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May 1, 2004

Under The Knife

The Eyes Don\'t Always Have It

by Will Carroll

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As with any part of baseball, injuries are visually deceptive. What our eyes tell us may not necessarily be the truth, and is subject to the tests of objectivity and science, with the occasional fallback to experience and educated guesses. Things that appear serious can be nothing, things that appear innocuous end seasons, and things we don't even notice add up to disaster. Sports medicine is often more art than science, but we should never feel like we can use a simple formula; there is no 1+1=2 for a medhead. The equations are far more complex, the data often flawed, and the platform ever-changing. It's just a reminder that while injuries are an overlooked part of baseball, it's still subject to the same vagaries that tell us never to trust our eyes.

Powered by XM Channel 44 (Fred), on to the injuries...

  • Laying on the turf at the BOB on Wednesday night, Richie Sexson looked like he wasn't going to be hitting 500-foot bombs any time soon. While I can't guarantee he'll ever again hit a ball as far as he did Tuesday, the shoulder injury he suffered Wednesday won't be the cause. Sexson had a subluxation of his left shoulder with a contusion to the posterior aspect of the humeral head. The doctors and trainers out there got it, but let me bring everyone else up to speed. The force necessary to stop Sexson's swing was greater than the muscles, tendons and ligaments holding the rounded end of his upper arm in the shoulder socket. That's a lot of force. The bone didn't pop all the way out, but when it was pulled back, the bone snapped back with such force that it bruised. There's some worry about ligaments, some about the labrum, but overall, most experts I spoke to, including one of my most trusted, think Sexson should be back near the 15-day minimum.

  • Things looked so good for the New York Mets earlier today, but things have gone south since then. The Mets Web site stated earlier on Thursday that both Cliff Floyd and Jose Reyes were expected back around Tuesday of next week. As Lee Corso might say, "not so fast." The same could be said about Reyes' recovery. The latest setback happened during an extended spring training game where, according to reports, Reyes had yet another setback. Described to me as a "mild re-strain," Reyes is now pushed back from the goal of next week and a new timeline is as unclear.

  • As well, the Mets learned that Scott Erickson isn't as close as they once thought. He was lifted from his start Wednesday, again aggravating a hamstring after less than 20 pitches. Erickson was expected to be ready in about a week. Instead of three additions, the Mets are now holding their breath, hoping that Cliff Floyd stays on track for a Tuesday return.

  • Good starts, literally and figuratively, for two comeback pitchers. Andy Pettitte and Byung-Hyun Kim both came back relatively strong despite pitch limits. Kim was not overpowering, but he was effective, giving up just one hit on 70 pitches. Pettitte also gave up just one hit. He showed no signs of lingering problems in that balky elbow, so all systems appear to be go for Pettitte and the Astros.

  • If you're looking for this year's Esteban Loaiza--and who isn't--take a look at Ismael Valdez. Valdez, who recently announced that his name should end with a Z, has smoothed out his mechanics and been assisted by pitching most of his games at home in Petco and Dodger Stadium. He still fits the Loaiza mold, though--healthy after a minor but nagging injury, new team, new pitch. Valdez has always been tantalizing with his talent, but perhaps he's following not only Loaiza's lead, but Jamie Moyer as well.

  • Jason Bay will finally head out for his long-anticipated rehab assignment on Friday. He could play as few as two games before returning to the best ballpark in the majors if his shoulder holds up under game conditions. Most of Bay's problems of late have dealt with getting the shoulder loose, then keeping it loose while he stands in the outfield or awaits his turn at bat. The Pirates are being very cautious, so the slightest twinge will push him back.

  • Bob Wickman will throw today. It's not even 60 feet. It's flat ground. Still, it's a key event for Wickman and for the Indians. With David Riske and the bullpen struggling, getting Wickman back looks at this point like a positive. Much more time off for Wickman and he may be looking at retirement. Coming out of this session pain-free would be a big step. In the meantime, the Indians will continue looking for bullpen help. Every possible solution they thought they had--Riske, Kaz Tadano, Rafael Betancourt--has melted down faster than stolen krugerrands.

  • What good is a fast guy who can't throw? What good is a fast guy who can't hit? What good is a fast guy who can't hit that gets off to a hot streak, confusing everyone? I'm not here to judge Tony Womack--it's near miraculous that he was able to approximate playing baseball just five months after Tommy John surgery. But starting for a contender under the same conditions is nearly as miraculous. It makes it harder to assess his true value, especially when he plays for someone who can be so blinded by tertiary skills like Tony La Russa. Womack is still having trouble with his repaired throwing elbow, but the Cardinals have him available as a pinch-runner and pinch-hitter of last resort. That says more about the Cards' options at the keystone than it does Womack's health.

  • Quick cuts: Mark Teixeira was back in the lineup, recovered from his oblique strain...Travis Lee is headed to see Jim Andrews. The shoulder injury doesn't look good...Joe Mauer has had no setbacks with his knee, so he's likely a week away from a rehab assignment...Miguel Tejada was hit under his eye by a deflected ball. He was covering the bag on a steal when the ball hit the runner's helmet, ricocheting into his face. The extent of his swelling will determine if he misses any time...Desi Relaford is back for the Royals. His hamstring is near 100%, but Tony Pena plans to keep him rested...The Angels expect David Eckstein back some time this weekend. Let him play first; don't count your Ecksteins before they catch.

Back on Monday with all the injuries and news that I can scrape off the training room floor. Have a great weekend and get outside.

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