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June 16, 2004

Under The Knife

Sitting on a Timebomb

by Will Carroll

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Halfway through the month of June, three months are in the books since spring training opened. While nothing has been decided on the field yet, we were supposed to see significant changes off the field, with the switch from survey drug testing to actual drug testing. Not only are we yet to see the first positive test, there's been no decrease in injuries, power, or any of the expected indications that steroids have been rooted out. Worse, with the callup of Derek Turnbow by the Angels, both players with publicly known positive steroid tests are in the major leagues. While those tests were outside the purview of MLB, it still shows that the public relations around this issue are beyond the people in charge. MLB is sitting on a timebomb with the BALCO trial leaking out the list of positive tests, so I'd like to see something more being done. I can only hope that the negotiations on increased testing are the next step.

Powered by Coke's C2, on to the injuries...

  • Despite some happy reports from the Bronx, the Yankees made the decision to give Kevin Brown more time to heal. With Mike Mussina also likely to miss a start, the team decided that they would need another pitcher, so Alex Graman is likely to be called up. Brown's back didn't get worse, but the Yanks are erring on the side of caution, hoping that the rest will keep Brown more effective down the stretch. While Brown will miss two starts, there's no indication that this will go longer than the fifteen days.

  • The Yankees had hoped to augment their bullpen with Steve Karsay, but Karsay is shut down. Expected to start in Single-A, Karsay felt sore when warming up and the team's giving him a week off before restarting the program. With some concerns about the workload on the middle part of the pen and Mariano Rivera having his normal minor breakdown, Karsay would have added needed depth.

  • One of the things that I'm most proud of about UTK is that it's gotten to a point where my collection of sources, fencewatchers, and readers keep most teams honest. While it's possible to sneak an injury by us, it takes a lot of work. We were able to shake the truth out of the Astros as they admitted that Roy Oswalt has been pitching with a mild intracostal strain since spring training. While this might have some relation to his altered mechanics, more than likely it is what is altering the mechanics. An intracostal strain is less serious than an oblique strain, but painful. Oswalt has proven he can perform through pain. He had a cortisone shot into the strained muscle, so watch to see if the decrease in pain means an increase in results.

  • The Marlins announced that Josh Beckett will start on Thursday, the first day he is eligible to return. While he's had no problems with his blister in bullpen sessions, the Marlins will keep Beckett on a strict limit. According to Jack McKeon, it will be an inning limit instead of a pitch limit, which I find surprising. Beckett will come out earlier than normal--five or six innings--which could affect his ability to get wins or ring up strikeouts, for those of you that watch that sort of thing.

  • Rick Sutcliffe of ESPN watched Kerry Wood's bullpen session in Houston. Sutcliffe reported that Wood "wasn't close" and that he had "no command." Cubs sources say that while Wood wasn't game ready, the team was happy with the results. Wood said that he's ready for a rehab start after one more bullpen session. The Cubs could be nearly whole when Wood returns. Sammy Sosa went through his last rehab game in West Tenn. and should be back in the Cubs lineup on Friday. His only setback has been weather-related--Tuesday's game was called early. Mark Grudzielanek could be back as early as Saturday, forcing some interesting decisions up the middle.

  • Jeff Bagwell had a cortisone injection in his chronically painful shoulder. This isn't a big deal, but his recent slump showed that he was being affected by the problem. Bagwell will deal with this as long as he continues to play, so its more a question of how long he'll be able to go before the next injection.

  • While there's been speculation that the Braves have been looking at Joe Randa as a solution for their third base issues, they are first looking to the past. Chipper Jones moved back to third on Tuesday, not only to shore up the position, but to protect his injured hamstring. Jones had done some work at first base, but as Mike Piazza has shown, it's tough to make that transition. Jones felt more comfortable at third, so don't be surprised if this move is made permanent. The Braves need bats and bats in the outfield are certainly easier to find.

  • Top prospect Andy Marte hit a big bump in his road to stardom. A high ankle sprain could put him on the shelf for up to two months. Marte hasn't faced any major injuries since going pro, so it's an unknown how he will deal with the injury and the rehab. High ankle sprains aren't a long-term concern, but they are slow healing and extremely painful.

  • Quick Cuts: Austin Kearns was able to take BP on Tuesday. He'll be activated on Thursday...Shane Spencer should avoid the DL, but he'll be out a few days after injuring his shoulder...Wil Cordero had his knee scoped, leaving first base to Hee Seop Choi for the next six weeks...Michael Ryan heads to the DL, but Justin Morneau is still in Rochester. Someone please explain this to me.

I'm heading down to Cincinnati to score some interviews for BPR and maybe see some history. I'll be back on Friday, but in the meantime, remember to send your questions for Rob Neyer, Bill James, and Tony Massarotti to radio@baseballprospectus.com.

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