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December 15, 2004

Under The Knife

The Pedro Dilemma

by Will Carroll

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Injuries don't stop for anything, even the Winter Meetings. Actually, I spent as much time talking to doctors and trainers in Anaheim, showing the Injury Value Calculations I'm planning for BP2005 to team officials, while discussing injuries and industry trends. Injuries are at the heart of almost every free-agent deal and trade discussed. Joe Sheehan left the meetings looking like he was heading for the DL and while I'm looking forward to next year in Dallas, this off-season holds plenty more action for all of us. Hopefully, a quick UTK will make us all feel better.

Powered by the fine employees of the Anaheim Marriott's Starbucks, on to the injuries...

  • There couldn't be more noise about a player's injury status than there is about Pedro Martinez and his newly relocated right shoulder. Talk radio, Web sites, and Red Sox Nation wailing in the streets are all decrying the mercenary nature of Martinez's new contract, all the while reassuring themselves that their prodigal Pedro is hurt anyway. Martinez will have an MRI and a shoulder strength test as part of his normal, pre-signing physical, but there are no standard procedures for physicals. Since Martinez has previous shoulder problems, there's no chance of insuring the contract. Instead, the Mets will look for enough faith to sign the contract.

    Is there a labrum tear there? Possibly, but no MRI is going to give a significant degree of confidence. There is only one way to diagnose a labrum tear: arthroscopic surgery. MRIs of this nature are notoriously difficult to read. Some doctors believe that any overhead athlete, such as pitchers, tennis players, and the like, probably damage their glenoid labrum. The question becomes whether or not that damage is symptomatic. Is there clicking, popping, catching or pain in Pedro Martinez's shoulder? Only Martinez himself knows the answer. Asymptomatic pitchers can certainly have some success while being ticking time bombs. Martinez has shown himself to be an effective pitcher over the past couple seasons. He may no longer be Sandy Koufax, but Koufax walked away before he had the chance to become Pedro Martinez.

  • With Martinez gone, the pitching load will fall more heavily on Curt Schilling than before. Unfortunately, that load can't be carried until Schilling can walk. I contacted Schilling yesterday via e-mail and it appears that he's about a month behind schedule after surgery to fix his damaged right ankle. It's not a complication, just an issue of functionality, so there's a possibility he could catch up a bit somewhere in the rehab process. The most likely scenario puts him back in the rotation some time in late April, putting more pressure on the Sox front office to make a deal for Tim Hudson or A.J. Burnett. Schilling will be dealing with a new team doctor as well. The Red Sox let Dr. Bill Morgan go despite his work with Schilling in the playoffs.

  • Stories go both ways on whether Richie Sexson took a physical as part of his negotiations with the Orioles and Mariners. I spoke briefly with Sexson over the weekend, but he wouldn't answer that specific question, referring me to his agent. His shoulder is currently "strong and ready" according to Sexson, not an unbiased source. I think he's right--the rehab has reportedly gone well and it probably feels great. The bigger issue is the risk of recurrence, something that would worry me if I needed to build a team around the towering slugger. There are few comps for this injury and to players like Sexson specifically. The injury, however, has a tendency to recur in other types of players, leaving me a bit cold in light of some of the money that's been mentioned for Sexson's deal.

  • There was nearly universal puzzlement amongst front office personnel about several decisions not to offer arbitration. Steve Finley was one, but J.D. Drew kept coming up in conversation. The fragile outfielder made it through a season without significant lost time and seemed comfortable in Atlanta. Drew may be moving to Detroit, where he'd play center. This would be a positive for his knee--avoiding making sharp turns in the corners--and likely a nice positive for a franchise that's getting better by leaps and bounds. The Braves will risk John Smoltz in the rotation; I think he'll likely need to have a Pedro-style handling to hold up. Best guess is that he'll need to be a six-inning, 90-pitch kind of starter, something the tenacious Smoltz will have a hard time dealing with. Let's set the over/under at 160 innings for Smoltz.

  • A surprising number of teams asked me questions about Preston Wilson. His knee is always going to be a question mark yet in the right deal, but he's someone that can still help a team. He'd probably do better in a corner slot or on a team with mobile corners. Like Moises Alou or Drew, a team with a good fourth and fifth outfielder makes Wilson a decent risk.

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The Class of 2005 (12/16)

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