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August 12, 2004

Under The Knife

The Final Tear?

by Will Carroll

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I try not to get too personal in this column, but tomorrow is a big day in this neck of the woods. Not only is it my father's birthday, but my mother is having surgery.

So where will I be? Headed to New York. It probably makes me some sort of cad, but I've learned that life goes on. My father knows that much of what he taught me shows up in each column I write. My mother has probably never read a column of mine--she doesn't even like baseball--but she gave me the sense of freedom that let me dream this improbable life. I'll wish them both the best, hope that you will as well, and I'll do what I do best, hoping it makes them proud.

On to the injuries

  • Ken Griffey, Jr. is once again done for the season. It seems that no matter the number of times that he attempts to come back, his legs will never again be the ones that glided across the Kingdome floor. While in the lineup this year, Griffey showed that he still possesses talent for the game, but his body continually betrays him. It's a sad turn for a player who was once considered every bit the equal of Barry Bonds--and may well have been.

    This time, the injury is one of the most serious he has suffered. Griffey was diagnosed with a complete rupture of his hamstring, necessitating surgery to reattach the muscle to the bone. That surgery is scheduled for Monday and is the second such surgery this month for a Red, following Jason Romano going under the knife. According to the team, Griffey tore the muscle while rehabbing; the Reds stated that the muscle strain earlier this season was not the gross tear he has now. I'm beginning to wonder at what point baseball and the work of rehab stops being worth it to Junior. His best days well behind him, he's made every effort to be the player the Reds expected and he simply isn't going to get there. The trade will forever be held up as a bust and the time in Cincinnati will taint the memories of his once-great play. Who would have thought that Edgar Martinez and Ken Griffey, Jr. would be leaving the game at the same time, both felled by bad hamstrings?

    If the Griffey injury isn't enough, the Reds might also lose Austin Kearns and John Vander Wal, leaving plenty of openings in a once-crowded outfield. Kearns had a setback in Triple-A and has returned to Cincy for an exam. He developed a blood clot over the area of his thumb that was recently surgically repaired. None of the doctors or trainers I spoke with could give me much guidance on this, so hopefully we'll have more info next week. Vander Wal is having soreness and swelling in his repaired left knee, a normal setback that the Reds will have to allow for by resting him.

  • There's some confusion about the actual condition of Albert Pujols. I was told by very good sources that it was heel spurs and not plantar fasciitis. Confusing matters is the fact that plantar fasciitis is often called "heel spurs" colloquially. Absent actual information, I'll side with the Cards trainer, who said Pujols does have plantar fasciitis, the same condition that cost Mark McGwire time in the middle of his career. The injury can be treated a number of ways, and the Cards will try to be as conservative as possible. The change in diagnosis, if true, doesn't affect Pujols in the short term, but seeing McGwire on Pujols' PECOTA list can't make Cards fans feel good about that long term-deal.

    The Cards did get...well, is it good news if your best pitcher misses a start? Not really, but it could have been worse for Chris Carpenter. Back spasms will cost Carpenter his next outing, but he's not expected to head to the DL. Dan Haren will likely take the start this weekend, and a decision on the DL can always be made retroactively if need be. The cushion the Cards have in the standings never looked so good, but an old team with little depth winning more and more one-run games has the look of a team that could flame out in October.

  • Mike Piazza can come down to the Pizza Feed on Friday (picnic area, Mike) now that he won't be playing. Piazza was placed on the DL with retroactive to August 7. The Mets anticipate that Piazza's knee will be healed by August 23, when the Mets begin a long homestand. Piazza had the knee injected with cortisone in hopes that the swelling and pain is reduced and healing can begin. The Mets were without Jose Reyes (ankle) and Kazuo Matsui (back) on Wednesday as well as the team plummets in the shadow of their deadline deals.

  • I'll cover this more on Saturday during BP Radio, but Jason Giambi might be owed an apology. Tumors, wherever Giambi's was located, don't just happen. It's possible that the mild weight loss so overblown in the media was the first sign of the problem. Being weakened by parasites--a freak occurrence--may have led to the diagnosis, a positive but unintended consequence. You'll hear for yourself on Saturday, but Brian Cashman is very positive about getting a contribution from Giambi in September. More importantly, Giambi looks to be available for the playoffs and could be back to full strength by then.

  • The Twins got a bit of good news as Dr. John Bergfeld of the Cleveland Clinic recommended rest and therapy instead of surgery for Joe Mauer. Mauer may still have a shot at playing this season, but with the pain and swelling, there's no timetable for it. Mauer may still need the surgery recommended by Richard Steadman. The Twins certainly could use Mauer's bat as they look towards October, but his long-term future is the bigger issue. This recommendation does little to assuage concerns about Mauer's long-term viability as a catcher.

    The Twins also got bad news at the end of Wednesday's game as Corey Koskie was injured on the last play. No news at deadline, but the injury occurred when a throw to third ricocheted off a sliding Willie Bloomquist, who then collided with Koskie. As Koskie writhed in pain, Bloomquist cruised home to score the winning run.

  • The Angels have shut down Jarrod Washburn again. The pain is simply too great in his sternum/ribcage for him to pitch effectively without significant mechanical alterations. There's no timetable for his rehab now, and there's a possibility that he won't even pick up a ball again in the next ten days, making his return late August at best. Worse, Washburn himself says the injury is not healing.

  • Young pitchers are simply a crapshoot. If I were a GM, I'd either draft a load of them, figuring that I could get a certain percentage through or I'd shun them entirely, filling my roster with college survivors, minor-league free agents, and veteran hurlers who had proven themselves. That, or I'd hire that guy who wrote Saving The Pitcher and see how well it works in the real world.

    While Edwin Jackson is making progress in rehab and may be back in the Dodgers' rotation within a couple weeks, Grant Balfour was diagnosed with a small tear in his labrum. The track record for surgery is bad, so Balfour is going to try and strengthen the arm. The odd thing is he's going to try and pitch as well. For a team in a pennant race and a young pitcher with promise, this is risky.

  • Quick Cuts: Mike Mussina went three strong innings against a horrible Indianapolis lineup. He should make his next start in the Bronx...Apparently, Pat Burrell is seeking a second opinion before having surgery on his left wrist. While remote, the possibility exists that he could return this season...The Cubs have brought in Vince Coleman to work with players on baserunning. Expect more stealing from the Cubs, especially Corey Patterson. I'm watching for hammy strains...Todd Hollandsworth isn't "done for the season," according to the Cubs, but the odds of him returning before the last week of the season are slimmer than Mary-Kate Olson...It's good to see Rusty Greer taking BP. He could be back sometime in September as something of an inspiration in uniform...Milton Bradley is getting time off to keep his mild hamstring strain from getting more serious. He left Wednesday's game as his hammy tightened throughout the evening...David Bell is again experiencing back spasms, further dooming the Phillies' meek hopes...Dee Brown heads to the DL with an oblique strain. Only Royals fans will notice.

Hopefully, we'll have Friday's Pizza Feed and have a great time, but keep your eye on BP just in case of a rainout. It will be impossible to reschedule due to my travel itinerary, but we'll figure something out. I just hope the Shea Feed isn't the first rainout BP has had! Also, check out BP Radio this weekend. We'll have a New York focus with Yankees GM Brian Cashman, New York Post columnist Joel Sherman, and more. See you next week.

Related Content:  The Who,  Surgery

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