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May 30, 2003

Under The Knife

It All Comes Back

by Will Carroll

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It all comes back to health.

Yesterday's Diamondbacks/Red Sox trade hinged not on talent--that was easy enough to agree on--and not on money, but on how the health of a couple of D'backs pitchers would affect their depth. Whether you think the Sox helped their pitching, the Snakes helped their putrid offense, or that there will be more deals cascading from this one, ignoring health just isn't possible.

I'll leave the trade analysis to others here at BP, but this is one where the numbers I watch (VORP, MLVr) don't agree with how most will analyze this trade.

Onto the injuries:

  • As I stated in the intro, the key to the Byung-Hyun Kim-for-Shea Hillenbrand deal was the relative health of Matt Mantei and Brandon Webb. If both return in good time, the team would have enough pitching depth to deal away Kim. Both Mantei and Webb were sent back to Phoenix for MRIs, and because the deal was consummated we have to assume that nothing horrible was found. Mantei's pitching shoulder continues to be a problem, even as he maintains his velocity. Bob Brenly's lame-brained description--"he can't comb his hair, but he can throw the ball 98 mph"--doesn't tell us anything other than Mantei has some muscular problems, a common occurrence with shoulders in extreme fatigue. Webb's pitching elbow is much more of a concern, and we're only guessing that no tear was found.

  • Just hours after saying that Richard Hidalgo was improving and would stay off the DL, the Astros spun hard and placed Hidalgo on the list. What changed? Hidalgo's diagnosis. Instead of being flu-like in nature, the virus appears to be mononucleosis-like and potentially contagious.

  • Word from Toronto is that Justin Miller's surgery on his pitching arm turned up not just a labrum tear, but a serious impingement, much like that seen in Trevor Hoffman's shoulder. The timetable will be similar, so expect Miller back around spring training 2004. What's that? Hoffman's supposed to be back around the All-Star break? That's funny.

  • Just an hour after coming on the radio with me, Twins prospect Michael Cuddyer came up lame in the first inning of a doubleheader. Rounding third, Cuddyer limped home and headed straight into the clubhouse. Nothing makes a 10-hour bus ride--yes, the Twins' Triple-A team will bus from Indianapolis to Rochester, N.Y.--like a bad right hammy. Cuddyer and most of his teammates are raking the ball, so this is a tough break for a guy fighting to find a way back to the big leagues.

  • If the Esteban Yan deal didn't tell you that the Cardinals weren't telling you everything, you won't listen to me. Jason Isringhausen and the Cards are throwing up smoke screens, having Izzy pitch simulated games where no one can see him while talk of rehab assignments is lost between the smoke and the mirrors. What's let out into the media has as much spin as a Tiger Woods iron and as much clarity as Tom Waits on a Jim Beam bender. There's double talk about back-to-back and day after night, but hidden between the lines is the fact that Isringhausen is not going to single-handedly rebuild a dreadful pen, even if healthy...and he's not.

  • No team is more conscious of heart concerns than the Cards, so it's better to be overcautious. Dustin Hermanson felt light-headed and short of breath and was admitted to the hospital for testing. Luckily, there were no negative findings and Hermanson should be ready to play very soon. While it sounds goofy now, Hermanson did the right thing. Anything less and we didn't learn from Darryl Kile.

  • Jim Edmonds should avoid the DL after a slight separation of his intracostal cartilage and bruised ribs. Not to make light, but it should only hurt when he breathes. After the initial pain leaves and the vicodin kicks in, Edmonds should be ready to play and will surely dive and hurt himself again.

  • X-rays were negative last night on Brian Jordan's left hand, but he's in a removable cast and unlikely to play for several days. The DL remains a possibility since swelling was described by team sources as "extreme." One source said "he looked like he was holding a balloon." Add in a dose of whiplash from a dive/face plant, and Jordan could use a short vacation.

  • Is this the inevitable injury that derails something of a comeback by Mr. Glass, Darren Dreifort? A recurrence of pain in his surgically repaired left knee altered his pitching mechanics significantly, but Dreifort refused to use the knee--or any injury--as an excuse. Somewhat admirable, I guess. Dreifort's knee will have to respond to treatment over the next couple days or more drastic measures will need to be taken, such as more surgery. (As an aside, who is baseball's David Dunn now that Cal Ripken is gone?)

  • Why isn't Curtis Leskanic pitching? The likely answer--he's hurt--isn't true in this case. The Brewers feel they're close to dealing the reliever and don't know if they can keep him healthy if he's pitching. (This is the point where I hang the caveat emptor sign.) The Brewers are at least self-aware and hopeful that they can offload Leskanic's contract. Inside the Brewers organization, however, this line of thinking isn't taking. Despite legions of injuries up and down the roster, few inside the team have much confidence in their ability to develop pitchers of any sort. One player told me recently: "If we draft a pitcher, we'll just screw him up. I don't know why they bother."

  • The most recent chapter in the saga of Mo Vaughn may close soon. Sources in New York say that Vaughn, with at least eight consultations behind him, has surgery scheduled for Friday. There's no word yet on who will do the surgery or what the procedure will be. Vaughn is in all likelihood done for 2003 and quite possibly just done.

  • Quick Cuts: Ryan Freel heads to the DL with a torn left hamstring, and the Reds continue to leave Adam Dunn on the bench...Jeff Kent's left hip is nothing to worry about. There was no truck involved...Scott Elarton had a good start, but I'm still not ready to say that labrum surgery is any easier to come back from than elbow surgery.

  • Has anyone ever done a "Where Are They Now?" on the kids in the National Spelling Bee?

  • This week's BPR--as I've been telling you--is yours. Callers will be taken and we'll talk about what YOU want to talk about all hour long. We're going to have jam-packed phone lines, so be ready. What's the number? We're paying for the call: 1-800-TALK-290. The ground rules? Be ready, be quick, and we cannot answer any questions that take more than 30 seconds to handle, so save the in-depth ones for e-mail.

I might be one of few guys in the world that can watch a horrific movie like The Musketeer and turn it into thoughts on baseball. Mena Suvari aside, movies and baseball have something in common: Role players are needed on winning teams. Some of my favorite actors are role players, guys that don't win the fight or get the girl, but that somehow you remember when you leave the theater and quote their lines years later. The thing I'm learning--both in movies and baseball--is that few of these role players can be that good for that long. Tim Roth is one of my all-time favorites, great in Reservoir Dogs, Four Rooms, and Rob Roy, but I think the last good movie he made was Everyone Says I Love You, in which he had a very small part. Someone please get this guy a good part before he turns into Lenny Harris.

Don't forget the All-Star Home Run Derby Trip and Feed. Seats are going quickly. Before then, I'll be in Louisville on June 14 (a Saturday) and St. Louis on June 26 (a Thursday). If anyone's interested in organizing Feeds there, I'm available.

Related Content:  Pitching Lines

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