When I wrote yesterday’s article about the Cardinals’ claiming Adalberto Mejia, I included a brief blurb about the corresponding roster move the Cards made to create space on the 40-man roster for Mejia, namely the transfer of Jedd Gyorko from the 10-day IL to the 60-day IL.
Over the rest of the day in the comments section of various articles on this site, confusion set in with some readers after we learned from the Post-Dispatch that Gyorko was about to start a rehab assignment, but that assignment had been cancelled on the basis that Gyorko was ready to play, and that the team might be looking to deal him.
When I learned this, I, and it looked like many readers, wondered how it was possible that these two simultaneous conditions could exist. How is it possible, on one hand that Gyorko is not going on a rehab assignment because he’s healthy, while on the other, he is being placed on a longer injured list.
Gyorko’s season has been a confounding one. He was placed on the 10-day IL for the second time this season on June 8th for a lower back strain. While on the injured list for that ailment, he apparently had a setback of the calf injury that had bothered him earlier in the year. Then, out of the blue, we learned that all of a sudden he was to have surgery on his wrist for a problem that had been nagging him for years, and for which he had been taking cortisone shots.
While I can’t answer why he all of a sudden had to have wrist surgery, I do believe that I have unlocked the key to the mystery of how the two simultaneous conditions I outlined above can co-exist with the rules governing Major League Baseball. The answer lies in the absence of a rule combined with a rule I had not known existed before now.
THE ABSENCE OF A RULE
There are many rules in baseball governing injured players on everything from placement on the injured list, restrictions on what can be done with injured players and rehabilitation assignments to second medical opinions. To understand the Gyorko problem, it is important to understand is that there is no rule anywhere in the Collective Bargaining Agreement that requires the team to reinstate a player from an injured list the moment the player is ready to play. Hang on to that for a bit, and I will circle back to it.
THE INJURED LIST RECERTIFICATION RULES
When a club places a player on one of the injured lists, the team doctor is required to file a Standard Form of Diagnosis. That rule, (MLR 2(g)(1)(A)) applies to the initial placement on the injured list, and we can presume the team followed this rule on June 8th when it placed Gyorko on the 10-day IL. A separate rule 2(g)(2) says that “Subject to the restrictions above,” meaning Rule 2(g)(1)(A), a player can be transferred from the 10-day IL to the 60-day IL. That raises the following question: does one of “the restrictions above” require that a Standard Form of Diagnosis be filed when a player is transferred from the 10-day IL to the 60-day IL. The Cardinals’ actions would suggest not, because how could the doctor file the form, while the local paper is simultaneously reporting that Gyorko is healthy enough to play? This raised the further question of why, if Gyorko is healthy enough to play, would the team be allowed to transfer him to the 60-day IL instead of being required to activate him immediately?
So I looked further in the rules, and stumbled on the recertification rules of which I was previously unaware. It turns out that Rule 2(g)(4) requires the team doctor to file a Standard Form of Diagnosis for Recertification (1) on the day that the player is eligible to be reinstated; AND (2) every 10 days thereafter, following the date on which the player was eligible for reinstatement. Recertifications are not required for players on the 60-day IL.
APPLICATION OF THE RULES TO GYORKO’S SITUATION
Applying the recertification rule to Gyorko’s initial placement on the 10-day IL on June 8th, we can trace the steps of what must have happened, assuming the Cardinals followed the rules.
Upon placement on the 10-day IL on June 8th, Gyorko was eligible to be activated on June 18th, so a recertification would have had to be filed on that date if Gyorko was not activated. In addition, recertifications were also required to be filed on June 28th, July 8th, July 18th, and July 28th, and again, we can presume this was done.
Now here’s the key. The July 28th recertification that we presume was filed is good for 10 days. A new recertification is not due until August 7th, which miraculously happens also to be the date that Gyorko is eligible to be activated from the 60-day IL. Nothing in the rules appear to require the clubs to correct the record between recertification due dates and activate the player if he is healthy. If the Cards don’t trade Gyorko in the meantime, they simply will fail to file the recertification when it is due, activate him from the IL and be in full compliance with the rules. Nothing in the rules prohibits trades of players on an injured list, so if the Cards trade Gyorko before the July 31st trade deadline, the new team can follow the same procedure and wait until August 7th to activate him or activate him before then.
While the Cards never published on their transaction page that Gyorko started an official rehab assignment, we have been told that Gyorko expected to start a rehab assignment on the night of July 30th with Memphis, then at the last minute he was told not to play. A player must consent to a minor league rehab assignment, and it looks like that was given. And while rehab assignments are often cut short when a player experiences a medical setback, players are activated from the injured list all the time before the rehab assignment is over. And there is nothing in the rules that prohibits a team from cancelling a rehab assignment before it starts.
While I can’t locate any precedent for this situation, and there clearly appears to be a disconnect between Gyorko and the team, my best efforts have shown that a team can, indeed, cancel a rehab assignment on the basis that the player is healthy enough to play while simultaneously extending the player’s required IL stay. The answer lies in the fact that the recertification that has been previously filed covers the team for 10 days from the date of the filing. Gyorko and the MLBPA might have a legitimate issue with the Cardinals or some other team if he is not activated from the 60-day IL when he is eligible and it is publicly known that he has been declared healthy to play.
But for now, it looks like the Cardinals are in the clear. It doesn’t have to make sense, my friends, it’s just the rules.