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July 21, 2004

Under The Knife

Leaving on a Jet Plane

by Will Carroll

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It's been a long, interesting day--some positive, some negative. In addition to my normal workload, I'm working on a secondary piece, following a big story, and getting ready to venture back into an airport only a week after my "Escape From New York" experience. I can only hope that O'Hare is kinder to me. I also got a chance to check out a great piece on the BALCO scandal done for Real Sports on HBO. Check it out for a balanced take on a big issue.

Powered by no illegal substances, on to the injuries...

  • Any time a player changes positions, there is an adjustment period where the new position increases the risk of injury slightly. Most of the time, the risk has a negligible increase. Some shifts down the defensive scale actually inherently reduce risk, such as a move from the middle infield to a corner. It seems that Mike Piazza hit one of those inflection points where a decreased positional risk met the awkward adjustment phase with a side order of bad luck. Piazza was struck on the glove by a running player. While it was a routine play, Piazza sprained his wrist and could end up on the DL. Early X-rays were negative but there was pain and swelling. Mets medical staff will know more tomorrow once the swelling begins to subside and they can accurately assess tendon and ligament damage. In the meantime, phenom David Wright will come up to the big club, with Ty Wigginton moving to first base.

  • It was mostly good news across town as the Yankees dodged a bullet. Derek Jeter was hit on the hand by a 93-mph pitch, but escaped with only a numb hand. X-rays were negative, but the Yanks will likely give their captain at least a game off to be safe. In Triple-A Columbus, Kevin Brown pitched adequately, giving up five hits and two runs (including a homer by Henri Stanley) in four innings. He's unlikely to be ready for his slot on Sunday, so expect another start, probably again with Columbus. In the meantime, the Yankees will rack up frequent flyer miles between the Bronx and Columbus while looking for help on the trade market.

  • Mark Prior made it through his five-inning simulated game unscathed. Afterwards, he reported no significant pain and anticipates making his next scheduled start on Sunday. Observers tell me that Prior threw with normal mechanics, velocity, and pitch selection, showing no significant non-verbal indications of discomfort. This is about as good as it gets, but since the injury is so rare and uncharted, there's almost nothing for me or the Cubs to rely on besides Mark's self-reporting.

  • Further south, there was another successful mound session going on with a closely watched pitcher. Josh Beckett threw from a bullpen mound and had no problems with his problematic finger. I've had lots of questions about this injury. While I usually point people to our own dermatologist, Dr. Rany Jazayerli, my inner pitching wonk wonders about the grips Beckett uses. Changing those might reduce his effectiveness, but it's a simple solution I haven't seen discussed. Beckett could be back as early as the weekend, but he remains an extremely risky pitcher from a health standpoint.

  • The Red Sox will adjust while Pokey Reese gets some healing time for his rib area. It's unclear if this is an intracostal or an oblique injury. The two are similar, but oblique injuries heal on a longer and less consistent schedule. The Red Sox have considerable flexibility with Bill Mueller and Mark Bellhorn, though it wipes out the depth behind Nomar Garciaparra at short. If Reese is forced to the DL, the Red Sox would likely bring back Cesar Crespo rather than Kevin Youkilis. Tim Wakefield will make his next start after throwing his normal side session and showing no ill effects from eating a comebacker.

  • Terry Ryan was not only a recent Q&A subject, but he was kind enough to tape an interview for Baseball Prospectus Radio this week. He discussed Joe Mauer at length and thinks that his young catcher will be back around Aug. 1. The Twins are also having problems with Cristian Guzman. While his nosebleed problem has cleared up, he is now having back spasms. The Twins' odd roster construction will make dealing with this situation a bit more difficult, especially if it's an extended absence.

  • The Tigers get it. It helps to have a great pitching coach like Bob Cluck, but simply put, the Tigers get it. Perhaps we don't include them in the "Moneyball" school, but that doesn't preclude them from being one of the smartest organizations in baseball. I said it during last year's debacle and I'll say it more this year. Evidence, you say? After Mike Maroth went to 127 pitches in his complete-game shutout, the Tigers will limit him to 100 pitches or less in his next outing. That's smart risk management.

  • Quick Cuts: Barry Bonds has a root canal and goes 1-4 with a double. I swear it will take kryptonite to stop this guy...Chan Ho Park is down for the season. He was advised by a specialist that his back problem is nerve related...News Flash: Albert Pujols is good. The scary thing? I'm not sure we know just how good yet...Both Jerry Hairston (ribs) and Brian Roberts (finger) were injured in Tuesday's game. Both are day-to-day. Picking up David Newhan is looking really smart for the O's...The Rockies fear Chin-Hui Tsao has torn his labrum. He was recovering from severe tendinitis...Jesse Foppert made his first start after Tommy John surgery in Rookie League ball. Foppert should compete for a roster spot next spring...

BPR this week, you ask? Sure, I'll be in San Diego, but Scott McCauley holds down the fort and we've taped some great interviews. In addition to Terry Ryan, we'll talk with the chatty Alan Schwarz, Terry Pluto of the Akron Beacon-Journal, BP's own Derek Zumsteg, and a representative of the Baseball Hall of Fame. I'll even wake up early and check in, so be sure to check it out yourself.

I've often said I'm the luckiest boy in the whole world, living my dream like I do. I couldn't ask for better co-workers, readers, and sources, but today, I am going to ask for a favor. My mother got the bad news yesterday that she has cancer. She could use some cheering up and positive energy. If you could, send her a nice e-mail at carroll@icemiller.com. I'd appreciate the thoughts.

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Premium Article Can Of Corn: Yankees P... (07/21)
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Premium Article Under The Knife: Don't... (07/26)
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