When it comes to injuries, no news is usually bad news.
Take Zach Putnam for instance. He walked off the mound with a Herm Schneider escort on April 22, and while the White Sox and Putnam said it was initially day to day, it didn’t seem like it at the time, especially when factoring in Putnam’s scarred injury history.
He went on the disabled list with right elbow inflammation on April 25, but after the stint lapsed and Putnam still had made no progress toward a rehab stint, it became fair to assume worse. Rick Hahn confirmed that assumption by telling the media that Putnam underwent Tommy John surgery last week.
"We knew when they went in to repair the elbow last winter, when they removed the chips, the ligament was not in great shape, but Zach and his doctors thought it was worthwhile for him to try to fight back and pitch through it," Hahn said. "Obviously, he was able to do it for a short period of time.
"Ultimately the ligament gave out. Zach deserves a world of credit for doing everything he could the last two years to fight his way back to contribute in the bullpen. Unfortunately, it didn't work out for him."
Putnam’s had at least one DL stint in every season with the Sox, resulting in diminishing innings despite above-average effectiveness every season.
- 2014: 54.2 IP
- 2015: 48.2 IP
- 2016: 27.1 IP
- 2017: 8.2 IP
Given the timetable for recovery from the procedure, a return in 2018 would be a victory, even if he can’t throw nine innings to reverse this particular slide.
The news of the surgery was only abrupt because it was only a fortnight ago that Hahn said he expected Putnam to resume throwing. The same expectation applied to Nate Jones, and his history of recent surgeries makes it easy to draw similar conclusions. Jones was able to play catch and keep his name in the conversation, but he’s going to have to break new ground shortly.
Tyler Saladino is in a similar spot, given that his back problems have a history that extends beyond the disabled list stint that started on May 27. Hawk Harrelson had sounded rather dismayed when talking about Saladino during broadcasts, at one point asking Steve Stone if he’d heard updates, because Harrelson hadn’t heard anything himself.
Saladino was able to provide one over the weekend ...
Tyler Saladino said he's been medically cleared for activity. Is going out to take 50 grounders today— James Fegan (@JRFegan) June 24, 2017
... but Brett Lawrie took grounders last year, too. As with Jones, Saladino’s progress won’t feel real until he actually embarks on a rehab stint.
As for Charlie Tilson.
This upside is that Carlos Rodon had once occupied equally hazy territory, but he made it back to being a scheduled starter. He’s set to take the mound on Wednesday, and he sounds a little wiser for the experience:
Rodon said he has a better understanding of how to approach each day with a mindset on being prepared, including more focused strength and conditioning work.
"I established a true routine," Rodon said. "Every day has a purpose, and that was the main thing. … I was not as mature (before the injury). I was a little young. You roll out of bed and you can just throw. It takes a couple of other things to get ready and go."
I suppose there’s some silver lining in the fact that Rodon wasn’t comfortable or accustomed to giving the media health updates when he wasn’t anywhere near a return. Despite his reticence, he was able to actually make it to and through a rehab stint. Still, cases like Putnam’s make it easy to assume the worst about an injury when everybody directly involved is so vague and shadowy about it.