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June 15, 2005

Under The Knife

TJs Abound

by Will Carroll

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Sometimes I wish I could break news. Then again, one of the things that sets BP apart is its reason--the ability to sit back while the rest of the baseball world is rushing to a story, reporting fastest if not best. It's the same impulse that leads some announcers to say things without reflection and often, without fact. As I listen and watch more baseball than ever before, I also learn more, both from my ever-growing network of sources and friends and from the staff of BP. Bill Moyers says that "being a journalist is about getting educated while in the public eye."

I found myself on the Sidekick today, surrounded by thousands of Athletic Trainers listening to Jim Morris give a great speech. The text message told me about an injury you'll read about in just a bit and it came just after noon, hours before most outlets got the news. It was odd, knowing that the guys sitting to the right and left of me could tell you more about UCLs than I'll ever know, that Kevin Wilk and George Paletta had given speeches on the topic earlier that day, and that I'd be the one tasked with explaining it. Not rushing to get the story out gave me time to talk to more people, analyze similar situations, and focus on getting things right, not first.

Powered by the season finale of "The Shield," which I am now convinced is the best show on television, on to the injuries:

  • One of the worst things a pitcher can do is overthrow. That taxing of the body just past its breaking point, where you ask it to do something it's telling you that maybe you can, but you shouldn't, is the most dangerous thing. It may come from someone trying too hard or because the structures of the body have changed, usually through injury, to not allow the same performance as before. There are also the in-game changes that fatigue wrings out of the body. For Eric Gagne, it appears that suggestions that his velocity was down led to one pitch made too hard. Reports conflict on the severity of Gagne's MRIs, but no one denies that he's re-injured his elbow for the second time this year. It's also the second time the injury occurred directly over the Tommy John repair of nearly a decade ago. Gagne will see Dr. Frank Jobe on Wednesday. (One quick note: In an entire session at the NATA conference focusing on elbows, doctors, trainers, and therapists all agree that a physical exam and functional testing are preferable to an MRI for diagnostic purposes.) The worst-case scenario is a second ligament replacement and a lost year. We'll know more soon.

  • The news is much clearer for Randy Wolf. The Phillies hurler is all but assured of having a new scar on his elbow, though he is seeking opinions from both Dr. James Andrews and Dr. Lewis Yocum before committing to Tommy John. Some bitter Philly fans are still giving Terry Francona the stinkeye over his usage of Wolf. While it sure didn't help, Wolf has resisted changes to his mechanics since last season's injury to the same elbow. Wolf could be back for the Phillies late next season. Rookie Robinson Tejeda will fill that rotation slot now as the Phillies chase the playing-over-their-head Nationals.

  • It's not just pitchers who can blow out their elbow overthrowing. The Devil Rays do a great job keeping their pitchers healthy, especially given what they normally work with, so perhaps we can understand why they might not have been watching Rocco Baldelli and his elbow, which will now require ligament replacement surgery. Baldelli's knee was obviously the bigger concern. According to Lou Piniella this was a "setback." Always understated, that Piniella. Outfielders tend to come back from Tommy John surgery quickly, as evidenced by Luis Gonzalez and by Tony Womack, himself now theoretically an outfielder. Baldelli should be fine in 2006.

  • At some point, the Marlins might wonder if blowing out his elbow might be easier for Josh Beckett than this chronic run of blisters. Beckett disgustedly looked at his middle finger on his pitching hand last night, just after being warned for throwing at Todd Walker one pitch after a mammoth shot by Derrek Lee. Beckett might have thought about raising that middle finger to Bruce Froemming, not in anger but in explanation. (It's probably a good thing he didn't.) Beckett will try to work through this just as he has in the past.

  • The news isn't all Tommy John today (and really, shouldn't that surgery be called John/Jobe Surgery to be more accurate?). Atlanta is dealing with a couple problems that have shown themselves only through recent performance. One thing that Bobby Cox teams have always had is that tough guy persona, battling through injuries and gritting their teeth through the pain even when it's counterproductive. Tim Hudson has been fighting a mild recurrence of his chronic oblique strain, something that the medical staff has been watching closely since they first learned of it a couple starts back. Rafael Furcal is a tougher one, his right shoulder affecting his hitting severely; he's beginning to hurt the team so much that Wilson Betemit is getting significant time at SS. If the Braves go down this season, it may be injuries that finally do it.

  • The Tigers finally made the move to put Carlos Guillen on the DL due to his hamstring and knee pain. The move will help long-term, giving Guillen the time and enforced rest that his legs need at this stage of his recovery from a torn ACL. Even the slightest change in his gait or muscular strength and flexibility could have long-term consequences. The Tigers made the smart move, realizing that Guillen might help them win something that matters in 2006 or 2007, rather than fighting for .500 now.

  • Erik Bedard's return from a sprained knee has been slow going. While Bedard certainly wants to avoid the fate that Gagne found when he tried to throw before his knee was healed, Bedard has a mild strain and wasn't willing to play with any pain. His rehab work on the things he can do has been as slow as his healing process. Bedard is at least a month away, with a comeback just after the All-Star break being most likely.

  • Things are looking negative for Jose Cruz. His bulging disks in his lower back are so bad that he is losing feeling in his leg at times. That certainly makes it difficult to play center field or hit for power. Surgery is likely the only cure to the problem, so Cruz is committed to playing as long as he can, much as Luis Gonzalez did last season with his elbow. The Diamondbacks will rest him when needed and use him as much as they can, but at some point, Cruz won't be able to go any more. Both the Diamondbacks and your fantasy team need to start thinking about Plan B. The news is a bit better on Brandon Lyon. The reliever is throwing again, if only catch. He's still on track for a late July return.

  • Some guys catch no breaks. Jung Bong made it all the way back from labrum surgery to take the mound Monday in a Single-A rehab start, only to break his hand on a comebacker in the fourth inning. He's out another three weeks, during which time he'll consider voodoo, exorcism, and all live chickens in the Sarasota area will be looking over their shoulders.

  • Quick Cuts: Eric Chavez is dealing with a sore shoulder. Is that why he hasn't looked like the AL MVP I thought he would be all season? Damaso Marte has been cleared to pitch, though a lot of Sox are still worried about that biceps, remembering Frank Thomas pretty clearly Anyone else using Mac OS X Tiger and having to reboot every so often? For the most part, I like it, but it's kind of annoying in that early life cycle way that Panther wasn't Looking for a sleeper? Maybe Kendry Morales is available in your league Nice article on Eddie Guardado in the increasingly sabermetric-leaning Seattle Times Baseball will shut down if everyone's Blackberry gets turned off on Wednesday. Just another reason I love my Sidekick II Kerry Wood will have one more rehab start. Yes, he could have two, but Dusty Baker is pushing for Wood's quick return. Wood in the rotation makes Sergio Mitre perfect trade bait Jose Guillen tipped off manager Frank Robinson about Brendan Donnelly's use of pine tar on his glove. If I were Guillen, I'd wear a two-flap for the next couple weeks.

I'm going to Batman Begins tonight, so if something happens, just leave a message. Back tomorrow.

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INCOMING ARTICLE LINKS
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