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July 7, 2005

Under The Knife

Take A Chance, Lou

by Will Carroll

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Lou backed down. I was excited to see Lou Piniella blow off the orthodoxy and alter the pitching plan. It's something that I've seen discussed in the minors--using a reliever to start in order to get the "starter" deeper into games, hoping to teach him how to finish games out without amping up pitch counts. Of course, Piniella would be tossing out his worst relievers, not his flame throwers from the back of the pen, which makes me think that this is more bull than brilliance. Still, I'd like to see someone desperate or crazy enough to challenge the by-the-book thinking prevalent in baseball.

Powered by the "Law Firm of Sheehan, Neyer and Carroll," as Brian Kenny put it, on to the injuries:

  • The ongoing soap opera that is the Boston Red Sox continued with radio at the center. Terry Francona let slip that he was considering using Curt Schilling in the pen and it was game on, bringing out a holy war in the clubhouse and a feeding frenzy in the media. Varying versions are being reported--Francona had the idea, Schilling volunteered, the bloody sock came up with the idea--but the results are that two relievers, Keith Foulke and Matt Mantei will have surgery and in hopes of filling the void, the Sox expert pitcher will try pitching from the pen. The other major factor in this was the shaky outing at Triple-A by Schilling. The Sox felt that Schilling coming back now simply would have taxed the pen that was, at the same time, breaking down. It will be interesting to see if Schilling, a guy with a deliberate warm-up procedure before games, will be able to get loose quickly, and how he will deal with a new fatigue pattern.

    Foulke will have his knee scoped to clean out debris that has, in his words, "been there for years." He's expected to be out at least four-to-six weeks. Mantei will have season-ending ankle surgery--an eventuality the Sox knew could happen, given the reliever's history. There's been some talk of Bronson Arroyo moving to the closer role as well as some discussion of bringing up Jon Papelbon, and getting Craig Hansen, the team's first pick, signed and into the Boston pen. Mike Timlin may also be a candidate to get the job. It's never boring in Beantown.

  • The Triple Crown is partly counting stats, making any time off a deep detriment to the quest. Derrek Lee should be back shortly to try and continue his run for history. An MRI on Wednesday showed no structural damage to the shoulder, largely ruling out any labrum involvement. Once the inflammation gets handled, Lee should be back to full strength. The question remains how he'll respond to anti-inflammatories and if a cortisone injection will be needed. Still, it's the best possible news for the Cubs and for Lee.

  • The results of an MRI on Carl Pavano also showed no structural damage, but in the Bronx, this just makes Pavano's struggles more confounding. No structural damage points to simple fatigue or a mechanical problem. Pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre is openly complaining about the communication with Pavano, so it will be interesting to see how this develops. Stottlemyre is not known as much of a mechanical tinkerer, leaving Pavano to look outside the organization for assistance. There's still hope for Pavano and the Yankees to start saving the season.

  • Has anyone seen the black cloud that follows Mike Sweeney around? Or is it a black cat crossing his path? Does his route to Kaufmann Stadium pass under several ladders on his way in from Kansas? Once again, Sweeney is day-to-day. He was blasted on the forearm by an Aaron Sele fastball, forcing him out of the game. Initial x-rays were negative, leaving his response to the injury and treatment the guide for his return.

  • Andy Pettitte came out of the game on Wednesday after five innings when he felt significant tightness in his pitching elbow. The surgically repaired elbow seems to do this every so often, reminding Pettitte that he did have someone digging around in there about this time last year. The situation doesn't seem too serious--Pettitte is expected to make his next start, though last time something similar happened, Phil Garner juggled his rotation to give Pettitte a couple extra days between starts. The Astros have some pitchers they'd like to showcase for possible trades, so there are guys available for such a reshuffling. With Brandon Backe fighting a mild elbow strain, the Astros rotation is something to watch closely.

  • There are conflicting reports on the exact injury to Josh Beckett and the difference is a couple weeks on his return. Beckett has either an intracostal strain or an oblique strain. The muscles are near each other, making the confusion even worse. While the Marlins officially called the injury an oblique strain, they also referenced Beckett's intracostal injury from June of last year. The team will hold Beckett out of his next start, then wait to see how the injury progresses before placing him on the DL. With the All-Star break coming up, the Fish are hoping the DL move won't be necessary and preserve a retro move regardless. The Marlins also lost catching prospect Josh Willingham to the DL with a stress fracture in his left elbow.

  • As the Dodgers season continues to be left in the training room, it's stunning to me that no one is crediting the team for even having a chance at this stage. Digging through the injury database, I have a hard time finding a team that's lost as many significant innings and at-bats, yet stayed in the race even to mid-season. Much of that goes to the parity (mediocrity?) of the NL West. The rest should be going to the management of the team. Joe Sheehan has correctly been pointing to Milton Bradley as perhaps the key injury. While Eric Gagne does have a reasonable replacement, nothing like that exists for Bradley. Unfortunately, Bradley is not making any progress in his rehab. The finger is keeping him from swinging a bat with any force and surgery is likely the next option.

  • Quick Cuts: Surprising that Jeff Francoeur is up so fast. Look for him to platoon in RF. Hopefully, he'll get more swings than Andy Marte. In related news, John Schuerholz will be the featured guest on this weekend's Baseball Prospectus Radio, as Jonah Keri fills in while I'm in Texas. Jon Lieber will throw in the pen on Friday. His session will determine if he'll make his next start. Expect it to be pushed back a day or two. Marquis Grissom is spending a couple days in Vegas with a physical therapist. Really, that's not a euphemism. Ray Durham will have X-rays on his wrist on Thursday. Details as we get them.

If you're in Indy or close enough to drive out, I'll be at Victory Field doing radio from 3-6 pm before the Indians (PIT) and Charlotte Knights (CWS) play. Stop by and say hi or just call in and ask questions.

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Prospectus Notebook: F... (07/08)

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