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August 11, 2003

Under The Knife

Beast of Burden

by Will Carroll

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Once again, I watched the ESPN Sunday Night game in HD. Unfortunately, the great picture doesn't make Joe Morgan any sharper. I had no rooting interest in the game, but hoped that I'd see something interesting. If a game-winning bomb by Albert Pujols off John Smoltz doesn't count, maybe the unassisted triple play by Rafael Furcal does. I'd never seen one of those and if I'd blinked, I'd have missed it. The downside of HD is that TiVo doesn't work, so there's no pause, no rewind, no saving what I saw for posterity. I'll file that game in my mind, with the others, and I'll remind myself next time I say "Why am I watching this game? Sex and the City is on..." that in baseball, anything can happen, anytime.

Onto the injuries...

  • The Giants training room got a bit more full as Jason Schmidt, Felix Rodriguez, and Marvin Benard became the latest casualties in the year that reminds us all why five-year averages are used to determine great medical staffs. Schmidt was pulled from his start when Stan Conte determined that the soreness from lingering tendinitis wasn't worth the risk of letting him go to the mound. With a cushion in the standings, this is the type of precaution that good teams take: making slight alterations to keep the team ready for the post-season, while figuring out what a team does well and where the weaknesses can be patched.

    Meanwhile, while Kevin Correia notched his first major league win Sunday, Benard and Rodriguez headed to the DL. Benard was healed from a knee injury, but not enough to contribute, while the team's frustration with Rodriguez's silence in the face of an oblique strain sent him to the List. It doesn't stop there either--Jason Christiansen had pain in his surgically repaired elbow, but it was simply adhesions coming loose. In other words, the Giants training room is full and I think Stan and Barney will need plenty of coffee.

  • The Twins e-mails are getting more and more pained, asking about Jacque Jones. While Jones has a groin strain, he is available for DH duty and people don't seem to understand that under the proper conditions and limitations, this isn't necessarily a bad thing. The adductor muscle, better known as the groin, is there to bring the legs together (actually only one leg at a time, but stick with me here) and comes into play only in certain situations, such as lateral movement. On the basepaths, Jones could be told not to kick it into high gear and to be careful rounding the bases, much like Edgar Martinez did. Just as the Giants can afford to be conservative with injuries, the Twins and other teams in dogfights cannot, so the risk becomes a bit more worthwhile when one or two games could make all the difference in a season.

    While I have plenty of issues with the way the Twins staff handles injuries, they're not incompetent. There's plenty of wiggle room in sports medicine, and millions of factors come into play, many only known to the people in the room. I may have lots of sources, but I'm not there. One thing I do know is that Mike Fetters is done for the season and possibly a career after Tommy John surgery. Fetters has always been entertaining and we wish him well in his recovery.

  • Andruw Jones is playing through both an oblique and a lower back strain. While it is clearly affecting him both in the field and at the plate, it's not affecting him so much that Bobby Cox wants him out of the lineup. In this case, 80% of Jones is still worth more than 100% Darren Bragg. Expect Jones to get spotted out when possible and for more rest in September when the Braves can get some extra roster filler. Sad thing is, the Braves really don't have much depth in the outfield.

  • Baseball players seldom have a hard time getting tickets to shows, good tables at restaurants, or appointments with doctors. Cliff Floyd is having trouble with the latter, at least, and I don't know his dining habits. Floyd is supposedly having trouble getting in to see a specialist to get a timetable for his inevitable Achilles surgery, but he's also dealing with traveling to see his ailing father. I know where my priorities would lie with that choice, so Floyd's timetable and his availability are both an open question for the Mets.

    Down on the farm, Mike Piazza caught seven innings and played first base for two. He even made a great stretch on a double play, despite saying that his groin is still sore and his swing is rusty. Expect Piazza back soon and some usage at first in this type of pattern.

  • Darin Erstad is back on the DL and probably done for the season, a big factor in the disappointing (but predictable) season for the Angels. Erstad's problematic hamstring tendon may be removed in the off-season, but the radical sounding surgery actually is becoming more routine in sports. Erstad's contract and effectiveness will be two factors weighing heavily on the Angels in 2004.

  • For the Cardinals to contend, they'll need a healthy Matt Morris and they'll need to keep the rest of their team from treading the well-worn path to the training room in Busch Stadium. Morris is busting his butt trying to get back and he could return as soon as this weekend. However, there's a downside to this. Before his broken hand, Morris was dealing with a bum shoulder and the quicker he gets back, the lest rest that shoulder gets. Since the Cards refuse to do any tests on that shoulder--even they don't know what's going on inside it--every pitch is a risk.

  • The next-to-worst thing that can happen on a rehab assignment is getting hurt in a new way. This has happened to Michael Barrett, breaking his glovehand index finger on a tag play. He will return to Montreal for tests but it's unclear how this changes his return date or even rehab time. The finger will heal, as will his hip flexor strain, but in the meantime, the Expos will make do with Edwards Guzman as Brian Schneider's backup.

  • With Mike Sweeney back, but limited, losing both Carlos Beltran and Ken Harvey forced Tony Pena to juggle his lineup, moving Raul Ibanez to first and digging up Dee Brown from the graveyard of failed prospects to get a rare start in the outfield. Beltran's hyperextended elbow is very problematic and was aggravated by batting practice. Harvey hurt his chest during Saturday's game. Both don't appear headed to the DL, but there's little margin for error with the Royals in the thick of the divisional race, and as I've often said, injuries can be that margin.

  • The Orioles have plenty of problems, so losing Jeff Conine doesn't help things. Conine has a strained biceps, which is often reported as shoulder soreness due to the proximity. While the injury isn't serious, the soreness will wax and wane, causing him to need the occasional day off. It won't affect the Orioles' pennant chances.

  • Quick Cuts: The Expos will be without Claudio Vargas, a stabilizing force in their struggling rotation, for a while. He's on the DL with shoulder tendinitis...Fred McGriff gets to go to Vegas--which is perhaps even a bit cooler than Tampa for rehab--for a couple games, and should return just in time for the Cubs series in Chicago over the weekend...Sean Casey missed Sunday's game with a sore groin, but shouldn't miss more than another game or so, if that...Kris Benson was shut down for the season after the throwing program he was given would have only put him back with about a week to go. I don't expect him back next year in Pittsburgh...What the heck? We have Plays of the Week AND this "Ultimate Highlight" thing? I'm starting to sound like the old guy telling kids to stay off my lawn...Expect Kazuhiro Sasaki back towards the middle of the week.

As I said before, I'll only accept RSVPs for the Cleveland Feed after the Newsletter is sent out, so don't try being sneaky. The Feed will be held on August 30th at 3 p.m. at a little place you might have heard of--Jacobs Field. Yes, we'll be inside the park for the Feed as Nate Silver, David Cameron, and yours truly are joined by several special guests from the Cleveland area for some fun chatter, some pizza, and a ballgame with the Blue Jays. For the price of 18 bucks, you'll get all this and a ticket to the game. I've never been to the Jake, so I'm really looking forward to this Feed. It promises to be a classic! (And the 31 people who e-mailed me on Saturday...no, you're not in. Follow the rules!)

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