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August 2, 2004

Under The Knife

Success Under Duress

by Will Carroll

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During a weekend when seemingly anything could happen, injuries were simply a side note. Teams looked hard at medical reports, surgical summaries and MRIs, but in the end, decisions were more about the field of play than the training room. Whether this lack of focus on health will come back to bite teams remains to be seen, but in several races where teams will win or lose by a game or two, every run counts. I'd still love to be able to quantify the value of an injury. It's something I'm working on, so if you have any suggestions, let me know.

Powered by the old standby, Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee, on to the injuries

  • The signals between Joe Mauer and the Twins look crossed. Terry Ryan said he expected Mauer back on August 1, but a peek at yesterday's box score tells me that didn't happen. Instead, Mauer is heading to a third doctor for a second opinion. His knee, injured early in the season, may have problems compounded by the type of surgery that "fixed" him. Mauer's knee has continuing pain and swelling significant enough for some near Mauer to call his return this season into question. Given what we know, I cannot see how Joe Mauer will handle the catcher position for any significant time, but he should be able to follow the Craig Biggio career path due to his bat and his age.

  • Watch Tim Hudson as he comes back this week. His next start will be Friday against the Twins, and his rehab start Saturday for Sacramento didn't clarify his status. Hudson's mechanics were off as he compensated for his injured oblique, causing his command to be shaky. He walked three and used 64 pitches in three innings. The A's will keep him on a strict limit, but he may not reach even that if he can't command the zone. That first start back will be the big test; the A's don't get the luxury most fantasy owners do of waiting for those results before activating him.

  • MLB.tv has allowed me to get a good (if small) look at Matt Morris. I come away more convinced than ever that he has a progressive problem in his shoulder. I won't Houdini the thing and diagnose him, but I think that it speaks well that he's been able to have some success in spite of it. If something isn't torn, he could be rested-given the Cards' big lead- and come back stronger. There are some situations where a DL stint is a net positive and I think Morris could be in one of those situations.

  • Simply put, young pitchers are risky. Use whatever system you want and some of them will break, much like china in a move. It leads to a risk-management mindset, something that some teams implement well and others not so well. Jerome Williams heads to the DL in a critical time for the Giants, with an elbow problem that is not structural. Stan Conte was watching Williams' velocity and notes that conditioning is the biggest issue.

    On the other hand, Jeremy Bonderman's injury was not preventable. Struck by a comebacker, Bonderman's shin was not fractured, but his next start is in jeopardy. The time it takes him to heal fully will determine his availability, and the Tigers will err on the side of caution. The same is true for Zach Day. He'll miss the next six weeks-possibily ending his season-after fracturing his finger in a bunt attempt. The upside? Young pitchers missing time for non-arm injuries do save some wear and tear. Many of the pitchers who have extended careers are the ones who didn't throw 200 innings until their mid-20s.

  • The return of Jarrod Washburn has been pushed back at least a week. Expected to come off the DL for a start in the latter portion of this week, Washburn was unable to meet some of his rehab goals, necessitating the change in his timeline. The setback isn't bad; once the pain in his chest subsides, he'll be able to get his strength back up where he needs it to be to throw. Expect him back by August 15.

  • Things look less rosy for the brick-orange of the Astros. Andy Pettitte not only missed his Saturday start, but new manager Phil Garner is asking the front office to prep another starter for Pettitte's next scheduled outing. Even light throwing is causing pain and point tenderness on his pitching elbow. He has yet to throw from a mound. A DL decision will come early this week.

  • The time is getting close for the return of Ken Griffey Jr. It's an oft-heard refrain in these parts, but Griffey seems to be as close to full-go as he gets at this stage. He's clearly high-risk, but just as clearly still talented. All the normal caveats apply - he'd be better at first base or in an outfield corner, he'd be better if he took flexibility seriously, and yet he'll probably still amaze us just on physical talent. Griffey should return to the field late this week; he's been pestering the medical staff to sign off on an early return.

  • I'm geting lots of e-mails asking how Ryan Dempster came back from Tommy John surgery in just a year while showing none of the velocity or command problems typical of TJers. The answer, as I've detailed here before, is a new type of surgical technique I'm calling "overlay Tommy John." Instead of removing the torn ligament, surgeons (in this case, Reds doctor Tim Kremchek) lay the harvested tendon over the damage, fixing and strengthening without further damage to the proprioreceptors. This technique is new and we don't yet know how it will change things, but early results-namely Dempster and a few others-look good.

  • Quick Cuts: Another day, another Brandon Larson injury. Larson is out with his hamstring strain after slipping on wet grass. He's at a stage where his injuries have overcome almost all the potential Austin Kearns will head to Louisville for a rehab assignment. Surgery and a padded glove should get him back in the Reds lineup by August 10th Michael Ryan re-injured his left shoulder. His September audition is in jeopardy.

I'll be at UTK Headquarters all week. Expect a major Pizza Feed announcement (or two) by midweek. Back tomorrow.

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