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March 21, 2005

Team Health Reports

Seattle Mariners

by Will Carroll

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Hitters

Green light C Miguel Olivo

Red light 1B Richie Sexson: I heard Mike Hargrove on XM Radio last week, talking about Sexson. He mentioned that Sexson injured his shoulder on a checked swing, incredulous that "a player could be that strong." Hargrove and many others are really missing the point. First, if a player is so strong that he can snap tendons and cartilage, that's a real problem. Second, if he hasn't reduced that strength or strengthened his cartilaginous structures, two unlikely events, he's just as susceptible now as he was last season.

Green light 2B Bret Boone: Boone had laser eye surgery in the off-season. No one's really sure how much it helps, just like other things we don't have proof of mentioned in connection to Boone.

Yellow light SS Pokey Reese: Pokey is right, if you mean his pace for healing. He's consistently been a slow healer, whether it was the oblique injury last season or the thumb problem that has plagued him for the past couple seasons. He's a placeholder for Jose Lopez.

Green light 3B Adrian Beltre

Green light LF Randy Winn

Green light CF Jeremy Reed

Green light RF Ichiro Suzuki

Green light DH Raul Ibanez

Yellow light IF Scott Spiezio: One of my good M's sources tells me that Speizio is "on the Jason Giambi suspicious shrinking program." Good line, but let's face it, it's really meaningless.

Pitchers

Green light SP Jamie Moyer: There's something to be said for not throwing hard enough to hurt your arm. Moyer should be an object lesson for scouting by radar gun and for not giving up on a pitcher after early failure.

Yellow light SP Joel Pineiro: Pitchers coming back from elbow injuries often have shoulder injuries that follow, the result of altered mechanics. Even when the mechanics are getting better, it takes a while for the body to adjust. If Pineiro can get past that, he should be fine. It was a flexor tendon problem last year, not a UCL, despite reports to the contrary.

Red light SP Gil Meche: Take a guy with a known labrum problem and punish him with extra workload to "improve stamina." Darned if it didn't work, however. Stamina has been the issue for the few labrum survivors and if the M's lucked their way into a variation on the Sain/Mazzone plan, well, worse things have happened.

Yellow light SP Bobby Madritsch: A Native American tattoo on his back supposedly protects Madritsch from injury. Given the workload he carried last year, he'd better have added a color or a thunderbird or something.

Green light SP Ryan Franklin: Two years at the 200-inning level should be worth something. Not much, in this case, but something.

Red light SP Aaron Sele: Sele was brought in as insurance against injury. The problem is, he's always injured and at this stage, he stinks even when he's healthy. Signing him is like buying an old Fiat just in case your Yugo breaks down.

Yellow light SP Felix Hernandez: Phenom. Guinea Pig. He's everything from the next Gooden to the next Fidrych, but for medheads, he's a test case. Will his handling--strict pitch counts, no sliders--help him survive at such a young age? I don't like the violent head movement and leg trail.

Red light CL Eddie Guardado: Guardado's 2004 was proof of the power of the cascade. He hurt his knee, leading to his mechanics altering just enough to lead to a rotator cuff tear. So far this spring, his shoulder's come up sore a couple times and his legs--this time a hamstring--have been problematic. "Everyday Eddie" just doesn't live up to the name any more, proof that a rubber arm only bounces so long.

--

There's a lot of green up there. Perhaps I should have altered the lights just a little bit, giving the green more of a teal tint. Or is it seafoam? I get lost in all these shades of pastel that have become the rage with uniforms. Of course, team health isn't just about having a lot of green lights, it's about keeping the important players healthy and minimizing risks. That's an area where the M's haven't done so well over the past few seasons.

The Mariners may be best known, healthwise, for being armshredders. No one has been able to pinpoint exactly why, despite our best efforts. The pitching coaches and medical staffs have been consistent. No one seems exceptionally overworked, especially after the initial wave of mutilation that took out Meche, Ryan Anderson, and a host of others. There's not a level that seems to be worse than others. We don't know what it is, but it has to be something.

The problem isn't that I don't know, it's that the Mariners themselves don't know either. Lots of teams lose young pitchers in development, but no one else does it so consistently. It should worry everyone that their top prospect--one of the top prospects anywhere and perhaps one of the top prospects in the last decade--is a pitcher. They've watched King Felix as closely as any pitcher has ever been watched, but the unknown woodchipper is still hiding, waiting to eat his arm.

The M's future in a tough division relies a lot on the pitching staff's ability to stay healthy, mostly due to their past injury problems. The depth that the team once thought would allow them to trade to fill holes is now reduced to needing a guy like Sele to plug a gap. Keeping their two new expensive sluggers in the lineup is also high on the priority list. There's going to be a high inverse correlation between the Mariners' DL usage and their win total.

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