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September 18, 2003

Under The Knife

Abracadabra

by Will Carroll

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I'd like to thank everyone for all the feedback on yesterday's UTK. I went into a bit more depth than I normally do, and since there was such a reaction--many being "Jeez, Will, what's with you using numbers and stuff? Are those BP Math Bullies kicking your butt in the playground?"--it's something I'll try to do more of in the future.

In fact, while many of you wrote in to enlighten me with background information on a number of the pitchers who made "the list," even more you reminded me that the topic was addressed directly in one of the best books on baseball ever written, The Diamond Appraised. In TDA, Craig Wright and Tom House took a close look at the topic of pitcher workloads, introducing a number of ideas that were revolutionary for the time, and are still causing debate today. If you haven't read this book, do so immediately.

Speaking of books, it's time for my "big announcement." I've reached an agreement in principle to write a book this off-season on pitcher injuries. I'm excited about the project, which will bring together some of the greatest minds in sports medicine to try and shine a bright light on the problem of pitcher health. More on this project in the future.

Powered by hope of an October beer at Clark & Addison, on to the injuries...

  • The A's may be getting slightly comfortable in first place, but injuries are keeping the team on their toes, and a bit of hope glimmering in the eyes of Mariners fans. With Jose Guillen down, I said yesterday that Billy McMillon had the opportunity to overcome all the years he was ignored. McMillon probably lost his best years to lack of opportunity, but in Oakland he fits right in as one of Billy Beane's misfit toys. That said, I may have jinxed McMillon slightly; he left Wednesday's game with a sprain of his left ring finger. He'll be available day-to-day, as will Keith Foulke. Foulke has been unavailable due to back spasms, leaving the suddenly running Jim Mecir as the de facto closer. The A's would much prefer to have Foulke ready for the playoffs, giving them every reason to get him rest and treatment at this point.

  • John Smoltz will head to the mound on Friday to test his tender elbow. The key word in most of the reports and discussions I've had over the past two days has been "tender." Tender is obviously much better than the previous "painful." If the Friday session goes as expected, Smoltz will be activated for Sunday's game and would pitch two or three times in the final week, both in and outside of save situations.

  • Johnny Damon is dealing well with an abdominal strain, and pain has forced him out of the lineup the past couple nights. Damon feels the pain more in the field than at-bat, but has felt it in swings during this latest downturn. Abdominal strains, like obliques, are notoriously slow to heal.

  • While David Bell continues to hold out hope that he can come back from a debilitating back injury, Larry Bowa continues to run contrary. Bell's prognosis may not be good after not getting relief from at least three cortisone injections and other aggressive therapy, but again, I question the need for ruling him out. If Bell could come back on the last day with his team in the race, what value is there in publicly questioning his conditioning and his desire? If you've listened to BPR over the last couple weeks (and the new one will be up soon), you'll know that the Phillies may show Larry Bowa the door after the season, win, lose or draw.

  • While racing has a "silly season" where drivers jump from ride-to-ride and sponsor-to-sponsor, UTK has "surgery season," where players who gut through minor injuries all head to the operating room for minor and major procedures. While most of this action happens just after the season--last season, J.D. Drew was scheduled for surgery on 10 consecutive days, canceling each as the Cardinals stayed in the race--some happen earlier when a player is shut down or a team is eliminated from the race. Matt Lawton is one of the first to have minor knee surgery, cleaning out the knee arthroscopically. He'll be ready for spring training.

  • Quick Cuts: The Twins think they should get part of Joe Mays salary back under their policy. Their insurance carrier disagrees, calling his elbow problem a pre-existing condition. Expect some sort of settlement down the line...Kevin Millar was out with food poisoning. You have to watch what you eat and what you videotape...Odalis Perez missed a start with a broken nail. He was replaced by rookie Edwin Jackson, but should be available for his next scheduled start...The Olympics have moved towards removing caffeine from their banned substances list. That means I'm back in for my dream of earning gold in Team Handball.

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