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March 5, 2003

Under The Knife

Gut Feel and Ankiel

by Will Carroll

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Thanks for all the feedback from yesterday's story. Two topics are worthy of discussion before we get into the injuries. First, the Astros THR came out and many of you disagree with my 'out on a limb' red light that I dropped on Roy Oswalt. I thought I had explained my gut feel enough, but it didn't appear to do the trick. Some of Oswalt is gut, but most of it was the analysis of his motion, and the problems the injury problems Astros pitchers have had lately.

In the end, remember that a red light simply means that someone has some indicators of injury, and that you should really consider all the facts--not just injury, but history, projections, and other knowledge about the player--when analyzing his prospects for the upcoming season. Injury analysis, at some level, is actually about economics. While I'm no Doug Pappas, bear with me for a moment. If a team pays a player like Oswalt or Pedro Martinez or Kevin Brown, that player may come up lame and not produce, leaving the team with fewer resources and lesser players to try and fill the roster spots. Sometimes the risk is worth the possible reward, but not being conscious of the risk and not hedging it will buy that team a non-refundable ticket to Lastplaceville.

  • With Eric Milton on the shelf, the health of Joe Mays gains importance. There's some confusion about Mays' situation. Mays was out part of last year with elbow problems that made many think he was headed for Tommy John surgery. He managed to rehab his way through that, returned and was reasonably effective down the stretch and into the playoffs. He had bone chips removed in November, but there was some question about the relation between the chips and his previous problems. Bone chips are easy to come back from, and the time frame seems fine. Mays has had shoulder soreness this spring, which sounds like a compensation injury (when you alter mechanics and end up hurting another part to save the injured one). Mays pitched extremely well in his first spring start, but this is definitely one I'm keeping an eye on. Johan Santana will fill in the Milton slot well, but the Twins don't have quite as much depth in starters as they do in the outfield or corner infield slots. A trade could be in the offing if Mays--or any other starter--hits the List.

  • The Braves need to invest in some ankle wraps. Actually, I'm sure their staff is doing everything necessary, but ankle sprains keep happening. It's unfortunate, but not something teams can ever completely eliminate. The Braves had two important players go down with similar injuries Tuesday in Marcus Giles and Rafael Furcal. In Sunday's game, Furcal slid over the bag and seemed to catch his ankle. The resulting sprain will probably cost him around a week. It's not a long-term concern, but missing the ABs can't help. Giles also can blame the second base bag--he twisted his ankle while floating under a popup. It's the same ankle that put him on the DL last year, so he's an RBC (recurrent, becoming chronic) candidate.

  • It's not just ankles in Disney World. Paul Byrd's groin strain has him on the sidelines for now. He's been feeling it since pre-camp, and he was limited to just a few pitches (12 or 15 based on varying reports) in his first start. He doesn't have a history of this type of problem, but groin strains--especially for the push leg--can be very problematic.

  • If Chris Correnti's workouts turn John Burkett and Casey Fossum into half the pitcher Pedro is, Sox fans will be happy. So far, Burkett is looking especially sharp. Still, it's just the first week of spring training games, so excitement should be tempered, even for Sox fans. Most comments I've heard are along the lines of "throwing strikes all over the zone." It will be interesting to see if the loss of vacuum cleaner and confidence-booster Rey Sanchez affects Burkett and the rest of the staff, especially Derek Lowe.

  • The Orioles need help anywhere they can get it. I'm on record as saying that the Orioles will lift the Rays out of the cellar this year, so good news of any type is...well, good news. Pat Hentgen is still in the "regaining command" phase of TJ comeback, but he's been sharper than expected so far. He had four strikeouts in a recent spring training game and appeared to be locating well. At worst, he's going to be an innings sponge.

  • UTK fave Rick Ankiel was back on the mound for the Cards, allowing no walks in a short outing. His sidearm delivery is helping some, but an observer said, "his pitches are like BP pitches--flat, no movement, no deception." I'll settle for no walks right now. Better, Ankiel's reporting no pain in his arm. I still think he's going to come back and be as good as we all thought.

  • The Cards are also going through opening week of spring training games without Fernando Vina. After getting hit in the head on a steal attempt, Vina's still not cobweb-free. He'll likely miss a couple more games, but he is participating in some drills. It shouldn't be a worry for Vina or the Cards other than in the extreme short-term, but is another example of why headfirst slides seldom make sense.

  • Bad news for the Rockies, or is it? A complete break of the fifth metatarsal will keep Juan Uribe out until June, according to the team. Call that a minimum. Jose Hernandez shifts to SS and will be more valuable over there. I don't see Uribe being able to return without a loss of range and speed, and without those, what's the point?

  • A reader sent a link to a picture of the new Milton Bradley. He's put on some serious muscle over the winter. I'm still unsure if this is a positive or negative. His power might go up, but his speed might go down. His strength is up, but is the risk of muscle pulls worth it? Factor that risk in.

  • Jaret Wright is one of the plethora of pitchers being auditioned for the Trevor Hoffman role, but reports are coming fast and furious that Wright may be first one out of the competition. "His mechanics are bleep," said one trusted source. "Pure bleep. You tell me if it's because of all the surgery." It isn't. Bad mechanics led to the surgery.

  • Brandon Larson needs LASIK on his ribcage. He'll miss a week with a muscle strain; it's unclear if it's an intracostal or AFOS (another f'ing oblique strain) injury. Combine that with rough play of Aaron Boone over at 2B--word is he looks completely lost--and there's a perfect scenario for Bob Boone to start outthinking himself. We still haven't seen Adam Dunn leading off or an indication from Boone that he's thinking four-man rotation. Anyone want to set the over-under on Boone's pink slip?

  • Sean Casey is coming back from off-season shoulder surgery, and while he's ahead of schedule, his shoulder is reminding him that he's not that far ahead. Reports say that he's feeling 'fatigue' but not pain. Call it weakness and I'm in. Casey's extension and power should return slowly as the shoulder continues to heal. With Wily Mo Pena taking reps at 1B and Dunn also a possibility there, the Reds can be conservative with Casey.

  • No blisters for Jeremy Affeldt again Tuesday. No problems so far for Josh Beckett or any of the more than 10 pitchers that had the problem last year. It's too early to tell if there's any change in the ball or if it's coincidence, but it looks like as quickly as this problem spread, it may be clearing up.

  • Someone put a pin in the Josh Hamilton voodoo doll again. This time it's his hip, which probably means he's having more problems with his back. Remember that the nerves to your legs come out of the lower back and that leg and hip pain is often the result of nerve impingement. Take a look at the full 1999 draft and see how many guys you'd rather have. Scouting is an inexact science and I'm sure the people that made the decision had good reasons, but Hamilton is beginning to look more and more like Brien Taylor.

Quick BPR Note: who would you like to hear interviewed? Drop me a note with suggestions. Meanwhile, I have some great ones lined up in the coming weeks and yes, the Netfeed at www.959thepoint.com will be more stable this week.

Related Content:  Year Of The Injury,  The Call-up

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