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June 1, 2005

Under The Knife

The Personal Trainer Problem

by Will Carroll

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One of the more interesting trends in baseball over the past few seasons is the outsourcing of functions once done inside the team. As players--and agents--have wrested control of things from the paternalistic teams, some of the things have gotten better, but not all. For every problem caught by one of the super-surgeons like Jim Andrews, Lewis Yocum or Tim Kremchek, there's something that looks a bit askew.

Most of the raised eyebrows have to do with "personal trainers"--Bob Anejo and Greg Anderson come to mind--who need to be differentiated from athletic trainers. Unlicensed and of varying philosophies, these men often have dubious credentials and programs. Certainly, there are some programs, such as Mark Verstegen's Athletes Performance that are clearly scientific and well-considered, but even these have their detractors given their poster boy, Nomar Garciaparra, has been injury prone. Mike Berardino points the finger at one of these as part of the problem for Juan Pierre. There were hints that Scott Boras was going to set up his own facility last season. The trend will continue as the super-agencies become teams unto themselves, both positively and negatively.

Powered by Acura, on to the injuries ...

  • The word of the day was "reinjury." This is the worst nightmare for a training staff. Weeks, even months of rehab and treatment move towards a return and getting the player back out on the field. Doctors and athletic trainers spend time and energy to get these players back on the field, often fighting to keep the team's on-field needs and the player's medical needs balanced. For that player to step on the field and immediately end up back in the training room is something of a slap in the face, but that's what happened for Juan Gonzalez and the Indians. Gonzalez pulled up lame on his very first at-bat. There were immediate questions about Gonzalez's desire to be on the field--he seemed very lukewarm in quotes before the game--that had to be addressed by GM Mark Shapiro. Gonzalez will head back to the DL, forcing the already struggling Indians to change plans again on the fly.

  • At least Frank Thomas had the chance to have a couple at-bats before injuring himself Monday. Thomas' injured ankle/foot led to a change in gait and a bit of a strain in his hip. He was removed from the game and held out Tuesday as a precaution. This is fairly common with leg injuries: small changes tend to cascade. I had a professor at South Alabama who would drive this point home by putting a tack in our shoe underneath the little toe, then walking on a treadmill. The changes we made to avoid stepping on the tack would often lead to some amazing soreness or other problems. The Sox can not only be careful with Thomas, they've played without him long enough that a couple more games won't be too problematic. A good source said it will be interesting to see where Thomas sits on the bench in relation to Ozzie Guillen.

  • Mike Hampton left his first start back from the DL with forearm tightness. He lasted just four innings before the arm began acting up. He was pulled well before the arm went as tetanic as was seen before he went on the list. The most worrisome part is that the treatment for this injury was for the symptoms rather than the cause. Seeing the problem crop up again so soon means that some more forensic work by Jeff Porter and Leo Mazzone is in the offing. Be careful with Hampton if you have him on your fantasy roster until this is brought under more clear control.

  • I blame Johnny Bench. Bench was so good with his glove that he not only could reach to either side rather than shift his feet, but he also hid his throwing hand behind his back. A whole generation of catchers with lesser skills emulated him. Even one with similar skills, like Ivan Rodriguez, isn't immune to suffering some of the problems of the Bench style. Rodriguez was hit with a foul ball and has a fracture somewhere in his throwing hand. This recalls Javy Lopez, though Rodriguez insists he'll continue to play. Further evaluation will determine the course but Rodriguez has shown both an incredible pain tolerance and an increasing proclivity for injury recently. This one should be interesting.

  • Damian Miller had a similar experience, minus the fracture. A foul ball caught him on the hand Monday, though he was back in the lineup on Tuesday without evidence of any problem. Miller's been getting nicked up quite a bit this season, not surprising for a 35-year-old catcher. On the other hand, he's had amazing success with his pitchers at every stop. I know Keith Woolner's work on catcher ERA shows there's no effect like this, but pitchers swear by Miller, which means there's likely one of those intangible effects happening. Intelligence and touch count in this game.

  • Johnny Damon is a pretty healthy player when he's not running into things and staying off his third cell phone. Damon had his famous playoff collision a few years ago. Now, it was Damon vs. outfield wall and the wall again came out the winner. Even Lamon Brewster couldn't beat the wall, unless he got out to a really fast start. Damon received stitches over his eye, which is bad for a fighter, but not so bad for an outfielder. Don't expect him to miss much time with this or even become more tentative near the track.

    The Red Sox are also feeling better about Curt Schilling and his chances for a pre-All-Star break return. Schilling underwent tests on his problematic ankle Tuesday, though results--or even the test type--weren't released. If Schilling is to return on that timetable, he'll need to amp up the throwing program in the next 10 days to make it.

  • The Cubs are working on lots of things behind the scenes according to the whisper wire, but one thing that would help their staff would be getting Kerry Wood back. Wood's rehab has gone slowly because he's working on what was described to me as a "major" mechanical change. Wood's violent motion, especially his arm path in the follow through, has always been problematic, so any fix would certainly be a major positive. The Cubs are resisting temptation to rush Wood back, letting him get healthy and let the changes set into the neuromuscular "memory." A mound session for Wood went well and he'll begin to gear up. A late June return is looking likely, but do not be surprised by some minor setbacks.

  • My notes are confusing enough with all the e-mails, text messages, IMs and phone calls. You'd think Odalis Perez and Oliver Perez could help me out a bit by not generating news on the same day. It took me a while to reconstruct a couple notes on "O Perez" last night. Odalis had a nice bullpen session on Monday, according to Dodgers sources. The most encouraging part was that he reported only "mild stiffness" Tuesday morning. He'll have a rehab assignment soon before coming back to the Dodgers. Oliver, on the other hand, is starting to put things back together. Spin Williams has simplified Perez's delivery slightly and Tuesday's no-walk performance is a good sign. He's still leaving the ball up in the zone too often, leading to a lot (15) of long balls. Those will come down as things get back under control.

  • The Tigers are concerned about Carlos Guillen. Their shortstop is hitting well, adjusting to his lack of power by shortening his swing. Unfortunately, the repaired knee is growing more sore, forcing a visit to the doctor and perhaps a DL stint to calm the knee down internally. While Guillen has been valuable (22.0 VORP) so far, the problems he's had, as well as those of Lance Berkman, certainly point to a reassessment of the return times for ACL surgery.

  • Quick Cuts: Nice article in the Dallas Morning News about Tommy John surgery. I'd forgotten Mariano Rivera was a survivor One of the great medhead moments of the year came on Charley Steiner's pregame show yesterday. He asked Milton Bradley how his finger was. Bradley evidently responded with a "Pthbbbbt" sound. Steiner asked if he could quote him. Bradley's sprained finger forced an MRI on Tuesday. Results weren't known at deadline Larry Walker is still having some problems with his ankle, though long-term they are not considered serious. Expect regular rest for the next few weeks to make sure it heals up, especially if there's a sloppy track Only the NFL could make Bill Romanowski a hero Sean Burroughs is definitely on the outs in San Diego. When he comes back from his quad strain, he'll be behind Geoff Blum and a bunch of trade rumors There are tracks on the new Coldplay album that sound like lost tracks from U2's "War." That's pretty high praise Zach Day was reportedly almost dealt to Florida before being placed on the DL with a broken wrist Interested in the draft? Friend of BP John Sickels is running a mock draft at his site. Yours truly will be handling the Diamondbacks. I'm good with the first pick.

Plan for this week's BP Radio. We'll be starting a two-week focus on the draft with some of the top experts in the field, as well as a special talk with Jim Lampley, the HBO announcer with his own interesting thoughts on the steroid problem.

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