Kyle Lohse Might Have to Choose Surgery or Bullpen
Cardinals pitcher Kyle Lohse has been battling forearm problems for a while and went to see a hand and wrist specialist on Wednesday in California. The diagnosis is exertional compartment syndrome, according to Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, and will require Lohse to either have surgery or leave the starting rotation.
Exertional compartment syndrome, which is usually found in distance runners and motocross riders, is "a condition in which the sheath covering a muscle in the pitcher's forearm fails to allow it to expand." Swelling increases with effort, which is why moving to relief could be an option for the Cardinals and Lohse, but the problem is that no one really knows much about this injury. Lohse told the paper that no other pitchers have suffered from this issue.
"We're kind of in uncharted territory here," Lohse said.
That's true, although it isn't the first time it has come up in relation to a hurler. Former Giants pitcher Noah Lowry was diagnosed with it in 2008 and had the surgery that Lohse may now be facing. A year later his agent charged that he was misdiagnosed, however, and that the surgery was unnecessary and unsuccessful.
Hopefully Lohse makes certain that this is what's wrong before deciding on a course of action. Recovery time for the surgery is normally around two months, but it's not clear if that applies to pitchers since they aren't the usual patients for this particular operation. Since Lowry wound up having a different problem altogether, we really are in uncharted waters.
Lohse hasn't been placed on the disabled list yet, though that seems likely, and the Cardinals are going to have to move forward as if they have a hole in the rotation that needs filling. Lohse is 1-4 with a 5.89 ERA thus far, so an upgrade was possible anyway but now you'd have to expect that St. Louis is going to be a major player on the trade market.
That means you'll hear Cliff Lee and Roy Oswalt's names attached to the Cardinals. It remains to be seen if adding that kind of salary is, pardon the pun, in the cards, especially since they are still on the hook to Lohse for more than $22 million in 2011 and 2012.