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March 7, 2003

Under The Knife

Backs, Hammies, and Spring Training Owies

by Will Carroll

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Getting right into it tonight--I've taken on some customer service duties here at BP, and Jonah and Ryan will kill me if this gets any later! OK, honestly, I need to watch the last half of Survivor on TiVo. (BTW, if anyone has any experience with wireless home networks, please drop me an email and tell me how tough it would be to set one up linking my computer, TiVo, and the Gateway laptop I'm dreaming of. Maybe if I keep saying Gateway here and on the radio, I'll get product.)

On March 4th, UTK included a reference to another injury analyst that should not have made it into publication. The statement was made with the intention of showing the genesis of my column, and not to disparage the ability or integrity of anyone else in the field, and I sincerely apologize for the remarks in question. Furthermore, let me go on the record and state that I have the utmost respect for the contributions and integrity of others in the field whose work inspired me in the first place.

  • On to the injury news. While not exactly injury news, we're watching several pitchers very closely this spring, and one name that always comes up in any conversation is Pedro Martinez. I hope I don't need to bring you up to speed on the concerns surrounding Pedro, but his outing on Thursday looked good. While his velocity was only in the low 90s, he looked sharp and had great command. He went two easy innings and showed no problems at any point. If you're a Sox fan, exhale.

  • Another hurler being watched closely is Byung-Hyun Kim. Kim's start was extremely impressive. My source didn't have any velocity data, but wire reports had Kim going a very efficient 42 pitches over four innings. It surprised me a bit that Kim went four in the game, but Bob Brenly seems to want to make a quick decision regarding roles on his staff. Kim could be a better pitcher than Elmer Dessens quickly.

  • Lots of news out of Padres camp and little of it the kind they want to hear. I green-lighted (lit?) Oliver Perez and have compared him several times to Pedro Martinez, even though it's a dumb exercise to compare young guys to a wishcasted upside rather than something a bit more realistic and evidence-based like--well, look on Perez's PECOTA card and Ramon Martinez is number 6. Unfortunately Perez looked bad Thursday, hitting only the mid-80s with his fastball and failing to change speeds. One of the hallmarks of a good pitcher is winning without his best stuff, and Perez certainly didn't do that today. It is very early, I must remind myself, and I remain hopeful that this isn't the first sign of something worse.

  • Ryan Klesko is dealing with what's described as an "AC joint inflammation." While Klesko explains it as a weight lifting injury from the off-season, this is the same explanation given this winter for why Trevor Hoffman wasn't throwing. We all know how that song goes. Klesko's already dealing with some back problems, so compensation worries come in. That said, I've still heard nothing that overly concerns me.

  • In the rotation, the Pads are looking at several options, with Kevin Jarvis having the inside track at a spot. He's had recent elbow surgery though, and stiffness in his arm--supposedly unrelated to the surgery--has limited his work so far and he seems to be slipping. Five-slot starters aren't going to make or break a team anyway.

  • He may be coming off shoulder surgery this winter, but I was still surprised to see Eric Cyr in the agates this morning, claimed by the Angels. Cyr's had noted off-field problems and hasn't progressed nearly as fast as other Pads pitching prospects such as Perez and Jake Peavy, but he still seems like a good pickup for the Angels.

  • On a much more positive note, everyone can agree that Tagg Bozied crushed the ball today. Estimates range from an impressive 485 feet to a Big Mac-like 540. Bozied clearly has some upside--much like the Padres organization as a whole--but he's still very unlikely to see the inside of Qualcomm. He'll likely be a regular at the Bark Park.

  • Big Dmitri Young is having some back problems, but reports have pegged them as the result of too much work in the weight room rather than something structural. It's worth watching, but doesn't appear to be a major concern, especially in spring training.

  • Much more worrisome are the reports that Austin Kearns is dealing with hamstring problems. Yes, it's the same hammy he tore last season--costing him a shot at the ROY--and the one he rehabbed very hard. It's still too early to call this RBC (recurring, becoming chronic--are you getting these, new readers?) though. The Reds should have a trainer or team doctor just for all the hamstring problems in that clubhouse.

  • Both Todd Hundley and Eric Gagne were scratched from Thursday's game with what was listed as a "sore back." Which one do you think should worry Dodger fans more? Is it the injury-prone catcher or the suddenly dominating young SUN? The answer: neither. It's far too early to be bothered by something non-structural and singular.

  • News from Kansas comes in, and I'm a bit concerned about a prospect named John Sickels. Some have questioned his production lately, perhaps dropping his grade slightly, but UTK hears that he's having some back problems. I think if he cures these and gets on a book-lifting program, he could be back strong by Opening Day. (Get well soon, John, and look for his book on March 15th.)

  • The Mariners have injury issues with two of their outfield prospects. I'll discuss Chris Snelling in a second, but Jamal Strong is the more immediate concern. After suffering a dislocated shoulder, an injury that always involves damage to the shoulder capsule, Strong is out a minimum of two weeks. He'll have an MRI once the swelling subsides, but think of this in similar terms as we did last year with Scott Rolen.

    Let's play UTK He Said/He Said. Here are dueling quotes regarding Snelling's first day back from ACL reconstruction.

    Bob Melvin: "We're going to push him a little bit. He'll start in Triple-A and we'd like to see him get a full year in."

    Chris Snelling: "It was a good gauge. It told me I'm nowhere near ready to play. I had nothing in my left leg when I swung, no strength. I'm swinging well...but my leg just kind of gave way. Right now, I don't know if it will ever be the way it was in the first place."

    There are no winners in this game, just losers.

Quick note from yesterday's article - I didn't notice before turning in UTK that Tom Verducci limited the pitchers in his Year After Effect study to those under 25. That explains why the 30-year-old Derek Lowe wasn't in there. I'm back Monday--yes, I really get weekends off. BPR is up on the bird and I may get a full four hours of sleep tonight.

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