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May 2, 2005

Under The Knife

The Commish Takes a Stand

by Will Carroll

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Bud Selig did what I expected him to do. Knowing that the Universal Drug Policy might have been scuttled by the NFL's better showing in front of Congress, he's going to try and get a better deal from the Players Association while he can. Last week, Selig requested a "three strikes" policy with significantly greater penalties along with an expanded banned-substances list, and announced plans to drop the hammer on the minor leagues.

Marvin Miller has already weighed in on the union's shortcomings in this case--and it's hard to disagree with him, though I admired that the MLBPA did what they did--but the part of the Selig-to-Fehr-leaked-to-Barry Bloom letter that interested me more was Selig's call for a "steroid czar." Yes, that's my term and not what Selig used, but it's much along the lines of what I've been calling for--one person who is responsible for the complete program, from piss to punishment, and who is also responsible to the public and the media for answers. The HPAC has served its purpose well, but a "steroid czar"--if selected correctly--could handle the situation better. I'm not sure who that right person is and, given Selig's history, I'm not sure he'll select anything resembling the right person. For Selig, Fehr and baseball, this hire might be the defining one of the decade.

Powered by the hope that they'll pour the foundation on my new house sometime this month, on to the injuries ...

  • Kerry Wood is probably headed to the DL with tendonitis in his shoulder. He's definitely out for one start, with a final determination to come after more tests on Monday. The pain he's feeling is in the rear of his shoulder, and some reports have the injury as a mild strain of his rotator cuff. The cuff is actually four muscles that act to decelerate the shoulder from its tremendous rotation speed, so this is something that's extremely important for a power pitcher with questionable mechanics. This is a very similar injury--quite possibly the same injury--that derailed Wood during spring training. If so, he likely came back too quickly, meaning a return would likely be longer than what he faced in that case. Estimating that he's out for May is pretty safe.

    While this can't all be placed at the feet of Dusty Baker, it is going to bring some calls for using Wood as a closer. While I still think it's too early for that kind of move, I'm not sure that doing so might not take some of the wear off, assuming Wood can recover from one-inning stints quickly and warm up properly.

  • Roy Oswalt has about as much in common with David Wells as I do. Actually, I probably have more in common with Wells. Oswalt and Wells do share an injury now, though the extent of Oswalt's is in question pending further tests tomorrow. Oswalt sprained his foot in much the way that Wells did, coming off the mound. The injury is evidently only affecting his push-off. I wasn't able to get hold of the podiatrist on the UTK consulting team, so I can't give you much more. This certainly bears watching closely.

  • While some people misunderstood my comparison of Jim Thome and Jason Giambi last week, Thome is showing that it may be injury holding him back as well. Thome left Saturday's game with severe lower back spasms caused by an awkward swing, similar to the injury he suffered in spring training. (He may have exacerbated the problem while sliding into second base.) That injury was purely muscular, a big positive, and took him about ten days to recover from. Thome may be put on the DL as a precaution and as a chance to showcase Ryan Howard. A decision will be made early this week. If the back has been bothering Thome in any way this season, that serves as an explanation for his lack of power.

  • No decision has been made on David Bell or Kenny Lofton. An MRI showed that Lofton's hamstring is not severely torn, as was feared, while Bell is dealing with yet another round of back spasms. Individually, none of these injuries would be particularly problematic, but paired with the Thome injury, the Phils look pretty thin and might DL one of these guys just to be able to add a body or two.

  • If you thought the cheapskate, run-around past of the Expos was gone, you were wrong. Given a new home, a rushed stadium and an organizational infrastructure that has questionable leadership, the Nationals were bound to have problems. Rheal Cormier of the Phillies was injured this weekend when the bullpen mound crumbled beneath his feet. He's expected to be fine after straining his hip, but it's this type of thing that would really haunt a contending team and should haunt the commissioner's office while they still operate the Nationals. Getting an owner in would certainly help because then he's very literally invested.

  • Pinch-hitting tells us a lot about injuries. How? Teams that don't think a player will be able to return quickly often won't allow a player to even pinch-hit, hoping to retain the ability to retro them onto the DL. The Braves are using Chipper Jones as much as they can. His severely bruised foot is healing--he looked better on Sunday than he did hobbling on Saturday--but he won't be back in the lineup until at least mid-week. Jones has tended to heal pretty cleanly over his career, so expect him to be at full strength quickly.

  • If the Marlins were still throwing complete games every other day, an injury to Guillermo Mota would be almost irrelevant. That's hardly possible, so losing Mota, especially with few other options while Tim Spooneybarger is still healing from Tommy John surgery, leaves the Fish in an interesting position. They certainly can't go trade for a closer, so Jack McKeon's cigar can pick the hot hand, the best matchup, or whatever seems right that day. That's not a horrible option for the three weeks Mota expects to be out with undifferentiated elbow inflammation. I don't expect Mota to be fully healthy the rest of the year unless a real cause is found.

    Worth mentioning--whoever fixed Dontrelle Willis' mechanics deserves some credit. I was really concerned when they altered his leg kick, but the way he's landing now is textbook. Buy.

  • Luis Castillo has built a career on his legs, ones that haven't seemed to be fully healthy over a great portion of that career. Now, he's alternately described as having a hip flexor strain--a problem he's had before--and a high hamstring strain. My best Fish source tells me it's the former, which shouldn't be as much of a problem as the hamstring strain would be. Why? Castillo has been dealing with hip problems for much of the last two years. It acts up, they treat it, and he's back in the lineup, doing what he does. There's no reason to think this injury is significantly different than the others. We like known quantities.

  • Khalil Greene is very close to a return, perhaps in a week. With Geoff Blum out due to a severe chest bruise, the team could use him right now. He'll have one final check and go right back into the lineup. Expect some rust. The team is also close to bringing up Tim Stauffer, their top "pitching prospect." While the plan was to give him a couple months at Triple-A, he's likely to be up on or before June 1.

  • While the A's never give out much information, we have enough to judge what's going on with Nick Swisher. Clearly, Swisher injured his shoulder slamming into the wall--and really, I should keep count of how many wins the wall has in these battles during the year--and the team is calling the injury a clavicle sprain. There are a couple of possibilities, but all of them indicate at least a DL stint and possibly longer depending on the grade of the injury. Surgery is unlikely, but the extent of the damage will only become clear after more imaging.

  • Lance Berkman is getting closer to a return, and the Astros could use him. Sure, they lit up a tired Mark Prior, but that happens, especially with this Cubs team. Berkman will have a couple games at Triple-A Round Rock and be back. If you're in a weekly transaction league, have Berkman, and are in dead last not saying that I am or anything but hey it might be worth the risk of activating him and getting his performance if there's a quick return. He's shown no problems after off-season ACL surgery.

  • Quick Cuts: John Olerud is the latest reclamation project now on the Red Sox payroll The Cubs are rumored to be going after Placido Polanco, but they're scouting Alex Cintron. Dusty would rather have a "real closer" while the front office is stalking Aubrey Huff The Orioles are doing a better job at resting Javy Lopez. That's a big plus for this team as they continue to try to play over their heads. They'd like to upgrade their backup catcher, so Greg Myers is a possibility Joey Eischen left tonight's Nats game with an injury to his pitching arm. Late reports have it as a broken glove arm, suffered on a fielding play Mark Teahen and his lumpy, oppo-hitting self should be back in the Royals lineup later this week. If it weren't for Michael Lewis, would we even know who this guy is? Orlando Hudson will miss a couple games after colliding with the ump. Can't say I've ever seen that cause listed Joe Borowski is headed to Triple-A Iowa. Expect a short stay in Des Moines My BPR co-host, Brad Wochomurka, is off next week running the Indy Mini Marathon. He's a bit worried and looking for advice. Drop him a line with suggestions.

If you haven't already, check out this weekend's BP Radio. I love these longer interviews and hope I have a chance to do more. There are certain people I'd love to give the full hour to. In the coming weeks, we have some HUGE names who will be stopping by. We're adding correspondents, heading out to the ballparks, and generally upgrading the show. We'll be adding podcasts soon and a "best of" archive is coming sometime this summer. Back tomorrow.

Related Content:  Injury,  Back,  The Who,  Year Of The Injury

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