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May 3, 2005

Under The Knife

Another Positive Test

by Will Carroll

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the most recent positive test was "a real player." Juan Rincon is an important part of the Twins bullpen, so ten days without him will be something of a loss. He gets replaced on the roster and we all know that relievers are the most easily replaced pieces over short periods of time.

What's interesting are the assumptions that are flying around and the shift in the stories. Is this an escalating problem, slowly working up to a star player? No, these are random tests, not a conspiracy. If the public kicks MLB for botching nearly everything else, why would they give them credit for a grand scheme? Did Rincon test positive for a steroid, and if so, why won't they release the substance? It's reasonable to assume that yes, he did test positive for one of the anabolic-androgenic steroids on the list, since those are what is randomly tested for. The substance is not released because of concerns about medical privacy. It's a weak excuse, to be sure. Are pitchers helped by steroids? Well, yes, but we don't know that there's widespread usage. I'm more interested in hearing from these players--not the excuses, but the reasons--and I'm very curious why it wasn't reported when at least a week ago, Rincon took a random test. Not much gets by the writers in the locker room and I can't imagine they didn't know that testing was happening.

The story continues and will until the story is contained by education and public relations. I'd suggest "for cause" testing on several top players--sluggers, power pitchers, "flukes" and such--to show that this is serious and that the problem is not epidemic. That would go a long way towards what this is really all about: trust.

On to the injuries...

  • No slickly worded press release could make the bad news seem good. Kerry Wood has a torn rotator cuff. Big words like "supraspinatus" don't confuse people as much as they once did. The strain--which we all know is another word for "tear"--is not significant and took a contrast MRI to find. Finding the tear is actually something of a positive. It's likely that this was the original problem in spring training; now that it's been correctly diagnosed, it can be fixed. It's also possible that this is new, and that coming back from the previous injury put too much stress on the cuff. We'll never know for sure; either way, the answer is rest and therapy, meaning May is pretty much done for Wood and June is in question. The Cubs look to reconfigure their rotation, bringing Glendon Rusch back, as they hope they still have enough to keep the wild card in sight all summer.

  • The Cubs also got the good news/bad news diagnosis at the minor-league level. They think that Angel Guzman has had problems not due to pitching, but to a childhood arm injury that wasn't fixed properly. They think it's correctable and that Guzman will be able to return this summer. His star is perhaps tarnished, but you know what I think about pitching prospects anyway.

  • Things get worse for the Yankees as they struggle and shuffle more than my little iPod buddy. Randy Johnson is facing a DL stint with a strained groin. The injury is on the left side, his push leg. His Wednesday start is off and a decision will be made then as to whether or not to place the Big Unit on the Big List. Despite this and the well-documented shakeup in the Yankees lineup--calm down, Joe and Jay, you put down those knives--the Yankees continue to be trying to prove Buster Olney was right. Johnson's injury isn't considered serious and, if DL bound, he'll be there for the minimum. At least they'll get Tanyon Sturtze back. He's made quick work of a rehab stint.

  • As Andy Pettitte continues to come back from last season's arm surgery, his reputation is getting in the way. He was sent back out for the eighth inning in his last start, despite being in the upper 90s on pitch count and showing clear signs of fatigue. He went out and was met with predicatable results. As Larry Doughty said to me this winter, "the batters will tell you when he's done." True, but it's better to know before the batters if you intend to win games. I think Pettitte and Phil Garner will learn from this outing, reminding themselves that stamina is the last thing to return for injured starters.

  • Listen, Mets fans, the Scott Kazmir-for-Victor Zambrano is only bad if Kazmir is good and Zambrano isn't. OK, so the last half of that seems to be the case. Kazmir is still an unknown. Zambrano seems to be headed back out for more work at the Rick Peterson Mechanics Shop while Kris Benson is ready to slot back into the rotation. Benson has come back well, if slowly, from his strained pec and has thrown well in side sessions. The Mets are also very close to getting Mike Cameron back. He's at Triple-A now and will be in Queens by the weekend.

  • Scott Rolen never seems to be fully healthy, yet he plays better in that condition than most players. Rolen's dealing with more upper back spasms, something of a cascade from a changed gait. The gait change is a result of his bum knee, which he's hoping to delay having cut until after the season. I'm still dubious of that happening, yet Rolen seems to do more or less what he wants as long as he's not hurting the team. He's not. What's amazing is how much hurt he puts on himself so as not to hurt the team.

  • I got the first report across the Sidekick as "LHP Eischen WAS - broken arm." Just that line immediately gave me that churning, almost nauseated feeling in my stomach. Not again. It had been too long since we had a Tony Saunders or a Tom Browning. It was something of a relief when I got more details, that it was an injury on a fielding play, something of a freak accident. It doesn't help Joey Eischen, but this is a far preferable injury. He'll be out eight weeks and back in for the Senators, something few of those other pitchers were able to say.

  • Quick Cuts: Jody Gerut heads to Triple-A to test his repaired knee. He should be back in Cleveland soon, putting pressure on Casey Blake Nick Swisher is out for at least ten weeks with his sprained clavicle. Surgery remains a possibility Ben Sheets is still having trouble with balance. This DL time could extend a bit further than originally expected.

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