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July 20, 2005

Under The Knife

Always Got News

by Will Carroll

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Powered by Chris Isaak's "Always Got Tonight," right to the injuries ...

  • It's an issue that comes up time and again in sports: a guy who's well past his peak is trying to hang on to his career. The rest of us say he should hang it up, knowing full well that if we ever held a major-league job, they'd have to tear it from our cold, dead hands. I just hate seeing a career end on an injury's terms rather than a player's own. Of course, Neil Young did say that it was better to burn out than fade away.

    By that token, Troy Percival looks to be burned. The flexor mass injury that put him on the DL isn't going to heal without surgery, and there's not enough time on the clock for Percival to go under the knife and return this season. Percival was a risky buy over the winter, so much so that the Angels swallowed their loyalty and let him walk. Who knows if he had anything to do with it, but Percival left Francisco Rodriguez ready to take over and maybe Kyle Farnsworth benefited from having Percival around for half a seaon. Perhaps the next time we see Percival, he won't be closing, he'll be coaching.

  • Things look good enough for Steve Trachsel to start a minor-league rehab stint in the next few days, keeping him on track for an early August return to Queens. I mentioned yesterday that the Mets were considering a six-man rotation, something that drew a lot of interest...and denials. The Mets aren't going to a de facto six-man, but doing some creative rotation juggling that would make the function the same. Pedro Martinez is getting his extra rest when possible, Trachsel is getting a "shadow" for his first couple starts, and Kazuhisa Ishii is functioning as a swingman in the old four-man rotation style. It's a nice use of resources by Willie Randolph and Rick Peterson, the kind of creative thinking that I'd love to see teams do more often.

  • "Rolen = Bagwell?" That text message showed up on my Sidekick yesterday. Now, Scott Rolen may have a bum shoulder, but comparing him to the chronic and severe problems that Jeff Bagwell has had, that have resulted in his recent near-one-off surgery, seemed extreme. Rolen has, according to sources, tendonitis at the insertion of the rotator cuff and internal impingement. While George Paletta is talking about strength, I'm wondering about Rolen's range of motion. The Cardinals will try to get him rest and work on keeping him pain-free. There's nothing extreme--like a position swap with Albert Pujols--expected yet.

    Jim Edmonds is also dealing with some "upper leg pain"--read: groin. Having a 12-game lead allows you to rest guys when they have situations like this--read: tough lefty on the mound.

  • While the media speculates that Carl Pavano isn't hurt and that the DL move was just to hide him from the press, the Yankees are readying for his return. Pavano is working on a strengthening and conditioning program, prepping him for a return to the majors early next week. This will make it tough to set expectations. Reports have Pavano working more on stamina than anything else, so I'm not sure what velocity might tell us. We'll have to let the hitters give us their read on him, often the best way.

    The Yanks also got what looks like good news on Chien-Ming Wang if you only look at the surface. Wang was prescribed an exercise program in hopes of avoiding surgery for an injury not dissimilar to those dealt with by Kerry Wood and Jason Schmidt this season. Note that he wasn't told that the surgery isn't necessary. Again, sports medicine always tries to be conservative first, then goes to the scalpel when that approach fails. Wang and the Yanks are far from out of the woods and just as far from healthy.

  • The injury to Dustin Hermanson might make some think again about the move to DFA Shingo Takatsu. The White Sox have already moved on, looking for Cliff Politte to take over the high-leverage innings that Hermanson had handled for Ozzie Guillen's boys. Politte failed in the closer role a couple years back in Toronto, exhibiting all the classic signs of what I think of as "Hawkins Syndrome." (Is there such a thing? Paging James Click!) Hermanson has had chronic back problems, even missing some time due to them earlier this season. There's not much the team can do for him at this stage other than giving him rest. If there's no response by the weekend, expect a retro DL move and a call-up for Jeff Bajenaru.

  • Two teams in the playoff hunt are relying on arms that would normally be unavailable. In fact, it's far more than that. The miracle of Tommy John surgery is responsible for one in nine pitchers being on the mound rather than home selling insurance. In Baltimore, the O's got Jason Grimsley back well ahead of even optimistic expectations, and now the Cubs look to do the same with Scott Williamson. Williamson was cleared to start a rehab assignment, meaning he may make it back to the majors even more quickly than Grimsley did. Williamson has been burning mid-90s fastballs past the guys in rookie league and should head to West Tenn to tune it up against better competition. A healthy and effective Williamson in front of another rehab success story, Ryan Dempster, would look pretty good given the Cubs' early-season pen struggles. Tim Kremchek might get a ring if the Cubs win the World Series.

  • Nick Johnson is out of the boot and still on the bench. Bruce Thomas, the Nationals' team doctor (and one of the nicest guys you'll meet in baseball), and trainer Tim Abraham are trying to figure out how to get Johnson back on the field despite the pain. The foot is described as tender rather than painful, as good a sign as we've had in a while. Several sources are pointing to a late-week decision on a rehab assignment, something that seems a bit optimistic from the reports I have.

  • I'm not sure how you take a catch-all diagnosis like tendonitis and turn it into a torn ligament. That's what appears to have happened with Erubiel Durazo. Or it could be that the A's knew this all along and smokescreened us, hoping that either Durazo could come back and play hurt or that they could pick up something on the trade market. Dan Johnson has filled in the stat line, making Durazo's return to the A's doubtful after the six-month Tommy John for position-player rehab is up. Sometimes you catch the white whale; sometimes you're Jonah.

  • Quick Cuts: Some were surprised when A.J. Burnett took the mound on Tuesday while still in teal. Matched up day-for-day with Mark Redman made pulling him out of the rotation less of a concern. His pitch count is much, much more interesting Chipper Jones is back and, once again, I'm not surprised that he's hitting home runs. It was Clay Davenport who pointed out that older players have a tendency to hit more home runs because they couldn't leg out XBHs any more. I extrapolated that the same could be true of those with leg or foot injuries and the more I look at it, the more I find it's the case, moreso with elite players like Jones Ray Durham was out of Tuesday's game with a heel problem. More on this as it comes in Expect Dallas McPherson to come back after the minimum Anyone with experience hooking up routers to cable modems out there? I'd be grateful. Once again, my genius cable provider has managed to combine "98% packet loss" with "incompatible downstream" and "we can't be there until next Monday" Ramon Hernandez is playing with significant pain in the wrist that landed him on the DL a few weeks back. Expect post-season surgery, if he can hang on ... Javy Lopez should be back by the middle of next week. The Orioles want to see 10-20 at bats before bringing him back Would someone please explain to me what's going on with Kenny Rogers? He was lights out and now it's fists out. Something had to happen. If it's personal, someone just say so Barry Bonds is running again.

Back tomorrow. After finishing Harry Potter between phone calls, I need some rest! BPR this week, you ask? How about Ray Knight, Buck O'Neil and Jay Jaffe on Rafael Palmeiro?

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