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June 20, 2005

Under The Knife

The Cost of Injuries

by Will Carroll

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Peter Gammons mentioned in his column that the Dodgers had lost more than 400 player-days to the disabled list. It's 437 to be exact, at least as of last week when trusty intern Mike Groopman updated the injury database for me. That's $10 million lost there. For the many that asked, no, it's not the worst total in baseball; the Reds, Nationals, Rangers and Angels all have more days lost to injuries. The Dodgers' figure is second behind the Giants for most dollars lost. For both teams, one player makes up a significant portion of the tab.

It's interesting to me that the Nats, Rangers and Angels haven't been bogged down by all their injuries yet. Is it depth, value lost, or something else that is allowing them to be injured and successful all at once? We don't know yet, but with people like Gammons starting to look at injuries as a problem, perhaps we can work to find the answers. I have a couple theories that I'm looking into, including one I'll reference below. I hope if you have ideas or theories that you'll share them with me.

Powered by the knowledge that yesterday's U.S. Grand Prix makes canceling the World Series look good in comparison, on to the injuries:

  • While Paul Wilson is done for the year, it's interesting to look forward at what comes after that. Dr. Tim Kremchek was a guest on this week's BP Radio and said that he thinks Wilson should be fine for coming years, which is the real goal of his surgery. Given the lack of success with labrum injuries, this might seem like hubris, but looking at the results that Kremchek has put together recently, however, forces a closer look. In addition, success with the elbows of Jason Grimsley and Scott Williamson--two surgeries once again making medheads reconsider the timelines for Tommy John recovery--might give Wilson's owners and Reds fans some confidence.

  • If the Nationals are going to stay on top of the NL East, they'll need Jose Vidro. Sure, they went on their run without him and the hyperactive roster shuffling has disguised his absence well, but one thing I'm noticing is that there's a major bias against teams that lose their projected best player. Yes, the emergence of a healthy and effective Nick Johnson certainly helps, but this is something of a pattern that I've seen for the past. Vidro is closing in on a return from his high ankle sprain, taking batting practice over the weekend. There's no solid timetable, but given the reports, he could be back in the lineup this week. It's something of a surprise that he could avoid a rehab stint, so watch closely to see how he responds early in his return.

  • Much is being made of the Twins pitching staff and the crazy control numbers they have put up. Brad Radke is as stingy as anyone with just six walks on the season. Maybe it's the 19 homers he's given up that have led to his stiff neck. The Twins say that their #2 starter has been dealing with the injury over his last few starts, and that he was only removed from yesterday's game because the field staff felt that the injury was beginning to affect his mechanics. Radke is expected to make his next start, but watch to see if he's coming out early over his next few outings.

  • Wrist injuries are never good; they're especially bad for sluggers. Troy Glaus sprained his wrist making a tag during Sunday's game and wasn't able to grip the bat when his turn came the next half-inning. The Diamondbacks aren't quite sure how bad it is, and won't until Glaus comes in today. Team sources don't believe the injury is too serious, but it's worth keeping a close eye on him beyond missing time. It's the power numbers that he's being paid for.

  • Even if Rich Harden is back this week, don't expect too much. The A's are too smart a team to put Harden at significant risk by asking him to go much beyond five innings on Thursday. He went just 36 pitches over the weekend, finishing his work in the bullpen, and reported no pain. The A's are more worried about Huston Street, out with what he is reporting as a mild hamstring strain. Justin Duchscherer will fill in for a couple games while Street has treatment and rests.

  • Kevin Brown is headed back to the DL (no pun intended) with back spasms. While Brown was vehement in his desire to delay any decision on his status, the Yankees were forced to make the move in order to get Sean Henn up and available for Monday's game. Brown doesn't figure to be on the DL much beyond the minimum unless Henn gets hot. Even if that happens, Brown is likely to be back quickly.

    The Yankees are more concerned about the problems that Tino Martinez is having with his heel. It's possible that Martinez is having a recurrence of the plantar fasciitis that he had back in his St. Louis days. That would be a double whammy since Jason Giambi is unable to play the field due to hamstring problems. Plan C might be getting Bernie Williams a first baseman's mitt.

  • If someone had stopped me this weekend and asked me if Mike Sweeney had been on the DL, I probably would have said yes. The guy is so injury-afflicted that it just seems that he spends the better part of his career either heading to, being on, or coming back from the DL, leaving a good portion of what might have been in that shadowland. Sweeney looks to be headed back after a collision with Jayson Werth at first base forced his wrist back. There's some confusion about the injury after an MRI showed a ligament tear, but Sweeney's had a tear in the same wrist for a couple years and has played through it. Sweeney's good when healthy, but even Larry Walker looks like Lou Gehrig next to Sweeney.

  • Russ Ortiz heads to the DL as the latest in the recent run of pitchers with oblique problems. If I had the resources that a major-league team had, I would compare video of all these recent pitchers and look for commonalities in their deliveries. The Diamondbacks said that the problem emerged in his last start, but given Ortiz's recent poor results, it's possible that it began even before then. Oblique injuries are very slow healing, which is a problem because the depth in the rotation just isn't there for the D'backs unless they can make a deal.

  • Sometimes, you wonder why Plan B is still Plan B. The White Sox have Orlando Hernandez heading back to the DL and Brandon McCarthy coming back for a couple more starts. Talk all you want about veteran leadership, a symbiosis between Hernandez and fellow exile Jose Contreras, and minor-league seasoning, but I haven't spoken to one person who feels that McCarthy isn't the better pitcher right now, even if El Duque were healthy. In today's fragile rotations, it's great to have a good sixth starter like McCarthy, Glendon Rusch or Ervin Santana. Hernandez is not dealing with a new injury, but instead just doesn't feel like he has enough to compete right now.

  • The Tigers are still in range of testing the .500 barrier and are part of an AL Central that, over the past month, has shown a bit more parity. Getting Carlos Guillen back and Magglio Ordonez on the field would certainly help push this team towards its goals. Guillen is expected to be ready to go on Thursday, the first day on which he's eligible to return, though his knee will continue to need occasional rest and cause occasional problems for the rest of the season. Ordonez is making excellent progress after hernia surgery and could be headed to a rehab assignment in a matter of days. The doctors have not cleared him for full activity yet since Ordonez is not yet recovering without significant soreness. The Tigers' slugger should still be back in the Detroit lineup no later than the All-Star break, though he may start off as a DH.

  • Pectoral strain? Intracostal muscle? Rib fracture? No one seems very sure of what to call the lingering mid-chest injury that's keeping Jim Edmonds off the field, though an X-ray on Monday should clear things up. It's less clear when Edmonds will be back. His statement to Matthew Leach that he's "on the verge of getting better" is one of the nicer non-answers I've seen recently. Edmonds was able to take batting practice on Sunday. Watch this situation closely. The Cards aren't likely to know much before game time than we do now.

  • Mets rookie David Wright came out okay after diving into the stands after a foul this weekend, but the fact that he came out a bit banged up made me wonder why more isn't done to prevent injuries. We've seen players injured by on-field detritus like tarps and hard cement or brick corners as well as poorly padded walls. I'm all for a close, intimate view of the game, but I'd also like to see something done to make the players that go into the seats come back out intact. It's a situation that I hope won't require a tragedy to cause change.

  • Quick Cuts: Things look better for Felix Hernandez. The M's feel they caught his bursitis early. The question now is if his mechanics are sustainable Kerry Wood went four innings in his second rehab start. Playing in Nashville against the Brewers top farm team, Wood gave up two runs, walked three and struck out six. He was able to go only four innings before hitting his pitch count of 70 Brian Bruney has a new curve, taught to him by another pitcher. So what's Mark Davis doing? The Royals rushed Ambiorix Burgos to the majors. It's hardly a surprise that he's come up with shoulder soreness The Red Sox aren't worried about the injuries to Manny Ramirez and Johnny Damon. They'll get some rest over the next couple weeks when possible, making a trade of Jay Payton unlikely in that time frame unless Gabe Kapler comes back.

If you haven't checked out this week's BP Radio, I'd recommend it. Of course, I'm biased. Pizza Feeds in the works for St. Louis, Dallas and Indianapolis. Details soon.

Related Content:  Back,  The Call-up

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