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May 17, 2004

Under The Knife

A Not-So-Nice Monday

by Will Carroll

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I'm re-reading Pat Jordan's A Nice Tuesday as I watch some baseball on TiVo. It strikes me as an example of just how good writers can actually be. Even from the Isherwoodian lineage my "style" comes from, I can appreciate not only the grace of a good breaking ball, the turn of a double play, and the power of phrasing. Jordan's book has it all, and if you haven't read it, treat yourself. Sometimes sitting down with a good book is as good as sitting through a good game.

So, powered by a soy chai, let's get on to the injuries...

  • Yes, the Marcus Giles/Andruw Jones collision was among the more violent I've ever seen in baseball. I'm still surprised that Jones was able to walk away with only some minor bruises. Giles was not as lucky. A broken right clavicle will push him out for what was initially estimated at six-to-eight weeks. I'm unable to come up with a good comparable for this injury. His throwing will be affected for a while, to be sure, but I don't even have a guess what it might do to his hitting. Giles might want to consider a collision sensor like they have on luxury cars.

  • The Yankees are being very cautious with two of their best hitters, both dealing with injuries. Jorge Posada is coming back from last week's double play-induced broken nose and feels he'll be able to play on Tuesday. Joe Torre has indicated he's willing to wait until later in the week to put Posada back in the lineup if he's not 100%. Jason Giambi is dealing with related back and hip problems. There are some whispers that he also has an iliopsoas strain. This muscle is often suggested to be an indication of steroid usage, even by MLB's own drug czar. Torre is privately trying to get the Yankees' front office to clear some of the excess DH at-bats from the team. The most likely candidate to go would be Kenny Lofton.

  • I'll state this in the clearest, smallest words I know how so that everyone can understand me: Nomar Garciaparra is dealing with Achilles tendinitis. I have stated this in this space several times after speaking to multiple sources which all gave similar if not always identical information. Bill Morgan, the Red Sox medical director, says in the Boston Globe that there is no change. I don't understand why I was referenced in the original report, but I guess I should take it as something of a compliment.

  • Bill Mueller's inflamed right knee pushed the Red Sox to call up Kevin Youkilis, but really it's just another example of the excellent roster construction the Red Sox have going. This isn't the same knee Mueller fractured, so no worries there. Mueller blamed the turf at Toronto for the latest flare-ups, but normal anti-inflammatory medication is expected to have him back in the lineup in days.

  • By mid-week, the Red Sox hope to better gauge when Trot Nixon will return. Nixon will go to extended spring training games now that his quad has healed. The quad injury gave his back some additional time to improve, so it's not a complete negative. It's possible that Nixon could be back prior to June 1, but that's still the most likely date.

  • Barry Bonds is carrying the Giants, but it seems the load might be wearing on him. Bonds missed Sunday's game with minor back spasms. Brian Sabean's "10 instead of one" strategy is unraveling, but losing Bonds for any significant amount of time would be a step beyond devastating. With Bonds in the lineup (using a normal eight-man formation), the team's MLVr is 0.782. Without Bonds, using the 'best available' replacement, Jeffrey Hammonds, the Giants descend to a lineup that is worth less than replacement level, at -0.234.

  • The Giants may have the best medical staff in baseball, but even they seem to be at a loss with Robb Nen. Nen's rehab continues to fail as he comes up with pain after any normal throwing session. Labrum tears are notoriously difficult to come back from. According to the best data I have available, only one of 36 players has been able to return to their previous level after labrum surgery. These data are a bit shaky, since there may be some shoulder surgeries that also repaired the labrum, but only listed the primary repair. Nen will continue to try to return, but things look increasingly bleak.

  • No injury is the same for every player. Age is often a factor, not only in how the injury happens, but how it is treated. Despite a frayed labrum that would likely send a younger pitcher to the sidelines, Al Leiter will attempt to pitch through the injury. There's been some speculation that Leiter would leave baseball after this season and head to the broadcast booth. This certainly lends credence to that rumor. Leiter should be able to pitch if he can deal with the pain. His stamina will be affected most, but Rick Peterson is among the best in the game at dealing with individual pitchers.

  • The labrum curse may be biting Gil Meche. His continued ineffectiveness in the Mariners rotation is pushing him to the bullpen, but there are open questions about his shoulder's health. Not only is his stamina down, there have been reports of him wincing after pitches and altering his mechanics in ways that indicate some shoulder pain or weakness. I'm unsure how Meche will adjust to the pen as well, making him risky in multiple ways.

  • The Cubs are dealing with good news and bad news. While Mark Prior, Ryan Dempster, and Angel Guzman all on rehab assignments that have been, thus far, successful, Mike Remlinger's rehab is slightly behind schedule. As well, Mark Grudzielanek is well behind where he was expected to be with his Achilles injury. Some of Grudz's slow progress was thought to be the result of Todd Walker's hot start, but now that Walker is himself banged up (shoulder), that theory goes out the window. The Cubs have been able to use the normal Baker bench rotation to overcome some of the lost time, a definite strength of any Baker-led team, but too much exposure turns players like Jose Macias and Todd Hollandsworth into significant liabilities.

  • In one of the odder injuries of the season, Sammy Sosa hurt himself sneezing. This is hardly a meathead injury like some we've seen before. Sneezing is a violent, autonomic act and in this case, Sosa's back tightened and went into spasm. While it is not expected to be serious, back injuries are unpredictable.

  • Wade Miller has had two good throwing sessions and is unlikely to miss a start. His pinched nerve appears to be a fleeting injury rather than a recurrence of the cervical disc problem that shelved him in 2002. Miller is competing with Matt Clement for the title of best fourth starter in baseball.

  • The Mariners have struggled--as we expected--but they're even worse without Bret Boone in the lineup. Boone isn't rushing back from a mild hip flexor strain and a more concerning run of back soreness. While the rumors have died down slightly about the Freddy Garcia trades, expect Boone to be mentioned in some soon. Meanwhile Aaron Boone is also progressing as expected, and some enterprising team could sign him around the All-Star break in hopes of a late-season cameo and a possible discount on his 2005 services.

  • Tim Salmon had a setback in his first game of a rehab assignment, much like Brendan Donnelly did. Salmon's knee came up sore during the game and his schedule will be adjusted accordingly. Salmon's spot is in jeopardy even if he's able to return quickly. The DH spot will likely be given to Troy Glaus, if he's able to swing with his shoulder problems.

  • The D-Backs will be forced to look at their commitment to Shea Hillenbrand once Richie Sexson returns. Sexson will move from the tee to live batting practice this week and has Friday as his return target. The D-Backs will make sure he's ready, and seem less committed to that date than Sexson does. With a long road trip, they'll likely drop Sexson in a spot where they'll be able to not only keep him rested, but assist the team in staying fresh as well.

  • The Rangers have been surprisingly good, but not healthy, much like the rival Angels. Jeff Nelson is the latest to hit the DL with elbow and knee surgery. The knee surgery is what actually put him on the DL; the elbow could have waited until the off-season, but with the time off, there was no reason to wait. Nelson is out six weeks. On the other hand, Brian Jordan is beginning to get to the point where the Rangers can use him normally. He just played his first back-to-back games and reported no problems.

    Quick Cuts: It's no sure thing that Austin Kearns will return early this week. His timetable will focus more on his performance than his injury, which is all but healed...Aaron Looper was a Mariner, then a Dodger, then quickly back with the Mariners early this season. Now, he's headed to the DL to have Tommy John surgery...There's no news on Nick Johnson, though that he's been able to participate in drills for a week without incident is something of a positive...Aaron Guiel's blurred vision is a symptom, not an injury. The Royals hope to figure out the cause quickly and get him back into the lineup...Ben Molina left Sunday's game with a groin strain. No word on the severity at deadline.

I'll be out at Victory Field tomorrow with the ESPN 950 crew, so if you're in the area, stop by or just call in. I hope everyone is listening in to Baseball Prospectus Radio, but if you aren't, start. We've always had great guests, and lately the bar has been raised--you'll see some more great names very soon.

Related Content:  Back,  The Call-up,  Quad-a

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Premium Article Under The Knife: A Day... (05/14)
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Under The Knife: Injur... (05/18)
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