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August 19, 2004

Under The Knife

Closing a Chapter

by Will Carroll

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Do any of you twitch when your Internet connection goes down for a couple of hours? Thanks to that sad circumstance, I'm finishing this up later than normal, even for me, so I'll forgo the niceties and just get right to the injuries:

  • It was no surprise when the Astros announced that Andy Pettitte would have season-ending surgery. The timing, however, was a bit of a surprise. Just days after Astros doctors told him he could do no further damage by pitching, Pettitte elected to go with the surgical option instead. This is a flexor tendon repair much like the one undergone by Jason Schmidt last season, so having Pettitte back for spring training is likely. Given Schmidt's timetable, Pettitte's having the surgery in-season might allow him to be ready for Opening Day. In retrospect, backloading his deal might not look like the smartest thing.

  • The news wasn't as bad for Roger Clemens. Clemens left Wednesday's game with a strained right calf, suffered while running to first base on a two-run single. Clemens was sore, but removing him from the game was more precaution than anything else. It's thought that Clemens will make his next start, perhaps even moving up a day, but the Astros will be cautious and biased towards getting Clemens in more home games as their focus shifts from winning to profits. Towards that end, the Astros think they can get something back from the A's for Jeff Kent, but the A's aren't willing to take on any salary.

  • It must make Astros fans feel a bit better to see that Schmidt has come off tendon surgery and been as dominant as any pitcher in the NL. Schmidt will likely miss one start after straining his groin during Tuesday's game. Schmidt could go, more due to the realities of the race, but the Giants tend to be cautious. As Roy Oswalt showed, a cascade can start with just the smallest adjustment to mechanics. While it could be tempting to push Schmidt out there, especially with him asking for the ball, it might be smarter to stay conservative.

  • The Mets aren't sure exactly what's going on with Victor Zambrano, but they don't think it has to do with past injuries. Given his prior Tommy John surgery (1996) and earlier flexor tendon problems, this barely narrows the range of possibilities. Based on his reactions, it's definitely elbow-related, so I'll wait on the imaging rather than hazard guesses. Smartly, the Mets take baseline MRIs, so the team will have a very recent MRI for comparison purposes.

  • Sometimes a diagnosis is wrong. After months of telling Gary Sheffield that he had bursitis and could fight through it, an MRI turned up a minor tear of his trapezius muscle. The tear is near the attachment to his shoulder. While it isn't any more serious, it shows the difficulties that many people have diagnosing shoulder injuries. Symptoms for different conditions present in similar manners, even to experienced eyes and hands.

    While Sheffield's diagnosis may have changed, his prognosis remains the same. Cortisone shots will get him through the season, and rest this off-season should give his shoulder time to heal completely.

  • Pat Burrell has started a trend. At some point, it does make sense to put off surgery if there's no more damage to be done and there's something to be gained by the attempt. The Red Sox certainly have a situation that meets this criteria, so Scott Williamson will put off Tommy John surgery and will try to pitch. I have no comparable for this, but since Williamson's elbow ligament is not completely torn, he could conceivably do more damage. There's some whispers that Williamson has elected to retire rather than have the surgery, giving him some extra leeway in not worrying about damage. All that will matter are his results and his pain tolerance, something we should see early next week.

  • The Red Sox continue working to put the pieces back together again. While Williamson is a slim possibility, Mark Bellhorn is a safer bet. He'll have a quick rehab in Pawtucket, then be back in the Sox lineup by the weekend. This will push Bill Mueller back to third base. With Pokey Reese back at the end of the month, the Sox will hopefully be near-whole. The team also figures to be extremely active in waiver trades.

  • I'm not sure what it would take to extinguish Ichiro Suzuki after his latest hot streak, one that's put him on pace to break records for most hits, most plate appearances and most at-bats. Getting beaned certainly won't help. Ichiro took a hard fastball off the helmet flap and left the game clearly dazed. Diagnosed with a mild concussion, Ichiro is expected to miss one game; how he responds to the concussion will guide the team. Mostly, it will be when he feels normal and his head ceases to ring.

  • The Orioles had been going on a bit of a run, but now they'll continue without Jerry Hairston Jr. Hairston, of the injury-prone Hairstons, broke his ankle. It's the opposite foot as last season's season-ender, a broken right foot. He's getting too old to be much beyond filler, but when healthy, he hits enough to be enticing. Don't fall for it; most teams have this type of player, just above replacement level with enough flaws or fragility to hurt a team.

  • Quick Cuts: Mike Mussina looked good, if lacking command. This is to be expected in what was a good first start back Ivan Rodriguez is nursing a sore hip, but doesn't want to take time off. He's taken a serious leadership role with a building team The Braves placed Drew on the DL. No, not J.D. Drew, as most would expect. This is brother Tim Drew, hitting the list with a strained calf The Ms continue their death spiral, losing Justin Leone for the season with broken fingers The phone lines are starting to heat up on waiver deals. Expect the fur to really start flying early next week The Angels will be without Robb Quinlan for the better part of what's left of the season. His injured oblique is torn, meaning the best case return is late September Corey Patterson is playing well, despite a sore hamstring. Watch for him to get a couple days off in the coming week.

Be sure and check out the new BPR up on the site. I should have the latest BPR up by Friday. The first was delayed by my trip; the latter by my illness, but I'm back in studio today, putting the next one together. No rest for the wicked.

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