COMMENTARY | Zack Greinke broke his left collarbone after Carlos Quentin charged the mound on April 11. The original timetable for recovery and rehab following surgery was eight weeks, but Greinke managed a speedy recovery and was back in the bigs on May 15 (5.1 IP, 5 hits, 4 Ks, 0 BB, 83 pitches -- 50 for strikes), a turnaround of roughly five weeks from the day of the brawl.
Many on television and online have questioned the Los Angeles Dodgers' decision to allow Greinke to return almost a month ahead of what was expected and after just one rehab start, an appearance in High-A ball. With the team struggling to win games and the rotation a mess beyond the always elite Clayton Kershaw and rookie Hyun-Jin Ryu, the move certainly looked like and smelled of desperation.
However, it was simply a player healing ahead of time and not another in the long line of questionable moves by the Dodgers' staff and management in recent years regarding injured players.
Matt Kemp was allowed to play down the stretch in 2012 after severely injuring his shoulder following two separate crashes into the outfield wall in Coors Field. The doctors, at the time, said the injury couldn't get any worse, but offseason shoulder surgery revealed a labrum tear that was much worse off than originally suspected. That type of injury is known to sap power (see: Adrian Gonzalez, Brian McCann), yet the club didn't shut down their best offensive asset. Baseball was going to continue to be played, yet the Dodgers prioritized the short-term over their star player's long-term health and productivity as I discussed at the end of the 2012 campaign on multiple occasions. Kemp may never be the same player.
Gonzalez is currently battling a neck injury and can't field or run without pain, yet the club has not DL'd him. They play him knowing he'll leave games early and needs more time off. Chris Capuano injured his calf in the Quentin Debacle yet made a start soon thereafter with only some treatment in-between. Going back further, Eric Gagne injured his knee, was allowed to pitch through it, and wrecked his elbow.
On many occasions in recent years, the Dodgers have placed injured players back on the field rather than play it safe and allow them to heal, showing a desire to win in the short-term over building a long-lasting contender.
The risk in Greinke returning sooner than anticipated seems high, but five weeks was at the lower end of the recovery spectrum, the break was his non-pitching collarbone, and medicine has advanced to exceptionally high levels. Add in the fact that athletes are in much better shape and not every collarbone is exactly the same and the Dodgers, in this particular case, are simply reacting to events as they unfold rather than putting their own imprint on the situation by expediting Greinke's recovery.
Greg Zakwin is the founder of Plaschke, Thy Sweater Is Argyle, a Dodgers' and sports card blog. He writes with an analytical tilt about The Blue Crew at ChadMoriyama.com. You can find and follow him on Twitter @ArgyledPlaschke. A graduate of UCLA in 2011 with a Bachelor's in History, he's been a follower of the Dodgers since birth and still mourns the loss of both Mike Piazza and Carlos Santana.
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