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August 7, 2003

Under The Knife

Coming Down the Stretch

by Will Carroll

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Thanks for letting me take a day off; I needed it. I recharged my batteries by heading out to the ballpark with my dad, who's in town for the week. It was a pretty bad game (17-1 loss for the home team), but a good time. As we head down the stretch with about 50 games left for teams, I'll begin focusing more on the injuries that are affecting the divisional races. I won't ignore the rest of baseball, but my focus will change slightly. Especially when rosters expand, it's harder to track down information--the DL is used less frequently and teams begin to more actively hide injuries. It takes more time digging, calling, and analyzing, so the volume has to come down to make sure that I get you the information you need.

  • Sadly, the image I got when I first saw Michael Tucker fouling the ball off his leg was correct. Tucker's leg is fractured, confirmed by x-rays that were finally able to be taken after some of the swelling came down. Tucker is listed as out for six-to-eight weeks, but unless the Royals go deep into the playoffs, Tucker is probably done. Replacing him on the roster is a familiar face. With a clean MRI in his file, Kevin Appier proved you can go home again, but you might not have the same stuff when you get back. Appier has been mediocre at best, but will slot into the Royals rotation on Friday. One indication of how serious the injury to Mike Sweeney might be is their interest in Rafael Palmeiro. The Royals have long had interest in Juan Gonzalez, but one of my best Rangers sources reports that the interest may have shifted to Palmeiro. Palmeiro has cleared waivers, but continues to wield a no-trade clause.

  • While Tim Kurkjian thinks it's a good idea that Pedro Martinez pitched a complete game on 128 pitches, I'm sure many Red Sox fans aren't so sure. Up over 110 pitches at the end of the eighth, Pedro was sent back out to finish what he started. Perhaps coincidentally, a Velocity Project volunteer said that the telecast stopped showing his gun readings in the ninth. I think the Red Sox may have made their mind up about that contract extension.

  • A trade made Tuesday points to closer problems for two contenders. Mariano Rivera is getting run down, and is at an increased risk of injury. The trade for Jeff Nelson should help Rivera, giving Joe Torre another guy he's comfortable using and getting Rivera's usage patterns back to a more normal frequency. Kazuhiro Sasaki was expected to be back sometime this week, but his velocity was down and the results were poor in his last rehab start, this time at Single-A Everett. He was tagged for two home runs and didn't crack 90 on a scout's gun. The trade for Armando Benitez isn't completely unrelated to Sasaki's injury problems and poor rehab outings; the M's already said they would keep Sasaki out of the closer role, but Benitez might hold the job while Sasaki makes a couple more rehab outings.

  • It's a classic quote and one that will surely end up in TWiQ next Monday, but without giving it away, let's just say that Stan Conte won't be fooled by the on-again, off-again nature of the pain in Kirk Rueter's shoulder. Conte believes the pain is a result of irritation in the back of Rueter's pitching shoulder and that the positive MRI is a good sign, but that Rueter would be best served heading to Fresno for a couple rehab starts. With Dustin Hermanson available for a couple spot starts, there's no reason not to concentrate more on October than mid-August for the Giants. Conte and assistant Barney Nugent will also continue working on Ray Durham's leg. Though widely reported (even by me) as a right hamstring strain, Durham also has a complicating secondary condition of bursitis in the hip of the same leg. While Durham was able to get back to the starting lineup on Wednesday, he only lasted two innings before being replaced.

  • The Astros got a couple rays of sunshine through that retractable roof stadium of theirs. Richard Hidalgo woke up and his troublesome hip felt better. You probably know by now how I feel about things that just "clear up" with no rhyme or reason, but a healthy Hidalgo would be a major lift for a fading Astros team. GM Gerry Hunsicker is also carrying out a public campaign to keep Roy Oswalt thinking while he seeks out a second opinion. While regularly saying "it's ultimately Roy's decision," Hunsicker is also letting everyone know that Roy could just as easily decide to delay surgery and try to help his team. It's becoming a no-win situation for Oswalt and one that's just not fair to him.

  • The Cardinals are hoping to get Matt Morris back quickly from his broken hand, but he's still probably two weeks away at best. He's already throwing, but remains unable to grip the ball properly. Once the grip is better, he'll likely be back on the mound in just a week, needing no rehab time. The questions will be how much touch will he use and will the enforced rest help his shoulder? Rushing him back--and a lot of the rush is Morris, not the Cards--can't help his problematic shoulder. Help isn't coming in the form of Chris Carpenter, either. Carpenter underwent a scope to remove scar tissue from his surgically repaired shoulder and will be out until 2004.

  • Quick Cuts: Eric Milton is beginning to throw again, nearly five months after knee surgery. There's an outside shot he will be available in September, giving Ron Gardenhire another chance to screw Johan Santana out of some starts...More proof that closers are overrated...Mark Grace heads to the DL with a hyperextended elbow, conveniently timed to come just after what is likely his last game at Wrigley...Eli Marrero is getting close to a rehab assignment and could be back before the calendar flips to September...Is that Vanilla Ice on the K-Swiss commercials during Baseball Tonight?...Tom Glavine avoids the DL, something he seems almost Ripkenesque about, and will make his start on Friday. Don't expect much...The White Sox are playing the shoulder injury to Miguel Olivo very close to the vest, but I'm digging for the info...Matt Lawton is out on a rehab assignment in Double-A Akron, but should be back in Cleveland by early next week.

Speaking of Cleveland, I'll have the details of the Cleveland Feed on Monday in the Premium Newsletter. Please, don't RSVP before you see the details.

Related Content:  Back,  Kazuhiro Sasaki

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