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May 21, 2004

Under The Knife

Need for Speed

by Will Carroll

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It was another day at the Indy Motor Speedway today, where I give hourly updates on nothing. Nothing happens, really. The same cars go out and do laps (very fast), then come in. The excitement is, maybe, a crash, but there was only one of those. Thankfully, no injuries and barely any damage to the million-dollar car. But the funny anecdote is that I was sitting with one of the drivers and he turns to me and says "you're the baseball guy on the radio, right?" I said, yes. He paused and said "If I got a couple million dollars together, could I get to play for a team?" It took me a second to realize he wasn't kidding. "No, (name), it's not like racing. You'd have to go through the minors and all that." He shook his head. "That sucks. Doesn't seem fair." I wasn't sure if he was joking, but later, his cell phone rang. The ring tone? "Take Me Out To The Ballgame." On to the injuries...

  • I just knew turning UTK in early would make me miss something. About two hours after I turned it in (he says at 1 am the next night), the news began leaking that the Angels finally had a diagnosis on Garret Anderson. Inflammatory arthritis of the neck and shoulders is treatable, but the normal therapy of anti-inflammatories seems to be something he would likely have already been on. The "gold standard" of Celebrex or Vioxx, two Cox-2 inhibitors, is getting to be the aspirin of the professional athlete. Anderson should respond relatively quickly to therapy on this, but reports indicate that the Angels don't expect him back until the All-Star break. There's some interesting research being done on arthritis and DHEA, but it's still a poorly understood condition. There are also some amazingly bad "therapies," but we'll leave faux cures like prolotherapy for another day.

  • There are some whispers from Dodger Stadium that Shawn Green is beginning to have the problems with his surgically repaired shoulder that I termed inevitable. Green's labrum surgery last season left him better than before, but it was likely that it would create some bone on bone friction. That friction would lead to chips and pain. The question then was not if, but when and if the when would be late enough in the season to have surgery in the off-season. With pain, his power numbers dipped last season. That's where the tell will be if this rumor is true.

  • The Cubs were being cautious by sending Kerry Wood to the DL. While MRI results and even a bullpen session didn't cause much concern, they decided to err on the side of caution. The more interesting question is the DL move itself. Since Wood served his suspension during his missed start, the rules look like he couldn't be put retro back to the original missed date, but instead would only be allowed to go back to the first date after the five-day suspension. I looked at the rule and can't decipher it, so I'll wait for the commissioner's ruling. This puts the Cubs in the unenviable position of a couple series against top division opponents without their top two pitchers, but might put them in a better position coming down the stretch.

  • Mark Prior did one thing for his team Thursday: He sold a lot of tickets for the Lansing Lugnuts. The announced crowd was just under 10,000. He pitched against the sons of Fernando Valenzuela and Bruce Bochy. Prior had a successful Single-A rehab start, going 45 pitches and not giving up a hit in three innings. His control was a bit off as he threw 20 balls, but his velocity (90-94 mph) and command were adequate. The Cubs were happy with the result and his next start should come Tuesday at a location to be determined.

  • Al Leiter heads to the DL with tendinitis in his left pitching shoulder. Leiter expects to be back at the minimum; the DL stint allows him to have therapy and get the swelling down before coming back. As stated before, Leiter is expected to retire after the season and will have more leeway in playing through pain than most. If he's forced to shut it down or have surgery, that's probably a career for Leiter. There are situations where playing through pain make sense, though not many.

  • Danny Wright is facing the worst-case scenario. After losing his spot in Ozzie Guillen's rotation, he's now on his way to visit Jim Andrews. An MRI showed significant shoulder damage, which was expected. The surprise was the extent of damage in his elbow. With both injuries potentially needing surgery, Wright may be in for a long, tedious recovery, one that may mirror Jaret Wright's of recent years.

  • The Braves will get Rafael Furcal back this week. The move to second base will help his injured finger, but it appears he's far from healed. He doesn't anticipate being able to make more than a handful of throws without having a recurrence of the pain and swelling. It's unclear how this will affect his hitting, but it can't be a positive. Keep your eyes on his early results--Furcal's a major risk at this stage.

  • Shannon Stewart heads to the DL as FieldTurf tries to prove it has nothing to do with the spate of injuries. Look, I don't know if they do or not, but it's worth mentioning that the turf wasn't prepared properly. That's the Twins' fault, not FieldTurf's. The next four notes involve Twins injuries, in any case. Stewart's plantar fascitis is not abating. He was placed on the DL and is out at least two weeks. Given the data that we have available on plantar fascitis cases, these do not seem to heal quickly or completely. Stewart is certainly not the same type of player Mark McGwire, but that only makes his feet more important. A player like Stewart--something of a tweener, good not great speed and good not great power--can't afford to lose much and stay useful.

  • Joe Mauer made strides in returning to what many predicted would be his Rookie of the Year campaign. Mauer was able to catch for a couple innings in a simulated game and reported no more than normal soreness in his surgically repaired knee. Mauer is on track to start a rehab assignment around the start of June. What was once a cautious rehab pace has now become disturbingly slow.

  • The recall of Justin Morneau (see Quick Cuts for more) has much to do with the current status of Doug Mientkiewicz, with Minky's back is acting up again. He was in Toronto when a dive hyperextended his back and led to spasms. The Twins are hoping he can avoid the DL, but with so many Twins heading there ahead of him, the Twins can't fall too many men down and remain competitive for long. A decision should be made by the weekend.

  • Luis Rivas is the last Twin I'll mention--last and least. The target of many Twins fans' ire is headed to the DL with a groin strain suffered running out a grounder. Rivas will be replaced by Alex Prieto at second base. Michael Cuddyer would be the first choice, but he's already filling in for Corey Koskie. Prieto's no prospect at 28, but he could be an able fill-in and if he gets hot, he could Pipp Rivas.

  • Rangers catcher Gerald Laird was injured in a tag play at the plate, but even replays leave me confused as to how he was injured. Early reports have him tearing a ligament in his left thumb, and Rangers physician Keith Meister isn't sure if surgery can be avoided. An MRI on Friday will determine the course, but Laird is out a minimum of one month; with surgery, it'd be more like three. It's definitely disappointing for the overachieving Rangers to lose the April Rookie of the Month.

  • Friend of UTK Thomas Gorman sends in this tidbit (Note: I would credit the source, but Thomas didn't include that in his e-mail):
    Head trainer Stan Conte scoffed at suggestions the Giants endangered Jason Schmidt by allowing him to throw 144 pitches, saying his mechanics were sound and it was clear from his pitch location he was not fatigued. Conte said he actually told manager Felipe Alou the only drawback to letting Schmidt continue was potential flak from the press, "and that's not a reason to take a pitcher out."

    "He's conditioned to throw 140 pitches," Conte said. "How can a marathoner run 26 miles? He builds up to it. If you take Kirk Rueter, who throws 95 pitches all the time, and have him throw 144, that would be ridiculous. Jason throws 118 to 122 pitches each time. To have him throw 144 pitches in his first game would have been insane, but he has built himself up to that." Remarkably, 139 of those pitches were fastballs or change-ups, the two pitches he appears to use most now. He threw five sliders and no curveballs."

    I'll reserve my judgement on the 144-pitch outing to see what the effects are, but I didn't see any of the people squawking about the high count in Orlando when Stan was listening to the best and brightest at Jim Andrews' Injuries in Baseball Course. Except me.

  • On the other hand, it was good to see Lloyd McClendon sound positively progressive when he took Oliver Perez out after a high pitch count in a three-inning outing. Perez was uncharacteristically bad Thursday, leading McClendon to say: "To me, that's as dangerous as 130 pitches in nine innings." (Quote from the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, via Rotowire). McClendon is correct and I applaud him for stating his case.

  • Quick Cuts: They've got some great articles over at Slate, especially recently...Richie Sexson will be activated on Friday. As with Shawn Green, watch his power numbers...Tony Armas gets a rehab start in Single-A on Friday. He's a year post cuff surgery...Mark Prior's debut wasn't the best three-inning performance of the night. Cole Hamels' debut was more impressive--no hits, six strikeouts...Justin Morneau was recalled? So much for the rumors he was trying to stay eligible for the Olympics...Red Sox team physicians will examine Bill Mueller's knee on Friday...Wes Helms is headed to the DL with knee problems...Looks like Brett Myers has fixed those mechanical flaws, doesn't it?...The Reds, among other teams, are inquiring about Gil Meche.
Related Content:  Lloyd McClendon

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