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April 1, 2003

Under The Knife

Down Goes Jeter

by Will Carroll

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Let's cover this: Randy Johnson, Greg Maddux, and Tom Glavine all get shelled. Doug Glanville and Mark Grudzielanek lead off with full-count walks. Corey Patterson does his best Tuffy Rhodes imitation. Boston's bullpen collapses under the weight of all the press coverage and Chad Fox's fat pitches. The Royals shut out the White Sox. Not one pitcher was seriously worked, with Hideo Nomo going 103 pitches for a complete game and several young pitchers lifted before 100. I love baseball--in the short term, absolutely anything can happen and usually does.

  • Traumatic injuries are one thing that a team cannot plan for explicitly. However, even if it's a "break glass in case of emergency" type player, everyone has a Plan B. The question is: Does Plan B prevent you from executing the rest of your strategy to win? In the case of the Yankees, one place they have almost no depth is shortstop. With Derek Jeter's health never a problem, this was an area where Brian Cashman and crew skimped a bit.

    One play changes everything.

    On a brutal, but legal and well-done play by Blue Jays catcher Ken Huckaby, Derek Jeter took the point of Huckaby's knee (covered in high-impact plastic) to the shoulder. Even with TiVo, I was going back and forth. It appeared from most angles that Jeter's initial move was to grab at the area that would indicate a broken collarbone. From a later angle out of the center-field camera, Jeter's hand appeared to go to the shoulder. As teammates surrounded him, an ESPN camera got a good shot of Jeter saying: "It popped out." Mat Olkin saw the same thing--I should take a course on lip-reading--and when Jeter finally got up, the way they held the arm told a lot. Had it been a collarbone, the arm would have been held across the body, much like where it would be in a sling.

    The official diagnosis is dislocated left shoulder. Where have we heard this before? Phil Nevin, of course. Digging through the list of injuries, there are some frightening comparables. Nevin is clearly negative, as is Danny Bautista. The best comparables however are other shortstops--Alex Gonzalez (Florida version) and Rafael Furcal. Neither of these play in the same way nor have the body type of Jeter, but they'll do for our purposes. Furcal is a switch hitter, but all three players injured the left (non-throwing) shoulder. Both Gonzalez and Furcal were forced to have surgery after having previous problems with lax shoulder capsules. Jeter had some problems in his acromioclavicular joint in late 2001. Where Jeter's injury differs is in the mechanism; Jeter absorbed a football-type collision, while both Gonzalez and Furcal had the injuries occur during dives.

    The outlook is not good. I cannot find a situation where a player was able to come back in-season from this type of injury. Furcal's injury happened pretty late in the season, so that makes timing this pretty difficult, but looking at the others, things can't be stated positively. The best-case scenario is that after reduction (having the dislocated bone "popped back in"), there would be no ligament or labrum damage. In this case, it's possible that Jeter could be back in as little as four weeks. The worst case, of course, is similar to Nevin or Gonzalez, where Jeter would be done for the season. What the most likely case is won't be known until the results of imaging are in some time Tuesday. Brian Cashman will have to trust Enrique Wilson, commit to Erick Almonte, or hit the phones quickly. ("Hello, Billy? Yeah, yeah, you're the best-looking GM in the game. About that Tejada kid...")

  • Despite the best efforts of the Giants staff, Robb Nen couldn't avoid the fate of Jason Isringhausen or Trevor Hoffman. Both had minor off-season shoulder surgery, and both could not return for Opening Day. The Giants have been much more conservative with Nen, so the worst-case scenario is much closer to Izzy's one month missed than Hoffman's half-season best-case. Lewis Yocum recently examined Nen, but no results are known. The Giants have Tim Worrell and Felix Rodriguez to take up the slack, with Worrell getting the Opening Day save.

  • I left one name off the injured closer list above. Kaz Sasaki had elbow surgery, which makes him a bit different, but he's doing everything he can to add a shoulder problem to the mix. A UTK source was watching him closely before today's exhibition game, and Sasaki couldn't get loose. He was seen speaking with coaches, stretching his shoulder, but finally said he wasn't able to go. Like the Giants, the M's have some options in the pen, but we'll keep a close eye on Daimajin over the next 24 hours. A DL move might need to be made.

  • The Diamondbacks look to be short one reliever, after Bret Prinz appeared to injure his groin while pitching in Monday's opener. He pushed off and winced in a scene similar to that of Mariano Rivera. One scenario is new number five starter Oscar Villareal moving back to the pen and John Patterson coming back up, but that seems unlikely so early in the season. Jose Valverde seems more likely, since Brenly has his bullpen stacked with LOOGYs.

  • Dan Wright continued his tour of top surgeons, and White Sox sources finally let loose on him. "He's seen every doctor on both coasts, so maybe he'll finally take [our medical staff's] word for it when we tell him he's OK to pitch," said an insider. "He's getting bad advice from someone, and we're not sure where it's coming from."

  • In the "Mr. Obvious" department, Ismael Valdes had some blister problems in last night's start, but was due to be removed anyway. Valdes does not expect to miss his next scheduled start, but this has been a chronic problem for him. Bring out the pickle juice and urine for Mr. Valdes.

All injuries in this report are true. Enjoy your April Fool's Day.

Related Content:  Shoulder

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