of his mechanics (both of the shoulder joint and his throwing motion).
Is it possible that JJ is simply dealing with a little swelling and he’ll return when eligible and pitch great the rest of the season? Yes. I hope this is the case, I don’t wish injury upon anyone. Do I personally think that’s what will happen? No. Rest and rehab has already been tried, it didn’t work, the soreness is back. Guess what happens when I’m sent a patient with shoulder pain who doesn’t respond to rest, PT exercises and activity modification? They go back to the MD and probably get an MRI. That MRI will likely show some sort of structural damage or abnormality, and shortly thereafter they usually end up needing surgery.
Prediction: Johnson receives an injection in the next few days which helps his symptoms and he misses the next 2 weeks resting and rehabbing as expected, returning to the Marlins in mid-June. He pitches well leading up to the All-Star break, is selected to the team, but declines participation to rest his arm. Shortly after the All-Star break, the soreness returns, and Johnson is forced to the DL yet again. An MRI is taken and reveals inflammation, some rotator cuff fraying and a bone spur. He’ll need arthroscopic surgery to clean out the spur, and is fortunate that the rotator cuff damage is not a full thickness tear, thus he avoids reconstruction. If I owned him (which I don’t) I’d wait until he returns and has a couple productive outings, then I’d sell sell sell. I just don’t think this is the last we’ll hear about his shoulder this year. I hope I’m wrong, but that just doesn’t happen very often!