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July 31, 2004

Under The Knife

Healthy Exchanges

by Will Carroll

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Two nights ago, I was standing in front of a group of more than 100 passionate baseball fans at Ameriquest Field in Arlington, Tex. If I looked slightly to my left, I could see the creator of the Newberg Report, Jamey Newberg, and behind him the A's and Rangers warming up. It was an amazing night of baseball put together by the Newberg Crew, one I was proud to be a part of.

Still, the topic of the night wasn't injuries, prospects, or even the appearance of newly-promoted Assistant GM Jon Daniels. The topic we all came back to was the lack of trades, and even the lack of talk of possible trades. At best, I had hints - the Yankees weren't getting Randy Johnson, the Twins had cold feet on Kris Benson, and the Marlins were going to be active.

Now, we know what deals have happened and that there may be more to come. Here at BP, we covered the deals in more detail on BPR this morning with Chris Kahrl, Jonah Keri, Tim Marchman and others, and will have Chris and Joe Sheehan writing about them throughout the weekend, so for now, we'll focus on how health will affect the trades that have been made. On to the injuries …

  • The Mets have made noise with two trades for pitchers. Whether you like the deals or not, the Mets significantly improved their team, giving up no major leaguers who they'll miss. The top minor leaguer they dealt, Scott Kazmir, is a high-school drafted lefty with inconsistent mechanics. His lack of a change-up made many think his future was in the pen. Whether his potential could have brought back more than Victor Zambrano is open to debate, but Zambrano is the type of pitcher with whom Rick Peterson works well. His inconsistent mechanics have led to a lack of command, but no one disputes his stuff. With Kris Benson added as well, the Mets' rotation now goes five deep.

  • Ignoring the possibility of a second stage to the Dodgers/Marlins deal, one involving Randy Johnson, there are significant health concerns with what we have so far. One of the first articles I wrote here at BP was about an aborted trade involving Brad Penny. The Reds backed off due to concerns about Penny's pitching shoulder. A year and a half later, and a World Series ring on his finger, Penny is now a Dodger and perhaps a D'back. Penny is still a risk with significant degeneration inside his pitching shoulder, but he's also proven himself able to pitch well despite this. Many pitchers are likely pitching with damage to their rotator cuffs, labrums, and other structures, but remain asymptomatic. There's still much that we don't know and generalities don't offer enough yet.

  • The first trade that broke Friday was that Brad Fullmer had been dealt to the Padres, but by close of business, the struggling DH was still a Ranger. There are two sides to the story, but all signs point to the Padres not signing off on Fullmer's physical condition. Some say he failed a physical, while others say incomplete records killed the deal. Either way, Fullmer has been a big disappointment for the Rangers and the Padres went with Plan B, acquiring Dave Hansen from the Mariners. Fullmer's muscle-bound body simply doesn't seem to hold up under significant playing time.

  • The White Sox have been in pursuit of more outfield help, with names like Cliff Floyd, Larry Walker, and Geoff Jenkins mentioned as targets. Recent acquisition Carl Everett has what appears to be a serious left quad strain. Manager Ozzie Guillen mentioned bruising, usually an indicator of at least a Grade II strain. If Everett goes to the DL, the White Sox will need to get serious about more outfield help. Floyd was thought to be the most likely replacement, but he's also the riskiest with his multitude of physical conditions. While he could DH for the Pale Hose, someone has to shag flies as well. When the Mets brought in Benson and Zambrano, their selling off Floyd became less likely.

  • In late news, the AP is reporting that Jason Giambi has been diagnosed with a benign tumor, but will return this season. Speculation centers on an intestinal or liver tumor as the cause, due to some of the tests. One test that was leaked, but remains unconfirmed, is a "camera pill," where a small wireless camera the size of a large tablet is swallowed and runs through the digestive system. The Yankees will place him on the DL during treatment, but comments from the Yankees radio post-game show seem to indicate that he will not need surgery. Another possibility is a thyroid tumor, which is all too common. At worst, Giambi has a treatable, non-cancerous condition.

  • In other Yankees news, there are some whispers that Gary Sheffield was also affected by the intestinal parasites. New York City health officials feel that Sheffield's earlier "stomach flu" may have actually been symptoms of the parasites. Since the three players affected are also those involved in rampant steroid speculation, the whispers have been focused on that, but again, there is absolutely no evidence of any connection. Kevin Brown appears to be over his back and parasite problems, pitching six-plus innings in just 88 pitches last night for the win. He looked free and easy, showing no signs of stiffness.

  • There is no official decision yet on Andy Pettitte, but the decision will be made well before game time today. The Astros are weighing the medical facts of the case, Pettitte's backloaded contract, and his desire to fight alongside his team in this "last gasp" season for the current group of players. Even with more signs that Roger Clemens will be back in '05, it is hard to say what the Astros will look like by then. (My guess? Very similar to what we see now, minus Carlos Beltran.) Pettitte is expected to miss Saturday, but come back for his next scheduled start.

  • The rumors are flying again that Mark Prior is damaged goods. Until Prior looks like what everyone expects of him - which I think is a no-hitter each time out - these rumors will persist. While he was ineffective yesterday, giving up four home runs to the Phillies, the wind contributed. On a strict pitch count, Prior didn't make it to the fifth. I consider my sources good on Prior, but I've been wrong before. Caveat Prior.

  • Josh Beckett returned to the mound Friday after his latest bout with skin problems. While his fingertip wasn't an issue, Beckett got pounded by the Expos. His command was off, meaning a rehab start might have been a better course. Beckett will need to stay healthy now that the Marlins have traded off Penny. The Marlins simply don't have the pitching depth now to handle the extended loss of any of their starters.

  • I don't normally get to see injuries first-hand and honestly, I'd rather I never did. Most trainers have a sick desire to use their skills, yet never want to see anyone injured and I still retain that from my time in the field. Thursday in Texas, the injuries were minor. Justin Duchscherer left the game with back spasms, which may open a bullpen slot for Kirk Saarloos once Tim Hudson returns. R.A. Dickey's rhomboid strain will push him to the DL, forcing the Rangers to juggle the rotation again. They have off days so they may avoid bringing up John Hudgins for a bit longer, but if one more person says "Greg Maddux-like" I may have to start taking it seriously.

  • Quick Cuts: Late news - Jerome Williams left his start with an apparent arm injury … Ivan Rodriguez missed Friday's game as he dealt with upper back spasms. These are not considered serious, nor are they in any way related to his previous lower back problems … Luis Gonzalez will have Tommy John surgery on Monday. Tip your cap to his effort in playing four months with a torn ligament. He'll be back for spring training … Reports have Larry Walker vetoing a trade to the Texas Rangers, while Jeromy Burnitz vetoed a deal to the Braves … Raul Mondesi failed to show up for treatment and was released by the Angels. Is this his last chance? … Billy Wagner heads to the DL for the third time this season. He'll miss the minimum.

When deals happen today, BP will be covering them. I'll be back to cover my angle Sunday if necessary. Have a great weekend and go play ball.

Related Content:  Brad Penny,  Back,  Jamey Newberg,  Newberg Report,  Quad-a

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