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July 22, 2003

Under The Knife

Further Consideration

by Will Carroll

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And we're back. I didn't get a chance yesterday to thank everyone--even if some were a bit angry--for writing during my California trip, asking about certain injuries and events. The fact that you've come to rely on my information when following your home team, putting together a fantasy team, or even running a team from the front office means a lot to me.

  • Matt Morris has to wonder who has the voodoo doll that looks just like him. In Monday's game, Morris was struck in the hand by a Mark Kotsay line drive. It was an incident very reminiscent of the play that landed Curt Schilling on the DL for several weeks. Morris attempted to stay in the game, but a warm-up toss he threw flew up into the screen behind home plate and it was clear that Morris both had little control of the ball and was in significant pain.

    I'll give him some credit for trying, but at some point, baseball simply has to get beyond the machismo that leads to further injuries. Morris was taken for X-rays that came back negative, so his response to the injury will be important to how much time, if any, he will miss. He was replaced by Jason Simontacchi, who is also the likely candidate to take his starts if Morris is forced to miss time.

  • The Pirates have announced that Kris Benson will miss another start as he works with pitching coach Spin Williams to work out the mechanics that have failed to return as his elbow healed. Benson, however, gave a much different reason, stating that his shoulder was still sore and that he's long felt he needs rest. While Benson did miss a start earlier, he was throwing every day in hopes of correcting the flaws. Benson has been ineffective and wild since returning over a year ago and hasn't made the expected progress of a Tommy John survivor. There are some whispers from the Pirates that Benson is sabotaging attempts to trade him, but this seems awfully counterproductive.

  • As expected, Mark Prior was placed on the DL, allowing the Cubs to call up Sergio Mitre to take the unscheduled start. To make room on the 40-man roster, Corey Patterson was moved to the 60 Day DL, but since it's well known that Patterson is out for the season after knee surgery, the move is merely procedural. Prior had an MRI on Monday and the Cubs decided not to wait for the results before making the move. Dan Kannell, the Marlins team physician, had examined Prior but since Kannell was A.J. Burnett's doctor, the Cubs made the smart move in making sure they were comfortable. The MRI was done as a precaution, but it's interesting how some things dovetail with another. In speaking with Stan Conte regarding Kurt Ainsworth's injury, three separate MRIs read by a variety of doctors failed to find the small scapular fracture. It was a CT scan that finally gave the correct diagnosis. Never think that just because one team knows or did something that another team will follow their lead. I'm not saying that one approach or team is right, just that it's very interesting.

  • There are a few things that came out after Randy Johnson's first start back. First, Johnson had only minimal swelling in his knee after the start. That's a very good sign. Second, he had exceptional command, getting more than 70% of his pitches through the strike zone. Next, a good Tivo-enabled look at his delivery showed that his soft landing took some of his velocity. According to Tom House's book, The Pitching Edge, a stable front base is a must for transferring energy and thereby velocity.

  • As Junior Spivey and Danny Bautista return from the DL after significant time out, some of the younger players that have kept the Diamondbacks in the divisional race will get squeezed out of the roster, and sent back to Tucson. There's no team in recent memory that went so far from the intended roster construction only to return to it later in the season, so I don't have a good point of comparison.

  • Larry Walker and the Rockies are debating a trip to the DL after tests on his hip were inconclusive. A hernia still hasn't been ruled out, and he was certainly moving gingerly last week in Pac Bell (Granted, so was Barry Bonds). There's confusing noise coming from Colorado on this one, so it seems like the trip to the DL would solve Clint Hurdle's roster challenges and give Walker a chance to heal himself up from whatever it is that's ailing him.

  • Coming back even this far was quite the accomplishment for Ricky Gutierrez, but his cervical problems are now threatening his career. Gutierrez has persistent myelopathy, meaning that his spine is being compressed. While Gutierrez could go on and live a full life outside of athletics, his chance of returning from this in an effective manner is so low as to be something out of Seabiscuit.

  • Jose Lima will miss one start with a mildly strained groin. There's probably some groan-worthy joke in there about Groin Time, but I'll leave that to your imagination. This injury appears to be just as advertised--a mild strain that will allow Tony Pena to do some juggling of his rotation to keep Jeremy Affeldt off an extra day (blister) and use the spot start by Kris Wilson to get his starters a bit of extra rest. Mark this up as another data point in the case for Pena as Manager of the Year.

  • Troy Glaus left Monday's game after falling awkwardly while trying to field a bunt. Pitcher Aaron Sele tipped the ball, and in trying to change directions, Glaus fell. I realize that Glaus isn't as bad as he looks--see my note below on Neifi Perez--but I still have no idea how he could have played a credible shortstop at any point after Pony League. Glaus had precautionary X-rays that came back negative. Depending on soreness and range of motion, he could miss some time.

  • Denny Neagle heads to the DL with elbow problems, and to replace him, the Rockies are reportedly turning to Chin-Hui Tsao. Tsao has overcome elbow problems of his own, missing most of 2001 after Tommy John surgery, and is just over a year back from his first start in the minors post-surgery. I'll leave it to David Cameron to tell you more about him, but he's just another in the long line of players that might not have had a career if not for one innovative surgeon and one courageous pitcher.

  • Standing on the field at Pac Bell last Friday during BP (Batting Practice, that is), I watched one of the more amazing displays I've ever seen on a baseball field. Neifi Perez was taking grounders while others hit, and some of the things he did with a glove defy explanation. He made glove flips to second from deep in the hole, made moves that wouldn't be out of place with the Harlem Globetrotters, and showcased an ability that literally left me dumbfounded time and again. I turned to my friend and said "We have to remember that Neifi Perez still sucks." It's just this kind of thing that trips up coaches and scouts: they see the tools, the tricks, the body, the speed--but they somehow ignore the results. Perez remains one of the more talented baseball players on the planet and an amazing glove man, but it doesn't make him a good major leaguer. I mention this because Bill Hall was called up to the majors today. Hall's a great kid--polite, well-spoken, and eager--but he's not ready to be a good major leaguer, even on a bad team. The Brewers' inability to look past his potential to his performance doesn't give me a lot of hope for the immediate future of that franchise.

  • I spoke with Brandon Claussen this evening for Baseball Prospectus Radio, and it was very interesting to hear what he feels is different about his rehabilitation process. Claussen was very open about what he went through, and I can see just how level-headed this...um, I know better than to call him a pitching prospect...man is, and how that helps him on the mound. I'll get a chance to see him pitch tomorrow, but I don't think he'll be in Triple-A for long.

  • I'm not a lawyer or an expert witness, but the Jose Canseco case turned into a joke today when Canseco's lawyers just railed the state's "expert" witness. The so-called expert was unaware of a depot form of Winstrol, a very popular form of steroid among abusers. As scary as this might be, here's a Google search of the terms. You tell me how an expert could miss this. (For reference, "depot" refers to a intramuscular or subcutaneous injectible form of a drug that tends to be dispersed over a longer period of time.)

Believe it or not, I've spent the last couple days e-mailing back and forth with a Tigers front office type. He's definitely one of the smarter guys I've met in baseball, and he made some interesting points regarding my grade of the Tigers. While I credited Bob Cluck for keeping the starters healthy, I didn't isolate the poor results enough from their health. The medical staff, led by Kevin Rand, deserves more credit than I initially gave them, especially considering the material they were given to work with. Upon further consideration, the Tigers are awarded a B, with the Serbian judge abstaining.

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