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May 27, 2004

Under The Knife

Carb Day

by Will Carroll

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Thursday in Indianapolis is so big, the state should just go ahead and call it a holiday. At the Indy 500, the Thursday before the race is called "Carburetion Day," or to locals, "Carb Day." In the heyday of the race, all 33 cars would be out on the track making final adjustments to their setups. From then on, the cars are locked down until Sunday morning. Of course, it's been years since there were actually carburetors on these million-dollar engines, but the name still holds. It's a tradition that, with the changes at the Speedway, have become a shell of the past--but it's still pretty great. It's impressive that 50,000 people watching cars practice can be considered failure, that pit-stops can be turned into a spectator sport, and that more beer will be consumed in five hours than at all seven games of the last five World Series. What makes me sad is that the good old days seem to keep some from appreciating what we have now.

Baseball is like that some days. People pine for the days that probably weren't as good as they remember. Worse, they actively try to pull baseball back into the mythic grasp of the few. It's just another battle in the war that has been raging for the last 30 or 40 years. Some want you to believe that baseball is myth, and that only they can give you a peek inside the mystical workings of the game. Others show that anyone with an original thought and sufficient effort can open the game up and make it better, whether they're a national columnist, a writer in Kansas, or a guy who talks about groin pulls with an uncomfortable regularity.

Baseball belongs to all of us, and shame on anyone that tries to take it away. On to the injuries...

  • The Astros may have completed a two-game sweep of the Cubs, but losing Andy Pettitte for any length of time would certainly be a high price to pay for that sweep. Pettitte left after four innings with elbow soreness, later clarified to be "forearm tightness." While Pettitte insisted after the game that the pain was in a different area than the elbow injury earlier this season, his reactions on the mound were very similar. A shot of the dugout showed him rubbing not his forearm, but his elbow. Team physicians will examine Pettitte Thursday morning.

  • The Diamondbacks are still officially saying there's no final determination on Richie Sexson, but Bob Brenly let slip with a quote that says it all: "We'll know more once Dr. Andrews gets in there." There's an outside chance that Sexson could return to the lineup this season, but it's similar to the chance of Troy Glaus returning. Both players will be free agents this season. It will be interesting to see who does their homework and signs these players for the right reasons and at the right price.

  • There are plenty of comings and goings in Colorado. Larry Walker is no stranger to this column, and his progress has been slow. While he's been able to run the bases and take some batting practice, Walker has not yet tested his injured groin with sprints or explosive movements. Unless he's prepared to take on an Edgar Martinez role, Walker will need an explosive start with the bat and glove. There's no timetable for his return. Todd Helton, meanwhile, is still dealing with an injury now described as an oblique strain. These, you know already, heal slowly, so a DL stint is likely. With Helton's longstanding back problems, it's unclear if there's any inter-relation here.

  • Return of the DMPU: Mark Prior experienced a bit of a "dead arm" after his second stint at Single-A. He was able to increase his pitch total, and two people at the game saw nothing different. Since many pitchers experience a "dead arm period" during spring training, and this is, in effect, spring training for Prior, this isn't much to get concerned about. For those of you in Des Moines, tickets are now on sale for Prior's first Triple-A start. He's on track to debut in Wrigley in early-June.

  • The Rangers made a precautionary move, pushing Chan Ho Park to the DL with what was described to me as "the start of the same types of back spasms he's had." Catching it early is a key to breaking the pain cycle, and the Rangers hope that he can come back at the minimum. Park certainly isn't earning his millions, but he's been adequate. Picking him for "Comeback Player of the Year" might have been a bit much, but I think Park, if the Rangers can keep him healthy for the remainder of the year, will be key to keeping Texas in the NL West race.

  • Some readers (and listeners) have said I have an anti-White Sox bias. I disagree. Just because I'm an admitted Cub fan doesn't stop me from following any team with objectivity. The White Sox have been the class of their division, thanks in no small part to the performance of Magglio Ordonez. Ordonez has a moderate strain of his left calf. The injury has been connected to his collision with Willie Harris last week, but it's unclear if the injury is the result of the collision or a compensation injury after it. Ordonez isn't a candidate for the DL at this point, but watch his power numbers; if they drop off, it might be a sign that he's unable to block with his front leg.

  • Yet another setback for Jose Reyes, as his back is now a problem. This space has discussed the interconnection between the lower back and hamstrings, due to the structure of muscles as well as the interrelated components of flexibility. The problems are almost always related, so this should come as no surprise. Reyes has long had back problems; in one interview, he said he's had lower back pain since age 12. There's no word on how long this might push Reyes' 2004 debut back, but at this stage, even with the Mets on the upswing, there's no reason to rush.

  • The saga of Brownsburg (IN) pitcher Lance Lynn continues. After I introduced it in this space, Rob Neyer picked up the cause. I corresponded with both Brownsburg's baseball coach and Athletic Director yesterday, and as yet, they haven't chosen to make their case on BPR. Coach Pat O'Neil offered that the pitch count of 189 was incorrect, stating that he thought it was "more like 145 or 150"--as if robbing seven banks is less of a crime than robbing 10. I'm staying on this story, not because this is any worse than what is happening at high schools across the country, but precisely because of it's the status quo in many cases. This is happening across the country and I'll invite anyone to help me take up this battle to save our young pitchers.

  • Quick Cuts: Corey Koskie was activated Wednesday after his "strained sternum" cleared up. Michael Cuddyer shifts over to second base...Kevin Mench (oblique) and Brian Jordan (knee) head to the DL. Jordan is avoiding knee surgery that would likely end his career...John Vander Wal makes it back for the Reds. No snow can stop this man...J.T. Snow heads for knee surgery. He'll miss at least a month...Colt Griffin, the Royals once-legendary Texas schoolboy, has been shut down with shoulder problems. Stunner, eh?...The Cubs lose both Tom Goodwin (groin) and Todd Wellemeyer (shoulder) to the DL. Wellemeyer surprises me since his mechanics are among the best I've seen live this year.

Back tomorrow, assuming I survive Carb Day...and hope to see many of you on the Rooftop, Monday!

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