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March 20, 2003

Under The Knife

Cardinal Chaos and Sasaki's Stubborn Stunt

by Will Carroll

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Thanks to all that sent me the latest on MLB's plans for the A's and M's to continue spring training. UTK is sent to my editors around midnight every night Indy time which gives them plenty of time to find most of my errors, but occasionally, you'll see the deadline make some things slip past. I'd rather have 100 emails telling me the same thing than not have my network of readers and sources give me their take.

  • Jason Isringhausen was not able to pitch on Tuesday and reported more than normal soreness in his shoulder. There's no real fix on whether this is just what might be called a speed bump on the road to recovery, or further damage to an injury-addled shoulder. Isringhausen has to be considered a risk throughout the first half of the season and someone who the Cardinals need to be ready to replace.

  • Eli Marrero made some progress with his stomach problem, but not enough for the Cards medical staff. He is undergoing more tests and won't rejoin the team this week. He's still expected to be ready for Opening Day and is being counted on to replace some of J.D. Drew's production. The Cards outfield will be an odd mix if Jim Edmonds isn't ready. The NL Central would love to see a Marrero-Kerry Robinson-Eduardo Perez outfield for as many games as possible.

  • While the data are even more difficult to find than in America, the attitudes toward pitcher workloads in Japan are seemingly decades behind that in America. This week's BPR will talk a lot about pitch counts, but the cultural difference is probably the reason behind the glacial pace of change in Pro Yakyu. Kazuhiro Sasaki was allowed to go with a Japanese-style bullpen workout of 100 pitches at maximum effort and--surprise--he came up with a sore shoulder. Observers in Peoria say it was a clear issue of Sasaki compensating for some residual tightness in his elbow. The M's have shut Sasaki down for an indeterminate amount of time and this is one to watch closely. Sasaki has a history of quick healing though, so don't panic.

  • No ligament damage, as expected, to A.J. Burnett's elbow, but there was some swelling. Jim Andrews gave Burnett a cortisone injection, and it's possible that Burnett may begin the season on the List. Burnett has not been ruled out of the Opening Day rotation, but it's more likely that he'll skip at least one start, necessitating some juggling of schedules. Keep your eye on how Jeff Torborg handles the situation for a better idea of on when to expect Burnett back.

  • Chalk one up for Joe Kerrigan. The Phillies' new pitching coach found something in Vicente Padilla's delivery and less than a week later, Padilla's looking like the pitcher he was in the first half. "Joe found something," my source said. "[Padilla] got in some bad habits when he was [tired] and it was [messing] him up." It's often tough to tell the difference between an injury and a mechanical breakdown, especially when the breakdown leads to an injury. Chicken, meet egg. This is a positive sign for Padilla and the Phillies.

  • A great friend of UTK was on hand for Kevin Brown's latest start, and the observer's assessment was glowing. In an outing where Brown looked dominant--eight strikeouts in six innings--our observer said that Brown's mechanics looked "smoother, tighter." This has to be a good sign, but I'll keep reminding people of what I'll call Strasser's Law: Anyone can look good for one day.

  • While speaking with Sheldon Ocker Wednesday--you'll really want to hear this interview--he dropped some knowledge in with his arguments against pitch counts. Ocker, an Indians beat writer, says the frontrunner for the Tribe's third base job isn't Casey Blake, despite his .600+ average, it's Ricky Gutierrez. Gutierrez is ahead of schedule in his return from cervical spine surgery, but is not up to speed just two weeks before Opening Day. The info surprised me, and while this is precisely the type of thing beat writers do well, color me suspicious.

  • Just over a week and Austin Kearns has a bat in his hands again. It was just soft-toss today, but he's expected to take batting practice tomorrow. Kearns is right on schedule, and there's no reason to believe he won't be ready to open Great American Ballpark.

  • Orlando Hernandez has a simple case of shoulder tendonitis. It's nothing to worry about, but El Duque's role is innings eater, not dominant pitcher, so don't expect much even when healthy. Being an innings sponge is a valuable role for a team that doesn't have depth, so don't think that's a putdown--it's just a reality check.

  • What do Jim Parque, Nick Bierbrodt, and Gil Meche have in common? All are rehab cases from major injuries, and all have secured places in Opening Day rotations. OK, two of them are Devil Rays, where Chris Kahrl is still in the mix for closer, but Meche--coming off two surgeries for tears in his labrum--is the most intriguing of the bunch, both from a stuff standpoint and from an injury standpoint. Meche has the potential to be the first pitcher to come all the way back from labrum surgery and reclaim his stuff. (OK, if Kahrl makes the club, he needs a nickname. Wild Thing? The Barber? How about The Thumbwrestling Leper? I'm taking your suggestions!)

  • Carl Everett? Sunk cost. When Doug Glanville outplays someone, it's time to waive that player and get on with the business of building a winning team. The Rangers have nothing but options in the outfield, from converting someone like Hank Blalock to LF, leveraging Triple-A insurance like Jim Rushford, or promoting a comer like Laynce Nix.

Back tomorrow. By the way, if you're feeling really lucky, ESPN Radio in Indy is running a contest. Pick the NCAA Final Four, Championship Game participants, the Winner, and the correct score and you can drive away with a brand new 2003 Ford Thunderbird. Check www.espn950.com for more details.
Related Content:  Kazuhiro Sasaki

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