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September 9, 2003

Under The Knife

Excitable Boy

by Will Carroll

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As I find myself writing more and more about pitchers, pitcher injuries, and theories about preventing said pitcher injuries, I find myself returning to a few themes. First, Keith Woolner and Rany Jazayerli have the best system, bar none, that has been tested. Ignore PAP3 at your own risk. Second, we ignore pitch efficiency. When Roy Halladay can go 10 innings and not crack 100 pitches, he's on to something.

In fact, the more I think about it, pitch efficiency seems to be a victim of the era. Just 20 years ago, the '86 Mets--a team that I see all too often on ESPN Classic--look like a bunch of pencil-necked geeks compared to the middle-infielders of today. Serve up a fat pitch to Ozzie Smith, or better, his backup, and at worst you get a double. After a while, that can add up to significantly fewer pitches per appearance. If you're obsessed with complete games or want to figure out a way around that LaRussian third LOOGY, getting your starter to go 10 pitches an inning is a must. I'll talk more about efficiency soon, but let's get to what you're here for.

Powered by my enforced punishment beverage, mead, by order of the Office of Arrogance and Elitism, on to the injuries...

  • The velocity was off, but the command looked good as Roy Oswalt returned to the mound for the Astros. While symbolism doesn't get you a half game in the standings, getting Oswalt back and winning the game to push the team ahead of the surging Cubs certainly doesn't hurt. Oswalt's mechanics were visibly altered, but I didn't get enough of a look from the highlights to see whether or not its something to worry about. Results, of course, are what count down the stretch, and Oswalt's next outing will be against the Cardinals. Getting the ace back is big because the other good pitcher they have (not "an" other, but "the" other), Wade Miller, is saying he's dealing with a dead arm. The Astros need both, some luck, and a little providence as they head through September about as close as yesterday's IRL finish.

  • The A's are surging despite injuries, which is the sign of good roster construction. I guess you could ask Billy Beane about it on Friday, but that's up to you. I'll certainly have questions about the back spasms of Scott Hatteberg, the shoulder and leg problems of Jermaine Dye (who certainly hasn't looked ready to return), and Terrence Long--who could use a wrist injury as a good excuse to serve his impending suspension. Now, I have to go formulate a roster question for Beane.

  • There's addition by subtraction, and then there's helping a team by getting injured. Of course, for that Ueckeresque theory to work, the backup has to be better than the guy who starts, despite evidence to the contrary. For the Twins, Luis Rivas is little more than dead weight at this point, but Denny Hocking isn't exactly an upgrade. Maybe I'm wrong, but it seems that most organizations have a hard time letting go of those type of home-grown players. If the Twins are sitting at home in October, Terry Ryan will have to look himself in the mirror. Speaking of Ryan, give him credit for the Shannon Stewart acquisition, which has worked out well so far. Stewart, however, is dealing with both positional problems and a tight hamstring. Unlike the middle infield, the Twins have plenty of candidates to fill in if Stewart is forced to sit out a couple games.

  • Sometimes, I understand or even admire guys who get out there in spite of pain and gut it out. I don't admire hiding injuries or forcing yourself out there when there's a better option. I'm not sure where Lance Painter falls on that continuum, but at his request, he'll probably be activated and made available for the Cards pen. TLR says he could use another lefty, even if this lefty is having such severe problems with a damaged tendon that he cannot control his landing leg. And here you were thinking Rick Ankiel had control problems. Add in the serious mileage being put on Woody Williams down the stretch, and the Cardinals fans have to be getting a bit more than worried by this point.

  • The Dodgers will skip Hideo Nomo in the rotation--who's dealing with tendinitis in his pitching shoulder--and instead turn to rookie Edwin Jackson, a 19-year old call-up. Nomo's injury is supposedly minor, and sources inside the team say this is neither a "white flag" admitting that the Dodgers are out of the race nor an admission that the team is watching another of its starters collapse under the weight of zero run support.

  • As the Expos fight to stay in the race without a cavalry coming up from Triple-A, they can ill afford even the slightest injury. Jose Vidro asked out of the game in the late innings on Sunday due to knee pain, but he'll be back out as the Expos take on the Cubs, Tuesday. Vidro will do what he can as long as he can, but Frank Robinson would be smart to get him (and some of the other Expos) out of games when possible. Yes, Robinson has my vote for NL Manager of the Year.

  • I'll seldom call someone out on a mistake, but I can't overlook this one. While rehabbing from a broken bone in his foot, Jerry Hairston was injured. Shortly after being activated, the Orioles diagnosed him with a bone bruise. I noted it and ignored the injury, thinking it minor, not affecting any race, and not worth mention. When it turns out that Hairston was dealing with turf toe, not a bone bruise--and check this link if you think they're in any way related--the O's medical staff has put a capper on what has been a difficult season for them. Turf toe, while sounding trivial, is an extremely painful and an injury that's hard to treat. The O's have a lot of areas to upgrade this off-season. A lot of areas, I say.

  • Quick Cuts: Mike Lowell will be back from a broken hand, assuming the Marlins make the post-season. Odds favor it...David Segui had successful surgery and says he's coming back. Why?...Michael Barrett could be back this week for the Expos, but he's not at 100%...As Ismael Valdes is facing a "courtesy" release and Juan Gonzalez is buried on the 60-day, the Rangers close a book on this era. I doubt many will miss it...No damage found on an MRI of Placido Polanco's quadriceps, but eight games gone, he's no closer to returning to the lineup.

Best wishes to Gov. Frank O'Bannon of Indiana. He's on the DL right now, but the prayers of UTK are with him. As well, this one's for Warren...back tomorrow.

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