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June 14, 2004

Under The Knife

New Light on an Old Problem

by Will Carroll

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My hardest battle as an injury analyst is dealing with inexact information from the past. Right now, I have enough sources and advisors that it's tough (but not impossible) to keep secrets. Things in the past seem to have a haze of history across them, but occasionally something will pop into the light that changes things. In some recent articles, I've discussed the difficulty pitchers have had returning from labrum injuries. One of my data points was that only one of thirty-six people have returned from labrum surgery. In fact, if I expand things a bit, there's another. New information, uncovered by John Tomase for an upcoming article, confirms that Curt Schilling had labrum surgery in 1995. While this has been widely reported, it was not the diagnosis on his Standard Form. Without confirmation, I can't use the data. Now, there's a two-in-37 chance. It's not much better, but it's much more hopeful.

So, on to the (current) injuries...

  • The Red Sox are hoping that rest and treatment will keep Curt Schilling on the mound. If the bone bruise that's been bothering him fails to get any better, they will use the DL. His next start will be something of a test; if he can make it out of the start without increased pain, they'll continue to let him pitch. However, he could end up on the DL just after the start, giving him a rest until after the ASB. While he could continue to pitch with the injury, the Red Sox are more concerned with having him at full strength for the second half of the season. A DL stint could also serve as an audition for some in-house talent like Abe Alvarez, Jamie Brown, or Chris Smith.

  • Trot Nixon is very close to making his season debut for the Sox. Nixon played all weekend with the Triple-A PawSox with no problem. A double tested his strained quad, but reports from Nixon indicate no pain or even soreness. With the Sox about to head out on the road, Nixon may be back as early as Tuesday. He'll likely DH more than usual at the beginning, but with the roster full of talented hitters, he'll need to get back in right field quickly. The Red Sox will probably go back to 11 pitchers to clear a roster spot for Nixon.

  • The Yankees are adjusting a bit due to injuries. Their pitching staff lacks depth, so even a small injury exposes them. With Mike Mussina and Kevin Brown missing starts, the Bombers start looking more like About-to-be-Bombed. Instead of two stud starters, the Yanks will start Sturtze--Tanyon Sturtze, that is--and Jose Contreras. Mussina's injury is the latest in the growing list of groin strains for the Yanks. As Derek Jacques notes, "The Yankees need to take better care of their groins." Or something. The Yanks expect that Mussina and Brown (strained back) will only miss one start. The back strain that Mariano Rivera started feeling earlier in the week kept him out of Sunday's game. The Yanks will turn to Tom Gordon if they feel Rivera needs more rest, but at this point, team sources feel he won't need a DL stint.

  • Tomo Ohka has an early lead in the race for the annual UTK "Ewwww!" award. His shattered forearm flopped immediately after being hit by the Carlos Beltran liner. Surgery corrected the displaced fracture and Ohka is likely out for the 2004 season. Fractures heal on a normal schedule and with little after effect, so Ohka should be fine for 2005.

  • Carlos Beltran did a number on Ohka's arm (unintentionally, of course), but he's had some problems of his own. Making Allard Baird gasp slightly, Beltran ran into the outfield wall, but he has only minor bruises and shouldn't miss any time. More importantly to several teams, Beltran has no long-term concerns in that knee. The Angels, Padres, Red Sox, and Cubs will all be watching him closely.

  • I'm guessing that those people suggesting that Joe Borowski was on steroids earlier this season won't issue apologies. The velocity loss Borowski experienced was the result of a small tear in one of the muscles of his rotator cuff. Surgery was ruled out by Angels team physician Lewis Yocum, but it's not out of the question down the line if rehab and strengthening doesn't correct the problem. The Cubs think Borowski could be back in six weeks, but this seems a bit optimistic given the normal time frame. The Cubs might know this, with many rumors around that Jim Hendry is looking for bullpen help.

  • The news is better for Kerry Wood. After two successful pitching sessions on flat ground, including a long toss session where his arm was tested, Wood will move to the mound. He'll throw a normal bullpen on Monday in Houston, then again on Wednesday. If all goes as expected, the Cubs will make a decision on when he'll next pitch. Wood will likely make one controlled start in the minors, then return at the end of next week. Reports from some that saw the most recent throwing session say that Wood has near-full velocity and has no problem with breaking balls, so a couple more weeks of healing time should bring him back at full health.

  • Sammy Sosa started his three game rehab assignment at Double-A West Tenn. He went 1-2 and had no problems with his back in a rain-shortened game. Sosa will play two more games, then return to Chicago in time to take on the A's and White Sox. While back injuries tend to recur, Sosa's sneeze-induced injury is the type that recurs least. It is purely muscular and the result of an unusual set of circumstances. Talk up the problems many players have with back injuries and try to steal Sammy for your team.

  • By now, I'll assume you know that loss of velocity usually equals shoulder problems. For the past three starts, Roy Oswalt's velocity has been down significantly. While I've only seen one of those starts, I can't detect any apparent new mechanical problem. My guess is that his work in the early season to take some stress off his groin may have led to some additional strain on his shoulder. It's worth keeping an eye on.

  • Other than when facing Randy Johnson, the Blue Jays have looked better recently. Vernon Wells is establishing himself as a premier player, Eric Hinske is finally starting to hit some, and Frank Catalanotto is back in the lineup. Their big slugger, Carlos Delgado, is still the biggest threat, but he's not making as much progress as hoped. He's just beginning to swing the bat, meaning next weekend is about as quickly as he could return. Oblique strains are notorious slow healers, so the Jays are doing the right thing by showing a lot of patience. Delgado has to be healthy to be valuable, on the field or in a potential deal.

  • Quick Cuts: Ryan Klesko should be back in the Padres lineup on Tuesday. Don't expect a big power spike, but Klesko's oblique is reported to be completely healed...Victor Martinez is working his sprained foot back slowly, but he'll avoid the DL...Jose Reyes is back in extended spring training games, but weeks away from Shea, at best...Orlando Hudson, Darin Erstad, and Ray Durham should all return to their respective teams this week...Laynce Nix will miss two weeks with a shoulder injury. He's fast earning his injury-prone tag...Michael Ryan heads to the DL, opening up another opportunity for the Twins to realize Justin Morneau is really good.

I appreciate email. Answering it is one of the best parts of my job and I do my best to answer as many as I can. Lately, I've gotten more and more, so I have an apology and a request. I can't answer all of it as I once could, so the ones I do send out will tend to be a bit shorter in an attempt to get to more. Nothing personal and don't take it as anything other than brevity. My request is that any email be a bit more polite than a recent batch of "Hey, you haven't covered my team's fourth LOOGY's hangnail. What's the scoop?" or "What's up with the following players on my fantasy team: Jones, Smith, Richards, Cruz, Martinez, Mantle, Ruth, and DiMaggio?" Work with me, people. I'll be back tomorrow.

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