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July 21, 2005

Under The Knife

Brokedown Pitchers

by Will Carroll

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Powered by a great bootleg of the 1984 Grateful Dead show I saw on my birthday, on to the injuries:

  • Stiffness. That doesn't sound that bad. Cubs fans everywhere are holding their breath at the sound of the word, now associated with Kerry Wood and his problematic right shoulder. Wood gave up three homers in three innings, nothing unusual in Cincinnati, but was pulled by the training staff after they noticed his velocity was down. Wood apparently denied problems on the mound, then admitted that he'd had trouble getting loose during warm-ups. The team will have Wood looked at by Reds physician Tim Kremchek today, and an MRI on the shoulder will be considered. (Reports that no MRI is scheduled don't tell us much. Kremchek has his own MRI equipment at his state-of-the-art facility in Cincinnati.) There's not much in the way of positives here. Wood's adjusted mechanics are apparently not taking enough stress off the shoulder to allow him to pitch without problems, while the "trouble getting loose" points to issues in his throwing regimen between starts.

  • Livan Hernandez may or may not be injured. His season may or may not be done. The Nats may or may not be freaking out. There's a lot up in the air right now in Washington besides the Supreme Court. Quotes from him in Thursday's Washington Times make it sound like there may be a knee problem or that he may simply be angry with something there in Washington. The story has Hernandez quoted as being "99.9% sure" his season is done, while also saying that he's not quitting on his team. While Hernandez has had some problems with the right knee, including having it drained back in May, team sources indicate that this is the first time surgery has been mentioned. Even Hernandez seems to acknowledge that the knee is just a means to an end. I think this may be the first time that a player has initiated his own type of roster shenanigans. Hernandez will undergo some medical tests on Thursday, as much to rule out things as to see what's wrong.

    Late word is that this may be related to the roster move dropping Wil Cordero. Evidently Cordero was Hernandez's closest friend on the team.

  • Roy Halladay is off crutches and one step--literally--closer to a return. Reports from Toronto have Halladay walking without a limp. He's kept his arm loose and was able to ride a stationary bike. He's about a week away from getting on a mound, but the short duration of his time off makes it unlikely that he will need anything in the way of rehab time. I don't anticipate Halladay having any problems with his return, picking up right where he left off. Only his counting stats should suffer from the time off, though there's a minor benefit in the forced reduction of his innings.

  • While A.J. Burnett is the subject of rumors and plays his new Clash theme song, Josh Beckett is ready to return, making Burnett just that much more expendable. Beckett had a side session on Wednesday and had no problems with his oblique and, another positive, had no problems with blisters. His actual return is up in the air due to the uncertainty of Burnett's situation. The tentative date is Saturday in San Francisco. The Fish could also get "El Pulpo," Antonio Alfonseca, back in the bullpen as soon as this next week. Alfonseca has good velocity so far on his rehab assignment.

  • The D'backs are hoping that Russ Ortiz will be ready to head to Tuscon soon. He's been working in the bullpen without problem, so a weekend sim game will be the final test before sending him on a rehab assignment. Ortiz doesn't figure to have problems with his rib fracture, but he does figure to have some stamina issues. Back in June, Ortiz had some problems with the feelings he had while pitching, saying that something "felt different." Given how sensitive pitchers are to even the slightest change in their deliveries, I'm not convinced that Ortiz is out of the woods yet. Watch his rehab closely.

  • At some point, Mike Hampton shifted over to Elijah Price territory. His latest injury is back spasms, a result of slipping as he got out of a hot tub. Let me be clear here--this was a hot tub, not a whirlpool bath used in some sort of rehab situation. The Braves are hoping to push Hampton's next start back rather than skipping his turn altogether, so watch for Hampton to throw Thursday or Friday. The Braves should get John Thomson back in about three weeks, which should help solidify the back of the Braves rotation as they continue to chase down the Nats. Thomson will start his four start rehab stint in rookie league, moving up a level with each start before returning to the Braves. Thomson has had a few setbacks during the rehab of this finger injury, so do not be surprised to see some stutters in his return.

  • The Rockies can't afford to lose pitching. Jason Jennings injured his middle finger on, of all things, a slide to break up a double play. During the slide, Jennings finger was pulled back, but he did take out the Nats shortstop on the play. He'll have an MRI on the finger Thursday, which will determine his status. Jennings has been mentioned in numerous trade rumors, so the severity of the injury could impact possible deals.

  • The Orioles sent Javy Lopez to Double-A Bowie to start finding his swing. He'll catch two games and DH the other two this weekend, alternating to keep him fresh. Depending on results, Lopez could be back in Baltimore as early as Monday. Published reports have the team wanting him to get a minimum of 25 at-bats before a recall, though punishing Double-A could change that plan quickly. The O's appear to be out of a deal with the Marlins, though rumors of a second deal with the Pirates appear to have some legs. One name included in that deal is Humberto Cota, who could take some of the catching load off Lopez.

  • The Indians are being safe with Travis Hafner. During warm-ups, Hafner had some mild dizziness and nausea, pushing trainer Lonnie Soloff to hold him out. Even mild concussions show symptoms for up to a week, so this is not unusual. Hafner was expected back in the lineup on Tuesday, but unless there's a significant setback, the DL is not a possibility. Given the problems that some other players have had coming back from concussions, it's reasonable to think that Hafner could experience some problems even after getting the bat back in his hands.

  • The first rehab start for Steve Trachsel had its good points and bad points. He made it to his pitch count without a setback, though he did have to come out early due to hitting that pitch count before completing the third inning. He gave up two runs on four hits, showing good velocity and control, but he was not dominating despite being at High-A. Trachsel has at least two more minor-league starts ahead of him and will need better results on the mound while continuing to keep his back healthy.

  • How did I miss so badly on Troy Percival, saying that his flexor mass strain would be a "minimum return"? Bad comparables, including his own previous injury. The injury, as I noted, is one that is a developing injury, a creation of better imaging techniques and more precise diagnoses by the physicians. Given that, the list of comparables is very short and nearly binary. Either the injury is one that needs a couple days of rest and a 15 day shelving or it requires surgery. Information I received prior to the MRI indicated that this was nearly the same injury with the same pain and inflammation. It was logical to say that the injury would be the same if it responded the same. However, it would also be wrong. I'm not making excuses here; it's a mistake, one I'll learn from.

  • I've received a lot of questions about Kenny Rogers. Most have to do with his suspension and how that will affect his conditioning and throwing program. I wasn't sure how he would be affected either, so I did some digging. According to team sources, the suspension only keeps Rogers (or any player) off the field once the first pitch starts. He's able to travel with the team, throw simulated games to keep himself on schedule, and in general, do everything he could before except make his starts. There's no word on whether the Rangers will receive some roster relief during the suspension, once the appeals are exhausted.

  • Quick Cuts: Frank Thomas is still hitting bombs but that's about it. He reminds me of end-stage Mark McGwire One source says that the problem for Justin Morneau is blurred vision. The Twins deny that there's any residual physical problem It's no surprise that Mark Mulder is pitching well after the All-Star break. The question was not whether he needed the rest, but how long the rest will help him go before we see the same problems we saw in June Scott Williamson heads to Triple-A Iowa for his rehab. He's very close and appears to be slotted for the set-up role once he returns Cole Hamels is headed to Philly. Not to pitch, but to see team doctors about his sore back I can't go a day without reading Buster Olney's blog. Whoda thunk it? I was honored to be asked to be a "designated hitter" over at Baseballanalysts.com. Rich and Bryan have put together an impressive list of guests there in addition to their own great work. It's my first published fiction in a decade.

Thanks to everybody who took part in Wednesday's chat session. A ton of great questions, as always. I'll be on the road this weekend, so no column tomorrow, but BP Radio will be ready to go. The Woogster and I had a great chat with Ray Knight this morning in studio. You may not always agree with what he has to say, but you won't want to miss it.

Related Content:  Back,  The Clash,  Week In Quotes,  The Week In Quotes,  Finger

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