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March 14, 2003

Under The Knife

Catching Up

by Will Carroll

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Well, if you've ever wanted to hear me talk for three hours straight, you've missed your chance. Given the way my voice currently feels (and sounded yesterday on the radio), I doubt I'll ever do that again. Even so, the Indy Pizza Feed on Wednesday night was an unqualified success. We had a great crowd, gave out some prizes, had some great food, and talked baseball, baseball, baseball. I can't wait for the next one...and don't have to! I'll be at the Chicago Pizza Feed on Saturday. Yes, there will definitely be another Indy Feed--and as great as the Oaken Barrel was, we may just have it in a much larger venue next time...hint, hint. If you're in Cincinnati, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Milwaukee, or St. Louis, let me know. Feeds are being considered for your area. The downside of the Feed on Wednesday was that I got in far too late to get a UTK in by deadline. Don't worry--we'll catch up today. Let's go:

  • The final autopsy report on Steve Bechler was released on Thursday, and there are two main issues I have with the report. First, I don't mean to downgrade the ephedra discussion; in the toxicology report, Bechler was found to have the equivalent of four pills in his system--he had three partially digested pills in his stomach, and might have taken some earlier (which may point to the liver problems noted). But he also had a significant level of caffeine in his system; I thought this might be part of Xenadrine, but the amount in the pills isn't high enough. The likeliest culprit? He swallowed the pills with a soda or other caffeinated beverage.

    Of course, no one is screaming to ban caffeine--and they'd better not, or my obit will run in place of UTK. Much more surprising--stunning in fact--is the second issue, Bechler's listed weight. According to the Baltimore Sun, "Bechler's autopsy listed his weight at 320 pounds. The Orioles said the 6-foot-2 pitcher weighed 249 a few days before his death." If this isn't a misprint, there's going to be a lot of explaining to do. I looked back at pictures of Bechler on that fateful day and I can't believe that he was approaching three bills. Doctors I spoke to think it's a misprint/typo--perhaps 230 was meant--but they mentioned that fluids infused into him in attempts to save his life could conceivably add weight. None, however, could explain a 90-pound discrepancy.

  • That gasp you just heard was from rotoheads the world over, hearing the news that Alex Rodriguez had an injured shoulder. This falls under the category of protecting an investment and smart, proactive sports medicine. Jamey Reed was brought in from the Devil Rays to limit the injuries that killed the Rangers last year, so being a bit aggressive shouldn't surprise anyone. A-Rod was sent to Dallas for tests, but should be back in Surprise Friday. Rodriguez had played in a game Wednesday so reports that he hadn't been swinging all week are off.

    Several reports have failed to note that it is his left, non-throwing shoulder that is affected. A worst-case scenario would be a damaged labrum or rotator cuff--but early, sketchy reports don't seem to indicate this. Even with these scenarios, Rodriguez could likely play at some level of effectiveness. Where he'd lose is on the defensive side, not being able to move his glove as well, or reaching above his head. A more likely scenario is a muscle strain or tendonitis. The Rangers have no good backups, but some speculation has had Hank Blalock's move to 2B as part of some quiet conspiracy to cover up Rodriguez's injury.

  • David Segui, like Sandy Alomar Jr. and Larry Walker, shows up in UTK more than he does in the box scores. I contemplated starting my own shrine to players him--the ones who might have been great, or whose careers were cut short or even saved by sports medicine--and call it the Hall of Lame. There'd be a special wing for those oddball injuries like the player (I believe it was John Smoltz) who burned himself by ironing a shirt he was wearing, or the missed game due to a pulled eyelid. I should take nominations sometime soon.

  • Mark Quinn has officially left Royals camp, but the Curse of the Oblique remains. Human Rumor Magnet Carlos Beltran has the all-too-common strained oblique and could miss several days. This should slow up the trade talks some...or maybe not.

  • One of my favorite questions from the Feed on Wednesday night was "Do you use voodoo, Satanism, or another dark art to come up with some of your predictions?" Don't let the pitchfork I carry fool you--I have good sources and great readers. That said, it appears that UTK reader Robert Kranz did what trainers call a "Houdini"--diagnosing an injury on very little information. It appears that Kranz's call of osteitis pubis is correct. Mike Lieberthal not only has all the symptoms, but also history, missing time in 1998 with osteitis. The pain is often misdiagnosed because of the location of the problem. Honestly, even a good trainer doesn't want to poke and prod any player's crotch.

    How did this happen? One doctor suggested that Lieberthal's rehab from knee injuries involved running. After knee surgery, the patient's gait is often affected and can lead to compensation injuries. Lieberthal had a cortisone injection into the...(cringe)...area on Wednesday. Phillies GM Ed Wade maintains that Lieberthal is expected to be ready for Opening Day and that he should be able to catch a starter's load.

  • Brandon Duckworth's diagnosis is simple tendonitis and there's quite a bit of optimism that a week's rest and medication will have him ready for Opening Day or very shortly thereafter. This is definitely something worth keeping an eye on, especially considering Bowa's short leash with his young pitchers.

  • Finally, a little good news for the Dodgers. Eric Gagne played long toss at 100 feet and reported no problems. He should begin throwing from a mound and will likely be at full strength for Opening Day. Back problems do tend to recur, but this problem seems almost trivial.

  • The Mike Piazza/Guillermo Mota fight was nuts. Did you see his eyes? Better, you find out who are the enforcers pretty quickly. While Piazza was held back by Adrian Beltre and Brian Jordan (always good to have an ex-NFL guy covering your back), Mota was being chased down by Jeromy Burnitz and a flying Super Joe McEwing. No one injured, but Fox needs to have Celebrity Boxing II: Sports Fights Made Good.

  • Jorge Posada...out with a paper cut. OK, that one's an immediate Hall of Lame entry. This is obviously neither life threatening nor worthy of a red light.

  • I'm working on more details, but I can't believe that the reports stating that Scott Williamson had an avulsion fracture are correct. Williamson was throwing Thursday and reporting no serious pain. Williamson is reported to be ready for Opening Day.

  • The Red Sox will be without Johnny Damon for up to a week while he rests the tendonitis in his elbow. With rest and medication, this shouldn't affect his play, but bears watching since Damon has shown some brittleness in the past.

  • The Twins made it official, dropping Eric Milton onto the 60-day DL, clearing space for the newly acquired Kenny Rogers. I still don't like this move given the Twins depth, but if Milton is out for the season, adding a similarly styled lefty has some logic to it. On top of which, with Brad Radke and Joe Mays both injury-prone, Johan Santana will get his opportunity at some point--just not now, when he may just be the best pitcher on their staff. Rogers, for his part, cleared his physical and will begin to prepare. He's been keeping in good shape and may be ready for the first week of the season. I'm not great at figuring out off-days and rotations, but it looks like the Twins could go with a four-man staff for the first couple weeks of the season, giving Rogers even more time and perhaps leaving him in extended spring training or letting him stretch in long relief. His first spring training appearance should give the best indication.

  • The Rockies are trying to fill their 3B slot, but Greg Norton probably won't be the guy. He'll miss two weeks with another strain of his hamstring. He has dealt with this chronic problem over the last two years, so the Rox shouldn't be surprised. Since they have plenty of options, I don't think they were.

  • New Jay Frank Catalanotto did not return as expected on Thursday. F-Cat's back is a concern, but most of the delay is the Jays conservative medical philosophy. I'd like to see Catalanotto get some at-bats and test the back some before the season, and it definitely needs to be considered in any analysis of his 2003 expectations.

  • Asked if he knew Chris Richard had arm problems and could not throw from the outfield, Rockies GM Dan O'Dowd replied: "His arm wasn't that good to begin with." Refreshing honesty, but considering Jack Cust was highly touted last year, that isn't the type of player most people expected the Rox to get in return for the born DH.

With the Feed on Wednesday and the Pizza Feed and Tout Wars draft this weekend, I'm turning into a damn slacker. I won't be back in your mailbox until next Tuesday. I'll make it up to you soon.

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