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July 1, 2004

Under The Knife

Stuck in the Middle

by Will Carroll

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Is it July already?

Standing on the field at Wrigley with the beat reporters makes one cognizant of a strange convergence that's taking place. The polarized post-Moneyball world is breaking down, with beat writers wanting to better understand objective analysis, and analysts appreciating the access afforded to beat writers. The future of baseball coverage lies there, in the center, with the biases of both parties informed by mutual understanding. That's where I want to be.

Powered by Aloe Vera juice, on to the injuries...

  • That whole thing yesterday about Kerry Wood heading to the minors? Well, not so much. Wood will throw a simulated game on Thursday and then the decision will be made on not where, but if he will have a rehab start. There's still some doubt about where he slots in. Manager Dusty Baker would rather use him against Milwaukee, but the medical staff thinks the St. Louis series is more likely. Either way, there's finally a solid target for Wood's return. Wood should be fine once he returns, but his command will be something of an issue. According to Cubs sources, the adjustments made to his delivery may cause problems with his curve. He's working on a slurve, just in case.

  • The Cubs should also get Alex Gonzalez back around the ASB. Gonzalez took batting practice with the team on Wednesday, wearing a padded glove very similar to the one worn by Jeff Bagwell. The two players even compared their pads. Gonzalez will need a rehab assignment to get the rust off his bat, but he'll be a welcome sight upon return. The Cubs also feel much better about Todd Hollandsworth. After fouling a ball off his shin in a manner eerily similar to the 2001 injury that damaged nerves, Hollandsworth is making rapid progress. There's no fracture and no nerve problems this time, though the DL remains a possibility.

  • The Astros remade their pitching staff in the midst of an important divisional series, all revolving around the move of Wade Miller to the DL. Miller has struggled with shoulder tendinitis for much of the season, but with the return of Andy Pettitte and the demotion of Tim Redding to the pen, the Astros decided to use the ASB to extend Miller's rest. While the injury isn't considered serious, Miller hasn't pitched up to expectations. With the fifth starter slot in flux, and Jimy Williams on the hot seat, the Astros staff will be interesting to watch. Williams used Brad Lidge for a two-inning stint on Wednesday. In the Wrigley press box, there was a split among those who thought it was a move made out of desperation or inspiration.

  • Jeff Kent was praised on both sides of the field, Wednesday. The former Giant will miss a few more days, and the DL remains a possibility, but no one questioned Kent's desire to get back on the field. Dusty Baker dropped compliments on Kent in his talk with the press, but also several hints that he would love to see Kent in Wrigley Field next season. Expect Kent back for the Rangers series, but with some limitations.

  • Chipper Jones aggravated his ongoing hamstring injury while running on Wednesday. It's not expected to keep him out for more than a couple games on the outside, but Jones' legs are fast becoming a chronic problem, especially since the healing is continually interrupted with aggravations. This scarring and rescarring will sap strength from his legs, leading to further breakdowns, both in health and ability. The Braves will get Adam LaRoche back after an extended rehab. He'll slot back to first base immediately.

  • Tony Armas was held out of his Tuesday start due to soreness in his pitching shoulder. Sources say it was actually more of an inability to loosen up in the bullpen, but it's not considered much more than an annoyance. He's expected to make his next start.

  • It's standard procedure for post-TJ pitchers to have some sort of shoulder problem resulting from a mechanical adjustment in the first six months of competitive pitching. As the pitchers correct their mechanics or unconsciously protect their repaired elbow, they often cause a cascade injury to the shoulder. Most of these are of the inflammatory variety, seldom requiring more than some remedial biomechanics. This is what's occurring with both Jon Lieber and A.J. Burnett. The near-term struggles will fade for these talented pitchers, so don't worry. The key for Lieber is keeping the ball on the ground, while Burnett simply needs to find better command.

  • Bartolo Colon may be a fat pitcher, but I like fat pitchers. Some may try to blame his recent struggles on his expanding waist, but looking at the facts of the situation, it doesn't bear out. While I won't argue that Colon would do well to check into the low-carb lifestyle (moreover, since I have some grave concerns about Atkins), it's the loss of velocity--not the lack of conditioning--that is the problem. Privately, the Angels' medical staff is searching for answers while Bud Black analyzes video from Colon's past successful seasons for some mechanical answer. One interesting note is that Colon's contract is insured, with pre-existing limitations only on his back.

  • Sean Burroughs has dealt with shoulder problems before, but descriptions of his current condition sound like they've returned. Weakness and soreness is keeping the young Padre out of the lineup. He's been fighting the condition for a while, downing anti-inflammatories to stay productive. Expect Burroughs--and many players--to get extra rest leading up to the ASB in hope that they'll be rested for the second half.

  • Rocco Baldelli is still dealing with a strained quadriceps, but the Rays keep winning. Baldelli has been playing DH more in an attempt to get him extra rest while his quad is treated aggressively. The Rays may also miss last year's All-Star rep, Lance Carter. Carter left Wednesday's game with an apparent knee injury, but no details were available at deadline. I also don't care if Joey Gathright can hit or not. He's the first player who's wowed me running to first since Ichiro Suzuki. I do care that the Rays are winning and still drawing more yawns than paying fans.

  • Lots of e-mail on why Boston, a team I've lauded for their medhead ways, would sign a risk like Pedro Astacio. The easy answer is that it's a low-risk/high-reward situation. The Red Sox don't have a real fifth starter and are looking for options in that slot. At this price, Astacio is something like a lottery ticket: if it pays off, you're glad you bought it. If it doesn't, the money you spent hopefully doesn't prevent you from buying the things you really need. While I don't expect Astacio to return to his previous level, it's a pretty good gamble.

  • Quick Cuts: Jake Peavy will start on Friday for the Pads...Danny Patterson heads to the DL. He's been an important part of the Tigers pen...Matt Mantei and Matt Kata both underwent shoulder surgery this week. Both should be back in the D'backs lineup next season...Raul Ibanez is taking swings with the Mariners, but don't expect him back before the ASB...Brad Wilkerson to the Phillies? Orlando Cabrera to the Cubs? Will there be a team to move out of Montreal?

Thanks for all the well-wishes and tips on odd deliveries. I haven't been able to respond to everyone who sent either in, so I'll just do it here: Thanks. Back tomorrow.

Related Content:  The Who,  Brad Miller,  Quad-a

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