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July 11, 2003

Under The Knife

Letting the Cables Sleep

by Will Carroll

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There is nothing worse in my world than what happened yesterday morning. On the road back from a meeting, I was ready for a couple of calls from radio stations. I always like going on the radio to talk baseball, whether it's local, my own show, or anything from a major market to a college station. Instead of getting the calls and making the trip seem a bit shorter, though, I received no calls. All of this was a bit confusing until I realized my phone was dead. For those that know me, the idea of me without a cell phone is like me without a goatee or a latte; it just doesn't seem like Will. After four hours without service and nearly an hour on the phone with a service provider that will remain nameless (but uses a hot Welsh woman in their ads), I have service and a bunch of messages. I missed calls from sources, both stations, UPS, and a former client. You can bet I'm changing my cell phone service in a hurry. Luckily, I got service back in time to make most of my calls, apologized to those I missed, and got what I needed for today's UTK.

Another upside to the day was collecting almost all of the money from the All-Star Fan Fest tickets charity auction. We'll have $280 to donate to the American Cancer Society soon. I'd like to thank everyone that bid and the Indianapolis Indians for donating the tickets to us. Our donation will be made in honor of Alyssa Lewandowski and our thoughts and prayers are with her and her family.

  • Hank Hill may have said it best: That boy just ain't right. By almost any measure, Matt Morris is off. His mechanics look bad, he's complained of shoulder pain for nearly a month, and his fastball is off by eight miles per hour from it's normal 93. Yet the Cardinals keep trotting him out to the mound, knowing they're in a divisional dogfight--and worse, that they have no better options. On a team that doesn't have the wherewithal to make a deal, a barren farm system, and feels that this may be their last shot for a while, Morris may be offered up as something of a sacrificial bull. Every time Morris is on the mound, the Cards are gambling with the $17.5 million left on the last year-and-a-half of his current contract. Add in that the one player the Cards had counted on helping in the second half--Chris Carpenter--has had some setbacks in his rehab, and things are beginning to look bleaker in St. Louis.

  • As the Indians begin to look more and more like a team to watch in coming years, they got some bad news on Omar Vizquel. He's torn cartilage in his knee during his rehab and a decision on further surgery will be made in two weeks. Further surgery would end his season, and while the team would like Vizquel back, they're certainly not in the hunt. Having him back for '04 seems more important.

  • It's tough sometimes to write these columns. There are teams that give out information willingly, teams where I know who to ask, and some teams where I need to horse-trade a bit to get what I need. There are a couple teams that won't give me anything easily, but only one where it's almost impossible to get good information--the Oakland Athletics. I had a discussion with John Gizzi from ESPN.com about a rumor, and went searching for more information. The rumor: Eric Chavez broke his hand on a line drive May 10th. The injury was reported as a severe bruise and X-rays came back negative, but secondary sources have said that an injury was concealed. Everyone I spoke to that could have some knowledge would tell me nothing, but if the rumor is true--and I'll be honest, I have next to nothing to go on--it would explain a lot. It would also give the A's hope that Chavez will turn around what to this point has been a disappointing season as he returns to full health.

  • The Reds are shouldering a load lately. Both Jason Larue and Austin Kearns are missing time with shoulder injuries. Both shoulder injuries are collision type injuries--Kearns during a play at the plate and Larue took a ball off his shoulder. While Larue is making progress, Kearns is trying to avoid a trip to the DL. A retro move could be made, but the Reds can ill afford any injury, let alone one to their key players. To find out just how much this shoulder injury has hurt Kearns (and the Reds), just take a look at the Equivalent Average and VORP numbers--Kearns is back behind Adam Dunn.

  • Josh Phelps goes to the DL with back spasms. This isn't a new problem for Phelps, and his back is a major reason he was converted out of catching. His recent slump is definitely a result of his back bothering him. He shouldn't be out much past the minimum if at all and it's likely that he'll return at full strength.

  • Some reports indicate that Brian Jordan's statement that his knee surgery is career ending refer not to his baseball career, but instead his time with the Dodgers. Sources close to Jordan feel that he may hang it up rather than endure a long rehab and an uncertain future in baseball. That decision has not been made, and even if it had been, it's not like many players haven't changed their minds.

  • Phil Nevin is days away from a rehab assignment. The current plan is for him to start in Class-A Lake Elsinore, but only as a DH. When he's ready, he'll move up to Triple-A Portland, where he'll also play the field, though the position is unclear. Some sources say that Nevin won't make it back by July 31st--the non-waiver trading deadline--but that date would be day 17 of a maximum 20 for an injury rehabilitation assigment, so it's far from out of the question. Remember as well that there is no prohibition against trading a player on the disabled list.

  • Angel Guzman underwent shoulder surgery today under the direction of Jim Andrews. He's expected back for spring training. The Cubs have also shut down Bobby Brownlie for the season without much explanation. As Christian Ruzich points out, the Cubs minor league pitchers have been dropping like flies. Guzman, Brownlie, Luke Hagerty, and Andy Sisco are all Top 10 prospects and all will miss significant development time with injuries. I've spoken before about the viral nature of injuries. Sadly, it looks like it's the Cubs turn.

  • Quick Cuts: Brad Lidge should avoid the DL after experiencing some back soreness. Keep your eye on this one however since the entire Astros pen seems to be breaking down under the workload...Curt Schilling returns to the rotation on Saturday, as expected, while Randy Johnson throws in Tucson as I type...The Royals get Runelvys Hernandez back in the rotation on Friday. They'll be watching him closely and don't be surprised if John Cumberland has a quick hook...The Expos have dropped a cone of silence around everyone who saw Vladimir Guerrero take BP. I'll get someone to break over the weekend, I hope...Jesse Foppert heads back to the minors. I'll be watching to see if his fastball gets faster down there...Cliff Floyd didn't take batting practice today and will likely not return before the ASB.

  • In yesterday's UTK note about Rick Ankiel, I included part of an email from reader John Walsh. Some people asked why I included it. The date of the email--April 3, 2003--gives you some context.

Happy birthday, Danielle Rushford. The rest of you--make time for this week's BPR with a breakdown of Jim Palmer's ramblings, Kerry Wood, and Jon Sciambi's talk with John Smoltz.

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