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May 4, 2004

Under The Knife

Insult to Injury

by Will Carroll

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It's been a really full day around UTK Headquarters, so let's not fool around with any intro and get on to the injuries...

  • Lots of e-mails on two unrelated topics: Jason Bay and Peter Gammons' comment about pitchers using steroids. Let's start with Peter's comment: Yes, steroids would help pitchers. It's always been my understanding that steroids, used properly (and yes, there is a proper way) would benefit pitchers MORE than it would hitters. Not only would they increase strength, but the drugs could be used to assist recovery, something pitchers definitely need to worry about. Strength alone won't immediately put on velocity, but someone who already has the mechanics to put together an 88 m.p.h. heater could probably find a couple extra m.p.h. if his mechanics held together.

    Jason Bay doesn't seem like the type to start an e-mail flood, but since many of the questions were similar, I'll go with it. Asked if Bay's surgery was "botched" or if the Pirates are "hiding something," I went to my best Bucs source. He flatly denied either suggestion, and implied that that the Pirates were just erring on the side of caution. I'll also note that teams, in my experience, seldom out-and-out lie about injuries. They'll dance around facts using every rhetorical trick in the book, but get them off the record or back them into a logical corner and the truth flows freely. Bay started his rehab assignment with a 1-3 night, so he should be about a week away from Pittsburgh.

  • The Mets have enough worries, so watching Kazuo Matsui begin to struggle adds only insult to injury (figuratively speaking, of course). While some are pointing to adjustment problems, I'd point to the wrist problem he's dealt with since spring training. While there's not much info available on the injury, it sounds like a form of tendinitis with the flare-ups. Without Matsui hitting well at the top of the order, the already depleted Mets don't scare anyone. As another data point on the Mets' medhead report card, let's hope Dan Duquette makes health a priority for this team going forward.

  • Don't pay out the Ken Griffey Jr. injury pool yet. Griffey left Monday's game with what was described as "stiffness" in his right hamstring. This is the same hamstring and leg that has been so problematic for Griffey. In fact, almost all of his physical ailments have been on his right side. He's under instructions to be cautious, so as with his calf early this season, the Reds are willing to sacrifice a couple games to keep him off the DL. His relative health hasn't helped him much so far this season, putting up a negative MLVr and a VORP of 3.0. So far, the Reds are succeeding in spite of Griffey, not because of him.

  • Chad Fox beat me to Birmingham by a couple days, but hopefully we'll both leave happy. Ulnar neuritis--swelling of the "funny bone" nerve in the elbow--isn't exactly the best news, but after a pair of Tommy John's, I'm sure it sounded good. The worst case scenario is a nerve transposition surgery, but it sounds as if four weeks of rest might do the trick instead. Fox has been used in odd patterns by the Fish, but they feel he has to stay loose, even tired, to pitch without injury. That's a fine line to walk.

  • Just because R.A. Dickey doesn't have an ulnar collateral ligament in his elbow doesn't make him immune to pitch counts and arm problems. As I was reminding BP intern Chaim Bloom last night, Dickey's arm is merely asymptomatic, not invincible. If Dickey was to begin to feel pain or suffer any of the normal symptoms of someone with a torn UCL, he would need to have Tommy John surgery...or whatever you call inserting a ligament rather than replacing it. The 132 pitches on Sunday night reminded me of Bud Smith a bit too much for comfort.

  • Brendan Donnelly is headed to Cucamonga for a rehab assignment. After his very scary ball vs. face incident, it's good to see him back so quickly. Assuming he has no setbacks, he could be back in the Angels' pen sometime next week. Current speculation has Ben Weber double-clutching his way to Salt Lake once Donnelly is able to return, but there are also rumors circulating that the Angels are looking to deal one of their relievers for some bench depth.

  • The Expos have more problems than a couple pitchers can solve--the first being the lack of a real home--but getting Tony Armas Jr. and Tomo Ohka back in the rotation isn't a bad step. Armas will make a series of rehab starts at a couple of different levels, leading him back to the major league rotation by the end of the month. The timetable is very fluid and dependent on Armas having success at each level without any setbacks. His blisters will only push Ohka back, but getting some run support might help his cause as well.

  • I'm sure Larry Bowa means well, but after questioning the ethics and motives of Paul Hagen, longtime Philadelphia sportswriter and one of the nicest inkers I've had a privilege to meet, I'm not about to grant him his medhead license. Bowa says that David Bell has a back problem, while Bell himself says the problem is in his hip. The two are often interrelated, especially with disc problems that entrap or impinge nerves, so it could be two descriptions of the same problem. Bell's vehemence makes me wonder, but in either case, it doesn't appear that it is related to the stress fractures that kept Bell out for much of 2003.

  • Quick Cuts: Mark Grudzielanek is at least a week away and he'll likely head out to Iowa for a rehab. The Cubs got very cautious once Todd Walker starting mashing...Jose Valentin is not playing well in his rehab assignment. Most of the problems trace back to his hamstring, so he'll likely get more time to rehab. Charlotte will be here in Indy this week, so I'll try to get a look...Have I mentioned that Saving The Pitcher is in bookstores now? Shameless, I know...Rafael Soriano will rejoin the Mariners soon. They plan to use him exclusively in the bullpen...Casey Fossum made progress with a good rehab start last Sunday. The D'backs want him soon without rushing him...Larry Walker is back with the Rockies and a decision on his return date will be made late this week...DMPU: I forgot to mention that Saturday's simulated game included a couple vintage Mark Prior breaking balls...The Rangers may be winning, but their pitching needs help. Ricardo Rodriguez could be back in just a few weeks after an appendectomy.

Back tomorrow. Go buy books.

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