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April 8, 2004

Under The Knife

Twin Tweaks

by Will Carroll

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I'm hardly complaining, but this early in the season, it's important to explain the ground rules. Each day, I work the phones and e-mail to try and bring you the most accurate, up-to-date information about injuries possible. UTK goes "to bed" about midnight Eastern each night, heading to our editors and then to your inbox or browser. There are times when I won't be able to get all the information I need or maybe miss just that last piece that puts everything together.

I'm lucky to have great sources, great support, and great readers who ask great questions and keep the info coming in. I'm far from perfect, but I work as hard as anyone to be perfect. I'm not going to ask you to cut me any slack. Instead, I'm asking you to watch closely and keep me on my toes. Ask me the questions, make me go further, help me dig deeper, and one of these days, UTK will have one of those days like Mark Whiten: four homers, and no one can throw one by us.

Powered by Gatorade X-Factor, on to the injuries...

  • I closed my comments on Joe Mauer yesterday with a line about how this relatively minor injury might impact his later career. That one deserves further explanation. What I mean is that small injuries such as Mauer's torn meniscus have a tendency to cause further problems. Combined with the normal wear and tear a catcher's knees take, Mauer might get into a situation where his bat becomes too valuable to risk further damage to his legs. The easy comp is Craig Biggio, moved for different reasons, but with good results. Mauer's bat is special enough that he would retain a lot of his current value even if moved to third base. As I said, we don't know enough about the stresses to make blanket statements; I made my comment as possibility, not fact.

  • In the "when it rains, it pours" category, the Twins will now have to deal with an injury to Matthew LeCroy. LeCroy left Wednesday's game with what was termed a "ribcage injury." This sounds like an oblique strain to me...and almost as I type this, the phone rings to let me know that LeCroy is on the DL with an oblique strain. LeCroy strained the muscle batting, then injured it further on a throw to second. Oblique strains have a tendency to linger and LeCroy seems to be on David Wells' diet--the old one. The Twins probably won't do something as wild as remember that Justin Morneau once was a catcher (and said on Baseball Prospectus Radio last season that he would love to get back behind the plate!)

  • Cue up Groucho. If you're a Twins fan, there's more bad news. Torii Hunter wasn't cramping on Tuesday, he strained his hamstring. The strain is considered minor, but Hunter will miss time. Two sources indicate that the Twins players aren't big fans of the new FieldTurf. (No, it wasn't a factor in the Mauer injury.) One person I spoke to said: "It's very soft, very springy. It's going to take some getting used to. The place used to be green concrete." Again, there aren't enough meaningful data out there to properly weigh the effects of soft versus hard turf surfaces, but the topic raises some interesting questions which we'll hopefully be better able to answer in the future.

  • Woody Williams has been battling shoulder problems, but his control was the biggest issue during his first regular-season start. He went deep into counts and looked to be struggling from his first pitch. Add this to his spring problems and Williams goes from a question mark for the Cardinals to a glaring problem.

  • On the opposite side of the scale, Jeremy Bonderman looked like a completely different pitcher than the one that was shut down before the end of last season. His mechanics were extremely smooth and he seemed in complete control against a Blue Jays team that can hit. He closed his outing by being hit on the ankle, but early reports have him with only a bruise. Tiger Fernando Rodney isn't in as good shape as his young teammate. Rodney was diagnosed with an elbow sprain. The sprain is severe enough to be treated surgically, but Rodney will try to rehab and avoid the knife.

  • Paul Quantrill is still a bit sore from the collision he had in Tokyo with a charging Alex Rodriguez, but he was able to pitch effectively. He's one of the top cogs in the Yankees' bullpen.

  • Quick cuts: Ken Griffey Jr. made it back on the field and quickly showed that he's still got some semblance of what made him a superstar. A long home run off Greg Maddux isn't going to change the last three seasons, but Reds fans should savor every win this season...Kevin Brown looked good in two starts, but in the one I saw last night, he was violently falling to the first-base side on nearly every delivery...I got to see a bit of Mark Mulder's pitching and his delivery looks to be identical to his mid-season 2003 form. That's a good thing, as Martha would say...Jon Lieber will throw from a mound later this week. We should have a more detailed return plan soon...Eli Marrero will head to the minors for some rehab at-bats. He should be back next week.

The World Tour continues tonight, this time in Cincinnati. I'll be at Joseph-Beth booksellers, signing books, talking baseball, and generally trying to exorcise the spirit of Pete Rose from the building. Hope to see some friendly faces there.

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