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June 7, 2004

Under The Knife

Hammy-and-Egger

by Will Carroll

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ESPN noted that there were more players on the DL this weekend than at any time in history. It's a stat that may or may not mean something. Certainly, there are more teams, and the money invested in players encourages teams to DL one if necessary rather than using and tossing away. There's also an increased return rate for previously injured athletes, so there's little disincentive to what was once a last resort. There are many possible answers, but I don't know them...and no one else does either. It's important to keep asking the right questions, working to make our game better.

Powered by a world we may owe to men like Yogi Berra and the rest of those that stormed the beaches, on to the injuries...

  • The cortisone shot that Troy Percival had in his pitching elbow hasn't solved the problem. The next step was the shutdown and a trip to see team doctor Lewis Yocum. Percival shifts to the DL with what is described as "significant" inflammation in the elbow. He was a Tommy John guy, having had the surgery in 1992. Most TJ survivors seldom have recurrences of problems with that elbow, but with the shift over the last decade of younger and younger players needing surgical intervention, the rules might change. I'll be keeping a close eye on this, but I'm a bit more positive on this injury than most. If Percival can get back to his previous mechanics, the stress on his elbow would be reduced. Percival's hip condition has definitely been a contributing factor to this, and there has been talk prior to the current condition that he might walk away after this season. The Angels' pick of Jered Weaver in today's amateur draft could add an interesting wrinkle into the pitching mix as Anaheim looks toward the stretch run.

  • As one goes down, one comes up. The Angels may have been among the hardest hit by injuries this season, but they're still winning. Garret Anderson has been out quite a while, but he's responding so quickly to medicine for his arthritis that he may go on a rehab assignment some time this week. There's no definitive timetable because there is almost no athletic precedent for this. Anderson will guide his rehab and return based on tolerance and performance.

  • Now that Mark Prior is back, I'm happy to clear Nomar Garciaparra off the list of UTK regulars. Garciaparra has had no problems in rehab with any of the areas of concern. He's running, starting and stopping without pain and he's had only normal soreness after each of his rehab games. The Red Sox are expected to activate Nomar off the DL on Tuesday, putting their infield rotation into play. They'll get Bill Mueller back in a few weeks and the offense will look very potent and the bench even deeper.

  • The Astros are growing more concerned about the condition of Andy Pettitte, not only for this year, but the next two extremely expensive seasons he has left on his deal. Pettitte has been doing long toss, but still can't throw without pain. Worse, the elbow tends to tighten with usage, meaning there are still some internal problems. Pettitte has not yet gone for a second opinion, but if there's no progress in the next week, that visit will come.

  • What strikes me about all the coverage of Joe Borowski heading to the DL is not that the injury is very vague, but that there's little or no recognition of the replacement-level concept. Borowski is a player just a few years removed from the independent leagues, and became closer not because of his great stuff, but because out of a line of failures and injuries at the start of 2003, he fared best. With a few saves and a successful season on his resume, many seem to forget that it would be easy to find another closer in much the same way. Few details on Borowski's shoulder injury are available, but none seem serious. If there is a strain or impingement, it would explain some of his reduced velocity.

  • There are no velocity worries with Kerry Wood. The guy brings heat and should be bringing it in games in about two weeks. Wood isn't yet throwing beyond 90 feet, but he should make rapid progress now that the strain in his triceps is near fully healed. The Cubs don't think he'll need a rehab assignment, but it's not out of the question either. Wood should come back with little or no after effects from the injury, only a little bit of rust.

  • The Cubs are a bit more concerned about Sammy Sosa. While he's not in excruciating pain, he's still not able to swing pain-free, even off a tee. This isn't a situation like Vladimir Guerrero's last year; rather, it's a simple muscle strain that had severe pain as a symptom. Once therapy can break the pain-spasm cycle, Sosa should make a quick return. Don't expect any power loss once he returns to right field.

  • Ray Durham is key to any run the Giants might make, and keeping him healthy will be job one once he's back. Durham will head to Triple-A for a week of rehab, but news of a full week seems off. If Durham looks ready earlier, he'll be eligible to come off the list as of Monday. With Durham's chronic leg problems, an extended rehab could put him at risk. If he's going to hurt himself again, he will likely do it trying to help the parent club, not Fresno.

  • As we discuss this injury, I'd like to point you to a simple, concise definition of "strain". Dr. George Paletta has an interesting quote regarding the injury to Albert Pujols' hamstring: "On exam, he's got no defect. It doesn't appear that he's torn the muscle. So the question is, did it just spasm and cramp on him real bad, or did he strain it? Tomorrow we'll probably be able to tell better." The last part, at least, tells us something. Pujols will be out at least one game, probably more considering the Cardinals can't risk losing him for an extended period. From all accounts, Pujols has a minor (Grade I) hamstring strain that is likely the result of a changed gait, part of a cascade from his strained right hip flexor. Pujols has had some past problems with the left hamstring, so keep an eye on how quickly he's able to return.

  • The Royals really dodged a bullet after two of their better players, Ken Harvey and Jason Grimsley, collided in one of the most unusual, most violent bang-ups I've seen in years. My description won't do it justice, so suffice it to say that when both walked away and then had x-rays come back negative, it bordering on amazing. Harvey will miss a couple games with a bruised forearm, nothing like what I would have predicted. I was most worried about his shoulder, which was pushed back while in full external rotation. There should be more details about lost time on Monday.

  • Quick Cuts: Rafael Soriano is not making progress. A new MRI will be taken and whispers of Tommy John are making the rounds...Billy Wagner did one inning of Double-A rehab, pronounced himself ready, and should return on Tuesday. He hasn't made any fans in the Philly front office with this episode...Tim Salmon is ready to return, but the injuries the Angels are dealing with will keep Salmon on the shelf just a bit longer. He'll return after interleague play...Roberto Alomar is getting closer to a rehab assignment. The loss of Matt Kata has pushed him back into the picture in Arizona...A sore elbow isn't why Arthur Rhodes lost his closer job, but it might explain why he's been so ineffective...The Rockies outfield isn't looking quite as bad. Both Larry Walker and Preston Wilson should start rehab assignments this week. Wilson is well ahead of Walker...Absolutely no truth to the rumors of a herniated disc in Jose Reyes. He's got a lot of issues, but that's not one of them...Jason Giambi's never been this far down in a UTK, but getting activated was expected. He should benefit from the rest.

Injury concerns have played a major role in today's draft. There's plenty of good work out there on this, including the recent series by Boyd Nation. BP will have more draft coverage as the week goes on. Now, if we can just get ESPN--or maybe the MLB Channel--to cover this draft like the other sports. Back tomorrow and Gig 'em!

Related Content:  Year Of The Injury

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