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April 22, 2004

Under The Knife

Breaking Balls

by Will Carroll

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I received a number of e-mails regarding my discussion on sliders yesterday, questioning why I would discuss a pitch I have said "doesn't exist." I don't want to go into too much detail in this space, seeing as I have a whole chapter on it in Saving The Pitcher, but suffice it to say that I don't believe in curveballs, sliders, cutters, or slurves--I believe in breaking balls. You can call them whatever you like--Mr. Snappy, Laredo, nickel, hammer, or Ron Jeremy--but they're all roughly the same pitch with subtle differences. The effectiveness of the pitch has a lot more to do with execution than semantics.

On to the injuries...

  • There's some oddness in the reports on Preston Wilson, so bear with me. The oddest part, as reported by Tracy Ringolsby, is that Wilson refused to sign the standard HIPAA waiver included in the standard contract. The function of this is to allow medical information to be shared within the club, and in limited cases, to give medical information to the public. To my knowledge, Wilson is the first to refuse or retract the waiver. That said, the problem surrounding Wilson's knee remains pretty simple. The meniscus was torn, likely repaired, and there were additional loose bodies that were removed. The prognosis remains the same as does his late-May target for a return. The HIPAA angle is the much more interesting story here, and one I will be following.

  • Andy Pettitte isn't getting the attention of Mark Prior (more on him in the DMPU), but there are some inconsistencies in the story that the Astros are telling. Most of the concern has been focused on the UCL, but Pettitte's described pain in his flexor tendon as well. Continued tenderness proves that the cortisone shot wasn't enough to eliminate symptoms. The Astros will be watching his Friday spring training game closely.

  • The rehab on Joe Mauer is going well. Coming off minor knee surgery, Mauer is already hitting off a tee--or more likely his own swing trainer--and has had no setbacks. Expect him to come back toward the four-week mark due to caution and the hot streak that Henry Blanco is on. The Twins realize there's no need to rush their prized catcher back.

  • The news is worse for Torii Hunter. His hamstring is not responding as expected, keeping from being able to run normally. Instead of being activated on Thursday, the Twins will wait a day and retest the leg. This delay would also allow Hunter to come back to grass rather than the new turf in the Dome. Several players I've spoken with, from various teams, are not fond of that new turf. Luckily, Lew Ford is giving the Twins room to be careful with Hunter.

  • The Yankees have used their minor league system more as trade bait than grounds for development over the past few years, but right now, they are very thin in tradable commodities. Brian Cashman lost one of his best chips when Jorge DePaula went down with an elbow injury. Dr. James Andrews confirmed the Yanks' worst fears as DePaula will become the latest Tommy John patient. He's out for the better part of a season.

  • Not like the Red Sox need extra pitching, but Byung-Hyun Kim is getting closer to a 2004 debut. A successful side session on Wednesday will lead to a rehab start this weekend at Pawtucket. Assuming success there, he should slot back in to the Sox rotation when they face the Devil Rays next week. The Red Sox indicate that they are very committed to Kim sticking in the rotation.

  • DMPU: Mark Prior threw off the mound again, increasing his pitches to 50 and raising the effort level slightly. He'll have one more side session, then move over to extended spring training in Arizona where he'll take on some poor, overmatched youngsters. Prior has had no setbacks and no pain since returning to the mound. I also want to note something here: the words "pain," "soreness," and "tenderness" all have very specific meanings, so be careful when you read that "Prior was sore after his session." This is normal. Simply put, every pitcher is sore after an outing, especially when they're working their arm into shape. That he's not in pain is the key.

  • The Marlins already have a filthy pitching staff, but the filthiest of the bunch--and yes, that's a compliment--is getting closer to a comeback. A.J. Burnett is making good progress on a smart schedule. Not only is he on track, he's taken the time off to alter his delivery. From the description in this Marlins.com article, Burnett has corrected a couple major flaws that contributed to his need for Tommy John surgery. If Burnett just gets back to where he was, the Marlins will be able to stand with the Cubs, Astros, and Yankees when people ask who has the best rotation.

  • It could have been a lot worse for the A's. Bobby Crosby's knee buckled slightly when he collided with Bobby Kielty on Tuesday night, but he came away with only a contusion. What saved him? According to one well-known personal trainer, it was Crosby's strength. "If he didn't have good muscles and strong tendons, he would have left the field on a cart." Crosby should miss only a few days while he heals.

  • At this point, he's more of actuarial interest than baseball interest, but Todd Hundley continues to try and come back. He's likely to have more back surgery after he continues to have radiating pain due to a herniated disc. Already unlikely to play for the Dodgers in 2004, this could be the end for Hundley. Remembered more for failing under the weight of bad contracts at a couple stops, Hundley was actually a pretty good hitter for a couple seasons. That's more than most players can say. I'll clap as he walks off the field.

  • Quick Cuts: Desi Relaford should be activated on Friday, moving right back into the Royals lineup...Larry Walker is nowhere close to being ready and the Rockies are beginning to wonder if Walker will make it back at all...No determination yet on Peter Bergeron, but he thinks he'll avoid the DL. A decision will be made by Friday...Alan Trammell and Nate Silver on the week's BPR...Fireballer Bobby Jenks is headed to see Lewis Yocum after complaining of elbow pain. He was diagnosed with a stress reaction, the same injury that caused him to miss half of 2003...Jason Bere is back under the knife. Give him points for persistence, but his elbow is done...

Back tomorrow. Taking suggestions for new "Powered by..." beverages. Caffeine's a plus.

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