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May 12, 2005

Under The Knife

The Friendly Confines

by Will Carroll

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Just before I left for Wrigley Field, Allen St. John reminded me to have a frosty Old Style for him. Allen, I couldn't do it. Instead of a frosty beverage, the weather turned frosty, going from 82 in Indy to 42 with a brisk wind in our faces at Wrigley. Shorts were not the uniform of the day, despite my attire. Few things would make me sit through a game like this, even at Wrigley, but the kindness and time of the Cubs front office made it worth it. In the offices and cafeteria--the parts of Wrigley that most never see--we got the chance to sit with Jim Hendry, Scott Nelson and some other members of the Cubs' front office. The conversation rambled from trade rumors to closer usage, from books to organizational meetings, and from Cubs past to future. Ron Santo, Andy Maisor and the Cubs new TV team of Len Kasper and Bob Brenly all stopped by. Ten innings of Alaskan-style baseball later, the Cubs had a win and while there was no Old Style in me, the game--and the company--made it a great trip.

Powered by my Sidekick II that lets me do everything, even on the road, on to the injuries...

  • The Cardinals are sounding pessimistic about Scott Rolen. A series of imagings haven't pinpointed the problem, but the possibilities are all negative. This is similar to, but different than, the injury Rolen suffered in the playoffs a few years back. According to sources, Dr. George Paletta isn't yet ready to put a timetable or plan together, hoping for more information. In the meantime, the Cards will try to delay a decision on the DL. Remember, Rolen has a knee problem to deal with as well, so if he does go on the DL, there may be a chance for him to have a quick scope, fixing two problems in one timeframe.

  • I have sources everywhere, even inside Johns Hopkins, where reader T.S.--his secret codename, of course--let me know that Sammy Sosa was hobbling about with a concerned entourage of Orioles, despite a happy face from the O's on the outside. T.S. knew before everyone else that Sosa's infected foot was more of a problem; in fact, sources tell UTK that the infection may be MRSA, a serious, drug-resistant infection. Sosa's condition will depend on the cause of the infection and his response to treatment. If the infection is contained, Sosa could be back at near-minimum. If not, well, let's not cross that bridge just yet. The O's will not only be short one outfielder, they'll be down two. Luis Matos broke his finger on a bunt play and could be out as long as eight weeks. Reports say the fracture is not a simple one, described as a "crushing." Expect David Newhan to see lots of outfield time in the interim.

  • Remember when I said not to panic about Jason Schmidt? Sometimes, panic is okay. This still isn't one of them. The shoulder strain Schmidt is suffering through is similar to the strain that put Kerry Wood on the DL, though the muscle has not yet been specifically identified. Assistant trainer Dave Groeschner--who certainly understands pitcher injuries--was quoted as saying that the muscle strain was "mild" and "near the rotator cuff." Schmidt is expected to be back in a couple weeks, but may need a throwing program and rehab starts to prove his health. Schmidt's injury is a reminder that even when watching closely and doing things "right," there is still a risk that the cumulative wear on a pitcher's arm will suddenly bring the bill due.

  • The Red Sox can win without Curt Schilling and David Wells in the rotation. It would be much easier, however, to win with them. Wells is likely to win the race back into the lineup, with his tests of the sprained foot getting more gamelike. Wells could be back as early as next week. Schilling, on the other hand, is limited still and might not be back before May is gone. His arm is being kept ready with long toss, meaning he may come back without another visit to Pawtucket. Getting these two back will make a big difference. Another big name--Roger Clemens--won't be coming back to Boston, despite rumors. Clemens would only leave the Astros to return to the Bronx.

  • "My career could be over," said Jeff Bagwell on Astros.com. According to the report, the rest is a "last resort" and Bagwell's next step would be to either retire cleanly or move to the DL, allowing the insurance on his contract to kick in. At some point, the pain is simply too much for Bagwell to deal with in spite of his competitive nature and the economic incentives that keep some players around. If this is the end, Bagwell's next stop could be Cooperstown, while the Astros will continue to slide. This injury could also affect Lance Berkman, who many think will take over Bagwell's spot at first, at least this season to protect his knee.

  • While John Smoltz was able to make his start in Colorado on Wednesday, he's not the only Braves pitcher with back problems. John Thomson was forced to stand and work to keep his back from seizing up during his last start. Bobby Cox is worried that Thomson will be limited and may have trouble recovering between starts, an important part of Leo Mazzone's program. Keep an eye on this, since the Braves have a history of quick DL stints paired with some smart use of spot starts from minor leaguers.

  • Quick Cuts: Reader WCE has an interesting point: "Here's a possible below-the-waterline question about the current power decline. Could any of it be traced to the problems surrounding the Cox-2 drugs? Guys in more pain might not hit as well. What do you think?" I think WCE is on to something It's not just Barry Bonds that needs repeat surgery. Bucky Jacobsen, the popular minor-league slugger, will have his knee re-scoped this week. If someone wants to suggest steroids, you take on the BuckyBackers Craig Wilson had successful surgery on his finger and should be back around the All-Star break. No, Brad Eldred is not ready yet Nook Logan wants to work with a track coach. I wouldn'trecommend it. Aramis Ramirez is dealing with back spasms, likely related to his hamstring problems. The two go hand-in-hand and demand a sophisticated stretching program, like the ones that have kept Ivan Rodriguez and Vladimir Guerrero healthy Felix Rodriguez was probably trade bait until injuring his knee in the shower. He's headed for surgery and the DL With Ryan Bukvich just the latest Tommy John case in the past couple weeks for the Rangers bullpen, many ask if this signals some problem. Actually, there is often a "viral" or epidemiological pattern to Tommy John injuries. I have absolutely no explanation or even theory about this. If you do, you know where to send it.

I'm sure you'll all want to hear Pete Rose and Michael Lewis on BPR this weekend. I know I can't wait!

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