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May 24, 2005

Under The Knife

The Hall of Lame

by Will Carroll

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I've often contemplated doing a "Hall of Lame"--a list of those really funny injuries that litter the landscape of baseball. I'm really more interested in the stories behind them more than the injuries, since those are what hurt baseball teams. Terry Mulholland probably doesn't find it too humorous that he took the business end of a feather in his eye when, I guess, his pillow came undone. All this time pitching professionally and the rubber-armed one is done in by down. Who knew? It keeps me on my toes.

Powered by the season finale of "24," on to the injuries ...

  • The Angels backtracked quickly in regards to Francisco Rodriguez and his availability, moving him from "ready to pitch" to "on the DL" in very short order. What happened? According to reports, Rodriguez threw a "full bore" bullpen session on Sunday, and his reaction to that session had to have told the Angels something. One unconfirmed report said that Rodriguez was unable to throw his slider without pain. At one point, according to this same source, Rodriguez flinched after throwing a "Frisbee slider" and had to shake his arm out before making the next pitch. The move made was retro, meaning that the Angels could have Rodriguez back early next week. Scot Shields is doing so well in the closer role that the Angels aren't going to rush.

  • The Angels might not rush Kelvim Escobar back either, given the performance of Ervin Santana. Escobar is expected back soon, though a five-hit shutout against Jon Garland and the White Sox might keep "the other Santana" around a while. The Angels' pitching depth is disguising their offensive problems. Oddly, there's no definitive word on Vladimir Guerrero today, other than some quotes from him. Yes, Guerrero did come back from a similar injury quickly, but self-reduction isn't exactly advisable. The All-Star outfielder was refusing a sling despite significant swelling that delayed the MRI another day.

  • Peter Gammons had the term "calcifications in the elbow" in his note on Octavio Dotel in his most recent Diamond Notes, but it's me that got all the e-mail on it. The calcifications aren't exactly bone chips or spurs, though those phrases are used interchangeably. Usually, this term refers to small bony areas in and around a ligament or tendon. Given the location and Dotel's delivery, it's reasonable to assume we're talking about his UCL and yes, this type of situation is often a precursor to Tommy John surgery. We'll have to wait for the inflammation to come down and for Dotel to throw again before we know how extensive the damage was and what the prognosis will be.

  • Kevin Baxter of the Miami Herald had the scoop on A.J. Burnett this morning. Burnett has a swollen and painful pitching elbow, though the pain is in a different location than would be expected for a TJ survivor. He headed to see James Andrews yesterday and will miss one start. Baxter, speaking on XM, said that Burnett was the one Marlin starter who had been resistant to Mark Wiley's new approach, and that this might shock him into trying the program. There was no structural damage found, so Burnett is expected to miss just one start. This is a similar situation to last season, when Burnett went on the shelf for three starts.

  • Carlos Beltran will take the better part of the week off in hopes that rest and treatment will bring his strained quadriceps back to useable condition. Mets sources tell me that they believe Beltran has been dealing with the injury for a good portion of the season, resulting in his slow start on the bases. The injury itself is of little concern unless the damage done while Beltran played through it is much more significant than is expected. Unfortunately, that won't be known until the problem goes chronic. One AL executive tells me that he sees Barry Bonds every time he looks at Beltran--that Beltran will slow down significantly, shift to a corner, and dial up the power.

  • Why was it so hard to diagnose the problem with Mark Loretta's thumb injury? Because there was a screw there from the last time he did this. That makes the images look a bit off. Loretta will have surgery to once again reattach the ligament in his left thumb. This should put him out for around two months. The Padres seem to be a bit disappointed that Loretta decided to have surgery, and wasted no time looking for a replacement. One rumor making the rounds was that Phil Nevin was playing his standard role of bait with teams such as the Rangers and Angels.

  • Aaron Cook was the opposite of the "Hall of Lame" last year. His bout with blood clots was one of those scary situations that actually makes us stop thinking about baseball. His lungs now clear, Cook is about ready to throw competitively again and could be back with the Rockies within a month if the rehab goes as planned.

  • The Reds pitching staff is going to be interesting. In fact, the Reds seem to be heading into one of those zones where everything could be interesting. Danny Graves' middle finger put him in baseball's purgatory, the "designated for assignment" limbo that players with the shiny closer tag seldom see. He's sure to have a lot of interest from teams like the Cubs, Mets and Rangers.

  • The Reds are more worried about Paul Wilson. His shoulder has exhibited signs of problems since the beginning of the season with reduced velocity and increased fatigue. The team is saying tendonitis, but he'll be skipping a start in hopes that the extra rest gets him back. Watch closely; the signs on this one scream "retro DL move."

    There's better news on Ramon Ortiz. He's sore and swollen near his eye, but there are no problems with his vision beyond the transient but apparent effects of a baseball to the face.

  • If you believe the party line, Carlos Zambrano should be looking into Skype or iChat. Zambrano told the press that he spends several hours a day chatting with his brother in Venezuela. My advisors, both doctors and PTs, are dubious of this story, saying that carpal tunnel, not tennis elbow, is the result of excessive typing. Whatever the root cause, Zambrano was able to pitch effectively and as long as he does that, no one will care what he does in his off-time. The biggest concern is that, if the problem stays intermittent, the Cubs won't know what to expect from Zambrano in any given start. Even the worst-case scenarios, given the known facts, aren't that bad for Zambrano himself.

  • For any other player, getting back into rehab after a setback isn't news, but this is Barry Bonds. Bonds was given clearance to get back into therapy after spending the better part of May fighting an internal infection. It's impossible at this stage to put Bonds on a normal scoped-knee timeline, so look for milestone activities like running and swinging the bat. A recent interview with Dale Murphy painted a very dire picture, with Murphy telling the tale of his post-surgical infection and the slide his career took. Murphy noted that his cartilage was damaged by the infection and while this is certainly a concern, with Bonds the cartilage is already so damaged that anything more is not likely to cause additional problems. Even without cartilage, new techniques like the use of Synvisc can help now in situations like Murphy's. While it's logical to look for comparable injuries from baseball's past, advances in medical science often change the actual comparison significantly. This is one of those cases.

  • Quick Cuts: Chipper Jones is out until Wednesday, hoping to avoid the DL with a strained oblique Kaz Ishii looked bad in his second start off the DL. Of course, he looks bad when healthy, making it difficult to tell much from this Shawn Chacon left Monday's game with an injury to his push leg. More info tomorrow Hey, John Moores. No more books for you There is no one--no one--covering the problems in sports like HBO Ben Sheets went 75 pitches in extended spring training and is on track for a Saturday return The Cubs will activate Todd Walker on Wednesday, slotting back into a pseudo-platoon at second base, though sources tell me that Jerry Hairston isn't helping himself in the clubhouse The Cubs are also likely to put Mike Remlinger on the DL to bring up Sergio Mitre for an emergency start.

Remember to listen (or call) today at 3 p.m. Central when I do the "Will Carroll Baseball Hour" on ESPN 950. Back tomorrow.

Related Content:  Back,  Week In Quotes,  The Week In Quotes

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