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July 10, 2003

Under The Knife

Girl, You Have No Faith in Medicine

by Will Carroll

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One quick note and then let's just get right to it. You can be part of this week's Baseball Prospectus Radio by calling me between 1 and 2 p.m. Indy time (Noon to 1 p.m. Eastern) at 1-800-TALK-2-90. We'll record the questions and the best ones will make the "Radio Mailbag."

  • While the Giants await the report from a team of physicians and radiologists, Kirk Rueter is headed to the DL. Rueter is famous for his tenaciousness, so the pain he felt in his shoulder had to be immense. Stan Conte and the Giants took no chances with Rueter, getting him into an MRI before the game was even complete. The worst result might be not finding something. With any injury, there's a treatment, but with non-specific, diffuse pain, a trainer or doctor is at best chasing symptoms. A loss of Rueter for any period of time would be a blow, but the Giants don't lack pitching depth--Jim Brower is the likeliest candidate to pick up any missed starts. Sadly, Boof Bonser is still a couple years away.

  • Vin Scully broke the news that Brian Jordan has elected to have season-ending surgery to re-repair his patellar tendon. Jordan has indicated that surgery likely means the end of his career, but this hasn't been made official yet. Jordan's loss will further cripple an already limping Dodger offense. The question of insurance may decide how Dan Evans moves forward, but the opacity of these transactions means we'll likely never know the effect.

  • While we're still working on compiling hard data, there's plenty of anecdotal evidence to implicate the hard turf at Stade Olympique. Jim Thome is the latest to have problems with his back there, and the Phillies aren't taking any chances. Thome was lifted during Tuesday's game and was out of the lineup for Wednesday. Team sources say he'll be back at first when the team moves on to New York.

  • Transaction talk isn't my beat, but some moves say more about a team than anything else off the field. With Kevin Mench down for eight weeks while his fractured hand heals, the Rangers called up Laynce Nix. I'm sure Jamey Newberg (of the Newberg Report) is excited to see the future in Arlington, but one problem with seeing the future is that it usually means the present sucks. Mench should return in the normal timeframe with no serious effects. There were some rumors that Mench was headed to Cleveland, but a source on both sides of that deal denied anything was close.

  • Like callups, a lineup can be pretty telling as well. With Sean Casey out with a sore groin, Austin Kearns was not back in the lineup. Kearns' shoulder is definitely hampering him, but all reports are that it's not a structural problem. Russell Branyan and his sore shoulder was out in left, while Adam Dunn played first and Jose Guillen was in right. If Kearns shoulder doesn't come around soon, he's more likely to hit like he did in June than the torrid pace he was on in April and May. (Still like that Mark Prior for Kearns deal, Gary?)

  • If Corey Patterson taunts are number one on my email charts, then "What's wrong with Barry Zito?" is number two with a bullet. The answer? He's not pitching well. According to Zito, Rick Peterson, and Ken Macha, they're not worried and it's neither injury nor mechanics. Call it a slump and expect a turnaround. While I can usually turn any baseball discussion into something about injuries, sometimes, it's not.

  • According to the AP, Greg Colbrunn's wrist "doesn't bother me too much except when I swing." Unfortunately, most of Colbrunn's value is wrapped up in that pesky hitting part of the game. Derek Zumsteg has wondered aloud (is it aloud in email?) why Bob Melvin fought so hard to bring Colbrunn to Seattle and yet has used him so infrequently.

  • Rick Ankiel is someone I've rooted for almost since he was picked. Call me biased against the Cardinals (untrue) if you want, but Ankiel's someone I've really wanted to overcome his problems. With his recent progress, things were looking up, but a sore elbow turned out to be a torn UCL. Could we have seen this coming?

    Says reader John Walsh:

    I believe there may be a correlation between "Steve Blass disease" and UCL/Tommy John. One a minor note, it seems that in many cases control issues preceed the diagnosis of a torn UCL. I think it would be interesting if Steve Blass had an MRI to determine if there was a tear in his UCL. I really wonder if Rick Ankiel falls into this category.

    Blass did not, since the MRI hadn't been invented yet. I hope to have him on BPR at some point and get more info. Ankiel did have a strained UCL discovered in the second year of his yips. I agree that you're on to something with Blass--UCL. Wohlers is the biggest example of this and sadly, there hasn't been any research done.

    So the answer? Yes. The problem is, we just don't know when. As progress is made with ultrasound technology, large steps will be taken in preventing injuries.

  • The Cubs are taking a serious look at Mark Kotsay according to sources, so let's take a look at Kotsay's health. After a DL stint with a bulging disc, Kotsay returned to the lineup and has had no problems other than occasional stiffness. His power and speed are down slightly since his return, but he has also moved to the leadoff slot, which could account for some of the power loss. It was a cortisone injection into his disc that settled the problem, and he's made it past the point where we would expect recurrence. At least from a health standpoint, the Cubs could do a lot worse.

  • Speaking of "worse" and "the Cubs," Dusty Baker's brain must not deal with the heat well--as evidenced by his leaving Kerry Wood out to complete a game and rack up 130 pitches on Wednesday. Wood was visibly tired in the ninth, but his velocity was off in the eighth. Going back through the Jim Palmer interview, I realized that I missed something he said: "Earl [Weaver] used to say that if we lost three, he'd come get us." While I missed the chance to follow on that up, I can't imagine that he didn't mean that Weaver was way ahead of the curve on velocity.

    One last note from Wrigley and I'll say this with no commentary at all: Sammy Sosa is noticeably smaller. He looks like he's down about 20-25 pounds.

  • Quick Cuts: Joe Randa will be out until after the ASB with an oblique strain. He's expected to be ready once the teams reform, but a retro move is possible...No structural damage for Rodrigo Rosario, but he's no closer to returning to the Astros rotation. He'll begin a rehab program once the pain goes away...The Yankees had Bernie Williams, Derek Jeter, and Alfonso Soriano back in their lineup on Wednesday. It's enough to bring a tear to your eye, right George?...Roy Oswalt says he's having no pain in his groin. Probably more than you wanted to know, right?...According to the NY Post, Al Leiter was advised to lose weight and adjust his mechanics slightly to take the pressure off his sore knee. He doesn't look to me like he's gained much weight, but I haven't seen him much this year. The problem still isn't serious enough to keep him out long.

Back again tomorrow, folks. Same Bat time, same Bat channel.

Related Content:  Newberg Report

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