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May 10, 2004

Under The Knife

Back From 'Bama

by Will Carroll

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Miss me? Actually, I'd like to thank the many people who wrote to me asking if everything was OK and that they missed UTK. Of course, I thought I'd made it pretty clear where I was, but thanks for the thoughts. My article about my trip to the American Sports Medicine Institute in Birmingham is forthcoming, and I think you'll all be really excited to see what's going on there. It really is the most unique facility in all of baseball. Also, thanks to everyone that's written regarding Saving The Pitcher.

So, powered by all the new knowledge that people shared with me over the last week, let's get onto the injuries...

  • Early word on the knee and ankle injuries suffered by Jose Guillen is pretty negative. Guillen injured himself sliding into second and needed to be carted from the field. Tests on Monday will reveal the damage. With Darin Erstad and Garret Anderson already on the DL for extended periods, the Angels will have an outfield that has only one of their expected powerhouses, while prospect Casey Kotchman will be asked to man Erstad's position at first. The depth that once looked like overkill has turned out to be necessary. Erstad's hamstring injury will keep him out much longer than originally expected, and may be as bad as a Grade 3 strain. He's looking at missing at least a month, potentially not returning until the All-Star break. With Anderson, the Angels and their medical staff still have no idea what is causing the pain. They've ruled out disc problems and arthritis, but until they have a cause, Anderson has been completely shut down.

  • Let's leave the Angels and their fans with some good news: Tim Salmon should be back by next week. Brendan Donnelly may actually beat Salmon back to Anaheim. He'll make a couple of appearances in Salt Lake City, then return to his setup role.

  • The Braves have dealt with nearly as many injury situations as the Angels have, yet both teams are playing successfully. That's really a testament to the management of the team and their roster construction. The Braves think Rafael Furcal should be back in the lineup by mid-week. His jammed finger remains painful, and the Braves may do a retro DL move, if the bench requires it. Bobby Cox plays a man down well, so I don't think that will happen. Furcal's power and pivot might be affected even after he returns. The Braves are also trying to adjust their outfield rotation. They knew that J.D. Drew needs regular rest and a "Plan B" must be ready, but they didn't expect that Chipper Jones would need the same. His injured hamstring will be a concern most of the season. Marcus Giles could join Furcal this week. Giles had a successful BP session and could be back in the lineup by Tuesday.

  • Last week, I had a moment of zen. In Birmingham, Jim Andrews asked me when A.J. Burnett would be back. I just came back with "he's throwing well in side sessions and snapping off breaking balls, so I'd guess early June." Burnett is on track for that June return I spoke of now that rehab starts have been set. He'll do the first week in Jupiter (Single-A) and possibly make one start at a higher level, perhaps Double-A Carolina.

  • Hearing that your closer has "upper back spasms," especially in light of the problems that Garret Anderson has experienced, has to be worrying, but Phillies sources don't seem too concerned. Billy Wagner thinks the problem has to do with travel. Evidently, Billy's not a fan of the friendly skies, and tenses up. The team is working with him to come up with a way to make him more comfortable, but he'll be back throwing really, really hard no later than Wednesday.

  • There's still no scientific data that turf causes more injuries, but the anecdotal data is pretty strong. As turf fields continue to vanish, there hasn't been a reduction in injuries. That doesn't stop anyone from complaining and blaming, so when Edgar Renteria pointed to the Montreal turf as the cause of his back problems, the Cards were hoping no one would point out that his back spasms pre-date the Montreal trip. Renteria has been receiving massage therapy and other modalities for a while. His reduced power early this season points to the problem's effects.

  • Getting information from the A's on injuries is about like asking Michael Lewis for a short answer: You can ask all you want, but don't expect it to happen. It's often entertaining, not knowing exactly where it will end up. The A's are currently telling me nothing about Arthur Rhodes. Rhodes has a shoulder problem, described in various reports as a "pinch", or a "pain" in the "front" or "back" of his shoulder. Hmmm, that doesn't tell us much. Rhodes hasn't sealed his closer role with performance, so while we try to lock down what the problem actually is, use this as a data point for Rhodes potentially losing his role.

  • With Jason LaRue and Austin Kearns both ready to go on rehab assignments, the Reds are struggling to find enough pitching to remain in the NL Central race. Kearns is well in front of his expected schedule of return, and his arm is healing well, assisted by electrical bone stimulators. The Reds are also hopeful that John Vander Wal may soon be fully recovered from his snowshovel incident, and that he could be the bat off the bench they hoped he'd be by the All-Star break.

  • A roster move has pushed Mark Prior's DL stint back by two weeks to June 3, but this doesn't mean there was any kind of setback. To bring up Damian Jackson, the Cubs pushed Prior to the 60-day DL. Prior gets the benefit of two more weeks of getting his arm ready for the long haul and he also keeps his seasonal pitch load down. While the Cubs have insane starting depth, having Prior "fresher" as they head down the stretch could turn out to be a plus.

  • Eduardo Perez has fashioned a decent career for himself as a fourth outfielder/first base/pinch-hitter type. He's never had more than 300 at-bats in the bigs and never quite lived up to the expectations his genetics set for him. With a torn Achilles tendon, his 2004 is over and at 34, he may not get many more big league chances.

  • Quick cuts: Matt LeCroy will be back on Tuesday, but the Twins will wait longer on Rick Helling...Kiko Calero returned to the Cards pen less than a year after a patellar tendon rupture. Amazing...Trot Nixon will head back to Ft. Myers this week. His quad is healed enough for him to return to baseball activities. He could start a rehab assignment by next week...Mark Ellis may not have surgery to repair his torn labrum, but that doesn't mean he'll be back this season. Labrums are odd beasts and conservative treatment is often the best course...No, drug addiction does not make it into UTK. For any player, it is a private issue that I choose not to invade...Luis Castillo is still dealing with pain from some bone chips in his pinkie...Chad Harville is still feeling some pain in his hamstring, but the Astros think he could be back this week, further confusing Jimy Williams...With Casey Fossum ready for rehab starts, Brian Bruney is getting a quick major league look. If he's successful, he could pitch some high-leverage relief innings. If not, he'll head back to Tucson when Fossum is ready to push Elmer Dessens aside...The Mets are adjusting their rotation, but Scott Erickson is all but out of their plans. He's out until at least June.

Back tomorrow. Remember that the BP Corporate Jet brings me to Toronto on Tuesday. Hope to see a bunch of people there, eh?

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