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August 14, 2003

Under The Knife

Well, We All Shine On

by Will Carroll

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Lots of injury news to report today...

  • I guess that groin is healthy. Mike Piazza's return from an extended stay on the DL was just about as successful as possible. Two singles, a home run, and five RBI before being lifted for a pinch-runner in the seventh inning equals a very impressive first day back on the job. This is a pattern we're likely to see for Piazza: catch seven innings, and if there's a significant lead or deficit, he'll be pulled. Many will anticipate that in some instances, he'll be moved to first for the last couple innings. I'm not sure how much we'll see that this season. The Mets will only have Cliff Floyd for a few more weeks. While I don't have the specific date yet, Floyd's surgery is expected to come before September 1 and perhaps as early as late next week.

  • He's always been something of a protégé to Mark McGwire, but something Jason Giambi doesn't want to emulate is Big Mac's penchant for the DL. Giambi has always been a durable player, appearing in 140 or more games in every year he's played since 1995. Giambi is now dealing with mild patellar tendinitis, a condition that deteriorated rapidly for McGwire and ended his career. There's some short-term concern here--Joe Torre can spot in Nick Johnson or Todd Zeile if necessary, but either one would be a downgrade, especially Zeile--but for the Yankees, this condition is one that could come back and haunt its decision to give Giambi such a long-term deal. Let me be clear: Giambi's tendinitis is not much more than an annoyance at this stage, and with proper care, he can possibly avoid McGwire's fate. But it's a fact worth knowing.

  • Milton Bradley isn't heading for the DL yet, but he is heading back to Cleveland. The Indians have sent him home from Minnesota for an MRI on his troublesome back. Bradley has missed the last five games with back spasms and even minor findings will likely send him to the DL. While any team would miss their best offensive player, the Indians aren't playing for 2003 any more, so the impact of the loss is minimized.

  • Lots of reader questions regarding Manny Ramirez and his recent struggles. He's had a poor August by his standards and his power certainly appears off. Power starts in the legs, so it's probable that Manny's sore quadriceps are sapping some of his powerful leg drive.

  • The best stuff often comes from my readers. Today was no different. Tim Stuart wrote in with this:

    "I was looking through Kerry Wood's game log this morning and picked up on something interesting. If you look at Wood's poor starts I think you'll notice a pattern:

    • 7/24: 5IP, 8R -- In his start prior to this disaster, Wood pitched a complete game shutout of Florida where he went 130 pitches and had to have an IV after the game.

    • 7/4: 3IP, 7R -- In his start prior to this disaster, Wood pitched eight strong innings against the White Sox, going 126 pitches to out-duel Esteban Loaiza.

    • 5/21: 5IP, 5R -- In his start prior to this one, Wood pitched in the 16-inning Milwaukee game and pitched 119 pitches in only seven intense innings of shutout work, where the Cubs were being blanked by Ben Sheets.

    Wood has had two other outings this year where he gave up five runs. One I've got no explanation for. The other poor outing came after his match-up with Roger Clemens when he went 120 pitches (his outing against Toronto where he gave up five runs in six innings).

    Those are Wood's worst outings of the year. They all followed on the heels of an outing where he was extended a bit too far the game before. I'd love to clue Dusty in to this pattern of Kerry having rough starts after he's pushed too hard in the game beforehand. Maybe if you put it your article it will get to him somehow!"

    I've done my part--now it's up to Dusty.

  • Meanwhile, Baker let it slip that Juan Cruz is dealing with tendinitis in his pitching shoulder. Cruz has been inactive lately, not pitching since August 1st. With the Cubs' often punchless attack, it's unclear why they wouldn't use the slot for another hitter, moving Cruz to the DL or even to Des Moines.

  • Regular readers (and I know there are some new ones this week) know that one tell-tale sign of problems for a pitcher is a loss of velocity. While I reference this most often in regard to starters, the system works equally well for relievers. Arthur Rhodes is now the only lefty in the Mariners bullpen, and his velocity is now just in the upper 80s. Pitching coach Bryan Price believes Rhodes' mechanics have been off since an ankle sprain in late July.

  • Jason Schmidt and Kirk Rueter are getting closer to returns as the Giants, even at this early date, begin to prepare for a playoff run. Schmidt will return to the rotation this weekend, likely on Saturday, while Rueter will head to the minors for at least one rehab start. With the perplexing nature of Woody's shoulder pain, the Giants staff is keeping all their options open for bringing him back, and--as I've heard someone else say--no decision has been made. In this case, I believe Stan Conte when he says it.

  • The Padres report that Phil Nevin is having what they describe as "mild" soreness in his surgically repaired left shoulder. While he remains in the lineup, some of his recent struggles at the plate could be attributed to this soreness. In other Pads news, Trevor Hoffman will head to Double-A Mobile soon and, if there are no setbacks, will return to the Padres when rosters expand on September 2nd. (Yes, the 2nd. It caught me off guard when I first saw it as well. Why the 2nd? September 1st is Labor Day this year.)

  • Quick Cuts: Melvin Mora was unable to swing a bat after soreness returned. He's making slow progress...Chan Ho Park and Jeff Zimmerman are headed towards rehab assignments in the next few weeks, but neither expects to contribute much to the Ranger cause in September...Eric Munson is fighting through a cornucopia of ailments, including an injured thumb, ankle, toe, and even a nasty stomach flu...David Wells will miss one start, but the Yankees anticipate that to be the only start he misses. I'm not so confident...Add one, lose one. The Braves add Kent Mercker, but lose Roberto Hernandez to the DL with a strained hamstring. Given Hernandez's recent struggles, that's a positive swap.

I'll be in Chicago for the weekend in what is a pre-planned, but now most needed, vacation. I'll be on WSCR 670 on Friday morning and in Wrigley Field for Floppy Hat Day and a Mark Prior-Kevin Brown showdown. I'll see you back here on Monday.

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