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July 11, 2005

Under The Knife

Don't Mess With Texas

by Will Carroll

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It seems like just yesterday that I was starting to type up the Team Health Reports that start my season. It seems like a blink of an eye since Opening Day. Wasn't it just a moment ago that Nomar Garciaparra went down?

No, time flies when you're having fun, so it's appropriate that I head to the All-Star break having just had a phenomenal weekend. Jamey Newberg and his great Newberg Report invited me to be part of a program that included Rangers Assistant GM Jon Daniels, Jim Sundberg (a guy who was nice to a kid who wanted his autograph mumble years ago), John Wetteland, and 200 rabid Rangers fans. We also had a great Pizza Feed on Saturday where a gaggle of BP readers got together with Jim Baker and I. We were joined by Jack Kelly, the Secretary-General of USA Baseball--who had a ton of great info about the World Baseball Classic--and Eddie Epstein, one of the original statheads. (That hardly sounds as threatening as "original gangsta," does it?) Spending a whole weekend talking and watching baseball with some of the smartest people I know? Is this heaven? No, it's Texas.

Powered by a great first half, on to the injuries:

  • In the first conversation I had upon finding out that Roy Halladay had a non-displaced fracture of his tibia, the result of a Kevin Mench shot off his shin, I once again wondered why there's so little protection offered for pitchers. A thin, soccer-style shin guard wouldn't affect a pitcher's delivery. Just a small plastic sheet or some form of carbon fiber if you wanted to go high-tech would likely prevent some injuries. I'm not sure that the same sort of thing on the arm--built into a sleeve or in a flesh colored neoprene wrap--or inside the front of the cap wouldn't work. If we have an engineer or inventor out there, my email's at the bottom. Halladay will be out for at least a month, a terrible blow to the Blue Jays' hope of contention.

  • Curt Schilling passed some tests this weekend in Syracuse. His ankle held up and looked more stable according to sources that attended the game. He was able to warm up using a modified method that included long toss with the outfielders between innings. One major question was answered when he came back on Sunday and threw well. It appears that Schilling is ready to contribute from the pen, but I wonder how this long warm up will affect his use. Clearly, Terry Francona is not going to be able to get him up situationally--getting him warmed up but not putting him into the game. Essentially, Schilling will get up a couple innings before his use and Francona will be committed, regardless of score, matchups, or leverage. I have no idea how that would affect a reliever, a bullpen or a team. I guess we'll watch and see.

  • ESPN's Pedro Gomez is reporting that "high Giants officials" have targeted mid-August for the return of Barry Bonds. Without more information, it's impossible to know what this is based upon. What we do know is that Bonds work with LA therapist Clive Brewster has been successful in some respects, though he is not yet at full strength, does not have full range of motion, and is not yet doing anything baseball related. The questions now are when he'll be in baseball condition and how long it will take to tune his swing. There's been some speculation that Bonds will be handled uniquely, coming in later in the game and being removed in tight games for defensive purposes due to his likely lack of mobility. There's also a good bit of internal discussion about keeping Moises Alou in LF and playing Bonds in the smaller RF or even at 1B. I still think that once Bonds starts swinging, things will come together very quickly, making any sort of timeframe difficult at best to determine.

  • Some teams have been done in by injuries while others have been able to avoid them or overcome them. I hope to have some stats for you over the break and a discussion of what teams are doing on the medical front. The Dodgers, Braves, and Yankees deserve special mention for having a ton of key injuries yet staying within hailing distance of the playoffs. Instead of blaming the medical staffs or the GMs, we should be giving them credit. It's true that the Red Sox made it to the promised land while also having a bottom five injury profile last season, but it doesn't often work out that way. More research is necessary to figure out just which injuries, what values, and what roster moves help these teams succeed in the face of adversity.

  • The Braves are making a load of mid-season acquisitions. Sort of. They figure to get back two of their three injured pitchers in the first week after the break, followed shortly thereafter by Chipper Jones getting back on his feet, literally. Tim Hudson and Mike Hampton will slot back into the rotation quickly. Hudson, coming off another oblique strain, doesn't figure to have more problems, though Hampton is still not out of the woods with his more complex forearm situation. It's usually better to deal with a known than an unknown. Jones figures to be back at third. He'll leave a bit of quickness behind him, hoping that it will come back by the stretch run, though he should certainly be able to contribute. It's quite possible that he'll swing for the fences just a bit more, a la Frank Thomas.

  • For all the wailing, ashes, and rended garments in the Bronx, the Bombers are only a couple games back. This is despite a list of injuries, maladies, and disappointments that would previously have been enough to take Steinbrenner to critical mass. With Jason Giambi looking more like, well, Jason Giambi and the pitching staff looking more like what Brian Cashman envisioned, the Yankees are a team that the Red Sox and wild card contenders are watching closely. Much of their success will depend on keeping their older, injury prone players in a useable state. Keeping Carl Pavano in some state of effectiveness and getting Jaret Wright and Kevin Brown back on the mound improves the team noticeably.

  • Here's how bad it's gone for the Dodgers--Kelly Wunsch was ready to come in and face Todd Helton when he injures his ankle in the pen. They bring in someone else on the quick to face the slugger who goes yard. Wunsch didn't just sprain his ankle, he'll need season-ending surgery to put it back together. Add that to the list of injuries that the Dodgers have dealt with and then realize that it's almost a B team that's still in the divisional chase.

  • The Angels have a bit of a cushion in the AL West, allowing them to overcome some injuries and get their players the rest they need. Unfortunately, the injuries are starting to pile up. Orlando Cabrera is starting to think seriously about surgery to remove bone chips from his elbow. A few years back, Rich Aurilia missed only two weeks after having the surgery, so this is one where doing it sooner might be significantly better than later. The Angels should get CF Steve Finley back shortly after the break. Finley and his magnets hope to get his season back on track despite a shoulder injury that devastated his bat control.

  • Placido Polanco may be back on the trade market at some point, assuming there's a market and that the Tigers decide that he won't hurt their quest for 500. He'll need to be healthy to have that value and his recurrent hamstring problems are something that regularly is questioned about the utility infielder. The Tigers have a lot of decisions to make in the second half, including how to put together a staff that is suddenly looking both deep and talented. They could bring up Justin Verlander and make some of their pitchers available in what is a very thin pitching market.

  • I had the chance to talk with Craig Wilson last Thursday, just before he was called back to the Pirates. Wilson talked about his love of catching and desire to be behind the dish, how good his hand felt post-surgery, and the types of things that he tries to do at the plate. Wilson's a player that a lot of teams will be calling about in the next couple weeks, especially if he proves to be healthy. I just hope one of them will take him seriously when he tells them he's a catcher.

  • "Don't tell me that, Will," was Jamey Newberg's response when I pointed out that Coco Cordero was dropping his elbow a bit more than level, often a sign of fatigue. A couple runs later, Cordero's fatigue might be a factor in his recent struggles. The hard thrower is not only getting run out a lot there--he's on pace for career highs in innings and total batters faced--he's doing them in the heat of battle and the heat of the Texas sun. Watch Cordero and other relievers at this point in the season for the signs of fatigue and fading, which include reduced velocity, shaky mechanics, and longer outings.

  • Quick Cuts: Chris Reitsma is sore after taking a ball off his ribs--yet another hit pitcher! X-rays were negative and with the break, he should be fine once games start again We had a Greg Miller sighting in Vero Beach. One of my best spring training sources says that Miller looks "ordinary" in his rehab work there Welcome to the bigs, kid. Adam Greenberg was hit in the head with the first pitch he saw--or felt--in the major leagues. He was taken for precautionary imaging on Saturday and is expected to be available after the break The Cardinals pushed hard to have Scott Rolen rest his still injured shoulder than play in the ASG. Smart move. Rolen's shoulder is not yet healthy with some insiders saying it's "75%, at best." The A's look like last year's Astros to me. The White Sox look like the 2001 Mariners. The Cards and Red Sox look like the Cards and Red Sox. I'm hoping someone surprises me in the second half.

Related Content:  Back,  The Who,  Jamey Newberg,  Newberg Report

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