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August 18, 2004

Under The Knife

Under the...Weather?

by Will Carroll

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I guess I got Yankee Fever. Maybe Mets Malaria. Something in the air of New York City got me, because almost the minute I stepped off the plane back in Indianapolis, I started feeling bad.

Luckily, this column doesn't require me to go into the office, unless you consider the cell phone my office. So, with poker and gymnastics split-screened, and powered by NyQuil, let's get to the injuries …

  • I could do most of this column on one team. The Red Sox have a veritable plethora of injuries, but most of them are minor and shouldn't derail their playoff run. On Tuesday, the Sox put Kevin Youkilis (ankle) and David McCarty (cyst on wrist) on the DL to give them some roster flexibility. Already forced to make some interesting moves, like the Doug Mientkiewicz at 2B experiment, the Sox needed to get some warm bodies on the bench.

    Help is on the way. The Sox got Curtis Leskanic back in the pen Tuesday, and Mark Bellhorn (finger) is expected to be activated Real Soon Now. The Sox also expect to have Pokey Reese available to them sometime next week, with Trot Nixon looking like a mid-September returnee.

    The injury that has the Sox most concerned is Curt Schilling's. The after-effects of Schilling's ankle injury and some mechanical adjustments he made to take pressure off of the ankle have led to Schilling putting more stress on his shoulder. He's leaving the ball up and, according to some players that have faced him, showing a loss in the "heaviness" of his fastball. With the wild-card race so tight, the Sox have no cushion and will need to rely on Terry Francona stealing some rest with his flexible roster.

  • Pat Burrell sought a second opinion on his injured wrist at the National Hand Center. It gave him just enough hope that he could play this season that he's going to give it a go. There's no real downside here--if Burrell can play, he will help the lineup. If not, he's just a few weeks behind in his rehab, which is not going to be an extended one. Either way, he'll be ready for spring training. Burrell will continue treatments and give the wrist its big test early next week while wearing a special brace. The Phillies aren't getting their hopes up, but any ray of sunshine helps.

  • Ken Griffey Jr. was rebuilt on Monday and will begin another long road back this Thursday. There had been whispers that Griffey was ready to hang it up. With 500 homers on his resumé, the continued clucking of Cincy fans might still be enough to drive him away. Sources tell me that Griffey has told several people that he thinks any future he has would be in the AL, either back in Seattle or in Tampa Bay. While his connections to those teams would keep him comfortable, even a move to first base or DH might not be enough to save his career.

  • It's tough to see guys work hard and then injure themselves over and over. I'll admit that at some point, I root for them. Darren Dreifort has always been the example of the über-talented, injury-prone pitcher. This time, his knee has given way again. An MRI showed a torn right ACL. Surgery would end his season, but according to Frank Jobe, would not end his career. This is the same knee on which Dreifort had experimental knee surgery, but that was his MCL being reconstructed. He's running out of body parts to break.

  • The Astros will swap Roger Clemens and Andy Pettitte in their next turns, scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday in Philly. Clemens, with the benefit of an off day, will be on normal rest, while the extra day will help calm down the swelling in Pettitte's damaged elbow.

    Word from Houston has these two connected at the hip next season. If Pettitte will be able to pitch, Clemens will return. If Pettitte's impending elbow surgery forces him out, Clemens will once again consider retiring. I still get signals that Clemens will return regardless. Pettitte is getting worse. He'll meet with Dr. Jim Andrews after his next start, despite Astros doctors telling him nothing has changed inside his elbow. The Astros are also admitting that Wade Miller is done for the season.

  • As if the Mets needed more heat for their deadline deals, Victor Zambrano left his Tuesday start with an elbow problem. Early word has it swollen and painful. He's questionable for his next start; sources tell me that his availability will depend on results from imaging scheduled for Wednesday. Zambrano has been successful in his two Mets starts, showing improved control, but the adjustments made to his delivery didn't look natural to him. There's always a danger of doing more damage in the short term than good when fixing mechanics.

  • If there were Tribe fans out there waiting on Aaron Boone and his diplomatic immunity to come waltzing into the pennant race, they'll have to keep waiting. Boone will need more surgery to clean up his damaged knee and will not be available for the 2004 season. The Indians had hoped he might make a cameo appearance, but as the team blossomed in the second half, injecting Boone into that team raised as many questions as it answered. Unless Boone learned to throw left-handed while he was out, he wasn't the help the Indians needed anyway, but he will make that team better next season on the cheap.

  • Just as the Oakland A's are getting into the time of the season that they love, they're also getting healthy. Arthur Rhodes tore through a rehab assignment and could help the bullpen, while Eric Chavez has shown little after-effects from his back spasms over the weekend. Given the tightness of the AL West race, it's health that seems to be the difference. The Angels have fought so many injuries, it's a testament to their team that they're in it. The same could be said of the Rangers. The A's, for the most part, have had few major injuries and none that should affect them going into the stretch. 97-pitch complete games help, too.

  • Quick Cuts: Jesse Foppert will make a Triple-A start this week, but don't expect him to be back in San Francisco until next season … The Angels lost Robb Quinlan for at least three weeks after he strained an oblique during batting practice … It wasn't just Youkilis injured in the collision at the plate. Sandy Alomar Jr. also heads to the DL with a strained groin … Miguel Ojeda heads to the DL to make room for another catcher on the roster. While Ojeda was expected to be back quickly after a minor wrist injury, the Padres felt they had to make the move … Ken Harvey (hit by a pitch on his right elbow) and Mike Sweeney (back spasms) both left Tuesday's Royals game early. No word on the severity yet … No decision will be made on the Expos during the upcoming owners' meetings, but there will be discussion about Jeff Moorad's move to ownership. Yes, he's not just going to be the CEO, but his cut of some player salaries will buy him a part of a team.

If you haven't been keeping up with Olympics, you missed a great performance by Daisuke Matsuzaka. Matsuzaka dazzled the Cubans with a 94-mph fastball and no, Matt Vasgersian, that wasn't a slider he was throwing. If you did see it, you'll know why I'm so excited about the chance of watching Matsuzaka in the majors.

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