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March 25, 2003

Under The Knife

OutFoxing the Injury Bug

by Will Carroll

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As I write this, my friends at Fox have some girl dressed up in a schoolgirl skirt and pigtails for a primetime show. I swear, we're only about a season and a half from gladiatorial combat or televised executions. I shouldn't single out Fox, but it's just so easy. Who'd have thought 10 years ago that The Simpsons would be highbrow entertainment? I'll admit...I'm watching it, if only out of the corner of my eye. I guess if the girl in the skirt was Eliza Dushku or even Elisha Cuthbert, I'd be more interested. Powered by a smooth new coffee--thanks to UTK reader Mike Easterling of Houston--I'll try a bit harder, since I'm writing about injuries.

  • I guess the little purple pill isn't enough for Eli Marrero. I can't say I've ever heard of acid indigestion being such a problem, and with his history of cancer, it's slightly worrisome. Still, Marrero has moved from an iffy catcher prospect to a La Russa-patented utility guy with better-than-average skills. As we see more roster flexibility strategies like Brooks Kieschnick's signing, or half the Red Sox roster, La Russa may be remembered by history not for his infuriating tendencies with pitching, but for his cutting-edge moves with Placido Polanco, Albert Pujols, Marrero and others.

  • Miguel Tejada will miss at least a couple days with a sprained knee. The sprain is real, but Tejada will be fine for Opening Day and likely good throughout the year, up until he signs with Baltimore at season's end.

  • Remember Scott Elarton? I do. I traded for him on the advice of some book I bought a couple years ago, and it still haunts that Scoresheet team to this very day. Elarton has actually looked pretty good for a labroid (my new word for someone trying to come back from a torn labrum--I'm happy to take suggestions on a better term). He'll start the season on the DL, with some extended spring training and a rehab assignment in Colorado Springs, giving Dan O'Dowd some extra time to figure out if Elarton is healthy, useful, and a good fit for a bad Rockies team.

  • If Ryan Klesko isn't worried about his sore back, why should you be? You shouldn't. It's almost a rite of spring at this point. Klesko's back acts up, he gets some treatment, heads back out to the field and puts up his normal good if not great numbers. This year should be no different.

  • Sean Burroughs was able to return to the field, and says his problematic shoulder is now pain free. Essentially, his positioning may have cost the Padres the services of Phil Nevin. But if healthy, scouts say Burroughs is good enough to make people forget Nevin entirely. I'd like to see it before buying in. His performance last year--part of the can't-miss combo with Hank Blalock--buried my fantasy team near the cellar.

  • Travis Hafner should return for the Indians tomorrow and Eric Wedge has him penciled into the Opening Day lineup. I hate the phrase "if healthy," but Hafner's one of those that, if healthy, will beat a lot of expectations.

  • If you think the announcement that Carl Everettsaurus will start in left for the Rangers meant much, you haven't been paying attention. It only means that Doug Glanville is using Jedi mind tricks on Buck Showalter, that Kevin Mench will miss some games with a retroactive DL stint, and that John Hart has delayed the inevitable decision another week. Say it with me, John: sunk cost.

  • Early reports on Chris Bootcheck don't sound that negative--a bit of elbow tenderness--but we heard similar rumblings about Matt Wise just a week or so ago. I'm way out on a limb with this, but I'm seeing signs of the Tommy John virus invading the Anaheim camp. I've talked about this a bit before and there's little or no proof to the theory, so take it for what it's worth, but injuries seem to come in bunches or viral patterns. I spoke about this a little bit in the Seattle THR, but there's a lot more research to be done--and a database to build up--before the serious work can begin.

  • The news is much better for Tim Salmon than the other Angels in the...I can't think of something to turn the Disney reference. No matter. Salmon is a swimming fish this year, and his knee is dealing with spring training so well that the Angels believe he can play right field more often than he did last season. Salmon, even nicked up, beats the heck out of giving significant playing time to Eric Owens, so if Salmon can handle the load physically, there's no reason not to trot him out to right most nights.

  • Darin Erstad is still dealing with some pain and sensitivity issues in his surgically repaired wrist. Reports have him able to play, but I'm not sure exactly what the effect will be. Might he not dive as much? Might he not be able to pull the ball? Might it sap some power? All possible, but if you factor in a bit of each, you'll likely get the best result. Add in a dash of regression to the mean and voila: Erstad 2003.

  • Troy Glaus is another of Ned Bergert's charges that showed up on the injury radar. He's suffering from some tendonitis in his wrist, not unlike Hafner, and should be ready for Opening Day. Glaus is another that fits in with yesterday's theory of what's happening with all these wrist injuries.

  • Livan and Orlando on one team, and it's Montreal to boot? Hoo-yah, now there's something worth watching. Not for anything necessarily baseball-related, but it should still be damn fun to watch, something you can't often say about the Team in the Iron Mask.

  • Despite looking pretty good for a labroid, Robert Person--one small incident aside --has looked like a good pickup for the Red Sox. Still, he's not quite ready to contribute and looks mostly like good insurance right now. He'll start the season in extended spring training and is only a struggle away from visiting Fenway. Just luck, or do his consistently low H/BIP numbers mean something?

  • As much as a groin pull can be a non-factor, Corey Koskie's is. Koskie's strain is minor and he should be fine for Opening Day. I hate talking about groins; almost every sentence I feel like finishing with: "Not that there's anything wrong with that!"

  • Color me doubtful, suspicious, and three shades of pessimistic, but the Dodgers' hopes for 2003 rest on the surgically repaired back and perpetually balky elbow of Kevin Brown, and that's bad news. Still, he's proven many people wrong before, has the spirit of a warrior, plays in the perfect park for the perfect manager, and he's looked great this spring training. He's yet to issue a walk and seems more mechanically- and pitch-efficient. There's hope in Los Angeles, if brittle hope.

  • Adrian Beltre may have a sprained ankle, but it's not a worrisome occurrence of his condition from a few years ago. I'm still waiting for him to break out; he's still extremely young--just barely older than Joey Thurston--but already has a load of experience. He may not be Mike Schmidt or even Andruw Jones, but I doubt there are many teams that wouldn't want him on their roster.

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