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June 21, 2004

Under The Knife

Eyes on the Mound

by Will Carroll

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You'll notice that today's UTK is almost exclusively pitchers. Now, I don't have all the answers when it comes to injury prevention, but it appears that those in charge still aren't asking the right questions. Prevention is going to be the theme of the week, so think about it in terms of your own favorite player or team. What's being done to protect his or their most precious asset?

On to the injuries...

  • Jarrod Washburn has had his share of unique injuries. A few years back, he had a minor scapular fracture, similar to the one Kurt Ainsworth suffered last season. Now, Washburn is having neck and shoulder spasms, leading some to look to the outfield and ponder Garret Anderson's condition. It looks minor for now, but any spasm can return, so until the root cause is found there's definitely cause for concern. The Angels have been dreadfully unhealthy so far this season, but depth and good roster construction have kept them in the AL West race.

  • Things are looking up in the Bronx. Mike Mussina will make his next start, feeling that his strained groin will be healed sufficiently. He will be watched closely, however, so expect him to be pulled earlier than normal. Kevin Brown is also making good progress, but some reports have been a bit ahead of reality. While Brown is tentatively listed as next Saturday's starter, he'll have to make it through two bullpen sessions before Joe Torre writes his name in ink instead of pencil. Even in the minors things look better. Orlando Hernandez made it through his first rehab start and will head to Triple-A for his next. He could certainly solidify the front of the bullpen as well as help his countryman, Jose Contreras.

  • While the Astros are avoiding the word "setback," there's very few other accurate terms for what's happened. Andy Pettitte is still experiencing tightness and pain near his elbow the day after throwing, but the Astros still aren't sure exactly what's irritating the area. The recent confab of all the pitching decision-makers led to a push for Pettitte to make one more rehab start in hope that more data will give the team more to go on in designing a program to keep him effective, if not healthy.

  • Kerry Wood also had one of those non-setback setbacks. Instead of facing batters in a simulated game, he did another ground/mound session. Comments from pitching coach Larry Rothschild indicate that Wood is further away from a rehab start than indicated last week--perhaps as much as two weeks away. Getting Wood back before the ASB is beginning to look more like a coin flip than a goal. Wood is doing a lot of work on smoothing his mechanics, so if he can do that, this may be a major long-term positive.

  • While I wasn't looking, Paul Byrd made it through a minor league rehab and burst back into the Braves' rotation. His first outing was excellent, but watch his control. If he's near 100%, he'll be able to control the ball, but most post-TJs have some issues with the proprioception after their return. Helping return that proprioreception quickly is what is changing the rehab in TJ patients, using new protocols and even machines like Fred Claire's SportsRac.

  • Eric DuBose heads to the DL and surgery to remove bone chips. While this can be minor, it can also break down proprioception. This is often cited in the struggles that Johan Santana has exhibited this year. In addition, there's a mental barrier to coming back, especially if the pitcher attempted to pitch through significant pain or tried to change his mechanics to compensate. DuBose, it appears, should return in August.

  • The Cardinals do many things right, but something they've failed at in recent years is to develop pitchers. Sure, Matt Morris is an elite level hurler, but even he had to return from Tommy John. Every organization has its strengths and weaknesses, but not changing what isn't working is a sign of stubbornness, not commitment. With three of their best young pitchers down with injury, the Cardinals not only lack help if one of their major league pitchers go down, they reduce the value of possible trades. Adam Wainwright, one of the key pieces in this winter's Cards/Braves trades, is shut down with a UCL strain in his pitching elbow. He's out a minimum of six weeks, but most sources think his season is over. Josh Pearce is down with severe shoulder tendinitis, while Blake Hawksworth (that name just rules) has a more serious problem. Hawksworth has a circulatory condition in his shoulder similar to one he had in his ankle that prevents normal healing. Surgery is in the offing to correct the problem.

  • Kip Wells may have come away from a visit to the hand specialist encouraged, but his next start is still an open question. Wells was told that his problem was not a circulatory problem, and he was given medication that should help the problem. The question now is when the medication will kick in, and even if it's the proper medication. Remember, some people respond differently to different medications. Wells continues to avoid the DL for now, but a retro move has been considered. It's still on the table.

  • Jake Peavy will make a rehab start in his hometown of Mobile next weekend. The Bay Bears will certainly have a nice crowd for that, but the Padres will be watching closely. Peavy models himself after Kevin Brown, and at times can exhibit the cantankerousness of his idol. Peavy is not very communicative when he's going well, less so when he's not. He's a real challenge for the medical staff, but a real talent when he's on the mound. Expect Peavy back, barring setback, in early July.

  • Quick Cuts: Congratulations to Ken Griffey Jr.; when he's not filling this column, it's amazing what he can do...Welcome back, Jose Reyes. Let's just hope this isn't a cameo appearance...Corey Koskie is having more problems with his hamstring...Andruw Jones dodged a bullet when he came up without serious damage to his knee. Jones will likely play again midweek...Ramon Hernandez will have images on his left knee after a collision at home. This is the same knee Hernandez damaged in '99...Preston Wilson was activated quickly and Larry Walker isn't far behind. Unfortunately for the Rockies, "far behind" accurately describes their place in the standings without these two sluggers...Note this: Dr. Marc Phillipon from the University of Pittsburgh is doing some amazing research on hips. If he's right, he might have a cure for all the groin strains we've been seeing. Lots more on this and other info from the NATA's Convention later this week.

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<< Previous Article
Premium Article Prospectus Today: Petc... (06/21)
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Premium Article Under The Knife: St. J... (06/18)
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Premium Article Under The Knife: Hip T... (06/22)
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