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June 17, 2003

Under The Knife

Avoiding the Apocalypse

by Will Carroll

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Thanks for the over 200 emails asking where UTK was yesterday. I'll take it as an odd form of flattery that some people are so used to UTK always being there that its absence struck some people as sign of the apocalypse. Nothing's wrong, but even I take a day off now and again. I took advantage of a quiet weekend, injury-wise, to enjoy a nice day in the sun. Naturally, I ended up glued to the Extra Innings package. Onto the injuries...

  • It hasn't yet gotten to this point yet, but it might make the Reds and their fans feel better. In Monday's game with the Cubs, Ken Griffey Jr. reached up to wave at the home run that put the Reds down and banged into the wall. For most players, the move to rub his shoulder would be a non-item, but this is Griffey--at one time one of the best players in baseball, and now the hope of a proud franchise. Griffey is OK, no more or less sore than any other player who ran into a wall, hoping to find a way to help his team with a miracle catch.

  • Good pitching should not be "old-fashioned," it should be a part of many ballgames--poor pitching should be the exception. But in today's game, 1-0 contests are few and far between. Monday's Mets/Marlins game didn't really have the makings of a great game, but I dialed it up on TiVo and watched for signs of Tom Glavine's poor health. I got none of those expected signs. Apparently, Glavine's elbow has responded extremely well to treatment and he was very effective. If Glavine can come back from this start and make one more good solid one, I'll have to back off--slightly--on my doomed predictions of impending implosion.

    That said, a much younger lefty overshadowed Glavine in almost every way. Dontrelle Willis is looking like the real deal--young, lively, and efficient. Willis went complete in only 109 pitches and looked phenomenal. I would have liked to have seen him lifted earlier, but I'm extreme, I know. It appeared that Willis did talk pitching coach Wayne Rosenthal out of lifting him before the eighth. But while I talk often about pitchers needing to be honest, I can also admire a guy like Willis for wanting to continue with his dominating performance. Like last week's Maddux/Meche and Clemens/Wood matchups, we may have seen another generational pass-off.

  • The Mets need more good news, so let's give them some. I'm betting they know already that Mike Piazza is making good progress--if not "ahead of schedule"--with his rehabbing. The groin tear appears to be responding to aggressive treatment and Piazza should be able to avoid surgery. Behind the scenes, Mets sources tell me that Piazza wants to return as a catcher in order to break the catching HR record, then gradually shift to first base. The key word is gradual, and Piazza's definition appears to be different than that of the Mets. One of the big benefits the Mets will see with Steve Phillips gone is a chance for the front office to reconnect with players.

  • Fifty pitches is one thing, but 70 pitches is quite another. Neither gives you nearly what you want from a pitcher, but it's much better than zero, especially when the pitcher is Pedro Martinez. Nate Silver was at last night's game and reports that Pedro was in the 92-95 range while hitting his spots. Nate also said that "[Pedro] seems determined to keep his pitch count down." If only more pitchers would have this attitude!

  • Looking back, the Cardinals have a long history of injuries to their starting rotations. This bothers me some--anything over a long period of time should have some explanation. I can't just reflexively blame Tony La Russa and Dave Duncan. Reading through the Bill James Baseball Abstract 1988, the Cardinals managed to make it all the way to the World Series in 1987 with a staff that was "injury riddled and when healthy, not very good outside of one pitcher." Sound familiar? Losing that "one pitcher" is the biggest worry the Cardinals should have (outside of finding Albert Pujols' birth certificate). Matt Morris is dealing with his shoulder injury and will test it later this week. He'll have therapy on his shoulder and will start at the end of the week, probably Friday. Keep your eye on him--the Cardinals certainly will be.

  • Scott Rolen is also a big part of the Cards' lineup, and having the Brewers in town is like a string of off-days, so Rolen will get some time to rest. He's a bit banged up after dives and collisions, but it's nothing that should affect him long-term. Rolen's always been very healthy and injuries of this type are seldom a problem until they become a pattern (see: Lenny Dykstra or Darin Erstad).

  • It was Indocin, Roy. It's a public service that I offer Roy Oswalt. I think it's good that we know what's injected into our groins and that there's really no such thing as a "groin specialist." I mean, do you go to the Yellow Pages and look one up under G? Oswalt did respond to the injection and it's about 50/50 that he'll be able to avoid the DL and make a start late this week.

  • While Eddie Guardado and LaTroy Hawkins fume about being treated like replaceable commodities (note: they are), the Twins need them right now. Mike Fetters was a nice, crowd-pleasing pickup and any pitching he would have given them was kind of a bonus. Instead, Fetters had a setback in his rehab and likely won't contribute this season, putting more pressure on Everday Eddie and Hawk, while younger players like Johan Santana and J.C. Romero continue to prove that they can take on larger roles. The key to replacing players is timing.

  • The Dodgers have great pitching, but almost no hitting, so losing even the 2003 version of Fred McGriff puts more pressure on that pitching. Jim Tracy continues to manage like he's got a real, live Strat-O-Matic team out there, scraping for advantages however he can find them. Adding another bat is the front office's job, but I'm not sure if they can pull it off. McGriff is dealing with a sore groin and the Dodgers are hoping to have him back for the upcoming critical series with the Giants.

  • Denny Neagle may be back as early as Tuesday, but by press time no determination had been made. In this market, the Rockies hope to get something from Neagle on the field and deal him away if he can prove healthy and reasonably effective. I'm not sure what team he could help, if healthy, but self-delusion seems a part of many GMs' skill sets.

  • The injury to Junior Spivey is both bad and good. It's bad in the sense that tearing a ligament in an ankle can't possibly be a good thing, but good in the sense that even torn, Spivey should be back in about a month, or right around the All-Star break. The D'backs appear to be committing to Alex Cintron over Tony Womack, which is a plus. In this meltdown of injuries and rapid aging, the Diamondbacks are making the best use of the season--moving forward.

  • Kazuhiro Sasaki is not making any progress with his "rib" injury. Does this really tell us any more than we knew before? No, but negative information allows us to make adjustments to the timetable. Sasaki will probably be back nearer to July 1 than his minimum date, but the effectiveness he'll have at that point is unknown. Any rehab assignment he makes will be very telling.

  • Ramiro Mendoza may be listed as out with patellar tendinitis, but it's not much of a secret that the Red Sox placed him on the List so that new interim pitching coach Dave Wallace can work on his mechanics. Wallace has a reputation as a tinkerer, and the Red Sox staff could use some tinkering.

Thanks to The Score--670 AM in Chicago--for having me on Tuesday morning. Yeah, I'm still trying to get Baseball Prospectus Radio on there in Chicago, and in a town near you.

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