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September 1, 2004

Under The Knife

Neifi's Coming

by Will Carroll

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It was just a couple weeks ago, sitting in Mickey Mantle's restaurant, that my pal Jay Jaffe said that there was no such thing as a paranoid Yankees fan. Paranoid Yankees owner? Maybe.

I'm sure Jay will want to reconsider that statement as the Sox continue to surge and the Yanks continue to…well, choke is a strong word for September, isn't it? Teams slump and surge throughout the season, and the timing of those swells is what makes a season exciting. I'm not writing off the Yankees, and I'm not yet ready to give Theo Epstein an apology for all the things I said about that trade, but baseball analysis (if you can call what I do "analysis") is humbling. Even the smartest and the best miss things and stare at the opaque window of front offices and clubhouses blankly.

Powered by [this space available, especially to a cellular company], on to the injuries…

  • It's never a good sign when Neifi Perez is coming. For the Cubs, the slick-fielding, slack-hitting shortstop will come up and immediately give some relief to Nomar Garciaparra. He'll be in the lineup just occasionally, leaving many to wonder why he's on the roster at all. However, given the alternative of Ramon Martinez, Perez doesn't look so bad. Martinez has been exposed in anything but a fill-in role, while Perez has been Neifi Perez for a long time now, something that counts with Dusty Baker. Garciaparra played two games on the Montreal turf, something of a surprise, and showed no ill effects.

  • The Cubs are worried that Aramis Ramirez may never heal. "Never" is a strong term. They're worried that he won't heal this season. Ramirez has been put into Edgar Martinez station-to-station mode in hopes that his bat is enough. The Cubs looked for a third baseman at the deadline, yet couldn't find one at the right price. Ramirez, like Garciaparra, will be spotted out regularly, but the demands of the wild-card race will often overrule injury concerns.

  • The Cubs gave us some more information on Todd Hollandsworth when they made the trade for Ben Grieve. Moises Alou and Sammy Sosa--especially Alou--need days off, something they haven't gotten since Hollandsworth injured his right shin. The trades for Grieve and Mike Difelice give the Cubs a stronger bench but little extra flexibility. Cubs sources tell me that Hollandsworth is still expected back; the trade is merely hedging their bets. It remains to be seen how they will structure their playoff roster.

  • The Devil Rays seemed to be swapping outfielders, getting Rocco Baldelli back from the DL just as Carl Crawford will miss some games with a sore shoulder. Baldelli will return Wednesday after missing the minimum with his strained quad, but Crawford entered Tuesday's game as a pinch-hitter, staying in center. Crawford could miss some time once the Rays get Baldelli and some call-ups available.

  • The black cloud is back over the Cards bullpen. New hat and all, Steve Kline is done for the regular season. Just a day after saying he felt better, an MRI came back with a Grade III strain of his groin. You and I would call that a tear. The four weeks he's likely to be out may make it hard to put him on the playoff roster if he's unable to show what he can do. I'm unsure which way the Cards will go, but they do have that cushion and a full month wit which to figure it out.

  • The Mets are hopeful that Kazuo Matsui will be able to return this season. Matsui returned to New York for a visit with the Mets doctors on Tuesday morning, however the results are not yet known. Matsui was reported to be behind by "Dr." Mike Piazza, but we have better sources than that. My sources tell me that Matsui has made little if any progress. MRIs showed the same. He'll return to Florida for more rehab, but the Mets aren't expecting him back. The team is also considering shutting down Vance Wilson. He's been unable to grip a bat without pain for better than a week after being hit by a Kevin Correia pitch.

  • The Pirates continue to push Kip Wells and Sean Burnett towards a return. Both are making progress in throwing programs, though neither is making enough progress to be on the timetable the Pirates set. Wells was expected back on Thursday, an unlikely rush, I thought. It looks more like Nelson Figueroa will get that start, with Wells more likely to take it in the next time through. Wells is still searching for his command.

  • Quick Cuts: Luis Castillo is expected back on Thursday. His ankle was so swollen on Monday, the Fish were worried for his season … Todd Jones heads to the DL with elbow tendonitis, while Billy Wagner had a mediocre mound session … Mike Sweeney is telling the Royals that his back is better, but the team is asking him not to rush back. They would rather give Calvin Pickering the at-bats … As expected, Randy Wolf went to the DL Tuesday. He's likely done for the season … Scott Williamson is continuing his throwing program with the Red Sox. The team is hopeful he'll be able to take on some role … The Red Sox will activate Kevin Youkilis and Dave McCarty on September 1. Expect lots more moves like this … Joe Nathan injured himself during his outing while trying to barehand a comebacker. Initial reports have him cracking a nail; he will have precautionary X-rays.

One thing to remember as we head into call-ups is that this isn't necessarily the deadline for the postseason roster. I had been working under the assumption that we'd see some screwy looking roster moves in order to set the rosters, but I remembered the loophole. Just a few years ago, the Angels used the DL-replacement loophole to get Francisco Rodriguez onto their playoff roster. I'm all for using the available loopholes, and in this situation, it's a big one. It's also very important to note that many teams stop using the DL in September. There's no real roster value to using the list with expanded rosters. This allows a few injuries to sneak by me, but last season, with your help, we caught most of them.

Related Content:  Rosters

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