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August 21, 2003

Under The Knife

Hi, Leroy

by Will Carroll

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I'm not an analyst and don't pretend to be. I have my nice little niche here with injuries, and I also do the occasional side piece, or something like interviewing Rickey Henderson (something I'll have finished by the end of the week). Still, the fan in me knows that Barry Bonds is something special. The home run he hit two nights ago convinced me, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that I am watching a player that I will tell people about 50 years from now. Did Babe Ruth, or anyone else, get walked like he does? Has anyone else been challenged less often? If other people don't appreciate it, they're just missing out on something that's almost literally once in a lifetime. Don't be one of those people. Heck, if baseball can get playoff games like Wednesday's Giants/Braves game, it will be one hell of a postseason.

Powered by Oregon chai, on to the injuries...

  • The A's playoff hopes are almost completely predicated on the arms of their four young starters. Taking two of those arms out of the equation is a hit that few teams could take, and one that the A's are ill prepared for. With Mark Mulder heading to the same therapist that helped him deal with his back problems, the A's are facing a couple missed starts from their current main lefty. Mulder has apparently been dealing with this strained hip for some time, not covering bunts or first base when it could be avoided. At the same time, things are as I predicted for Tim Hudson. He'll be pushed back to Sunday for his next start, while Ken Macha will juggle his rotation to fill those gaps. The addition of Rich Harden to the rotation makes the loss of one of their starters much more bearable, but a significant loss of time by Mulder certainly would make the Mariners and Red Sox breathe a bit easier.

  • The Astros got a dose of Mark Prior on Wednesday, but they also got some good news regarding their ace, Roy Oswalt. Oswalt, torn groin and all, threw on Tuesday with a "minimum of pain." He'll take the mound on Friday to test the leg, and if all goes well, he could be back in the lineup sometime the following week. I can't imagine a scenario where Oswalt could stay healthy for an extended period of time, but the Astros have managed to convince him to take on the risk.

  • Luck--or whatever you want to call it--tends to even out. Perhaps injuries have a regression to the mean, but the explanation is secondary to the result. The Angels were surprisingly injury free in their run to the ring last season, but the exact opposite could be said of their 2003. Troy Glaus has been shut down due to labrum and rotator cuff injuries, though he'll avoid surgery for now. There is some talk in the front office that Glaus may move to first base next season to protect the shoulder. With David Eckstein hitting the DL, likely ending his season, the entire left side of a World Series infield is done, their seasons both disappointing.

  • Another day, another diagnosis for Curt Schilling. The injury to his knee is now described as a bone bruise, but trainer Paul Lessard has been quoted as saying there is no structural damage. As before, the symptoms don't match the diagnosis well, and if the femur and tibia impacted, one would expect some damage to the meniscus. A torn meniscus' most common symptom? Locking, which is how Schilling described his injury when it occurred. Keep your eye on Schilling's next start.

  • The Expos have shut down Tony Armas Jr. and Orlando Hernandez for the remainder of the season. It's unclear how both fit into the plans of the Homeless Expos in 2004, but both are likely to need relocation services in one form or another. The bigger question is what type of team would take a flyer on either of these types of pitchers--the young but injury prone hurler on the downslope of potential, or the wily veteran with the Hollywood story but questionable age.

  • Instead of a bullpen session and a Saturday start, Kaz Ishii is now looking at more delays and a rehab start before coming back to the Dodger rotation. Knee pain cancelled the scheduled throwing and likely pushes Andy Ashby back into the rotation. Ishii's knee (say that five times fast) is still painful and slightly swollen.

  • Jose Contreras will skip a scheduled rehab start so he can make the real thing on Sunday. Contreras will slot into the rotation for Jeff Weaver, who we discussed yesterday. If Contreras doesn't work out, the Yankees still have Jon Lieber coming in September, and they could always use Sterling Hitchcock in a pinch. The Yankees are also watching the waiver wire to see if they can make a move, but that shouldn't be news to anyone.

  • The Giants could use a healthy pitcher and Kirk Rueter is getting closer to returning. He had a successful rehab start at Fresno, going 75 easy pitches. The outing was so successful that, combined with other factors, he could be back in the Giants rotation by the weekend. One reason he's needed is that Jesse Foppert left his start last night in San Francisco early. Reader Loren Jones tells me that the trainer was looking at his hand. I'll have more on this tomorrow.

  • There are no vacuums in baseball, but few people understand causality. Moves that make no sense in isolation often make more sense when looked at more holistically. I won't defend the acquisition of Tony Womack by the Cubs--according to Lee Sinins, a team of Womacks would be 11 games worse than the Tigers--but it's understandable when you look at how Augie Ojeda played and when you learn that Mark Grudzielanek will be out for another two weeks. Instead of early next week, Grudzmxtklplyk will more likely be back around September 1.

  • You should never put Grudzielanek and Doug Mientkiewicz back to back, but I don't back down from challenges. With Minky likely to miss at least another week, and Jacque Jones healed enough to head back to left, the Twins will use Matt LeCroy more at first base and will call up a catcher to back up A.J. Pierzynski. The Twins have so many options at the corner OF/1B/DH slots that it's almost impossible for them to make a bad choice. And that's good since their choice regarding Johan Santana may end up costing them that division.

  • Two big names are heading out to rehab assignments: Fernando Vina has been working out at home (what's that mean--his wife is hitting him grounders?) and should be in Triple-A Memphis by the weekend. Trevor Hoffman will likely head to a lower-level minor league team, possibly the Class-A Lake Elsinore Storm, by the middle of next week. We'll see both in the big leagues in September.

  • Quick Cuts: Runelvys Hernandez was optioned to Double-A Wichita, but he'll be in KC instead--having tests on an injured elbow...Derek Lowe's blister shouldn't force him to miss his next start...No one's talking about Nick Johnson's bones this week. Yet. ...The Tigers will likely wait until September 1 to bring Eric Munson back. It will be interesting to watch them fight to win No. 41 in September, and even more interesting if they let that get in the way of preparing for 2004. The Tigers are a smart organization, current results notwithstanding...David Segui will be able to put wrist surgery on hold until after the season. The next question is, why wait?
That's enough for now. I'll be back again tomorrow with even more news for your reading pleasure.
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