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July 28, 2003

Under The Knife

Achieving Immortality

by Will Carroll

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Congratulations to Eddie Murray, Gary Carter, Bob Uecker and Hal McCoy for their inclusion among baseball's immortals. Uecker's speech was one I hoped to hear, but Comcast doesn't see fit to provide me with ESPN Classic among the 16 versions of Lifetime spread across the 340 channels of digital cable.

And speaking of things that I'd like to see: if they can't have the exhibition game there during induction weekend, why not put together a team of reserves and prospects and play an exhibition under, say, 1896 rules. Pick a different year every year, do up the (marketable) uniforms and funny hats, and for at least a couple years, people would watch. It couldn't be any worse an idea than "This Time It Counts!"

  • The news on Mark Prior is confusing, so I'm going to waffle on this one. Breaking down the facts, Prior had a side session yesterday where he threw on flat ground from 90 feet. During that session, he had some "soreness" or "pain"--important distinctions--when he "didn't throw with correct mechanics." It becomes a chicken/egg problem; did pain throw off Prior's mechanics or did bad mechanics cause pain? The current plan is for Prior to throw harder from shorter distances on Monday and reformulate a rehab plan at that point. It's unlikely he'll return this week, probably giving Juan Cruz at least one more start--not bad timing heading into the trade deadline. Jim Hendry has been working the phones just in case he needs one more pitcher and he won't hesitate to grab one at the right price.

  • I'm not going to come down on one side or the other with regard to moving Jeremy Affeldt to the pen. For now. In the short term, his blisters are clearly going to be a problem, so getting some high-leverage use out of him is better than none. I don't think it's the most efficient use of a scarce resource--paired starter, anyone?--but it's not the worst use either. Where I think the Royals could really screw up is if they paint Affeldt into a figurative corner where he can't work on his skin during the off-season, try to develop, and eventually, if healthy, return to the rotation. At worst, he's much less likely to develop arm problems if blisters keep him from being overworked--not that he was. In fact, KC is among the lowest ranked teams in team PAP this year.

  • Some media outlets have suggested that the Twins have been reluctant to trade for a pitcher since they were told from the outset that Eric Milton would return for the stretch drive. I don't know who they were listening to, but it certainly wasn't UTK. Milton's season was in question from the time he had surgery, with the most optimistic timetable putting the lefty back on the mound in September. The Twins are also dealing with the balky groin of Jacque Jones. Jones has been struggling with a sore left groin since late June and was on the DL until 7/17. He's had a run of leg problems--ankle, hamstring, and groin--in the past couple years and the turf he plays half his games on cannot be helping the problems.

  • With Sidney Ponson being threatened with the old "sign at a below-market rate or we'll say you're a greedy bastard and trade you" tack, many have asked about my concern for his arm's health. I was as concerned as anyone about the condition of his arm before the season--but the fact is, labrums are a crapshoot and what we don't know about fixing them is greater than what we do know. Ponson has clearly come out the winner on this gamble, but he's at only slightly less risk than he was before the season. In many ways, pitching injured is like flipping a coin over and over; each flip has nothing to do with the preceding flip. Would I want him on my team? Yes. Would I want him signed to a long-term deal? Hmm, depends on the price.

  • Kazuhiro Sasaki is close--really close. He'll head to Tacoma for a rehab start on Monday night. Yes, a start. For those of you unfamiliar with the process, relievers are often used as starters during rehab starts so that they can be guaranteed one or two innings of work, then the "starter" will follow them into the game. Usually, it works out well for everyone once you get past the oddity of seeing Sasaki listed as a starter. The M's closer will probably make a couple of these starts, with one being back-to-back, then return to Seattle for the first full week of August.

  • Don't panic, Jonah. Vladimir Guerrero merely had a normal off-day. His back has been near perfect since his return from the DL. The Expos are more concerned about the knee of Jose Vidro, however. While showing they have plenty of offense even with him on the bench Sunday, Vidro's knee kept him out of the lineup in all but one day the last week. I'll use this sentence as a public service announcement to the AP--a strain is a muscle, a sprain is a ligament. That one letter makes a world of difference. Vidro's sprained knee is headed for the MRI chamber early this week.

  • If Jim Edmonds really was injured in the Home Run Derby, it will end up hurting the Cardinals chances to compete in the eminently winnable NL Central. Edmonds has played in only four games since the All-Star break and was finally publicly diagnosed with bicipital tendinitis in his right (non-throwing) shoulder. There's definitely impingement in the space, but the Cards hope that anti-inflammatory medication will help and they'll avoid a DL stint. One reason they're willing to wait and see? No better options.

  • I'm often asked if losing a player that stinks to injury can ever be a good thing for a team. Yes, there are cases where this is true--but it depends not only on the injury, but on the replacement. If the replacement can approximate the value a team was receiving or expected from a certain position, there is little or no damage to the team. The Cardinals saw this with Bo Hart being a more than adequate replacement for Fernando Vina, and now they'll see if they can find a replacement for Lance Painter. He was in obvious, excruciating pain when he was carried from the field on Sunday. He tore his calf muscle while running to cover first, and will head to the DL, possibly ending his 2003.

  • David Wells is having more problems with his back, and this probably had more to do with his poor performance on Friday than on the QuesTec system that everyone (especially Pedro Martinez) wanted to blame it on. Wells doesn't believe he will miss his next start, but Yankees sources say that start is dependent on treatments between now and the day prior. Reports that he's "fine" should be taken with the amount of salt Boomer uses on a margarita.

  • Troy Glaus may be eligible to come off the DL next week, but until he regains range of motion in his shoulder, the Angels will look at the standings and be very conservative with him. While the official diagnosis is a deep muscle bruise, there are whispers from near the "Big A" that the fall may have given the Angels medical staff a look at some deeper problems. The Angels will retool slightly this offseason, and moving Glaus to first remains an option.

  • Quick Cuts: Mike Koplove has started a rehab assignment at Triple-A and is scheduled back early next week for the D'backs...Rafael Soriano has his velocity back (consistently at 95), but a scout told me that his motion is still far from ideal...David Segui is hurt. No, I'm not kidding. It's a recurrence of his wrist problem from earlier in the season. Got to give the guy points for persistence...Michael Cuddyer is making great progress in Ft. Myers under the watchful eye of Lanning Tucker. Cuddyer could be back playing games soon, and remains one possibility of improving the fading Twins, especially if he shows he can handle second...Nick Neugebauer is beginning to throw in hopes he'll be back for spring training next year. Neugie is too close to becoming one of those tales of wasted potential, through no fault of his own. Why the Brewers haven't parked him with Tom House or Dr. Mike Marshall is beyond me...Tim Spooneybarger will be re-examined by Jim Andrews on Monday, and the Fish hope he'll be ready to begin throwing next week...Jon Lieber is again ready to throw after an abdominal strain healed. He's still an longshot for seeing the Bronx in September...Jim Mecir is headed to the DL with knee problems. Some of the A's misfit toys appear to have very short shelf lives...Ismael Valdes heads to the DL with patellar tendinitis in his left knee. Once again, possible trade bait for the Rangers comes up lame...Fred McGriff had a setback during his rehab and probably won't be ready until late August. McGriff's groin makes it even harder for the offensely-impaired Dodgers to make a run...Jim Daniel of the Padres was quoted as saying that Phil Nevin's shoulder requires no additional treatment before or after games. Very careful wording there, Jim. Nice job.

Don't miss your chances to talk back...Baseball 101 this week, the Will Carroll Baseball Hour from 3 p.m to 6 p.m., Tuesday at www.espn950.com, and Chris Kahrl talking trades live on Baseball Prospectus Radio Saturday.

Related Content:  Back,  Jim Murray,  Groin

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