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July 7, 2003

Under The Knife

Have You Seen Me Lately?

by Will Carroll

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I hope everyone had a great Fourth of July weekend. Here at UTK Central, it was quiet and warm. Long weekends are nice, but I was back at the keyboard early, listening to the All-Star selections and...well, those are best left to the other BP Authors. I will remind everyone that we have All-Star Fan Fest tickets available at eBay and all proceeds will go to charity. Onto the injuries...

  • The normal goal of any rehab start is to get through it without injury, shake off some of the rust, and make another step towards an effective return to the major leagues. In other words, remain healthy. Randy Johnson met every goal in his first rehab start on Saturday, going four perfect innings on 44 pitches. Johnson will make two more starts with Tucscon, each with an increased pitch limit, before returning to the D'back rotation.

  • Curt Schilling is just ahead of Johnson's timetable, making one more start in Tucscon, then getting in a start for Arizona just before the ASB. That this start will likely come against the division-leading Giants says a lot about the confidence the organization has in Schilling. Schilling's rehab start may not have been as dominant, but is was equally as successful and has to not only bother the Giants and the fading-fast Dodgers as well. Danny Bautista and Junior Spivey are also getting closer and the Diamondbacks are beginning to look like the team Joe Garagiola had in his head when the season began...or perhaps he has one more move to make.

  • The Dodgers are losing more and more of their key players to injury. While they await a final decision on the season and possibly career-ending surgery for Brian Jordan, the loss of Kevin Brown--someone who's exceeded every expectation in the book--is the one that could crush their flimsy hopes. While reports from LA indicate that Brown will miss only one start, it still makes some trade discussions involving Andy Ashby go right out the window. The ASB comes at just the right time for Brown. It's hard to gauge how his amazing pain tolerance will affect his comeback, but abdominal injuries are notoriously slow healers and there's no way to work around them.

  • I'm not sure why the NY Post felt the need to point out that Mike Piazza brought along his "Big Stick" bat on the Mets road trip. I guess even beat writers can't resist the wrongheaded jokes Piazza still faces, but I'm betting we won't see Teddy Greenstein or Doug Padilla use the same type of lines. Piazza is progressing, will likely start hitting off a tee by mid-week, and is still on track for the late-July return I've been predicting.

  • Al Leiter will likely head to the DL with a retro move that will allow him to slide back into his rotation slot after the ASB. Leiter is dealing with a sore knee, but it's nothing like Johnson or Mo Vaughn. He's merely sore, not damaged.

  • Jose Reyes has an RBC (recurring, becoming chronic) hamstring problem. For a player whose speed is his most impressive tool, hamstring problems threaten to leave him as...well, PECOTA brings up a couple examples that will choke a Mets fan: Cesar Izturis and Luis Rivas.

  • The Expos are once again discussing the timetable for Vladimir Guerrero as early August, but the crew in Miami working on Vlad is much more encouraged. I'll wager that this is just the Expos hedging against a setback, but let's remember that getting Guerrero back before the non-waiver trading deadline could be important. Lots of teams will be inquiring, even if the Expos say they're not selling. With Minaya a leading candidate for the Mets GM slot and MLB owning the team, who would stop a deal like that?

  • Jeff Kent is finally making progress and now it's coming quickly. Some sources say that Kent had another injection, but I can't get confirmation on that. What is known is that the brace is gone, he's taking grounders, and there's a 50/50 chance we'll see Kent before the ASB. The Astros are still on the lookout for pitching, but no one in the NL Central has been able to make the bold move that the White Sox did, effective or not. One good deal could really tip this division as easily as one major injury could.

  • Why isn't Dontrelle Willis an All-Star? Call it protection or call it circumventing the purpose of a game that "counts," but there are numerous whispers out there that the Marlins did not want their young ace in the game. Willis' workload isn't outrageous, even at his age. He is averaging 100 pitches an outing with a max of 115, but I guess I'll side with the Marlins and err on the side of caution. As Mark Redman goes 140 pitches in 90 degree weather, I'm still not sure that the Marlins get it or if they do.

  • The Cardinals have resigned themselves to not being able to trade for an answer to their pitching problems, so they'll rely on what they already have. Chris Carpenter is probably not the answer, but could be forced off the "Morris plan" and into the rotation if Dan Haren can't hang onto that slot. As Matt Morris continues to struggle with shoulder problems, the Cards pitching will continue to cascade. I'm not sure that the great offense they've put together can't carry them, but in the post-season, this isn't a team that can succeed. Add in the knowledge that Albert Pujols is only one throw away from ending his season and this team has a plethora of question marks.

  • Shawn Chacon should start a rehab assignment later this week with a return pegged at the return from the All-Star break. He's had no problems with long toss and it appears anti-inflammatories have kicked his elbow soreness. As Colorado fades from contention, it will be interesting to see how they begin to evaluate their players and build for the future. It's pretty well-known that Jerry McMorris enjoyed his copy of Moneyball.

  • The L.A. Times had warned everyone that Fred McGriff was being activated before he was near one hundred percent, so no one should be surprised that he's right back on the DL. My question is, why did the Dodgers make the move? Are they that desperate for offense? Well, yes. Will calling it an adductor strain rather than a pulled groin fool anyone? No.

  • Some friends of UTK were at yesterday's A's game and relay some concerns about the injury to Jermaine Dye. They're feeling a bit iffy about the injury and the A's aren't giving out any additional information. In the absence of hard evidence of shenanigans--always difficult to come by--I'll take the A's at their word, but keep an eye on Dye just the same. The upside of the shoulder (AC joint) separation is that Dye's knee will get around a month to recover. A roster move is imminent, but don't be surprised if it's a pitcher. While everyone has been watching Rich Harden, I've had my eye on Justin Duscherer.

  • Nick Johnson is hitting off a tee and will progress to soft-toss. There are some reports about his being unable to catch, but this is secondary. Once he's available to hit, he'll be activated and perhaps showcased. His ability to hit is much more important than his ability to catch, even if he is being targeted by a NL team. With Brandon Claussen and Jon Lieber making miraculous recoveries and the Yankees getting most of their injured players back ahead of expectations (including Bernie Williams before the ASB), it will be hard to keep their secret weapon, Mark Littlefield, under wraps for long. Wait, did I say secret...Oops.

  • Quick Cuts: Jason Bay is getting closer to a return to San Diego. A rehab start will let everyone know if the injury ruined the amazing run he was on...Bobby Higginson heads to the DL with a problem alternately labeled hamstring and back. Reports of sciatica aren't confirmed, but the symptoms match. Higginson and the Tigers are in no rush for a return...Wily Mo Pena heads to the DL with hamstring problems. I'm still a big fan, but the Reds should look in their own outfield to see what kind of setback he may have had. Jose Guillen was virtually in the same boat a few years back...Angel Guzman will have surgery on his troubled pitching shoulder and will be out for the year...Carlos Delgado left his game with knee soreness and will have precautionary X-rays. It's not considered serious at this point...Corey Patterson was removed from yesterday's game after hyperextending his knee. It's considered mild and he is not likely to miss much time, let alone affect his possible All-Star selection...Jacque Jones will return from the DL right after the ASB, while his at-bats will be absorbed by one of the millions of corner outfield types the Twins really should trade for a good 2B...It's not just a setback for Luke Prokopec, it's a do-over. The Aussie will get a redo of his torn labrum surgery and a redo of the long and only occasionally successful rehab. Gil Meche may be the poster boy, but he's the exception, not the rule...If Scott Rolen's back gets sore on the jungle grass of Wrigley, Cards fans should be worried about it acting up again in the second half of the season.

  • I got lots of email regarding John Sickels' report on Jesse Foppert. I didn't see the report, but John evidently reported the radar readings on Foppert as being in the upper-90s. There's no reason to doubt John, but I didn't get a response from him by deadline to see if he was quoting a scout's gun or a scoreboard. In the end, as much work is done on using Velocity as a measure, there's still no hard rules in using it. It would worry me more if Foppert showed high-90s, then fell off badly during a game or over a series of starts. So far, he's been consistently around 90, which is a positive.

Seeing Keith Olbermann doing sports updates is like running into an old friend when you least expect it. Sure, I prove myself as a sports addict by waking up for Wimbledon, but I'm trying to prepare myself for Bud Collins later this month. (He'll be calling the RCA Championships here in Indy for ESPN 950). No UTK tomorrow as I head up to Wrigley to get some interviews for the next couple editions of BPR. I'll be an interviewing fool for the next couple days, and I think you'll like what we have coming.

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