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August 23, 2004

Under The Knife

A Golden Era?

by Will Carroll

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We're another weekend closer to the playoffs. I'm not sure if I should be excited to see what I think will be amazing games, sad that the season is going by so quickly, or if I should just try and stay in the moment.

Eric Neel had a great take on BPR this weekend (yes, the Brian Cashman show will be up soon with this weekend's to follow shortly), saying that all societies tend to think that the one they live in is the Golden Age. Watching Barry Bonds hit mammoth shots on his way to 700, watching Ichiro Suzuki slash his way to challenging George Sisler, and watching...well, just the chance to watch all these games is something people in no other era had. As the days and games tick by, I'll try to enjoy it.

Powered by a rumor that Peet's Coffee is coming to Indy, on to the injuries

  • The Giants are leading the wild-card race by just a skosh, so it's difficult to be conservative. They are able to understand, however, that using an injured player now could compromise his effectiveness down the stretch. More teams should grasp this concept. Jason Schmidt will miss his next start with a groin strain. After testing it from the mound on Sunday, the Giants made the decision to skip this start and get Schmidt ready for next Saturday. Wayne Franklin will make the Tuesday start. With the bullpen short this week, watch how Felipe Alou and Dave Righetti reconfigure, asking both starters and relievers to go a bit longer while still maintaining their effectiveness in both short-term and the long-term.

  • If there's one thing the Cubs know this season, it's concrete repair. Wait, no. If there's one thing the Cubs know this season, it's bad signings. No, wait...one more try. If there's one thing the Cubs know this season, it's how to deal with Achilles injuries. Mark Prior has had no problems since coming back (despite persistent whispers of a more serious foot injury), but Mark Grudzielanek and Nomar Garciaparra have both needed days off since coming back (or, in Garciaparra's case, coming to the Cubs.) Garciaparra's two days off bring back memories of the "month" he reportedly said he'd miss when still in Boston. Instead, he's being spotted according to matchups and schedule. It's one of the things Dusty Baker does well.

    Grudzielanek is having more pain and limitation, but since he's only in a pseudo-platoon with Todd Walker, there's more leeway in keeping him on the bench. Neither injury is considered serious, but for fantasy players looking for that little edge, watching for players who might see their plate appearances curtailed for whatever reason in September--rest, injury, or call-ups--is a smart strategy.

  • The Phillies are still 8 1/2 games back in the NL East and six back for the wild card, but getting their bullpen back into shape would help them look more like a contender. While Billy Wagner is focused on a return in the first week of September, Ryan Madson could be back even before that. On this weekend's BPR, Joe Sheehan pointed out that Madson was truly the key to the Phillies pen this season, and that his injury coincided with the Phillies struggles. According to multiple sources, Madson looked good on the mound this weekend. The Philadelphia Inquirer thinks Madson could be back next weekend.

  • I'm going to stand up and admit I was writing off the Red Sox. I'll also stand behind that, despite the shrinking gap between them and the Yankees. While the Yanks certainly have a number of questions preventing them from being the world-beater George Steinbrenner demands, the Red Sox have just as many. Getting Mark Bellhorn back from his hand injury certainly helps the infield, but there are still pitching issues: the back end of the rotation, the inherent fragility of Pedro Martinez, and the ongoing saga regarding Curt Schilling, marcaine, and his ankle. Bellhorn, at least, seems to have no problems at his return, looking good in the field and demonstrating his grip strength for one of my best sources.

  • Gary Sheffield and Carl Crawford may be playing with injured shoulders, but there's a difference between their injuries and the thumb injury of Jermaine Dye that I want to offer as yet another case study for injury values.

    Playing through pain, gutting it out - whatever you care to call it, the macho ethic of sports is at the bedrock of American culture. The question should not be "can you play?" but "can you play without further damage and at a level better than the next-best available player?" For Sheffield, he's obviously still performing at a high level and dealing with an injury that does not affect his swing. For Crawford's similar symptomology, both he and the medical staff felt he could not be effective, so he was replaced in the lineup. For Dye, he hid the injury, at least from the public, and proceeded to play while the injury debilitated him. Perhaps the A's had no better option or perhaps Dye waited too long to tell them just how serious the injury was. In a race as close as the AL West is and likely will remain, every disadvantage subtracts from the limited chances a team has to win. It's possible that a fractional Dye is better than a healthy Billy McMillon or Mark McLemore; something MLVr or VORPr would suggest so, but determining the appropriate fraction is very difficult to determine.

  • I'm often asked to define the term "injury prone." Nick Johnson may require an even more descriptive label. How does "injury magnet" sound to you? Wasn't there a cartoon character that had a little black cloud that would follow him around? That must be how Johnson feels. There's really no apparent reason why Johnson has so many varied problems. Karma? Voodoo? Johnson's latest injury is a broken cheekbone, caused by a bad-hop grounder off the bat of Royce Clayton. Johnson won't require surgery, but is done for 2004. He's an interesting non-tender candidate this winter.

  • Injuries to Ken Harvey and Mike Sweeney made it possible for Calvin Pickering to come up and prove he can mash at the major-league level. Someone peel Rany off the ceiling, please. Pickering's power does take the edge off the injury problems suffered by Royals 1Bmen. The back problems of Sweeney are well documented and unpredictable, while Harvey's oblique injury may linger long enough to be a de facto season-ender.

  • Toronto had the chance to make a deal involving Frank Catalanotto when he was claimed, but decided against it. Like many good decisions the Jays have made this season, it still managed to go against them. Catalanotto is now out for the season, electing to have surgery on the groin tear that has plagued his 2004 campaign. Baseball economics probably make Catalanotto a free agent next season. The surgery should make him an attractive target for a team with some free cash.

  • The Pirates could look at the elbow injuries to Kip Wells and Sean Burnett as big negatives. Both are in danger of losing the rest of the 2004 season, and there's a good case to be made for them doing so. There's certainly little to be gained by forcing them back to the mound, with several young pitchers ready for a tryout, this gives the team just that much more reason to try. More worrisome for these pitchers and the rest of the Bucs starters is just how far both Wells and Burnett were pushed when it was obvious that something was wrong.

  • I'm telling you, that wall is hard and tends not to move. Padding be damned, if you hit the wall on the run, it will hurt. Torii Hunter learned that lesson last week and now Andruw Jones is doing the same. Jones missed Sunday's game with soreness in his lower back after slamming into the right-centerfield wall on Saturday. Jones isn't expected to miss any games--the Braves are off Monday--but keep an eye on his mobility and power.

  • It seems that all that can stop Justin Morneau is an injury or another fit of pique by the front office. Morneau escaped a serious injury when recently hit in the hand with a pitch. While the hand is sore, X-rays came back negative and Morneau will miss little time. The Twins expect their young slugger to be available for their important series in Texas this week.

  • Every season, it seems we get a new oddball injury, something we haven't seen before, at least not in enough quantity or notoriety to give it thought. Last season was the debutante ball for oblique strains. In 2004, the dommages du jour have been the check-swing injury, With Richie Sexson, J.J. Hardy, and Andy Pettitte all causing their downfall by changing their mind at the wrong time. I can't think of any injuries like this in the past. (That said, I'm sure there are and have long thought the outbreak of wrist injuries among young power hitters had a lot to do with check swings.) The latest victim is Wily Mo Pena. Pena's left wrist is sore and slightly swollen after a check swing during Friday's game. He's out until at least Tuesday, when team doctors will recheck him.

  • The Reds also are replacing the back end of their bullpen for the next couple weeks. Danny Graves went to the DL with severe back spasms. Tests showed that the problem was not structural, though I'm sure that made Graves' pain no more tolerable. Once the spasms can be stopped, it will be a reasonably quick recovery, though back injuries do have a tendency to linger, if not recur.

  • I like e-mail. I like e-mail a lot more than I like text messaging, that's for sure. I'll try to head off some e-mails here in regards to two young pitchers about to reach the majors.

    Scott Kazmir will make his debut in Seattle on Monday. I've only seen him on video, but his delivery is violent and he has difficulty repeating it. He also puts a lot of strain on his shoulder with his motion. I'm curious to see him and thank MLB.tv for the chance. Jeff Francis has a smoother delivery and will be under strict innings and pitch limits once he is called up. This is smart for a number of reasons, mostly because young pitchers often "hit a wall," experiencing severe fatigue and the resultant injuries this deep into the season. It's more pronounced in pitchers that have made a rapid rise through levels, so while neither is at an elevated risk to pitchers of their age, it's still an increased risk period for valuable players. I watch injuries and pitchers so closely for one reason: I like watching them on the field a lot more than I like writing about them here.

  • Quick Cuts: Preston Wilson will remain out of the lineup until Wednesday. It's just residual soreness from his earlier surgery The Reds have run out of rehab time for Austin Kearns. The likely decision is activation by their next game on Tuesday. How they will use him remains unknown Remember when everyone said Chan Ho Park was out for the season? Not so much. He's expected to be called up in September Is a sweep by a possible playoff opponent enough to get Yankee phones up off the bench? Caller IDs across the league already know the answer Sterling Hitchcock left his start on Sunday with a strained elbow. No word as to the severity yet The A's expect to bring Chad Bradford off the DL early this week.

Related Content:  Injury,  Back,  The Call-up

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