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September 23, 2003

Under The Knife

The Great Gig in the Sky

by Will Carroll

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At least once a day, I wish there was an injury database. Yes, we've got people working on it--and yes, I should be doing more to get it populated with all the data--but in the end, it still shocks and saddens me that it's not out there already. I'd love to know how many times someone was injured in the last few weeks of a pennant race, perhaps due to overuse or a manager extending his young pitcher just a little bit more than he should have in the quest for a pennant. I wonder how many careers that seemed to shine bright in October were in fact snuffed by the use and abuse they took in the extended seasons. There are some questions we'll never have satisfactory a answer to; that's one of them.

  • As most focus has gone to the workloads placed on Mark Prior and Kerry Wood, Dusty Baker hasn't gone easy on his other starters. Carlos Zambrano, one must remember, is in fact younger than Prior by nine months. Zambrano is averaging 109 pitches per start--more over the last two months--and followed a 129 pitch appearance with a poor outing where he was saved by a 10-run outburst. Zambrano's next start is pivotal, both because the Cubs are tied for the division lead, and because he must show that he can rebound from the heavy workload placed on him. Zambrano is also significantly past his previous innings pitched maximum, a big red flag. Add in reports of back and knee soreness and Zambrano goes from the fist-pumping fireballer that Cubs fans want to see on the mound to someone that has to be watched closely and could become a question mark if the Cubs make it to post-season play.

  • Also making the watch-list is Matt Clement. Lately, Clement has been dealing with groin and calf problems that have exacerbated his streaky nature and spotty control. The Cubs will combat his problems with extended rest, pushing him back to Saturday and forcing the Cubs to go to Shawn Estes in a must-win game. Clement's move back in the rotation opens a question as to his playoff availability, and where he fits in the playoff rotation. Depending on tiebreakers and last minute, must-win game adjustments, the Cubs figure to use Prior, Wood, and Zambrano. Expect Clement's outing next Saturday to be his audition for the rotation. A good start and the Cubs will go four-man.

  • While the Cubs battle for the divisional lead, the Astros are dealing with plenty of injury problems of their own. The problems Roy Oswalt is dealing with are well documented, Wade Miller's on record as having a 'dead-armed,' and now, add two more to the walking (or throwing, rather) wounded. Tim Redding developed a blister in his last start and is questionable, while reliever Brad Lidge's velocity is so far off that there is almost no other explanation that a shoulder problem. I'm hoping for a report on Billy Wagner--several people said he looked visibly slower in Monday's game.

  • Scott Williamson has more important things to worry about in his life--and best wishes to his family--but his shoulder is the biggest concern to the Red Sox. None of Theo's moves for pitchers have worked out on the field like they looked on paper, but Williamson is perhaps the most disappointing since his success could have pushed Byung-Hyun Kim back to the rotation. Williamson is awaiting test results to see if his shoulder tenderness is simply tendinitis or if it's something worse. With Casey Fossum shut down and Scott Sauerbeck hurting, keeping Williamson and the rest of the bullpen is paramount.

  • The Reds must have set the record for most players being shut down over the last month or so of the season. Add two to the list as Seth Etherton (elbow) and Jose Acevedo (ankle) shuffle off and prepare for the 2004 season. If the Reds just regress to the mean injury-wise--and they've always been near average in injuries according to MLB's Redbook--they're due to look very healthy and perhaps lucky next season.

  • With Paul Lo Duca spazzing out when Jim Tracy tells the truth (strained chest muscle), the stories about friction between Tracy and (fill in the blank) are getting louder and more frequent. Tracy will be one of the "won, but still on the hot seat" managers after the season, along with Jerry Manuel, Tony LaRussa, Bob Melvin, and, to some extent, Jack McKeon. The Dodgers also will pay for another surgery for Darren Dreifort. Honestly, he's a medical marvel. The fact that he could have so much go wrong and still factor into anyone's plans is amazing. Just 10 years ago, he'd probably have three separate conditions that would end his career. Now, Dreifort is headed for surgery to repair his acetabular (hip) labrum in Boston. Reports have him ready for spring training, believe it or not.

  • Quick Cuts: Monday's win means that Kansas City gets to keep Mike Sweeney for the next four years at $11 million per. Not a bad deal for a great hitter...Odalis Perez made his start after a manicure, but he'll apparently be shopping for a new spa. Perez's fingernail cracked after just a few innings and he left the game after only an inning. He's probably done for the season and will be shopped...Torii Hunter got a day off to rest his sore back and legs. It's simply a chance to rest him before the playoffs.

While I appreciate everyone relying on me enough to ask questions about their fantasy football teams, I simply don't have the knowledge (or time) to answer them adequately, so I'll point you in the direction of someone who can. Adam Caplan is the king of football injuries and has a subscription-based Web site at www.footballinjuries.com. Football deals with injuries so much differently than baseball that it's literally a whole different ballgame. Check Adam's stuff out at his site or his regular gig on ESPN Radio's "V Show."

As I noted yesterday, I'll be headed up for a lecture at Indiana University-Kokomo on Tuesday evening. Due to this honor, I'll be back in UTK Headquarters too late to get off a column for Wednesday, so I'll make it up to you--if you're reading this before 4pm EST, call and ask a question when I do the Will Carroll Baseball Hour on ESPN950. The number is 1-800-TALK-2-90 and you can listen in at www.espn950.com.

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