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May 29, 2003

Under The Knife

Who'll Stop the Pain?

by Will Carroll

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They just keep coming. Like a monster in a Roger Corman flick, nothing seems to stop injuries.

  • Brian Moehler's career hangs in the balance. Moehler will go to Birmingham for Tommy John surgery under the care of Dr. Jim Andrews. The right-hander had problems with his elbow early this spring and never recovered. Moehler is two years removed from shoulder surgery (cuff and labrum tears), and it appears the adjustments he made to his pitching motion while coming back caused more stress than his elbow could handle. This could be the end of the line for the guy we call "Scuffy."

  • Making highlight catches has a value, but also a price. Jim Edmonds made a great stab Wednesday that made "Web Gems," but he ended the play with what team officials are calling "severely bruised ribs" and he'll likely have X-rays taken. Estimates of playing time lost range from a couple days for a bruise to a matter of weeks if there's a fracture. Maybe this catch was worth it in a close divisional game, but at some point, this type of play ends up hurting not only the player, but his team.

  • The Royals are hitting the point where injuries are going to pull them from their early pace. Teams like this often don't have the depth to deal with injuries, and the hurts seem to cascade. This is apparently beginning: Both Dee Brown and Carlos Febles went on the DL Wednesday, Brown with a sprained left wrist and Febles with an injured left ring finger. For the team, what do these injuries mean? Actually, both players will have their at-bats taken by players with a higher MLVr (Michael Tucker and Desi Relaford) but the team depth will be tested.

  • Popular BPR guest Joel Sherman is reporting that Mo Vaughn may retire due to possible further damage to his arthritic knees. Vaughn's agent, Jeff Moorad, was scheduled to meet today with Mets officials and doctors to plan this retirement or one last try at playing. In the media, both Moorad and Mo will spin this positively, but behind the scenes, the Mets are ready to collect the insurance and move on.

  • Roberto Alomar's left hip flexor strain is identical to one he suffered with last year. There's no real connection between the two, but any strain that recurs has a tendency to become chronic. Sources have been reporting that Alomar's lateral movement has been compromised for weeks and his inability to position himself keeps him from making up for the decreased mobility.

  • Keep your eye on Tom Glavine's next start. Glavine has a blister on the tip of his left middle finger, just beneath the fingernail. This will be a big problem for both his sinker and fastball since they terminate from that finger. To adjust, Glavine may be forced to work his breaking ball or change-up more than normal. Glavine has had enough trouble adjusting to not being a Brave--this could be a big problem. Yes, you remember correctly that Glavine had blister problems last year in exactly that spot.

  • It goes from bad to worse to injured for Mike Maroth. Bad luck and a bad team have victimized him for the first part of the season. According to Michael Wolverton, Maroth is the unluckiest starter in baseball by a fair margin. Now, Maroth will deal with a strained left hammy, which for a lefty pitcher is tough since that's his push leg. Maroth injured himself while backing up home plate during his tenth loss Wednesday; early indications are that the injury isn't serious.

  • The Padres are due for some good news. They've finally received some in regards to Mark Kotsay, whose disc problem has responded very well to the first cortisone injection. If it remains loose and the disc does not swell again, Kotsay should be back in the minimum. Despite the good result, however, Kotsay still faces off-season back surgery.

  • Scott Williamson had a bullpen session yesterday that went well. Williamson pronounced his pitching elbow pain-free and ready to go. This session confirms the initial thought that Williamson probably just pulled an adhesion loose on Sunday. This is common after Tommy John surgery, but is still scary for both pitcher and team.

  • Russell Branyan is just about ready to return to the Reds after extended rehab on his throwing shoulder, but supergenius Bob Boone has a sequel to the "I'll bench Adam Dunn and tick him off by not explaining myself" humdinger--he's going to keep Branyan on the bench as well. Boone has stated that Branyan will not displace Aaron Boone or move him back to 2B. With a bench already shortened by a 12-man pitching staff and the presence of Wily Mo Pena, adding Branyan to the mix doesn't make a lot of sense for anyone.

  • While no tests have been done yet, the signs all look bad for Jason Bere. In his first start back from rehab, Bere left the game in the first inning clutching his pitching shoulder in apparent pain. All sources--including Bere--say that it appears to be the same injury and that more damage may have been done. I'm not sure what this says about the rehab process or the determination that Bere was ready to pitch, but it does force the Indians to go with one of their plethora of young pitchers--not entirely a bad result.

  • There's another pitcher down for the Diamondbacks, and the depth they suddenly found is being tested. With Byung-Hyun Kim back and pitching well, the D'backs lose rookie Brandon Webb to the DL with tendinitis in his pitching elbow. John Patterson will take Webb's place in the rotation. Despite the focus on pitching injuries, the offense is what's hurting the team. To rectify that problem, Kim appears to be headed somewhere in the AL East in exchange for a third baseman.

  • Most GMs are better off not handling medical info. When they do, they come off sounding like...well, like this statement from Cubs' GM Jim Hendry about Dave Veres' shoulder: "He has something with his AC joint that has given him discomfort. They call it an impingement." Deeply insightful, Jim. Veres does have a rotator-cuff impingement that led to the tendinitis. The options are surgery or more rehab; Veres has opted for the rehab route.

  • Quick Cuts: What's being reported as back problems for Vlad Guerrero is just some soreness from the Montreal "turf". When the Expos move, no one will miss that surface...Justin Miller will undergo shoulder surgery and is out for the year as a result of an off-season weightlifting injury...Leo Mazzone thinks he's found something in Mike Hampton's delivery. Last night's result was good, but I want to see some consistency before I get back on the Hampton bandwagon...Marvin Benard was activated by the Giants but wasn't in the lineup last night. The Giants got that Bonds guy back in the lineup instead. He walks a lot...John Franco will be activated this weekend and plugged into a LOOGY role. He'll make it back from Tommy John surgery in just 13 months...Know why the Yankees are losing? No Costanza!

  • Thanks for all the responses about the All-Star Home Run Derby Trip/Feed. If you have specific questions, make sure to call the trip planners at (888) 782-1583. Remember that space is limited. I forgot to mention that we'll record a "radio mailbag" at the ESPNZone.

I'm glad everyone enjoyed the Moneyball edition of Baseball Prospectus Radio. Big thanks to Dave Pease for working tirelessly behind the scenes to not only get the segments up on the site, but responding to subscriber requests to make them available more often. We'll have last week's edition with Rob & Rany and Mark Armour up soon. Don't forget to get your calls ready for this weekend . I 'll have the number for you tomorrow. Derek Zumsteg is the latest BP author to step up and take your calls this Saturday at 9 a.m. Eastern/6 a.m. Pacific.

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