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May 8, 2003

Under The Knife

Not Again

by Will Carroll

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I usually try to start off light. I give some fun fact, share a bit of my day, joke about my coffee addiction, or riff on what I like about UTK--that it feels more like me talking to a friend than a big, formal column. Tonight, I'm somewhere between angry, dumbfounded, frustrated, exhausted, and just laughing at it all. As much as injury information and performance analysis is a true disruptive technology--remember that phrase--in baseball, the old school is hanging onto the reins and playing craps with the future of players and teams. Let's get to the destruction.

  • I guess PECOTA warned us with the 19.5% attrition rate. I even suggested it might happen. But I sure didn't see it coming this quickly. After a 28-pitch, breaking ball-filled inning, Josh Beckett was pulled "as a precaution" after complaining of stiffness and pain on the inside of his pitching elbow. Anyone want to venture a guess as to what these symptoms suggest? The Marlins already have Beckett headed to see Jim Andrews. I don't think Jim gives volume discounts, but he should consider it. The Marlins have treated Beckett with a gentler hand than they did A.J. Burnett. Beckett did cross the 100-pitch barrier in each of his last three starts (6 innings/107 pitches, 7/115, and 6.2/105), but none of these are outrageous counts.

    So let's compare Beckett's efficiency to that of say, Mark Mulder. Mulder has thrown three straight complete games--a big no-no in the age of strict pitch counts, right? How did Rick Peterson allow this? Simple. Mulder went 96 pitches in two starts, and 105 in the last. Pitch efficiency is looking more and more important, and it's largely on the pitcher to master it. To get back to Beckett, he is headed to Dr. Andrews and we should know more shortly. Until then, try to breathe, Marlins fans. Try to breathe.

  • Derek Jeter made his first rehab start at Double-A Trenton and he looked solid. Jeter had a hit, but more importantly he was able to start three double plays and showed no effects in the field. He wasn't tested with a play where he really had to extend the affected shoulder and he's certainly not diving or sliding headfirst at this stage, but Jeter insists he won't change his game or baby his shoulder. I hope he at least plays smart; given Jeter's self-awareness and baseball savvy, that seems likely.

  • Mo Vaughn is fighting the good fight, looking to the best doctors across the country to try and find an answer for his painful, swollen knees. He seems almost hell-bent on having surgery to remove bone spurs that would likely return in just months. There are open questions about options he has for surgery that would allow a return to the field, not only this year, but possibly this career. My guess is that for all intents and purposes, Mo Vaughn is done. He may make cameo appearances, but his days as a feared hitter or even a productive one are now a memory.

  • Staying with lousy Met acquisitions, the target for Jeromy Burnitz's return from the DL is next week. This seems extremely optimistic after the fracture he suffered, but Burnitz is already swinging a bat and his skill set isn't affected much by the injury. A healthy return would help showcase him as the Mets (hopefully) prepare for their next winning team, one that Burnitz probably won't be a part of. There are a million Roberto Alomar rumors making the rounds as well.

  • The Rockies knew it when they got him, so this isn't a Sirotka/Wells situation, but the Rockies got a guy with a bad wing when they acquired Chris Richard. An outfielder in the NL that can't throw is...well, he's a first baseman. Richard, even perfectly healthy, isn't going to challenge Todd Helton, so the best course of action is surgery to correct the problem, then hope that Richard can return to give something to the organization. Luckily, Jack Cust is contributing about as much to the Orioles, so this isn't biting Dan O'Dowd as badly as it could have.

  • Ryan Dempster is just the type of pitcher that succeeds when paired with Reds pitching coach Don Gullett. After falling apart mechanically as a Marlin, Dempster hasn't been able to put things together in Cincy either. The Reds now report that Dempster has an inflamed nerve in his neck that is causing him to lose feeling in his fingertips. He'll miss his next start on Friday at the very least.

  • Craig Counsell will undergo surgery to repair ligament damage suffered when he dislocated his thumb. Most guesses for his return focus on 10-12 weeks, which seems completely reasonable. Counsell is a quick healer, so eight weeks isn't out of the question either.

  • In other thumb news, the swollen thumb of Doug Misspelling is about to land him on the DL. It's a good chance for Todd Sears, but it's also a chance for Ron Gardenhire and Terry Ryan to make some decisions about their glut of 1B/OF types. Minky may be a team leader and a good quote, but he's replaceable on the field.

  • The Mariners quietly sent Kaz Sasaki out on a rehab assignment, where he was able to go a full inning. He's likely to return soon, but according to sources questions about the integrity of his shoulder remain. He could be activated as soon as Thursday. Manager Bob Melvin decided to delay his scheduled elbow surgery, but he's out for the season...he'll have to stick to the managing gig.

  • Quick cuts: Tony Armas Jr. is making good progress and is on track for his return to the Expos. He'll need at least a couple of rehab starts though, so think second half of May...Ben Grieve is recovering from his recent surgery and should be swinging a bat by this weekend...Jimmy Haynes is scheduled for a rehab start in Triple-A, but this could be pushed back due to the dreaded flu-like symptoms...John Franco threw batting practice on back-to-back days and is on plan for his targeted July 1 return...Mike MacDougal has lost serious velocity (from high 90s to 93 max) but the Royals insist he's healthy...Ismael Valdes will be ready to make his return from the DL on Saturday.

Thanks for the many suggestions and even offers on the laptop. I've narrowed it down to one, so if I haven't gotten back to you, I will soon to say thanks for the offer. Now all I need to do is figure out how to squeeze this into the budget.

This week's BPR is amazing. Ryan Wilkins was strong, Lee Sinins had great stuff, and Scott Long, a comedian who loves baseball, will have you laughing as hard as I was today. It's definitely worth a listen. BPR in the month of May is as strong as Team Penske. It's on 12 local stations, and the Netfeed is available at 3 p.m. Eastern/Noon Pacific at www.959thepoint.com.

Catch the Doug Pappas World Tour as it rolls into California. SoCal Pizza Feed this Saturday, May 10. NoCal Pizza Feed Wednesday, May 14. Special guests, mystery guests, and more. Head here to sign up.

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