March 18, 2005
Team Health Reports
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C Victor Martinez: Martinez was spotted out well by manager--and former catcher--Eric Wedge, who never let him get too tired or beat up behind the plate. Young catchers are inherently risky, though Wedge is giving Martinez the chance to live up to his potential by keeping him healthy.
2B Ron Belliard
3B Aaron Boone: Boone is almost 18 months past his ACL surgery, and should have few problems with the knee. Speed should only be an issue for things like going first to home.
LF Casey Blake
CF Coco Crisp: Possessing one of the best names in baseball, Crisp is a one-dimensional player who relies on his speed. This type of player is vulnerable to the slightest leg or back injury.
RF Juan Gonzalez: The powerfully built Gonzalez has come under recent scrutiny due to Jose Canseco's book. It stuns me that no one points out that many of the players suspected of steroid use often have careers that were shortened or stunted by injury. Gonzalez hasn't been healthy since the last time he was in Cleveland, back in 2001.
DH Travis Hafner: Hafner still occasionally deals with wrist problems that have plagued him since the minor leagues. Aside from these lapses, Hafner is a dangerous, powerful hitter who pitchers hate facing.
SP C.C. Sabathia: Jim Andrews cried out last winter at the ASMI Conference when he saw how far back Sabathia took his arm during his trigger phase. Rany Jazayerli and I disagree on the injury risk for Sabathia. He hasn't been significantly overworked from a PAP perspective. His mechanics, on the other hand, are pretty terrible. His physical strength has saved him so far.
SP Kevin Millwood: Millwood avoided Tommy John surgery last year and was able to return late in the season. He's working hard mechanically with pitching coach Carl Willis. If he's able to smooth out the delivery, Millwood could return to his once very good results.
SP Jake Westbrook: Westbrook broke out last year, pitching well enough to cause an 80-inning jump in his workload. It will be interesting to see whether he sees the normal ill effects around the 150-inning mark this season.
SP Cliff Lee: Lee ran into a wall at 150 innings last year, just falling apart mechanically. This isn't as bad as it sounds because he wasn't hurt, just exhausted. He could approach 200 innings this season with better conditioning and another year's experience. He's among the best young pitchers in the game.
SP Scott Elarton: People have given up trying to correct Elarton's short-armed delivery. He'll be hurt at some point; until then, he's a nice free-talent pickup by the Indians.
CL Bob Wickman: He'll be used cautiously to try and keep his elbow together, defining cautiously as "never four days in a row." His sinker is still nasty. Expect him to have at least one long DL stint.
At BP, we are often accused of praising teams that think like we do. We call them "State of the Art" teams and make it seem like there's one true way to build a baseball team. Those that read closer realize that there really is no BP way to build a team, that we're willing to look at all approaches, and that the stathead orthodoxy is actually anything but dogmatic. As a small niche of the larger revolution, medheads have something of a disconnect, praising teams that do things well, looking only to methods and results behind the scenes. It's how a team like the Devil Rays can be an award winner years before they have their first winning season.
Not many teams pair winning with medhead excellence, but Cleveland is one that does. Still haunted slightly by the death of longtime trainer Jimy Warfield, Cleveland has made great strides in becoming one of the top medhead organizations. New head trainer Lonnie Soloff personifies this new spirit. Soloff was at ASMI's Injuries in Baseball Conference, soaking in new information. He's doing research and presenting to the American Physical Therapy Association. He's working with his rehabbing players 18 hours a day, just as he worked a few years ago, bringing Ken Griffey Jr. back from his first two leg injuries. Soloff, just 30, is one of the brightest lights in sports medicine. The Indians are likely to enjoy his services for thirty years, just like they did his predecessor Warfield.
Soloff and his staff will have their hands full. Their ace pitcher has questionable mechanics; there was an outbreak of Tommy John surgeries a few years ago that infected several of their top pitching prospects, ones who are just now returning to top levels; and he'll deal with two new acquisitions, Aaron Boone and Kevin Millwood, who have injury histories that they hope to overcome. Like most teams, the pitching staff is far riskier than the playing corps, but the Indians watch their pitchers closely, tracking them in their state-of-the-art DiamondView system.