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April 6, 2004

Under The Knife

Opening Day Anomalies

by Will Carroll

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It's Opening Day, a day where anyone can be a hero. Tony Womack can look like a great off-season pickup, Jose Mesa can dominate, and where Travis Hafner can be on pace to hit 320 homers. I was hoping this perfect day, if cold and blustery, could be the injury-free one that I dream of, but not quite. I turned this in a bit earlier than normal to allow for the Holiday, so I'll hope that everyone in the late games stays healthy. You know me, though--if need be, I'll wake Jonah up and get in the update. So, powered by the mellifluous tones of Vin Scully, who just sounds like baseball to me, let's get on to it:

  • No, those of you with April 5th in the Ken Griffey Jr. injury pool do not get to collect. Griffey was held out of the cold Cincy opening game to make sure that the strained calf didn't get more serious. Replaced by the versatile Ryan Freel, Griffey could be back as soon as Wednesday. The injury brings up an interesting question: Is it worthwhile to try and protect Griffey from injury by being cautious like this or do you ride him as hard as possible on the occasions where he's healthy? The data doesn't help here. It's going to take close monitoring and a guiding hand from Dave Miley.

  • Reports from Arizona have Luis Gonzalez making adjustments to compensate for his damaged elbow. The half-torn ligament is so problematic while throwing that Gonzalez is breaking out a sidearm throwing style for getting the ball back to the infield. Research from ASMI shows that throwing sidearm doesn't significantly alter the forces placed on the arm. Gonzalez, we'll note, says he's having no problems at bat, just throwing. In addition to the sidearming, watch to see how Alex Cintron adjusts to help Gonzalez.

  • Great quote today in the SF Chronicle: "Jason Schmidt threw in the bullpen for 14 minutes before Friday night's game. His right shoulder remained attached to the rest of his body and he apparently did not shout in pain." Jason Schmidt looked good in a workout, throwing all his pitches and coming away with only normal soreness. Schmidt is expected to slot back into the Giants rotation on the 14th. That slot is the first one where they'll need a fifth starter. Schmidt wasn't throwing at full tilt, but it's exactly what the Giants were hoping for from this session.

  • With Kazuhiro Sasaki back in Japan, the signing of Eddie Guardado becomes one of few smart moves that can be credited to the nascent Bavasi regime. "Everyday Eddie" is proving that workload or simple bad luck can catch up to anyone, as a sore shoulder will keep him out for a few games. Let's call him "Later This Week Eddie" for now.

  • The Mariners are also dealing with an injury to their new third baseman, Scott Spiezio. The M's haven't pinned down a cause, leading them to send him to a specialist. Willie Bloomquist will start for now, and the M's could also look at newly-acquired Jolbert Cabrera there. Jeff Cirillostarts the season for the Padres on the DL.

  • One of the more popular topics in performance analysis this off-season has been the positional moves made by the Angels. I've openly wondered whether Jose Guillen was signed because they didn't feel they would have a shot at Vladimir Guerrero, but no matter--they got them both. With an injury to Guillen, it gives the team the opportunity to push Darin Erstad back to center where he'd have the most value, but this is unlikely. One of the things I've learned with more access to players is that they like certainty, whether that's a slot in the order, a role in the bullpen, or a set position. Guillen is dealing with a painful bruise on his wrist, the result of an HBP. Ben Molina will also likely miss the first few games with a strained hamstring.

  • Desi Relaford wasn't part of the comeback/meltdown in Kansas City Monday. He left the game early with an apparent hamstring problem. He pulled up at first on a likely double, immediately heading to the bench. Replaced by Tony Graffanino, there's no report on the seriousness of the problem, but Relaford didn't appear to be in significant pain.

  • Some seem very concerned with the recent mechanical problems exhibited by Brett Myers. His elbow is getting ahead of the ball, which may indicate some shoulder pain. This is one to keep an eye on. The Phillies would certainly miss Myers, but they are absolutely loaded with talented young pitchers. It's an injury they'd like to avoid, but one they could survive.

  • Quick Hits: Quick report on Pedro Martinez: A V-Loss report had him in the upper 80s. Buster Olney notes that he induced very few swing-and-misses...Mark Prior was observed playing catch in Cincinnati before the game on Monday...Al Leiter will avoid the DL, but will have his start delayed after being hit with a comebacker. A reader calculated the odds of being hit by a comebacker for me, but I've lost the e-mail...Jeff Conine is battling the flu and will be a game-time decision for the Marlins' opener...Brandon Lyon's elbow problem isn't as serious as feared, and he'll be back in July after nerve transposition surgery...Roy Oswalt has a new change. It's filthy.

Remember that you can come see me and Dave Kirsch today in Indianapolis. Pizza's on us.

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