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July 31, 2003

Under The Knife

Deadline Day

by Will Carroll

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I think I'm out of cell minutes. Most of my day today was spent on the phone, talking to people who were in the process of making deals. Just as in last year's Winter Meetings, some teams came in with a plan, adding another piece to what they've been trying to do this season. Others are running around like baseball teams with their heads cut off. The UTK angle on all this is that some of the teams have their medical staffs involved, asking smart questions like, "Is this guy healthy?" which just seem basic, but really are a big step in the right direction. The difference between the smart teams and the others is just getting wider.

  • Glendon Rusch found out that there's an expiration date on the Baseball Prospectus Radio Karma. While he probably wouldn't get enough starts to challenge Brian Kingman or the Tigers staff, Rusch is in the throes of a historically bad season. Adding in a groin injury is icing on the cake and forces the Brewers to call up David Manning, a guy who's deserved a shot. It's a bit surprising that they didn't call up recent acquisition Doug Davis, who joined me yesterday during the Baseball Hour.

  • Jim Edmonds had a cortisone shot in his troublesome shoulder Monday, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. This puts him on track--assuming the shot helps reduce the inflammation--for a return no earlier than Thursday. The Cards are desperate to get him back in the lineup as they continue to shop J.D. Drew. Drew was held out of Wednesday's game at Montreal. Initial reports were that a deal was imminent, but the move was precautionary--no reason to risk a possible deal by letting Montreal's rock-hard turf claim another victim. And yes, the Cardinals will be on the phone with Kevin Appier on Thursday, whether or not they land another pitcher.

  • Austin Kearns is working on building arm strength in that injured right (throwing) shoulder, but he's a week away from a trip to Louisville. With the deals flying fast and furious out of Cincinnati, there's no rush to get Kearns back, other than to try and convince the fans of Cincinnati that this isn't a "fire sale." Getting Kearns and the rest of the Reds team healthy for 2004 and beyond should be the top priority.

    The pain deep in the shoulder of Mark Prior is slowly going away, and each successive outing appears to be better. The big righty is scheduled to throw a simulated game before tomorrow's important Cubs-Giants game. If he fares well, he'll be scheduled for his next start. Prior suggested to the media that he'd be ready for Sunday, but the Cubs seem more inclined to be cautious here.

  • Melvin Mora's hand/wrist problem has flared up again. He's out at least five days. In fact, according to the Baltimore Sun, he's been ordered not to even touch a bat for that time. If the pain subsides, he could work back in quickly, but if not, the time away from the bats will be extended and Mora will likely head to the DL.

  • The Yankees believe that David Wells will be able to make his scheduled start on Thursday, but they'll have someone in the pen ready to go in case his command is thrown off by the pain and inflexibility as it was in Boston last time out. The Yankees will be watching closely, but appear out of the running for starting pitching, though they'll likely make some moves today, with Aaron Boone and Gabe White for Brandon Claussen and good ol' greenbacks the loudest rumor.

  • Two young Latin prospects for the Astros are moving in opposite directions. Rodrigo Rosario will be examined by John Conway, the Rangers team physician, and will likely have Dr. Conway cut his shoulder later this week. Expect the doctor to find nothing good, but to say that Rosario will be ready for Spring Training. Uh-huh, sure. On the other hand, Carlos Hernandez was back on a mound this week for the first time since his February shoulder surgery. He will not be available this season, but should be as near full-go as he ever will be come Spring Training 2004.

  • The Dodgers were in on Aaron Boone because, well, he's available and they need offense, but they haven't been able to meet the demands of the Reds. The Dodgers won't get any help from Fred McGriff after a knee injury during his groin rehab pushed back a return. Some team officials don't believe McGriff will return this season, and they also don't expect him to be back in Chavez Ravine next year.

  • While the Reds were working hard to trade away players, team doctor Tim Kremchek traded teams for a moment, repairing the ligament in Denny Neagle's elbow. Neagle is now out for 2004 following Tommy John surgery and making the contract he signed just a couple years ago rank with some of the worst of all time. The extensive surgery came as something of a surprise after the Rockies had insisted for months that Neagle was dealing with bone chips. Even an MRI on Monday failed to show the tear, but as I've often said, MRIs can be tricky. The upside for the Rockies is that the surgery has triggered some insurance on Neagle's contract, giving back upwards of half the remaining value.

  • Some careful readers with good memories recognized that Carlos Guillen's injury sounded very similar to that suffered by Mike Lieberthal during spring training. Lieberthal came back well from his bout with osteitis pubis, an injury seen more in soccer and Australian Rules Football than baseball. Guillen will be replaced for now by new acquisition Rey Sanchez, but the Mariners medical staff thinks Guillen will be back by mid-August.

  • A lot of readers have e-mailed asking about Mike Piazza and his impending return. One of my rules is that if I have nothing to add to the discussion, I tend not to write about it. With Piazza, I have no information that is any different from what is being reported widely. The Mets expect their catcher back in mid-August, but I don't expect him to play anywhere other than catcher upon his return. If the Mets force his hand, don't expect Mike to be a Met next season.

I need sleep, but I think I can make it to the deadline. Injuries never sleep and the Knife never rests.

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