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May 1, 2003

Under The Knife

Blue Sky Mining

by Will Carroll

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I got to spend the day at the ballpark yesterday, and was immediately reminded that no matter what happens, nothing can go wrong when the sun is out, there's a high blue sky, and my refinancing clears so I can have a cold one. I sat in the not-so-cheap seats at Victory Field here in Indy, watching Lee Stevens play his last game. It wasn't the storybook ending for a player that is the definition of "journeyman hitter." He might be remembered for his hot streak in '96, or the three-way deal that brought him to Montreal in 2000 or his freakish contract later that year, but Stevens understood that his day in the sun was over and walked out on his own terms. No walk-off home run, no cheering crowds, and not even a win or a hit--but he had class. If only all of baseball could be like that: perfect days and lots of class. On to the injuries...

  • Good to know what the Diamondbacks meant by their carefully worded release. What they meant was that Randy Johnson was going to have surgery on his painful knee. Note the wording again: This time it's a painful knee that, after an MRI--and why didn't he have this MRI about a week ago?--debris was found. Not swelling this time...or at least not 'excessive' swelling. Johnson's knee should take closer to four weeks than six, depending on where the debris came from and if there's any further damage. This should--and I emphasize should--clear the problem up for the season. Brandon Webb does the minor league yo-yo and will come back to Phoenix.

  • The Cards are saying good things about Chris Carpenter's rehab work. They think that his addition to the staff in June will be almost like a trade, without all the phone calls or giving up a player. If Carpenter is right and the Chuck Finley rumors come to pass--and that should happen quickly if at all--the Cards' pitching goes from bad to mediocre quickly. In the NL Central, mediocre pitching, with their strong lineup, might be enough.

  • Brian "Scuffy" Moehler received a cortisone shot yesterday--his second, and only three days after the last one. Not a terribly good sign, but the Astros hope to get him back on a throwing regimen some time later in the week. The Astros aren't getting the fine buffet-style innings-eating they expected when they brought him in and kicked Shane Reynolds to the curb. Finding something on the bottom end of their rotation (and doing something with the carcass of Craig Biggio) are keys to the Astros' hopes.

  • Dave Roberts mans a decent center field, but with a strained hamstring, his speed game and range go out the window. This injury has been slow to heal, and if he's not back today, he'll likely head to the DL on a retro.

  • Mariano Rivera is back, active, and in the pen, so you knew Joe Torre would get him out there. The early results didn't look great: Rivera gave up a run and a walk, going 27 pitches to get through a non-save inning. I'll give most of the credit for this to Randy Winn and Bret Boone, who had 10- and eight-pitch at-bats. This is a really effective strategy against a pitcher just off an injury, but when facing Rivera in a game situation, it's not as easy as merely saying "foul off a couple." Patience, however, can be even more of a virtue, and it does remind me to recommend this book.

  • Kaz Sasaki's back injury continues to...well, it's not worse. Sasaki is able to make throws in practice and will be worked slowly back into pitching shape. The short rest should not only clear up whatever back problems there are, but help heal his pesky shoulder soreness.

  • Padres fans are counting the days until they can start the "Hell's Bells" intro again, and there are signs that we're going to see it this season, perhaps as early as the All-Star break. Trevor Hoffman is beginning to make throws of more than the "playing catch" variety, and the Pads medical staff should have a clear timetable in the next couple weeks. Don't expect them to rush their star back, or for him to be 100% when he does return. It's new territory he's treading after the surgery he had.

  • While the Rangers were busy making odd roster moves, Todd Greene was slotted to the DL with a strained hamstring. In return, the Rangers brought up one of my favorite prospects, Gerald Laird. Greene's injury isn't considered serious and he should be back in two weeks.

  • I received a nice email from someone who obviously took sabermetrics seriously. That person took me to task--politely--over my use of the phrase "hot hand" in regards to bullpen usage. To clarify: 1) I'm not a sabermetrician (or performance analyst, as Joe likes to say), and I don't pretend to be one; and 2) "hot hand" is a nice, easily understandable way to say that it's the manager's job to know his personnel, the situation, the psychology, the pitcher's usage, the matchups, the weather, the opponent, not to mention 50 other factors, and decide which pitcher to use in which situation, be it high- or low-leverage. I just like the short phrases.

  • Brooks Kieschnick was supposed to chat with us for BPR yesterday, but he had more pressing plans. After pitching two mediocre innings in relief, Kieschnick got the call from the Brewers and headed to Milwaukee. In what has to be a historical day, Kieschnick pitched in a day game in Triple-A Indy, then went to Milwaukee and pinch-hit. It's an interesting doubleheader for a two-way player. It seems like BPR has some sort of karma--Kieschnick just schedules with us and he heads to the majors. Former guest Jason Arnold was named Eastern League Player of the Year and might not be so far behind. Agents, players, farm directors--you know where to send your guys!

I'm back tomorrow...unless, of course, they send me to EA Sports Anonymous.

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