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June 27, 2005

Under The Knife

30,000 and Counting

by Will Carroll

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I've had this computer for about a year. Today, I received my 30,000th e-mail on it. Seriously. That's just the ones I don't delete after reading, so the total doesn't include spam. I still pride myself on responding to every one--yes, some slip through the cracks--and my readers are my teachers, sources and, often, friends. The idea that I could be writing my 100th column of the year after receiving the 30,000th e-mail is pretty amazing. Thanks for the opportunity.

Powered by the return of "Profit," this time on DVD, on to the injuries:

  • I won't bore you with a rehash of the weekend's Eric Gagne news. No one seems clear on what actually happened or why; every surgeon I talked to says there's more to the story than is being told and that the Dodgers have pulled the curtain down hard around the injury. With Tommy John surgery, we have a known quantity and a predictable rehab path. For this procedure, we have predictions and guesses. I try to stay away from Miss Cleo territory as much as I can, so I'll just wish Gagne the best of luck and remind him that I'll be watching.

    The Dodgers also have a situation with J.D. Drew that appears to be deteriorating. Drew can't come back from his recent pain too quickly without risking further damage.

  • There were as many eyes on Mark Prior yesterday as there have ever been. As he took the mound for the first time after his frightening fracture, he was not only carrying the hopes of the Cubs, he was taking on their crosstown rivals. There was as much worry as hope as Prior toed the rubber. What he showed was as good as anyone has seen from him since his eruption on the National League halfway through 2002. Prior didn't hit his pitch limit, allowing only one hit and walking no one in six shutout innings. It was clear that Prior was both working efficiently and using a variety of pitches, including a change-up and a pitch that the White Sox radio crew repeatedly called a cutter. It will be interesting to see if this evolution of Mark Prior sticks.

    Prior's success pushes Sergio Mitre to the bullpen, likely to shadow Prior and Kerry Wood in their next starts.

  • Which is worse, a fracture or a blister? For a pitcher, it appears the latter. Josh Beckett was able to make it through a 15-minute side session, some of it while wearing a covering over the blister and some without. The results were good, if unspectacular, so the Marlins are considering putting Beckett on the mound as early as this Thursday. There's absolutely no guarantee that Beckett can make it through any period of time without a recurrence. It's possible, though past results certainly predict future problems. They'll take consolation in the great start by A.J. Burnett despite his resistance to anything resembling coaching.

  • Two setbacks for the Nationals, as everyone watches to see whether injuries, finances or something on the field will bring them back to the NL East pack. Nick Johnson has a "medium" bone bruise on his heel. This isn't expected to keep him out for long, though it is a painful injury. There has been lots of speculation about the quality of Johnson's bones over the years, so it should be interesting to see if he can return on a normal timeframe. Jose Vidro had a much more serious setback with his high ankle sprain, pushing his return back until the All-Star break. Vidro, much like Barry Bonds, had been very aggressive with the rehab and is now on a more realistic timeframe. Watch closely over the next week to see if this change will reset the clock on his return even more.

  • There are times that I hate to say I told you so. In the case of Kelvim Escobar, the Angels took the gamble that he'd be able to come back from the bone spur in his pitching elbow without surgery. That was a longshot that didn't pay off. Escobar will undergo surgery that should end his season, leaving the Angels hoping that Ervin Santana continues to pitch well and that someone--anyone--pops up on the trade market offering some solid pitching. Scot Shields is a name that keeps popping up as someone that many GMs would like to get on their roster.

  • Odalis Perez has another rehab start ahead of him. His latest outing in Las Vegas lasted just 64 subpar pitches. This will force some hard decisions after Perez's clear assertions just a few days ago that he shouldn't have made the third start and was better, even in an injured state, than some of the current Dodger pitchers. If the Dodgers had depth or if Edwin Jackson hadn't collapsed, Perez would have some trade value as a once-successful and currently left-handed pitcher.

  • Three Braves pitchers all threw on the side Sunday and all had positive results. Tim Hudson was able to throw without pain. The current plan is for another side session, a sim game, and a return just before the All-Star break. Mike Hampton also had a good side session. There's no timetable yet for his return. All signs now point to a rehab stint being needed before his return, putting him right back around the break, though he has more of a chance of recurrence than Hudson. The Braves are going to put Horacio Ramirez on the mound on Monday; his session must have been short. His groin is "100 percent," according to Ramirez, but watch the start closely.

  • Here's how far some guys are willing to go to play baseball. Larry Walker will sit on a table while a doctor stands behind him and slides a three-inch needle into his spine. As uncomfortable as that sentence is to read, it's more uncomfortable to be the one on the business end of the injection. Sure, Walker might be making $12.7 million to play a game, but some of us who don't even like giving blood might think twice about that tradeoff. Walker should be able to play at something approaching his normal level and frequency just a few days after his injection.

  • Doug Mientkiewicz stalks me. Not in the sense that he's sending creepy e-mails or following me around; instead, he haunts UTK, forcing spellcheck to overload and force me to think "I before E except after C" with the little Charles Schulz song in the back of my head. Minky strained a hamstring and given his recent funk, there was no reason for the Mets to give him any time before listing him. The Mets have been looking for first base options and are hoping that Roberto Petagine becomes available at the start of July.

  • Quick Cuts: Kevin Towers said he was frustrated with the handling of Xavier Nady while speaking at the Ballpark Feed. Now, Nady has homers in three straight games. Looks like Towers knows best Zach Day thinks he'll be ready for a rehab assignment inside of a week. That puts him back in play if the Reds and Marlins are still willing to deal If Dave Roberts can't run, does that explain his power surge? Whoever had Friday afternoon in the pool for when the first talk-radio host asked me about steroids and Andruw Jones, you win Magglio Ordonez heads to Triple-A Toledo. Friend of BPR Robert Portnoy will get a first-hand look at Ordonez's first game.

Special thanks to my pal for putting up with me on a late Sunday night. Comcast might be by to fix my net connection sometime Wednesday. Beautiful.

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