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March 15, 2005

Under The Knife

Notes From the South

by Will Carroll

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It takes a lot to get a UTK out of me at this point, but it’s not a normal day, either. Some of you may have seen me on "Big Idea with Donny Deutsch," talking about steroids. It was an interesting experience and really somewhat surreal. Jose Canseco, Mr. Universe, and John from "The Apprentice," hanging out with me in the green room sounds like the start to a very strange joke, but it was my afternoon. I’m curious what everyone thought and of course, I’m interested in your thoughts on the steroid issue. I won’t take up more time with it here – there’s plenty going on and we’ll have time to discuss it later.

Let’s get on to the injuries...

  • When I saw my email had filled up, I was sure everyone wanted to talk steroids. Instead, it was the first DMPU (Daily Mark Prior Update) request of the year, shortly followed by the second, third, and two hundred eighteenth (yes, I counted). Prior was shut down after developing "unusual elbow pain." The early indication is an ulnar nerve irritation, which is more symptom than cause. Something in the elbow is inflamed and he’ll need a bit of rest and a bit of anti-inflammatories. Like his teammate Kerry Wood, Prior is hoping to be pitching again shortly, yet he may not be ready for the start of the season if this pushes back his schedule. Cubs fans should be very, very worried if the workload demon is showing up, demanding his due this early.

  • It’s not just starters and it’s not just young guys having trouble. Mariano Rivera has also been shut down with elbow pain. Prior pointed out, smartly, that pitchers at this stage in spring training often have problems, such as a dead arm period, the breaking loose of adhesions or osteophytes, and something one of my favorite major league trainers calls "fatigue-based soreness." That's a classic term that means, well, pitchers get sore. Rivera hasn’t had problems this early before, though the Yankees are used to him needing time off to rest and recover. The Yanks will watch him closely through the early season; Rivera makes his money in October.

  • The spin is that Joe Mauer is back to catching. What the Twins don’t want you to notice is that he’s not catching on back to back days, needing two full days of rest between squatting sessions. If Mauer can cut that down, needing only one day of rest, it still forces the Twins to set him at DH for half their games. One solution might be to not play him on turf, but that would be tough on the hometown crowds that pay to see the hometown hero. The Twins are just avoiding the hard decisions as long as they can, meaning they might get lucky or they might make a decision based on panic and availability, rather than the one that will best position them.

  • The Dodgers, at least, get good news. Brad Penny continues his easy spring, going above fifty pitches on the side without problem. Odalis Perez continues to work back from his tendonitis and figures to see game action next week. Most importantly, Eric Gagne is healing nicely from his knee sprain. He’s chosen not to wear a brace on the mound, a decision he’ll revisit periodically. There’s no concern over his timetable or conditioning yet and his arm should be tuned up quickly.

  • Five innings in the field really isn’t much, though Magglio Ordonez is feeling good about his five in the outfield. It was his first extended time in the grass, running, stopping, and doing everything a guy with a rebuilt knee is supposed to do. Ordonez has shown no problems since becoming a Tiger, making their medical staff look pretty good. I have conflicting reports on his running – one scout said he was a step slow, while two other observers I checked with said he’s not running full speed.

  • The Mets are very concerned about early reports on Steve Trachsel. The starter had a second opinion on his lower back, leading to reports that he’ll need surgery to repair a herniated disc. Specialist Robert Watkins will check the lower back problem and surgery could happen as early as Monday. There are whispers that the injury happened in the offseason. Trachsel’s rotation spot would likely fall to Jae Seo or Aaron Heilman, but keep an eye on Yusmeiro Petit.

  • Keep all warnings of small sample sizes and spring training stats in mind, yet note that Scott Rolen has been terrible this spring. The knee injury that was such a problem in last year’s playoffs appears to still be an issue. Expect Rolen to have the knee scoped when he admits it’s too much of a problem. He’ll miss roughly a month when that happens.

  • The Reds had high hopes for Luke Hudson. Instead, his spring is over. The inflammation around and near his repaired labrum is so severe and widespread that a cortisone shot isn’t going to touch it. He’ll go on medication and a strengthening program once the swelling is down. His comeback from the labrum tear is severely set back, perhaps permanently.

  • Pat Burrell is hammering the ball, reducing concerns that his non-repaired wrist will be a problem. Several observers say that Burrell’s swing looks freer than it has and that Burrell himself appears to "have a weight off his back," according to one opposing team’s report. The wrist problem does have a tendency to recur and the surgery would, for all intents, kill a season, making this an injury that will worry the Phillies all year long.
Quick Cuts: Chan Ho Park has looked pretty good while fighting for his career. It’s still early, says the guy who thought he’d be back last year … C.C. Sabathia should be back on the mound later this week after a mild oblique strain. Sabathia should be on track to open the season if he can avoid setbacks … Andy Pettitte should get back to his rehab. The ankle sprain only changes the timeline by a couple days and gave him a chance to work on smoothing his mechanics, which appear slightly altered. Pettitte’s head is moving sharply to his right during his delivery early in the spring … Ray King is one guy the Cards can’t lose right now. He’s the only lefty getting guys out for Tony Larussa. His left shoulder is bothering him, forcing a shutdown of a couple days. He’ll continue to work on conditioning and long toss.

I’ll get back to the THR’s tomorrow, grinding through them as we head towards Opening Day. Until then you can find me courtside at the NCAAs, in Cleveland on Friday for a book signing, and beating my head against the wall if these Congressional Grandstanding Championships actually come off Thursday.

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