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May 27, 2003

Under The Knife

Back Again

by Will Carroll

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This has been one heck of a month of May. Between injury news and the Indy 500, I've been a busy man. Thanks to ESPN 950 for allowing me access to the one of the coolest events of my life.

With the race behind me, I am ready to return my full focus to baseball, and have a couple of features coming up, including one on Dr. Tim Kremchek of the Cincinnati Reds that will run this week.

  • Bobby Valentine gets it. Monday on Baseball Tonight, he pointed to Doug Mirabelli's 10-pitch at-bat as to what broke down Roger Clemens' bid for 300. Dead on. Clemens logged a number of innings in which he threw more than 30 pitches, and finished with 133 total in just 5 1/3--the highest P/IP ratio I can recall. Throughout the game Clemens seemed to be out of his element--overthrowing, not hitting his spots, and just not looking much like the guy who had won 299 games over 20 seasons.

  • Any slugger has to keep his base. When Mark McGwire hung them up, it wasn't because his arms weren't strong enough, but because his legs had failed him. Now Barry Bonds is having a season that has to be a bit worrisome with one leg injury after another. Ankles, hamstrings, and now tendinitis are slowing him down, and perhaps sapping some of his power. He should be back mid-week, but a continuing pattern of injuries could be the first small sign that Bonds is succumbing to age. Remember, though, that his work ethic and workout addiction will help, and that a diminished Bonds is still better than almost anyone else in the game.

  • Last year's AL Rookie of the Year, Eric Hinske, looks headed for surgery. No final decision has been made, but Hinske is likely going to have his right hamate bone removed. As serious as it sounds, the surgery is actually quite minor and has around a six-week recovery period with minimal after-effects. Darin Erstad had it in the off-season and had more problems with it than most. Erubiel Durazo and Ken Griffey Jr. had this surgery with little or no lasting effects.

  • Speaking of Erstad, the cortisone injections into his right hamstring have significantly reduced the swelling in the muscle and his progress towards a return is coming in leaps. The muscle is still at a significant risk for re-injury, especially with Erstad's playing style, but a return in early June is becoming quite likely. Like Griffey, Erstad's career would be greatly helped by a move out of center field.

  • The most serious long-term injury of the weekend appears on the surface to be that of Troy Percival. No one seems to think that this is a Bo Jackson-type injury, nor do they think that this will even be a season-ender for Percival. The degenerative changes to his right hip seen in images do occur and are problematic, but it's unlikely that surgery will help. Instead, most doctors/trainers/therapists that I spoke to this weekend think that strengthening the muscles around the joint will help. Beyond that, there are minor surgical procedures that could correct the problem. There's no solid timetable for his return, but don't cross Percival off your 2003 list yet.

  • The Cardinals have had just about every injury they could have at this stage. They dodged one bullet with Albert Pujols' elbow injury, but losing Fernando Vina for much of the summer is nearly as serious. It's not that Miguel Cairo will cost the Cardinals significant runs over the next six weeks (using the minimum, the Cards should only lose around 1.5 runs), but it's that the Cardinals are left with no clear leadoff man. Again, I'll run with Bobby V's suggestion of using J.D. Drew in that slot, despite Drew's own leg woes.

  • Sammy Sosa felt the need to answer the whispers that it wasn't his toe keeping him out, but his head. Sure, Sosa took a nasty beaning, but it is his toe--with a slowly regenerating toenail--that will keep him out until later this week.

  • It was scary for Scott Williamson in the ninth inning yesterday when he felt something tear in his TJ'd elbow. After a post-game examination by team doctors, the thought is that he tore remnant scar tissue. Williamson will rest a few days and perhaps return to Cincinnati for precautionary tests. He'll miss the next couple days.

  • I'd feel better if there was an MRI, but let's assume the doctors in Arizona know what they're doing with Brandon Webb. Webb will miss at least his next start with tendinitis in his elbow. The Diamondbacks will juggle their rotation, bringing back Byung-Hyun Kim and John Patterson to make starts while waiting on Randy Johnson's return. That return looks like a mid-June event. Kim's start will probably look like a scouting convention, what with the young Korean being shopped.

  • I watched the first part of the Marlins/Reds game on Friday just a couple seats down from Ivan Rodriguez' brother, Tito. The resemblance is uncanny; you can only tell them apart because Tito is about 100 pounds heavier. On the field, the lighter of the Brothers Rodriguez is out for at least a couple more games with a severe bruise to his right foot. Pudge is having trouble putting his weight on the foot, and crouching is simply out of the question. It's not serious or something that will affect him in the long term.

  • Denny Neagle is supposedly making progress, but wearing a splint when not pitching doesn't sound like much progress to me. His left elbow is still painful, still swells significantly, and requires deep tissue massage to maintain its range of motion. The Rockies are in deep on this one and have to do everything they can, but at some point in the near future they may have to admit that Neagle is a sunk cost.

  • It has to be heartbreaking. Jason Bay mashes and rakes in Triple-A, gets the call to the bigs, and then doesn't make it through the first weekend. Bay was hit by an Elmer Dessens pitch and walked away with a fractured right wrist. Depending on the severity of the break, Bay will be out between six and 12 weeks. Early indications are towards the low end of that continuum.

  • Since the Pads have used Jaret Wright as the example of a positive return from Mumford (the type of surgery Trevor Hoffman had), it doesn't bode well that Wright is about to get a visit from the Turk, is it? On the brighter side, Brian Tollberg is about to be activated, less than a year after Tommy John surgery. Remember the return pattern of reduced command for about two years with Tollberg or any other TJ pitcher, irrelevant of rehabilitation time.

  • Quick Cuts: Richard Hidalgo has been hospitalized with tonsilitis and a generalized infection...Jermaine Dye should return to the A's lineup this weekend and will play the OF, not DH...Roy Oswalt will start Saturday, returning from the DL in the minimum...The Brewers just cannot keep pitchers healthy. Their latest victim is Ben Diggins, who has a partially torn ligament in his elbow. He'll try to rehab his way out of surgery...Delmon Young will be the first pick in next week's draft...Danica Patrick is insanely hot.

  • It's not often that I can say Billy Beane is wrong. When I think I should say it, I go back and check my figures. When those check out, I check them again. While listening to the BPR archived interview, Billy stated that there's a correlation between age and injury. There's not.

  • Thanks to Jon Sciambi, radio broacaster for the Marlins (and a big part of BPR), for inviting us up to the booth on Friday. That was a thrill.

Yes, we'll continue to archive BPR. This week's edition will start later, due to the holiday, but you'll get to hear all of "Rob & Rany on the Radio," and also from Mark Armour, author of Paths To Glory. And yes, get your questions for me ready...or if you'd rather talk to Gary Huckabay, Joe Sheehan, or Jonah Keri, they'll be along this weekend for the debut of BPR Live. To answer the most frequent question, yes, the call is toll-free. Back tomorrow...

Related Content:  Bpr,  Year Of The Injury

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