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April 6, 2003

Under The Knife

Who Had April 5 in the Griffey Pool?

by Will Carroll

As Friend of UTK Eric Moyer asks: "What--do you think baseball stops on the weekend?" No, I remember last year, writing six days a week and having a secondary writer handling Saturdays. Sometimes, when events warrant it, I'll pop in to cover something significant. I enjoy a night out now and again, especially during the Final Four, and I know better than to write UTK after a couple Guinnesses--yeah, we tried that once last year--so don't expect it every time. Two hundred editions a year should be more than enough Will for everyone!

For those of you not on Premium well, what's your excuse? this is an opportunity to see what you're missing. I hope you'll like this glance behind the curtain. Remember that Joe Sheehan, the amazing PECOTA system, and a regular roll call of BP's authors also show up on BP Premium.

  • While it wasn't Phil Nevin-like, I think everyone is learning that red lights mean something. Granted, I thought that Ken Griffey Jr. would have fallen victim to another in a series of leg injuries rather than the outbreak of dislocated shoulders, but perhaps this is related, in a way. Would the Griffey of three or four years ago, before his hamstring turned into a scar and we stopped comparing the defense of Junior and Andruw Jones, have made it to that ball on a run? Did Junior's speed keep him from making awkward dives like he did on Saturday?

    Griffey's injury is much more reminiscent of Phil Nevin's injury than Derek Jeter's, both in mechanism and result. Reports from Cincinnati indicate that, like Nevin, Griffey is likely out for something in the order of months rather than weeks. Tim Kremchek, according to several sources, had a very difficult time getting the shoulder back into joint and there were "gritty sounds" as it slid back into place. (I should clarify here that I mean no slight to Dr. Kremchek in this instance--the more difficult to reduce, the more serious the injury in most cases.) Griffey has shown that he is a slow healer, that his conditioning leaves something to be desired, and honestly, he's got to be getting the feeling that being a Red just isn't working out. While the results of the MRI are still not known (at least to anyone not named Kremchek or Bowden), the best-case scenario for Griffey is somewhere in between the likely scenario for Jeter (mid-June) and the known scenario for Nevin (surgery and see you in 2004, maybe.) This sure puts a kink in my pick of the Reds to win the division, but there are several options, including putting Barry Larkin in the outfield or committing to Wily Mo Pena.

    The next question to be addressed after "does this end Griffey's season" is, "does this end Griffey's career?" While it's possible that Junior could simply walk away, it would likely not be the injury alone that does it. If any positive can be taken from this, it could be that this additional injury could force him to first base or at the very least, a corner outfield slot. This is something I've been advocating for a while, though opinions are mixed on the topic.

    The injury question--one that many of you have asked me in emails--is how is Griffey's injury (or Nevin's) different from Jeter's? The answer is simple: mechanism of injury. Mechanism is a fancy way of saying how an injury occurred and what forces acted on someone's anatomy in a way that caused damage. Some injuries have such clear, repeatable mechanisms that they become predictable; watch a football player collapse after a dead stop on turf and you can quickly say to everyone "oooh, ACL tear," and be right nine times out of 10. For Griffey and Nevin, the shoulder was forced from the glenoid fossa (the shoulder socket) to the rear after force was applied to the arm due to dives and amplified by the weight of the body. For Jeter, his humerus (upper arm) was forced forward from the fossa by the weight of a foreign body (Ken Huckaby). While seemingly a small difference, it is the likely explanation of why Jeter has escaped with a much less serious injury.

  • Jeter, as has been widely reported, is out for a period of four to eight weeks. According to team sources, Jeter escaped his shoulder injury with only a small tear to his labrum, rather than the significant structural damage that Nevin suffered. My guess is that four weeks is extremely optimistic, but that we could see Jeter making progress toward a return by that point. I'd expect to see him taking part in baseball activities at the four-week milestone, ready for a rehab assignment at six weeks, and returning to the Yankees lineup around the eight-week point. This timeline would put Jeter back in the Yanks lineup near Memorial Day. One concern is that Jeter is very aggressive in his comeback talk; doctors and trainers may need to be forceful in making sure he does not return before his shoulder has fully healed. The labrum tear to his non-throwing shoulder should not be terribly significant, but could limit his power slightly.

  • Hey Sheldon, I'd like to collect on that friendly wager we made. After 105 pitches in 6 2/3 innings, C.C. Sabathia came out of the game clutching his elbow. Manager Eric Wedge said that it was a "simple hyperextension" that resulted when Sabathia "reached back for a little extra." Wedge is a fully qualified major league manager, but neither a doctor nor a trainer. When do most pitching injuries take place? I'll let Leo Mazzone tell you: "Most arm injuries result not from a particular pitch, but from overexertion, "muscling up" (trying to throw too hard in a particular situation), or overextension." (Mazzone, Pitch Like A Pro). From Wedge's quote, we can see that Sabathia was doing what Mazzone described. I haven't seen video yet, but from the description of the way Sabathia was holding his arm as he came off the field, we could be looking at a UCL injury. I'm sure pitch counts wouldn't have helped prevent something like this, would they, Mr. Ocker?

  • Two quick pitcher injuries that looked worse than they actually were: Kevin Millwood came out of Saturday's game after straining his groin. Team sources felt that Millwood's removal was precautionary and expect him to make his next start.

  • In Oakland, Anaheim ace Jarrod Washburn was struck by a comebacker off the bat of Mark Ellis. Washburn has a nice bruise in the shape of a baseball, stitches and all, but he will miss one start at most and probably not even that.

  • A.J. Burnett made it through a 60-pitch rehab outing and will be back, as stated previously, on Wednesday. He showed good velocity, but his mechanics were...well, for Burnett they were fine, but consistency has never been part of his arsenal.

  • The Twins bullpen took a slight blow when Mike Fetters went down with a hamstring injury. He's headed for the DL, but again--as with every other position--the Twins have depth and shouldn't take too big a hit. Juan Rincon or Micheal Nakamura are possible replacements.

  • The Diamondbacks pen got worse news when Bret Prinz went down with a completely torn groin muscle. Completely torn means just that in this case--the muscle actually tore away from the bone. Yes, it's as painful as it sounds. Prinz is done for the season and surgery is likely.

  • J.D. Drew is well ahead of schedule returning from patellar tendon surgery. He's moved on to extended spring training, where he should begin play early next week. Given the 20-day rehab assignment schedule for position players, Drew could be back in the Cards lineup by the end of April. The Cards, with Jim Edmonds' leg problems and Eli Marrero as the primary catching backup, need Drew back in the lineup, even if he needs frequent rest.

  • Mo Vaughn injured? Will wonders never cease? Vaughn got off light this time (light, sure) with only a mild strain of his hip flexor. Since Mo's never agile at his healthiest, he should miss a minimum of time.

Back Monday on Premium with more of baseball's best injury information. I hope you'll join us. Until then, hit me with some Vegas restaurant recommendations.

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