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March 22, 2004

Under The Knife

Dueling Injuries

by Will Carroll

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Powered by a great time at Saturday's Indy Pizza Feed, let's get right into this thang...

  • The Red Sox and Yankees are trying to get all of their injuries out of the way...or at least it seems that way. It's doubtful that these early-season injuries are all that the two teams will have. The pressure of being very evenly matched throughout the season could keep some players on edge and--knowing every game is important--could lead to more diving, sprinting, and colliding in order to get that little extra edge, and potentially more injuries. I've said throughout the spring that one of these teams will collapse and miss the playoffs, but I'm not sure which one.

  • Like Vladimir Guerrero last year, a minor disc herniation is becoming a major problem for Trot Nixon. Nixon is following the same protocol--therapy, then injections, then surgery--so the Sox are hoping that like Guerrero, the cortisone injections and a core-strengthening regimen will get Nixon back in mid-May. Use Guerrero as the comp here and you'll likely be able to spot exactly where Nixon will be back. We'll know shortly whether the injections worked.

  • Nomar Garciaparra is still in a walking boot-type immobilizer to reduce the strain on his inflamed Achilles tendon. The tendinitis is in an area which isn't subject to much blood flow, extending the recovery time. Nomar will have to work on a handbike or similar devices to stay in shape. Even if he's back in time for Opening Day, which is doubtful, he'll be short of spring at-bats. It could also reduce his range at shortstop slightly. With his history of slow recoveries, this scenario has to seriously concern the Sox.

  • Larry Walker has had a major setback with his groin...OK, that sentence just sounds wrong. Walker may be back at square one as far as his health goes, and may not be ready for Opening Day. There's a point where his injuries are not only going to cost him time, but also his ability to play a credible outfield. Eventually, it will push him out of the game if he doesn't walk away first.

  • Early reports had Greg Miller's surgery turning up a torn labrum, but later reports indicate about the best-case scenario for the young lefty and for the Dodgers. It appears that Miller's labrum and rotator cuff were intact, with only normal, minor fraying. The pain was caused by the inflammation of a bursa sac (bursitis). The sac in question was removed and Miller should be back to throwing in six to eight weeks. This means he should be pitching competitively some time later this season.

  • The Marlins may be without Juan Pierre for a couple weeks after Pierre dislocated his pinkie sliding into a base. While we showed last year that sliding head-first was surprisingly no more likely to cause injury than a foot-first slide, I still wonder why MLB hasn't brought breakaway bases to the field. It's a simple solution. Pierre will see a specialist Monday and could miss as much as six weeks if there is ligament damage.

  • The Angels are asking Garret Anderson to move to CF, but his season is starting off like Bernie Williams' last season. He's having problems with both shoulders, though it's not only a throwing problem--he's having a hard time extending his arms. Biceps tendinitis is chronic, so expect this to be problematic for a while. There are some hints around Angels camp that Anderson could move to LF to reduce the throwing stress, but manager Mike Scioscia denies that.

  • According to Bill Ladson of MLB.com, Nick Johnson is out with a lower back problem. It appears to be muscular at this stage, but with Johnson's history, any injury has to be worrisome. Out since Thursday, Johnson is expected back on Tuesday so watch what he's able to do. Back injuries tend to become chronic, but even in a worst-case, the Expos' medical staff did a phenomenal job getting Vlad Guerrero back last season. I'm sure the Angels appreciate it.

  • Robb Nen continues to progress towards reclaiming the closer role. He's still working on an interval throwing program and is being closely monitored by Stan Conte, but everything is on track. He's not expected to throw on back-to-back days in April, but he'll be given opportunities to increase his workload based on how he feels and his results. Matt Herges could see some late-inning opportunities early in the season since Felipe Alou will be very selective with Nen's usage.

  • Mark Prior has thrown on flat ground and off the mound during the last week. The Cubs are being extremely cautious, but Prior will miss only one start at most. He still indicates that he should be ready for that first start in Cincinnati. Assuming he slots in at #3, it will be a day game before the Cincinnati BP Book Signing.

  • The Twins were ready to push Grant Balfour to the pen, but he's likely headed back to the rotation while Rick Helling recovers from a broken leg. It's a wonder that more pitchers aren't hurt by comebackers. Some enterprising youngster with a protractor and a lot of spare time should calculate the odds of being struck based on the distance and amount of possible outcomes. The Shawn Wooten screamer hit Helling in the leg, breaking his fibula. He's likely out a minimum of a month and will need some time to work back into pitching shape. By that time, Balfour may have established himself as the Twins' second-best starter.

  • The Astros will really gain from having Nolan Ryan working with their pitchers. Under his new contract with the Astros, Ryan will be a consultant and is working first with Roy Oswalt on, of all things, a changeup. If Oswalt gets a credible change, he could be devastating. The Astros sent down Carlos Hernandez, but his shoulder has held up and he's looked pretty good through spring training. The Astros actually have some good pitching depth if they need to make a deal or if they have injuries.

  • The Twins can't afford to lose Corey Koskie for any period of time, but he should be back in the lineup soon. The problem was a muscle strain, not something structural. In the interim, the Twins used Michael Cuddyer at third, and it appears Cuddyer may be used in the Tony Phillips utility role. Koskie has had problems with his back in the past, so an early problem has to be worrying the Twins.

  • Congrats to Don Baylor and his family. From one stem-cell survivor to another, it's good to have you back on the bench. A stem-cell replacement has Baylor cancer-free, showing the potential for more research in this area.

  • Quick Cuts: A.J. Burnett won't be throwing competitively until June. Long-term, this is a good thing...Mark McLemore is out until late May after having knee surgery. He was expected to be in his typical super-sub role this season, but now Melvin Mora may be asked to move around more than the Orioles had hoped...Bernie Williams is making a slow but steady recovery from his appendectomy. He'll likely be ready for Opening Day, but not at full strength...Tony Armas is out until May with shoulder problems and any expectations you have for his season should be adjusted downward...Jody Gerut is still having trouble throwing with his surgically-repaired shoulder. He may start on the DL, or with the Indians' OF depth, he could push over to DH...Austin Kearns is also not 100%, but he's much closer to healthy than he was much of last season. The Reds haven't forgotten just how good he is; he's the only untouchable on their roster...Rumors are flying that Mike MacDougal has an arm injury and that the "stomach ailment" is a smokescreen. After talking to several people, there's no reason for me to disbelieve the Royals.

UTK Mailbox

Dear Rich Harden and Curt Young,
I saw a picture of a recent delivery Harden made this spring. If Rich will just stabilize his glove over his front foot, the control problem will take care of itself.

Yours,
Will

Dear Jim Palmer,
Your recent comments about Brady Anderson are pretty indefensible, and I'd suggest that, even if true, we have no way of going back to test Anderson in 1996. Given the current climate, you can get away with the guilty-unless-proven-innocent accusations in many circles, but I'd like you to consider the evidence we have. Your accusation seems to be based completely on Anderson's unexplained increase in homers. While I have no more explanation than you do for the fluke, it's not unprecedented. Keith Woolner was kind enough to provide me with this list of players who increased their home run total by at least 25 over the previous season.


NAME                  YEAR         HR     LASTHR       INCR
-------------------- ----- ---------- ---------- ----------
Johnson,Davey         1973         43          5         38
Anderson,Brady        1996         50         16         34
Griffey Jr.,Ken       1996         49         17         32
Vaughn,Greg           1998         50         18         32
Killebrew,Harmon      1969         49         17         32
Gehrig,Lou            1927         47         16         31
Walker,Larry          1997         49         18         31
Greenberg,Hank        1946         44         13         31
Sosa,Sammy            1998         66         36         30
Dawson,Andre          1987         49         20         29
Walker,Larry          2001         38          9         29
Mize,Johnny           1947         51         22         29
Hidalgo,Richard       2000         44         15         29
Edmonds,Jim           1995         33          5         28
Yastrzemski,Carl      1967         44         16         28
Thomas,Frank          2000         43         15         28
Petrocelli,Rico       1969         40         12         28
Mitchell,Kevin        1989         47         19         28
Kiner,Ralph           1947         51         23         28
Foxx,Jimmie           1932         58         30         28
Bonds,Bobby           1977         37         10         27
Gaston,Cito           1970         29          2         27
Puckett,Kirby         1986         31          4         27
Plantier,Phil         1993         34          7         27
Luzinski,Greg         1975         34          7         27
Cerv,Bob              1958         38         11         27
Guerrero,Vladimir     1998         38         11         27
Baker,Dusty           1977         30          4         26
Bradley,Phil          1985         26          0         26
Burks,Ellis           1996         40         14         26
Stuart,Dick           1963         42         16         26
Hundley,Todd          1996         41         15         26
Gonzalez,Luis         2001         57         31         26
Banks,Ernie           1955         44         19         25
Carter,Gary           1977         31          6         25
Williamson,Ned        1884         27          2         25
Ward,Gary             1982         28          3         25
Ruth,Babe             1920         54         29         25
Gentile,Jim           1961         46         21         25
Collins,Ripper        1934         35         10         25
Green,Shawn           2001         49         24         25

While Anderson is the second-most extreme jump, I'd love to hear you accuse Davey Johnson, Lou Gehrig, or Ernie Banks of juicing up. If you need a forum, your standing invitation to BP Radio is still open.

Yours,
Will

Related Content:  Back,  Brady Anderson

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