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July 9, 2004

Under The Knife

Nip/Tuck

by Will Carroll

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I'm hoping Kit Hoover goes a little bit easy on me next Tuesday. (OK, that goes in the "Sentences I Never Thought I'd Write" Hall of Fame.) My TV appearances haven't exactly been low-stress situations, so hopefully I can have some fun on "Cold Pizza," working the Saving The Pitcher world tour next week, while hanging out with Steven Goldman in New York, then heading to SABR on Thursday. (No NYC Feed this time; I'll make it up to you in August.) If anyone has any tips or experience with telestrators, you know how to get in touch with me. Beside that, Joe Sheehan has me on a secret mission. You can count on me, Joe!

On to the injuries...

  • Coming and going, the White Sox are still ruled by the disabled list. Frank Thomas isn't going to do his best Curt Schilling imitation; bone chips in his ankle are likely to put him on a surgeon's table. The surgery, while minor, would keep him out for six-to-eight weeks. In essence, the Sox swap Thomas for Magglio Ordonez. While the Sox had hoped to keep Ordonez on the shelf through the ASB, the Thomas injury forced their hand. Slipping a bit lately, the Sox are still in the thick of the AL Central. A healthy lineup down the stretch is a must to keep up with the deep Twins.

  • For weeks, I've been watching a dip in the velocity of Brad Penny. Actually, it's his pitches that are losing velocity, but there's finally a clue as to why. While most have assumed that his frayed labrum was finally voicing it's disapproval or that he was going through a dead arm period, the reason is simpler. Penny has had an infected cut on his knee. His leg drive has been cut and the repeatability of his motion--never a strength--has also been impacted. Cuts, like bones, heal on a predicatable schedule, so this is a good time to buy low on Penny.

  • There was some speculation that Eric Chavez could be back as early as Thursday, but it was unclear if he'd joined the team prior to the game. It's widely expected that Chavez will be back in the lineup on Friday, picking up where he left off when his hand was broken. Chavez will be a boost to the A's offense, but the pitching staff is where the problems have been most pronounced. Tim Hudson's oblique problems could pose problems down the stretch, and the A's can ill afford to further tax their weak bullpen.

  • It's a classic cascade for Adrian Beltre. The ankle injury he's dealt with for the better part of the '04 campaign changed his gait slightly, making it more likely that he would suffer sprains and strains. The first injury to show up is a grade II quadriceps strain. It's unclear if resting it through the ASB will keep him off the DL, but don't expect to see him at third until after the break in order to preserve a retro move.

  • Jack Wilson leads NL shortstops in several categories, but like many, he's banged up. His knee inflammation is likely a small meniscal tear, but all indications are that he'll be able to play through it until the off-season. It's early to talk about things like this, but remember that Wilson may well be like others on non-contenders who tend to end their seasons a bit early to get the rehab going.

  • Mike Sweeney will have another go at a return on Friday. Back spasms haven't completely abated, but Royals sources call them "controllable." Sweeney will have continued treatment to maintain that controlled status, while Tony Pena will rest Sweeney more in the second half. Royals sources continue to insist that Sweeney is not on the market, but the latest back injuries would certainly push his value down if he were available.

  • Shannon Stewart will visit the Twins best hitter this weekend. Stewart is still feeling pain in his right foot, but the medical staff feels that he needs to test it. Don't get your hopes up, however. Unlike most rehab assignments, this one might not be an indicator for an imminent return. Plantar fascitis is a slow-healing, oft-recurring problem.

  • Ryan Freel has been a great utility player all year, but he also plays with the type of reckless disregard for his body that often leads to injury. With players of this type, there's often debate on what their value might be to the team if they played without the same passion, so most say "enjoy it while they're healthy." Freel struck his knee on exposed concrete in Busch Stadium's outfield. While he has only a deep bruise, the injury looked all the world like the injury to Bill Mueller a few years ago. Freel is out until after the ASB.

  • At some point, watching Jeff Zimmerman struggle to make it back to the majors becomes like peeping at a masochist. Zimmerman is headed for yet another surgery, this time to deal with "loose bodies" in his elbow. It's unclear from images if this is bone chips, bone spurs, or more adhesions in his "repaired" elbow. He'll be joined by Jay Powell, another reliever the Rangers had hoped could help in the second half. Powell will have Tommy John surgery--or is at least one is scheduled. One source in Texas indicates that Powell may instead hang up his spikes. Outside of baseball, life doesn't require a UCL. On a positive note, Gerald Laird is well ahead of schedule in his rehab. His thumb has progressed enough to start hitting and a return in late July looks likely.

  • Quick Cuts: Kevin Brown threw a normal bullpen session on Thursday afternoon. He'll rejoin the rotation after the ASB...This isn't a column that often deals with psychology, but man, Derek Lowe is having a near-existential crisis...Ramon Hernandez, Sean Casey, and Jason Bay will return to their respective lineups immediately after the ASB...Jeff Kent is back at 2B for the Astros. They'll need all the help they can get as the Astros front office will have to fish or cut bait on Carlos Beltran very soon.

After taping the interviews for BPR this weekend, I'm sure it's one you won't want to miss. It's chock full of info, but it's also your show, so we need your input. Have a question? Call us from 10-12 East/7-9 West at 800 825 5290, or if you can't make it that early, e-mail us at radio@baseballprospectus.com. This is also the debut of BPR in Vancouver on Team 1040. We'll be on Sunday there; check www.team1040.ca for more details.

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