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May 22, 2003

Under The Knife

Como Esta, Erstad?

by Will Carroll

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Debate the meaning or the historical value all you want, but when Roger Clemens goes for Win 300 next week in Yankee Stadium against his old team, there will be a sense of drama and suspense not often found in sport. From the box seats to the highest nosebleeds, it is a game where every attendee will tell everyone that they were there, that they saw it and were part of it. The noise from the crowd will swell and ebb. For the last out--and wouldn't it be perfect if it were a complete game--it will be deafening, a cry to sporting heaven. If he wins, that is. That's the beauty of it. Clemens and the Yankees still have to win. I love baseball.

Onto the injuries:

  • Darin Erstad's hamstring is not just failing to heal on a normal timetable, it's actually getting worse. According to team sources, the strain (and remember that a strain of any type involves tearing) is near the very bottom of his hamstring. A cortisone injection is very uncommon for this type of injury and there may be no comparable injury in baseball. A physician from the UTK Advisory Board said: "They're acknowledging that they're going way out, that the tendon could be damaged by this injection, but the next step might be surgery. Given that, a bit of thinking differently is worth the chance." Erstad is at best still weeks away and the chance continues to increase that he may lose a very significant portion, if not all, of the 2003 season. That extension he signed late last year is looking like a bad deal for the Angels.

  • Orioles fans haven't had much to cheer for so far, but the play of Jerry Hairston Jr. has been solid in the leadoff slot. One foul ball to the foot later, Hairston is lost for eight weeks. The fracture of his fifth (outside) metatarsal bone should not affect him long-term, even with his speed game. In the scheme of things, a fracture is the most easily projected injury --bones heal properly in almost every case and unlike muscles, tendons or ligaments, they leave little changed in their wake.

  • Brian Moehler is on the knife's edge. After an MRI found an incomplete tear in his UCL, Moehler faces a long rehab program or Tommy John surgery. It remains unclear which way Moehler will go, but it's likely he will at least try and avoid the surgery and its extended time loss. Rehab on these types of injuries have been very hit or miss, with Joe Mays being the poster child of success. This is not a risk you want, and it's another data point against the Astros, who seem truly unable to keep a pitcher healthy over the last couple years. The phone lines will probably get hotter as Gerry Hunsicker will dangle Billy Wagner as bait for another solid starter.

  • The Royals are going to be very conservative with Runelvys Hernandez and they should be. His start this week will be pushed back by at least a day despite a negative MRI. In this case, negative is good, meaning no damage besides the inflammation one would expect is in every pitcher's elbow. The Royals' moves are looking more and more like those of an organization that gets it. No, I still can't explain what changed.

  • Exhale. Barry Bonds left Wednesday's game with an ankle sprain, but it's mild and he should miss maybe a game.

  • The Giants are having luck with ankles, as Ray Durham is well ahead of timetable with his ankle. A reader (I'd credit him, but can't find the mail) warned me that "typical human healing doesn't apply to Ray Durham." I should have listened.

  • At some point, the intensity ceases to be a plus. I don't know where that point is for anyone, especially Eric Wedge, but the tales trickling out of the Indians clubhouse are starting to sound like he may be nearing that point. His latest move, telling the press that Travis Hafner might stay at Triple-A for a while even after his toe heals, is a grandstanding move and one that won't help this team. Getting a good look at Ben Broussard is one thing, but this is entirely another. Hafner's hit pretty poorly, but one bad month shouldn't force an organization into bad decisions.

  • On the mound, C.C. Sabathia is hurt...but it's not serious and had nothing to do with his arm. Sabathia left in the sixth after twisting his ankle on a pitch. He was up in the game and could have continued.

  • I have a superstition that the worse a time I have on New Year's Eve, the better my year will be. It holds pretty true actually, though I try not to actively seek out ways to screw up my NYE. A couple years back, I got a bit sick about 8 p.m. and by the next morning, I'd headed to the ER and, somewhere in there, lost consciousness. Two days and a spinal tap later, it was determined I had bacterial meningitis. It was a particularly nasty episode and one of the scarier illnesses I've had (and I've had cancer). Geoff Blum has now shared my experience with the slight variation of viral meningitis. He should make a full recovery and return to the lineup in a few days.

  • According to Newsday, there's nothing wrong with Rey Sanchez. Well, other than being a Met. It will be interesting to see how the team deals with this latest news.

  • The circumstances weren't ideal, but I did see what I was hoping to see done with Kerry Wood. In 5 1/3 innings, Wood went 90 pitches but took the loss. His pitch efficiency was slightly better (16.7 pitches per inning against a seasonal average of 17.5 PPI), and Wood got what for him is a light workload and a bit of a rest. The season is long and it appears that Dusty Baker and Larry Rothschild understand this.

  • Quick cuts: Josh Fogg and Jimmy Haynes are going to make one more rehab start before returning to their respective teams. Byung-Hyun Kim made what was supposed to be his last rehab start last night before returning to the majors, but strained his left hamstring trying to run out a sacrifice bunt. Reports have circulated that the Diamondbacks may be trying to trade Kim for some badly-needed hitting help...Jermaine Dye will head to Sacramento this weekend for what should be a short rehab assignment...The Pirates will juggle their rotation to give Kip Wells some time to recover from a small blister on his pitching hand. Expect him to start this weekend.

Curt Gowdy calling the Red Sox-Yankees game was, in the best sense of the word, classic.

Thanks for all the mails regarding BPR. Glad everyone is enjoying it. We hope to be able to continue archiving future episodes, along with occasional "reruns" for some you might have missed. Remember that the best way to hear it all is to listen in live, either from your local station or on www.espn950.com at 9 a.m. Eastern each Saturday.

Back tomorrow, since injuries don't take a day off.

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