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August 19, 2003

Under The Knife

Supersized

by Will Carroll

After a long but not quiet weekend in Chicago that included a trip to see Mark Prior pitch, I'm back with a supersized UTK for your reading pleasure. A misadventure on the Tri-State Tollway aside, this pre-planned vacation was a much-needed recharge for me as we head down the stretch of a long but fun season.

And now, powered by Jamba Juice, onto the injuries...

  • All indications point to Cliff Floyd calling it a season on Monday, but let's give him the credit he's due. As injury prone as Cliff may be, he remains an exceptional talent and a guy I'd want on my team. Floyd was hurting for most, if not all, of the 2003 season, yet he hung on and played with what looks from this vantage point like everything he had, and maybe then some. With Mike Piazza back in the lineup, Floyd is handing off the role of "the man" that he assumed in Piazza's absence. Floyd will have minor surgery over the next few weeks to lessen the friction on his Achilles tendon and he'll be back in 2004. If there's any failing here, it lies with the Mets front office and medical staff. Expecting Floyd or any player with his injury profile to play an entire season and not have an adequate backup to give him the rest he needs is simply inexcusable.

  • Otherwise, the Mets had a nice story on Monday as Steve Trachsel--a guy who was questionable for his start--went out and tossed a one-hitter against the Rockies. Trachsel may be best remembered as the guy who gave up the big Mark McGwire homer, but he's also a guy that flirts with greatness during the times he's not a league-average pitcher. Given his performances yesterday, I'm sure Vern Ruhle hopes his back acts up before every start.

  • The Chicago talk radio circuit was pounding Kerry Wood after a sub-par performance on Saturday. News of Wood's back injury came out and got slammed. Some were branding him a pouter or someone looking for an excuse, but people are looking at the wrong words in that quote. The injury is a minor one, more of an annoyance than anything that truly affects Wood's normal pitching motion. Still, Wood is following the Nolan Ryan career path, minus the no-hitters and longevity...so far.

  • David Wells and the Yankees will make a decision about his scheduled start on Thursday after a bullpen session on Monday. Wells had been Eckersleyesque this season with his control until his back altered his motion and forced him to do what one scout called "arming the ball" more. Wells may be the pitcher most helped by the return of Jose Contreras in a couple weeks (and perhaps Jon Lieber) if he can get some extra rest in the first half of September, then two or three starts to shake things loose for October.

  • Doug Mientkiewicz had something that sounds unusual on the surface--two cortisone shots in one session--but it makes more sense once you know that he has two different problem areas in the same wrist. Mientkiewicz's wrist is so problematic at this stage of the season that even after coming off the DL, a routine play forced him out. The Twins will look to Matt LeCroy in the short term and Justin Morneau in the long term, once he's recalled from Triple-A.

  • The Rockies thought they had an ace--something they've thought they've had several times in the recent past--in Shawn Chacon, but after some great numbers in the first half, his second half has been an amalgam of pain, injury, and poor results. Bonus points to Clint Hurdle for being angered that Chacon hid his injury (elbow). Chacon will definitely miss one start, but if the Rockies can find a reasonable alternative, he'll be shut down for longer. He could have already made his last start of 2003.

  • If he won't go away, he might go under the knife. Tests on Juan Gonzalez's injured right calf showed a dangerous build-up of fluid inside the muscle that will likely need surgical intervention. A decision will be made on surgery by the end of the week. If he gets cut, he's done with 2003 and most likely with the Rangers. I don't mean to make this injury sound like less than it is--because pressure in that area can be very serious--but the Rangers patience with their former MVP is so gone.

  • Just when you think it's safe to go back in the water...er, I mean safe to be a Reds fan, another injury shark jumps out of the water and bites them. This time, the victim is Adam Dunn. A thumb injury that took place when he dove for a ball caps a disappointing season for Dunn (8.2 VORP), who hits for devestating power, but strikes out an awful lot. As Gary Huckabay mentioned yesterday in his chat, Dunn is a player who's tough to forecast because his skill set is so extreme. Gotta love the walks and the ISO, however.

  • As quickly as the sprained ankle was reported, it seems to have vanished. Matt Morris threw Sunday with the bullpen catcher and Dave Duncan is reporting that Morris could be back in the rotation as early as Friday. While this is a clear positive for Morris and the Cards, let's not lose sight of the shoulder problems that may or may not have cleared up during this enforced rest period. A healthy Morris could be enough to keep the Cards in the race, but an injured Morris could cost them their future.

  • The A's had to be worried even after the x-rays on Tim Hudson's hand came back negative. All too many times recently initial x-rays aren't finding the fracture, but it appears that Hudson will come away with nothing more than some pain, some lingering soreness, and a reminder to try and avoid the ball. The A's don't give out any more medical information than they have to, and the organization simply doesn't leak--believe me, I've tried--so my guess that Hudson probably will be pushed back from a scheduled Thursday start.

  • Quotes from the A's medical staff indicate that Jermaine Dye is getting closer and that the team will get "very aggressive" in his rehab. Dye appears to be on schedule for a September 1 return. He'll head to Arizona for some baseball drills, then to a rehab assignment by the end of the week. Dye's shoulder is healed, but there are still some questions about the durability of his knees.

  • I know that Curt Schilling is very competitive with teammate Randy Johnson, but did he have to go out and hurt his knee just because Johnson did the same? Schilling's knee locked up briefly during his latest great outing and the Cubs won't get to dodge him this Friday. Schilling, knee and all, was up in the 95-97 range during that eighth inning. If Curt continues to have minor problems such as this, he'll probably have a "scrape and tape" scope done in the off-season.

  • With the Angels postseason probability nearing zero, losing the best part of their bullpen doesn't have quite the effect it might have had. With Brendan Donnelly missing some time with a hand injury that looks frighteningly like those suffered by Schilling and Morris, and Ben Weber out with a thumb problem, the Angels will need to rely on everyone's favorite Rookie of the Year candidate, Francisco Rodriguez. Oh, you mean he's not on the ballot? Nevertheless, Rodriguez will be asked to set-up for Troy Percival while Donnelly and Weber heal and the Angels start working on 2004--their first full season under new ownership. Hopefully that ownership won't sit back and let Bill Stoneman bring back "more of the same" this off-season.

  • The injuries to Donnelly and Weber are less serious, but a back injury to David Eckstein could sap him of the skills that make him an exciting player to watch and keep him at the major league level. The Angels' diminutive shortstop, who was such a personification of everything that was right with the team in 2002, is equally a personification of everything that's gone wrong in 2003: injuries, an expected falloff in performance, and struggles in almost every phase of the game, on field and off.

  • I've received a ton of emails regarding Dontrelle Willis lately, so let's ty to get to those. Willis is extended a bit further than he's used to, he looks a bit tired out there, but his mechanics still are holding up, as hard as they are to key on. I think Willis will be good for years to come, but there are a lot of pitchers I'd rather have from this point in the season to the playoffs.

  • There was a great story over the weekend regarding the Padres first round pick, Tim Stauffer. He self-reported an injury and received much less in bonus that he could have demanded. In an age of self-aggrandizement and "getting mine," this sounds like the act of someone raised right doing what he felt would help him look himself in the mirror. While I know next to nothing about Stauffer beyond the scouting reports and this story, I'm rooting for him to make up that lost bonus and then some in his next contract after being a great young pitcher for the Pads. Another good young Pads prospect--one of many--is Josh Barfield, who will need off-season wrist surgery. Looking at his numbers gets even more impressive when you realize they were put up with a serious injury.

  • Brian Tallet will head under the knife in late August to clean up his elbow, but it looks like it might be worse than it sounds. It is scheduled to be an open procedure and Tallet could wake up with a new elbow. Quotes from trainer Paul Spicuzza indicate a better-than-average likelihood that Tallet will take a Tommy John redshirt in 2004. He has an odd motion, but I haven't seen him pitch enough to know if that's what did it. (And yes, Cleveland fans, I see C.C. Sabathia is still pitching and healthy. I'm not ready to put him in the Livan Hernandez class of pitchers that can shake off abuse, however.)

  • Quick Cuts: Roy Oswalt is scheduled for a bullpen session on Thursday, but it is very unclear how long it will last...Reports have Barry Bonds returning to the Giants on Tuesday...Melvin Mora had a successful (read: not painful) BP session over the weekend and could head to a rehab assignment, likely in Double-A Bowie...Score one for the Reds. The Reds have enough injuries to deal with, so making sure that Brandon Claussen is ready for 2004 by shutting him down is a smart move...Fred McGriff was out on the field at Wrigley last Friday and looked very close to a return...Larry Walker is headed to off-season surgery on his troublesome shoulder, but is probably going to make it through the end of the season without shutting it down...Brandon Larson jarred his previously injured shoulder on a diving play in the field. Soreness will be the guide for his return, with Russ Branyan or Juan Castro filling in as needed...No word on what was wrong with Ismael Valdes when he left last night's game just after being activated, but it looked like his right leg, not the left that he's been dealing with...Julio Franco is remarkably healthy for a 70-year-old, but he's headed to the DL with a finger injury...Jon Lieber had a good outing and is on schedule to see some time in the Bronx in late September...J.T. Snow's season has been a struggle with his groin. He's back on the DL and will be given as much time as possible to try and get him ready for the playoffs. Todd Linden will see a lot of time in order to keep Andres Galarraga rested...Two words regarding J.D. Drew now: strained oblique. Two words regarding his prognosis: September First. Two words regarding his future: Non Tender...Roger Clemens to the '04 Olympics? That might just be the coolest story I've heard in months, and you have to hand it to Alan Schwarz for putting together another great story

Happy 30th birthday to Scott McCauley, the best co-host and friend a guy could ask for. And to all those who have written with comments or even just well wishes, thank you. They've been a godsend in the last week.

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