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June 23, 2003

Under The Knife

Recovering the Satellites

by Will Carroll

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I've written enough about Darryl Kile that I won't do one of my typical intros. I'll just remind you that if you missed Baseball Prospectus Radio this week, you really missed out. I'll try to get the show archived soon, but it was pretty amazing.

  • The Diamondbacks should be praised for their transparency regarding the rehab schedule for Randy Johnson. Instead, too many people want to question the veracity or motive behind its publication. The fact is that columns like this or sites like RotoWire would have the information anyway through our sources, so why hide it? Johnson is due back just after the All-Star break, but there's plenty of room in the schedule--especially the two Triple-A starts--for adjustment or setback. From the info we have, the post-All-Star break date looks pretty good; and remember, this isn't an arm problem. Johnson should be effective almost as soon as he's ready.

  • Two young pitchers are getting closer to a return after injuries. Josh Beckett had his first rehab start over the weekend and was successful in his three innings. More importantly, however, he reported no soreness on Sunday. He'll likely have one more start in Jupiter, then return to the Scalies' rotation in early July. The date was pushed back due to rainouts, not setbacks. In Double-A Wichita, Runelvys Hernandez took the loss, but again, that was not the point. He's also on track for an early July return for the Royals who certainly need him.

  • Roy Oswalt is making it very clear through channels that he's not headed under the knife, even if he is in UTK. Rumors are swirling that Oswalt is going to need surgery on his groin, but sources close to Oswalt vigorously deny these reports. One UTK source and athletic trainer said: "This is a situation different from Mike Piazza--much less severe, much less taxed--and Piazza avoided surgery with aggressive therapy. There's no reason that Oswalt can't do the same with a lesser injury. Where I do worry is that, as a shorter pitcher, any alteration he makes to his mechanics may result in compensatory problems."

  • Billy Koch said that his current "dead arm" period is forcing him to learn to pitch. I guess if I had high-90s heat, I might be inclined to just try and throw it by everyone, but somewhere--perhaps after Tommy John surgery or when he was with Rick Peterson--shouldn't he have learned just a little bit about pitching? Changing speeds and hitting spots is a good thing, even with that heater in your arsenal. Most pitchers would love to have a live arm that was in the 92 range, let alone a dead one at those velocities.

  • The Expos have been very encouraged by reports surrounding the rehab of Vlad Guerrero. It's pretty clear at this point that Guerrero will avoid surgery in the near term, but as he transitions from physical therapy to baseball activities over the next week, his ability to remain healthy will come into question.

  • Jeff Kent had a cortisone injection in his left wrist to try and control some "raging tendinitis." This problem is nothing along the lines of those experienced by Nick Johnson or Travis Hafner, but wrist problems do have a tendency to heal slowly and fitfully. This injury could rob Kent of some power, at least in the short term, and the DL is not out of the question.

  • The story from Yankees sources indicates slow, but steady progress with both Bernie Williams and Nick Johnson. Johnson had an MRI, which is the best test for gauging his healing, and the Yanks were encouraged. Williams began hitting off a tee and should graduate quickly to soft toss and batting practice. Both are on target for a return somewhere near the All-Star break, but both will likely have rehab stints that will let us see their effectiveness.

  • Eric Hinske did well with taking batting practice and is headed out for a quick rehab stint on Tuesday. It's unclear if he will follow Shannon Stewart (see Quick Cuts for more on him) to Syracuse, but expect Hinske back in the Jays killer lineup before my birthday.

  • Hee Seop Choi was with the team this weekend for the White Sox games, but will be in Iowa tomorrow to begin a very short rehab assignment. He has no residual effects from the concussion, and only mild soreness in his neck. The stint in Iowa could be as few as three games, putting him back in time to head to Comiskey.

  • I'm not sure if this is as weird as it sounds, but Randall Simon heads to the DL after tearing ligaments in his hand...by hitting a home run! Initially hurt running the bases, Simon played with pain, and his decision to go against his manager's bunt sign will cost him at least a month. Once again, the macho myth may have helped a team gain one win in the short term, but lose more in the long term.

  • Cristian Guzman is an odd case. After a very respectable 2001, he came back in 2002 with a very disappointing season. His 2003 numbers are nearly identical to 2002 and he remains--with Luis Rivas--a major problem for the Twins. Last season, it was clear that he was dealing with back problems, reducing his power and range and even preventing him from leaning over on some balls. This season, his defense is down again (as measured by Range Factor and fielding percentage) and his speed signals have been confusing--lots of triples, but terrible on steals. Guzman is currently afflicted with a swollen knee, which may explain some of his problems, but I'm still convinced the back remains an issue.

  • Troy Glaus and Mike Sweeney are both dealing with muscular problems in their lower backs. While not good, especially for big strong guys who put incredible amounts of stress on their backs with every swing, it's not a problem that should threaten either of them with the DL or even cost them much in the way of production. You'll see an occasional flare-up and you might see some weary trainers and therapists, but both should be able to play near their expected levels.

  • Quick Cuts: Shannon Stewart is finally ready to come back off the DL, re-assume his leadoff spot, and continue to be showcased as trade bait...Fernando Tatis is on the DL with "swelling in his chest wall." I wasn't able to get comment from the Expos before deadline but I have no idea what the cause is, nor do any of the UTK advisors. I'll be working on this one...Rey Ordonez is out for the year after his posterior cruciate ligament was found to be torn. The etiology of the tear is unclear, but unbelievably, this does hurt the Rays...Aaron Heilman versus Dontrelle Willis next week? OK, now I have a reason to watch a Mets/Fish game. I should copyright calling Willis "Dontrellectric"...J.T. Snow heads to the DL with a groin strain. Even when he's healthy, the Giants need an upgrade at 1B...Jae Seo will miss one start while his fingernail heals. It split during his last outing...For those wondering, my birthday is June 30th.

I won't pretend to know anything about John Hudgins or what Mark Marquess, the Stanford head coach, had in mind, but the pitch counts that Hudgins has put up during the College World Series are nearing the criminal level. Three-hundred fifty pitches in 10 days? Back to back 130+ pitch outings? That he's only complaining of some 'dead arm' is near miraculous. Winning a CWS ring is one thing, and I won't fault anyone for wanting to win, but the cost--both in a future career and in near-term monetary value--might be too high for Hudgins to bear. College is there to prepare one for a future career, not to risk that future. My call for mandatory pitch limits in high school might need to be expanded to colleges.

Related Content:  Back,  Dead-arm Period,  Dead Arm Period

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