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July 21, 2003

Under The Knife

Not-So-Quick Cuts

by Will Carroll

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So, did anything happen while I was gone?

In an effort to keep what's going to be a long edition to a non-Kahrlian length, and from ending up in this report with carpal tunnel agony, I'll just say that my trip to the Bay Area was amazing. Not only was I in a small, hot conference room with what might be the most baseball mind-power short of the Winter Meetings...(or, then again)...I was able to visit Pac Bell Park, watch Barry Bonds take BP from the side of the batting cage, and spend a half hour talking with Stan Conte about everything sports med. I thank everyone involved for making it a great trip.

Onto the injuries...

  • If you didn't win the first "When Will Ken Griffey Jr. Get Injured" Pool, it might be your lucky day, but it certainly wasn't one for Griffey or the Reds. Once again, a right leg problem got him and it seems to be working it's way down++hamstring, knee, and now ankle. Griffey tore one of the two ligaments on the outside of his ankle and had it repaired surgically by team physician Tim Kremchek. I haven't seen it reported, but Griffey also had the surgery on his shoulder that was going to take place at the end of the season, so it will be a double dose of rehab.

    Griffey is out for the season, but it's too early to tell if he will come back next season with a series of articles detailing his "new focus," his "desire to come back," or his "continued chase for 500." As much as it'd be nice to see things work out during at least one year of this contract, I think dealing Griffey might be the best thing for everyone. There will be a team that could afford to take a risk and a good portion of his remaining contract, but whether Cincinnati will be able to get back anything near a Phil Nevin remains to be seen.

  • While I've vacillated, equivocated, and waffled about the date that Vladimir Guerrero would come back, I've never gone past the end of July. Guerrero has played well at Single-A Brevard County, showing absolutely no signs of a back problem at the plate or in the field. His swing is still long and violent, but if results are all that counts, it looks good. Guerrero will be in Miami to meet the Expos and there's a very good chance that he'll be activated. If so, Rocky Biddle will be the DL swap. There's also good news on Zach Day: he's pitched well coming back from rotator cuff problems, and Monday could be his final rehab start, putting him back with the Expos by the weekend.

  • Dammit, didn't I say that I didn't want to put Mark Prior in this column...ever? After being scratched from Tuesday's start, Prior left Miami to go back to Chicago for further tests. According to reports, he continues to have pain from what was reported to be just a bruise, the result of the brutal collision between himself and Marcus Giles. The Cubs are calling up a minor leaguer to take the start, giving them some flexibility. Currently, team sources say they're expecting Prior to miss only one start, but a negative finding from the tests would certainly change that plan in a hurry. The Cubs shouldn't wait--Prior needs to head to the DL now to protect the future of the franchise. Cubs fans everywhere are holding their breath and Jim Hendry isn't pulling the trigger on one of the many rumored trades until he knows if Prior will be there for the stretch.

  • No, I don't like Kerry Wood going 130 pitches, and I like hearing that he could barely speak, felt dizzy, and required an IV after his complete game win. Yes, it was a brilliant performance, and yes, his velocity was good at the end. Wood was asked to go too far in his last start and I'd expect to see him pay for it in his next start. Dusty had better be aware of it as well, but I don't have my hopes up.

  • Jason Schmidt left his most recent start with very mild flexor tendinitis. Schmidt's been pitching with the problem for a couple outings, but left when Dave Righetti noticed that his velocity was down. I'd wonder why Schmidt hadn't pointed this out, but some guys are like that, great medical staff or not. Schmidt will likely miss one start, but the decision isn't final. He'll be watched in the bullpen early this week, so I'll keep an eye on this one.

  • The boys at U.S.S. Mariner are pirating my territory a bit with their great coverage of Gil Meche's recent start, but since I work with most of them now, I won't complain much. Heck, I wouldn't complain anyway. Meche is pitching like someone entirely different over his last few outings--his velocity is off significantly, and yes, he looks either fatigued or hurt. There's an equally compelling case to be made for either cause, so be aware that while one is certainly worse than the other, relying on early season numbers from him this deep into the season isn't particularly instructive.

  • Randy Johnson returned to start for the Diamondbacks on Sunday. You know to ignore the loss and look at the stat line, his mechanics, and the long term. He pitched reasonably well, showing a soft landing foot that cost him both some velocity (usually around 92) and some command (hitting some batters). He made a bonehead balk which said more about his lack of playing time than anything else on the mound. I'm positive on his ability to return to form in just a couple more starts.

  • While Jack McKeon is getting whacked in the media for his decision to throw Dontrelle Willis after an hour-plus rain delay, I haven't seen anyone notice that Carlos Zambrano--only six months older than Willis--was also sent out after the delay. Results, positive or negative, don't make these moves any more defensible. Risking young arms--especially in two organizations that should have learned from experience--is seldom a good idea.

  • As if the Reds didn't have enough problems--injured superstar, no pitching to speak of--now Austin Kearns is asking teammate Sean Casey about his shoulder problems and resultant surgery. It's one more indication that Kearns is hurting more than we've been led to believe in the media and lessens the likelihood that he'll return to his star levels this season.

  • The NY Daily News and team sources are reporting that Cliff Floyd should have a decision by this time next week regarding ending his season and having achilles tendon surgery. Floyd may have tipped his hand already to manager Art Howe, so watch his usage patterns over the next few games to see if Howe tips us off. Floyd is grumbling loudly that he's not happy with the communication he's getting from the team regarding this injury.

  • Kazuhiro Sasaki has unloaded some baggage by throwing in the bullpen. He remains unable to bend properly, forcing the catcher to stand rather than crouch. The M's still insist that August 1 is their target for Sasaki's return, but he'll need to accelerate his rehab to get near that date. A splitter, even one as good as Sasaki's, is ineffective if it can't be kept down in the zone.

  • It's about at this point where I pause and wonder if it's possible to do a two-part column. Damn, no. I'm cursed by the timeliness requirements of UTK.

  • More than a few people inside the game have told me that they think that Mark Shapiro is a medhead. His organization continues to prove it. Billy Traber will be rested to keep his arm rested and keep his yearly workload reasonable for a player of his talent, experience, and age. Not only that, Traber was on board with the decision because he was involved in the process and understood the rationale. Getting players on board with the organizational philosophy seems like such a fundamental thing, but it doesn't seem to be the case in a majority of clubs.

  • The Twins have moved Corey Koskie to the DL with a retro move. The "slightly" bulging disc that was found in an MRI didn't improve, which really doesn't seem to be a surprise to anyone who's not a Twin. The Twins delayed this move, knowing that despite the talent they hold in the minors and even on their own bench, they don't have anyone that can fill Koskie's shoes. There's something to be said for developing all that talent, but something else to be said for not being able to use it properly.

  • John Olerud is showing one of the dangers of hamstring injuries. While on first glance, one might think that Olerud's wheels don't matter since he's not exactly the second coming of Vince Coleman, the legs are the base - and according to most hitting coaches, the key to hitting. Olerud continues to struggle with the injury and at the plate. Expect his bat to come to life as he heals. It might be worth sitting him a while if the M's can find a better replacement than Willie Bloomquist. This is a situation where I'd be tempted to use Edgar Martinez in the field.

  • It's not just me and smart pitching coaches that watch velocity, it's Roy Oswalt. He's off about three-to-five mph in his last couple starts despite feeling that his groin is healed. Oswalt was certainly less effective despite getting the win, so his next couple starts will be worth watching very, very closely. Oswalt's been a big worry of mine from the open of the season, so this is not new.

  • The St. Louis Post-Dispatch had the news first that Chris Carpenter would be meeting with Cardinals team officials. He's coming back from labrum surgery, so a setback--even a reinjury--isn't something that should be terribly surprising. The Cardinals have had a good track record of returning pitchers from this injury but they've seldom done so in a linear manner. The Cards are beyond desperate for pitching, so this is just another kick in the balls.

  • Quick Cuts: Nick Johnson is heading out on a rehab assignment soon with a Bronx appearance shortly thereafter. Don't think he's not coming up in trade talks...Denny Neagle left his Sunday start after four innings when his troubled elbow became too painful to go on. More info once I get it...Nice of the Twins to finally do an X-ray on Lew Ford. He's on the DL now with a broken right arm...I got a lot of email while I was gone, and besides the obvious ones, many people asked about how Ricardo Rodriguez got traded to Texas while he was on the DL. There's no rule preventing a player from being traded while disabled, no matter what many people will try and tell you. Just check Rule 9...Jeremy Affeldt has yet another blister on his pitching hand. The Royals caught this one early, so he's not expected to miss a start...Lots of questions about Jose Contreras. Best case? August 15th or so, but Mark Littlefield is getting a reputation as a miracle worker...Ricky Gutierrez heads back to the DL with recurring neck problems, a sequel from his cervical fusion...Kurt Ainsworth is making progress. Stan Conte mentioned this weekend that Jarrod Washburn had the same injury, but that he had an off-season to rest and recover...Kirk Rueter should be back very soon for the Giants, but keep an eye on him. I hate injuries without a known cause because you don't know if it's fixed...Juan Gonzalez's injury keeps him off the field and in Texas for at least a couple extra days. It's not terribly serious, but Gonzalez always takes his time coming back...Melvin Mora escaped serious injury after getting hit in the face with a John Lackey pitch. He'll miss some time regardless...Al Leiter came off the DL without his command, but with his velocity. He was more aggressive with his pitches, but aggressive off the plate isn't tremendously effective...Marquis Grissom lost the latest round of Player vs. Wall, but came out with only a bruised kneecap...Ben Grieve is expected to be released from the hospital on Monday after medication has mostly cleared up the blood clot that put him in the sheets...
Well, that's enough for today. I'll be back tomorrow with even more.
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