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August 25, 2004

Under The Knife

Guinea Pig

by Will Carroll

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Never question my commitment. After my analysis of the Gary Sheffield shoulder injury was questioned, I decided that there was only one way to determine exactly how a Grade II tear of the left trapezius muscle would affect a swing. Assisted by a physical therapist, my left trapezius was placed under controlled stress until the muscle tore. After some ice and Aleve, I headed over to the batting cages and took some hacks. I admittedly don't have anything near the bat speed or talent of Sheffield, so this is just a rough approximation. The swing itself wasn't affected greatly. Where I did feel it was turning my head to watch the ball come from the machine. It also hurt if I didn't keep my head level as I followed through; if my head shifted towards the right shoulder, there was a shooting pain. Throwing wasn't affected much. If I raised my glove arm, as a player would making a hard outfield throw, there was some, but not enough to alter the throwing motion.

I don't want to make this into a questioning of Sheffield's injury, but I think my original analysis of the injury was spot on. Sheffield, of course, has to go out and play professional baseball day after day at the highest level. I've just got to bring you the best injury information I can.

Powered by Medtronic, on to the rest of the injuries...

  • Troy Glaus may be back. Glaus was expected to miss the entire season after shoulder surgery, but after a great run through rehab, Glaus he's taken the last couple days to show Angels brass that he could be the x-factor for the stretch run. Glaus is expected to head out for a rehab assignment quickly in order to get some at-bats before the minor league season ends. All reports have Glaus being limited to DH if he is able to return. I've been working with Thomas Gorman on a couple interesting projects, including one that hopes to show just how the Angels survived all the injuries and remain in the race.

  • Maybe I'm watching too much World Series of Poker (lord knows I don't have any time to actually play myself) but I see a bit of bluff in Ron Gardenhire. Gardenhire told the press that Joe Mauer would not be heading out on a rehab assignment as previously discussed. Instead, the Twins would use Mauer as a pinch-hitter only, perhaps a DH, meaning that the Twins would head to the post-season with Matt LeCroy and Henry Blanco behind the plate. Given the split decision from doctors regarding Mauer's post-surgical knee coming down on the "he can play" side, this latest decision doesn't have much logical or medical science on its side, given what I know. If Mauer's knee is too damaged to play catcher, I don't understand why the team would accept the risk of letting him run, especially on turf. There's more going on here that I'm not in on, so I'll be watching this one.

  • Jermaine Dye took a couple days to rest his sprained thumb. Now that he's back and the thumb is no better, there's a chance that it wasn't sprained. In an interview after the game, several readers have e-mailed to say that Dye stated the thumb could be fractured. Needless to say, this would be more serious than a sprain. It would, however, potentially give Dye time to heal for the playoffs. The A's need Dye contributing to improve their playoff chances in the tight AL race, so his ability to hit with the injury is the million-dollar question right now in Oakland. A decision on which road to take with this injury will have to come soon.

  • When the team doesn't wait for the MRI before putting you on the DL. No, it's not the punchline to one of those god-awful redneck jokes. It's no joke that the Rockies didn't need images to know that Preston Wilson was headed to the DL. The MRI will decide if his swollen, painful, post-surgical knee has ended his season, not if he needs a rest. Wilson has fought the injury all season and at this stage, there's little to be gained for Wilson or the Rockies by pushing him. Jeromy Burnitz is rumored in a couple waiver deals, so the outfield Dan O'Dowd started with this year may be all gone later this week.

  • Sneaky Dodgers. They're trying to sneak past the fact that the initial diagnosis many of us made on Brad Penny--strained biceps--appears to be right. The stretched nerve spin is coming off and Penny looks to be weeks away from a return, if it happens at all this season. The Dodgers continue to insist Penny will be back shortly, but also refuse to put a timetable on him. It is an unusual injury, either way, so I'm not faulting their lack of a timetable, just their spin. The best guess from my team of advisers? Sept. 10th.

  • Chalk another one up for the Mariners. They don't have a lot going for them this season, but they do know how to put pitchers on the shelf. Joel Pineiro is the latest of their promising young pitchers putting a bit more Stapp in TINSTAAPP. Pineiro, like Rafael Soriano before him, was thought to need Tommy John surgery, then had more tests which ruled it out. Soriano ended up having the surgery after all, so Pineiro may still has reason to worry. The Mariners have hinted that they'd send him to the Arizona Fall League, which surprised me, but really shouldn't, given some of Seattle's moves this season.

  • Cubs fans thought the worst when Nomar Garciaparra missed a couple games, but it was not his barking Achilles that pushed him to the bench. Garciaparra told the press that he sprained his wrist during batting practice last Friday. An MRI showed no damage in either problem spot. After being held out an extra day, more due to Ben Sheets than injury, Garciaparra was back in the lineup on Tuesday. The Cubs also got good news on Todd Hollandsworth; he's now out of his walking cast and has put an ambitious goal of Sept. 1 on himself for a return. A later date is more likely. Hollandsworth not only upgrades the bench significantly, but would allow Moises Alou the off days his body requires.

  • "I'm not talking about my elbow. I've been told not to." That quote from Pirate pitcher Sean Burnett leaves me, well, a bit cold. It's the second year in a row that Burnett has had an elbow injury at about this point in the season. While an MRI reportedly showed no structural damage, it's also likely that we've seen the last of Burnett on a mound this season. Pirates sources insist it's merely fatigue for the short lefty, but I tried to point out that short had nothing to do with it.

  • Orel Hershiser is a religious man, but he's not a miracle worker. Scott Erickson was picked up, but didn't work out. Now Hershiser hopes that Chan Ho Park has sorted himself out. Sure, I called him a comeback candidate this year, but with any other pitcher, dropping his ERA by 2 full points would be considered a comeback. Park did reasonably well at Triple-A and has had no problems with his back since returning to the mound. Now, it's up to him to perform. The Rangers also expect to get Jeff Nelson back in front of Francisco Cordero by Sept. 1. He'll likely start a rehab assignment later this week, probably in Double-A Frisco.

  • The Braves used their cushion in the standings to get Paul Byrd some extra rest. Skipped Tuesday, Byrd has had some soreness in his post-Tommy John left elbow after his last couple starts as well as some fatigue. He's scheduled to start on Saturday and the Braves don't expect this to be much more than what it is now--stiffness and some fatigue.

  • It looks bleak for Mike Sweeney. After some off and on, in and out of the lineup time with back spasms, sources in Kansas City say that Sweeney is throwing in the towel on 2004. While surgery is still not an option, Sweeney apparently does not feel that he can get back to full strength before the season ends. Calvin Pickering will get the rest of the season to show what he can do.

  • Pat Burrell is taking swings, but is not yet ready for the final test of live batting practice. That could come as early as Wednesday or as late as next Monday. Burrell is attempting to delay surgery and come back using a brace to keep his wrist problem from ending his season early. The swings so far are not near 100%, so there's no predictive value here. There's hope, but there's only one way to tell. For that, we can only wait.

  • The news is less positive for Billy Wagner. Aiming for an early September return, Wagner has been shut down again and is heading to see team doctors on Wednesday. Joe Kerrigan thinks that the new pain is just tendonitis, a common occurrence during rehab due to the stop and start nature of working back to full strength, but Wagner requested the appointment on Tuesday after his shoulder remained sore. Expect a quick decision.

  • Quick Cuts: In an earlier UTK, I stated that Frank Catalanotto had been placed on waivers. That information was incorrect... Andy Pettitte had successful elbow surgery. He is expected to be ready for spring training... Jason Schmidt has had his Saturday start written in ink. He'll have a side session on Thursday as a final check... Kazuo Matsui is taking grounders at 2B as he rehabs his back. It's unclear if this is for this year or next, when the Mets hope he and Jose Reyes can swap spots and do what they expected this year... Brian Tallet came to Triple-A in the Indians system, just over a year after his Tommy John surgery. For an Indians team with a bright future, Tallet is a name that might solidify the rotation behind C.C. Sabathia, Cliff Lee and Jake Westbrook... Why do I feel possessed by Don Rickles every time I have to comment on Sterling Hitchcock? He's never done anything to me. He's on the DL, but should be back at the minimum.

I spent the last couple days watching the amazing advances in cardiac medicine. An uncle had bypass surgery back in the late 80s and I can remember cringing at the large scar across his chest that was literally wired shut. Today, another family member can survive with a small scar and a stent inserted by a catheter. What once took weeks in the hospital and a painful recovery has become nearly an outpatient procedure. Sadly, the medical treatment that is truly world-class took place in the same hospital where I saw a small girl get turned away from care because her mother didn't have insurance. The advances we've made in medicine, be it cardiology, oncology, or sports medicine, are simply amazing, but it's just not enough yet.

Related Content:  Back,  Surgery,  Year Of The Injury,  Elbow Stiffness

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