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May 11, 2004

Under The Knife

In His Locis Cenocephali Nascuntur

by Will Carroll

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My month of May is jam-packed and moving fast. I spent my first day out at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. I'm still hoping for another go-round in the two-seat Indy Car and if the field comes up short, maybe I'll slap a BP sticker on the side of one of the extra Dallaras and see if I can get it in the show. Maybe I'll never make the major leagues but...

...wake up, Will. I think I spent a bit too much time in the sun today. I'll get it back together in time for today's BP book signing in Toronto. The manager says we'll have a good crowd and the boys at Batter's Box always come out and have fun. I hope you'll join us if you're in the area.

While I'm waiting to be powered by something Canadian like...like...maple syrup, on to the injuries...

  • Conflicting reports on the injury to Jose Guillen. While initial reports and all appearances pointed to a serious injury that, at the very least, would put Guillen on the DL, the Angels have not ordered any further tests. Some sources say the swelling needs to go down before imaging can be done properly, while another says the injury does not seem nearly as severe once the initial pain reflex went away. Guillen had a reputation as a player who wouldn't play through pain, but last season, he was able to play with a broken wrist, so with no real evidence, I'm inclined to give Guillen the benefit of the doubt. With all the injuries in Anaheim, they may have caught a break if Guillen can avoid shelf time.

  • The miracles of modern medicine amaze me. A couple seasons ago the incident where Rich Aurilia had bone chips removed from his elbow and returned in the 15-day minimum seemed to me to be about the most serious injury a player could recover from in 15 days. I stand corrected. Austin Kearns may come back from a fractured ulna in the minimum. Think about this: Two weeks ago, I said "While three to four weeks is the public prognosis by some, six weeks is more likely." No one could have predicted such a recovery, and this is one of those moments where we may have to adjust timetables due to improving medical methods.

  • Bret Boone has taken to wearing a brace under his uniform. This isn't a normal brace or even one designed for some medical purpose. According to published reports, Boone is wearing a weight-lifting belt to help support him. I hope the Mariners trainers think this is a better idea than it sounds. The Mariners can ill afford losing Boone for any period of time without some sort of return.

  • The back spasms that kept Billy Wagner from being available out of the pen last weekend were so severe that he couldn't talk without significant pain. Wagner is the same guy who wanted to pitch even after his UCL had snapped, the same guy who learned to pitch left-handed while his right arm healed from a fracture. Tim Worrell is an adequate replacement, as he showed last season in San Francisco, but Wagner doesn't feel that he'll miss much time. The spasm is focused between his shoulder blades, a bad spot, but that focus allows Jeff Cooper and his team to know exactly where to work.

  • Mark Prior may have had his return date pushed back, but his progress has been steady. Prior pitched three strong innings in a rehab start, going 45 pitches. He mixed in some breaking balls and for the first time, pitched from the stretch. He was very upbeat after the outing and--while the date has changed in the past, I admit--it appears that the June 3 target is all but set in stone for his return.

  • Questions surrounding Joe Borowski continue to focus on his drop in velocity. Many connect Borowski's struggles, his Independent League past, and a comment that Peter Gammons made in Diamond Notes a few weeks back, but there's no evidence of any such link to my knowledge. Borowski is a pitcher who plays with very little margin of error. There are three ways for a pitcher to beat any hitter: velocity, location, and deception. Losing even a small margin of any of these can be devastating. Some elite pitchers can lose more and still have enough. Others may lose one, but increase another. It's part of the art of pitching. I'm not sure what is going on exactly with Borowski, but the Cubs insist it is not a physical problem.

  • While Mark Prior was pitching a simulated game, Nomar Garciaparra was playing in a different one a few thousand miles away. Actually, the times don't match up, but allow me some dramatic license in the sometimes dry annals of injuries. Garciaparra batted and played defense for five innings. He'll continue his slow, steady progression towards Fenway Park; like Prior, he's nearing the end of the rehab and the beginning of his 2004 season. The two players may meet eventually, if not in Houston, then perhaps in October.

  • The Rockies are going with a four-man rotation, but the next stretch of games will not only test their commitment to the plan, but also the arms of the four men tasked with starting. With 13 consecutive games, the Rockies will be closely watched. The difficult part will be isolating the effects of the rotation. The team should be getting some of its players back soon. Preston Wilson is progressing after knee surgery and should be back in early June. Larry Walker is testing his groin and will be out for a rehab assignment in the next week. Chin-Hui Tsao could be ready to slide into that four-man rotation some time soon if the Rockies want to yank a weak link, assuming his shoulder holds up through rehab.

  • What we think of as freak injuries have a way of replicating themselves. Richie Sexson injured his shoulder on a check-swing and now Milwaukee prospect J.J. Hardy has done nearly the same thing. Reports are sketchy, but sound eerily similar, a subluxation in the shoulder occurring each time. No word yet on how long Hardy may be out, but as good as the Brewers system may be, it's been racked by injuries. Dave Krynzel is out for half the season with a broken foot, while several of the team's pitching prospects are on the shelf. The Brewers will need better long-term health from their prospects if they're to contend in a few years.

  • Quick cuts: Late news that Kazuo Matsui left last night's Mets game after fouling a ball off his ankle...Jose Acevedo had his start pushed back to Thursday by the Reds in hopes his blister will clear up...Rafael Soriano is still down on the radar gun. Many are focusing on changes in his mechanics...Congrats to Manny Ramirez, who became an American citizen. Thanks for helping the GDP.

If you miss me while I'm in Toronto, I'd invite you to check out an interesting "nose-to-nose" challenge among pitching gurus. I doubt you'll have much problem finding the one I agree with, but it's interesting to see the incorrect (strikethrough) other viewpoints that are out there. I'll be back Thursday.

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