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April 16, 2004

Under The Knife

Good...and Good for You

by Will Carroll

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After a beautiful day at the ballpark, I feel not only a bit sunburned, but energized. There's something about sitting in the stands (not the press box), sipping a cool beverage and watching a game unfold. I saw a good Triple-A game (with six men thrown out at second base in varying plays--ouch!) with good people. The level and talent really don't matter. Baseball is just good and, I think, good for you.

Powered by the smell of freshly-cut grass, on to the injuries...

  • Since I turned in yesterday's UTK, there's been a lot more information coming out about Preston Wilson and the knee surgery he's facing. Unfortunately, the reports aren't matching up with the facts. A meniscus tear is normally a three- to six-week rehab with no problems. Reports from Denver are pointing at both the one-month mark and that his season might be in danger. I'd be comfortable with the one-month mark, but the "out for the season" noise makes me think that there's more wrong in the knee than anyone's letting out at this point. The surgery should occur early next week, so we'll know more shortly thereafter.

  • The Expos were expected to be an offensive force. It remains to be seen if the first two weeks are a fluke, whether the Marlins pitching is really that good, or if things will balance out. What is known is that the Expos will have to improve without Carl Everett. Everett was expected to take up some of the slack left by the loss of Vladimir Guerrero. Instead, he'll spend the next month rehabbing a torn labrum. He hurt his shoulder on a violent slide into second. Reports say that the MRI shows only a small tear of the posterior aspect of Everett's labrum.

  • Things are looking very good for Trot Nixon. His extended stay in Miami hasn't set back his timetable. After a pair of successful batting practice sessions, Nixon is moving to the Red Sox's Ft. Myers rehab facility. He'll continue his extensive rehab program with Sox trainers, not just for the next weeks, but if he hopes to stay healthy, he'll have to make this part of his daily routine. Nixon could be back in Boston's lineup as early as May 1, but it's more likely that it will be a week to 10 days after that.

  • No determination has been made on Ray Durham as yet. Trainer Stan Conte wants to give him a "standing eight count" by placing him on the DL, but the Giants field staff is hoping he'll make enough progress by the weekend to avoid this. With Durham's history, it seems smart to be cautious. Durham is the type of player that plays without a margin. Pushing him now with the options the Giants have seems dangerous.

  • The Astros can overcome one injury to their pitching staff without much problem. They have depth to burn. It's possible that they could even overcome two major injuries, as long as they don't have significant overlap. Andy Pettitte's already on the shelf with a minor elbow problem, but Wade Miller is likely to follow if he has many more outings like Wednesday's. Going 121 pitches with a strike rate just over 50% is bad news. Sources that saw the game say that Miller looked completely out of sync, but that the big lead he was staked to allowed him to be cute with his pitches. Watch his next outing closely. It would be smart in situations like this to drop in a "sixth starter" to give Miller--or any pitcher coming off a high-stress outing--an extra day's rest.

  • The Twins can't stare long and hard at the turf with this injury. Doug Mientkiewicz sprained his ankle in Cleveland, leaving the game in the first inning. It doesn't appear serious, but the Twins have...well, it's odd depth. They have OF/1B/DH types to burn, but a seeming reluctance to use any of it to fill the very real holes they have. Worse, they seem to pick the wrong players at the wrong time. Using Jose Offerman while Justin Morneau rots in Triple-A verges on the inexplicable.

  • There's better news for the Twins in the pitching department. Rick Helling is back on the mound and could be back as early as April 24th. The Twins need a fifth starter this weekend, but it's unclear who will fill that slot.

  • Ben Sheets was throwing well for the Brewers before his back started to stiffen up on him. He left the game with his pitch count in the 60s. Sheets has had recurrent problems with his back, but this looked no more serious than the previous occurrences. He should make his next start.

  • Josh Bard faces surgery to repair herniations in his abdominal wall, but there's no clear comparable for this injury. Already on the DL, Bard was thought to have a strained groin before the real problem was discovered. Most estimates have Bard out for 8-12 weeks, which seems reasonable according to two hernia specialists I spoke with today.

  • It's not easy being a major leaguer, but it wasn't stress that caused Ryan Ludwick to be hospitalized with a pair of bleeding ulcers. Instead, it was long-term, high-dose use of anti-inflammatory medications that likely wore away the lining of his stomach. Ludwick should make a full recovery.

  • First diagnosed with a strained oblique, Sterling Hitchcock actually has a fractured rib. This is an extremely unusual injury that apparently occurred when Hitchcock was lifting weights. He'll be placed on the DL and completely restricted from activity for two weeks while he heals.

  • Troy Glaus was not in the lineup again on Thursday as his hamstring continues to heal. He was expected to be back Thursday, but instead he was only listed as available for pinch-hitting. The Angels indicate that he'll be back Friday, but until his name is written on the card, few know for sure.

  • Several questions regarding what look like unusual usage patterns for two minor league relievers. Kaz Tadano of Cleveland and Joe Valentine of the Reds have been shifted to starting roles in order to build arm strength. Neither move really changes the longer-term expectations for these pitchers, but minor league usage is very different from that in the majors. Since winning isn't the first goal, managers and teams have far more flexibility determining how a pitcher is utilized. Valentine has been paired with Aaron Myette in a slight variation of the Cluck Tandem Starter system, making this the highest level that system has been used.

  • It's hard to explain. The Reds have a load of pitching arm injuries, but they don't seem to overuse their pitchers. With Phil Dumatrait heading under the knife, it's hard to blame the Reds when he's only been there a few months. Tommy John surgery will put Dumatrait on the shelf for the rest of the season.

  • Quick cuts: DMPU for today = no change...Travis Lee will be in pinstripes by the weekend, forcing a roster decision...Rod Beck has informed the Padres that he will be back within 30 days. Good news for "Shooter" and I hope whatever problem it was that pushed him away is taken care of...Esteban Loaiza is working to find the over-the-top arm slot that helped him so much last year. His cut fastball flattens out at the 3/4 angle...Mike Cameron was held out of Thursday's game as a precaution. The cold, wet conditions were not going to help his hamstring...Great job by Jeff Brantley on BBTN breaking down the Marlins staff. Josh Beckett's splitter is simply unhittable.

Have a great weekend of baseball. Even if you don't like the Yanks or Sox, watch the game and prove to Fox that a national, primetime game is viable programming. I'll see you back in this space next week.

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