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August 15, 2005

Under The Knife

Breaking the Tension

by Will Carroll

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I've spent the better part of the last month in a state of tension. Between messages from sources on trades, the ongoing steroid story, and the different projects outside of UTK that I'm working on, it seems that something's always on the edge of happening.

This weekend was different. It seemed like for just a little bit, everyone exhaled. Baseball was back on the field and for me, in the training rooms and physician's offices. It was a good feeling. Sometimes, I miss the game of baseball. Sometimes, I miss myself. I think, somehow, that the focus will stay on the field for the next couple weeks, that teams and players will be the stories in baseball. Without real chases in six of eight races, it stands to be great games, great plays and the chase of various awards and records that will fascinate us.

Powered by "Batman Begins" at the Imax, on to the injuries ...

  • The Mets continue to feel the after-effects of the Mike Cameron/Carlos Beltran collision. Cameron had surgery on Friday to correct and stabilize the various bones of his face injured in the incident; he is expected to make a full recovery. As yet, no problems with his vision have appeared, and that was the biggest baseball concern. Baseball, of course, was the least of anyone's concerns at first. Beltran is still feeling the effects of his concussion. As I said at the time, there is no such thing as a mild concussion. Beltran may yet have surgery to stabilize a fractured cheekbone, but it was the nausea and balance problems that had the Mets worried about their superstar. He may yet hit the DL, dashing any real hopes for the postseason the Mets have. There shouldn't be any long-term consequences for Beltran.

    The Mets are waiting for test results on Doug Mientkiewicz to see if there's a discernible reason for the continued pain and numbness in his lower back. He's expected, despite this, to be headed to low-A Brooklyn sometime this week.

  • I'll probably get the e-mail onslaught saying that since baseball players make millions, they're not subject to the same things other humans are, or at least that they shouldn't get credit for playing tired, distracted or hurt. Roger Clemens is pitching both hurt and hurt by what's keeping him out there. Clemens let slip that the anti-inflammatories he's on that allow him to get to the mound are "killing [his] stomach." Clemens didn't hide that the injury happened off the field, didn't let it keep him from keeping up his historic pace, and won't complain when he doesn't win another Cy Young. He'll have an MRI to see if the problem, now closer to the base of the spine, is progressing. The Astros are also saying that Brandon Backe is finally back on track and expected to be back by September 1. It's unclear if he'll be back in the rotation, however.

  • Could one player make up a five-game deficit? It's unlikely, especially given the time frame that J.D. Drew will be working with once he's able to return. On the other hand, Drew's .306 MLVr over a 30-game period would be about a a 12-run improvement over the production the Dodgers have received from Jason Repko and Ricky Ledee, which is nothing to sneeze at. Drew would need to put up stats approximating his brother Stephen's minor-league line to do much more. Given that he's a week away from even swinging a bat, it's hard to expect Drew to match even his own 2005 production.

  • Kenny Williams is rumored to be working on multiple deals. One of the factors behind any trade might be that the go in the go-go Sox seems to have gone. Scott Podsednik, in particular, has hit a wall. The league leader in steals has been dealing with a strained groin for the better part of a month, and may finally head to the DL to make sure it heals. A final decision will be made sometime today on this; reports have Podsednik resisting the move. Ozzie Guillen has shown a resistance to playing short-handed, while Kenny Williams wants to give Joe Borchard one last chance to play before making a final decision on bringing in someone else longer-term.

  • The Red Sox haven't been healthy all year, yet find themselves gliding atop the division. If they get healthy, well, that will make it that much harder for anyone to make a run at them. Keith Foulke had another bullpen session, after which there were no reports of any problems with either knee, either repaired or waiting-to-be-repaired. Foulke will have one more bullpen, then he's acceded to a trip to Pawtucket. There's no definitive timetable yet, but September 1 is the latest we'd see him back outside of a major setback. The Red Sox also expect Johnny Damon back in the lineup Monday. The center fielder missed a couple games with a sore hamstring. Expect him to get more rest and to ease up a bit on the effort to ensure he's healthy down the stretch and into October.

  • It was bad. Rondell White stayed on the ground in pain after diving for what would become an inside-the-park home run. His shoulder was dislocated, the second time he'd done this to his left shoulder. The oft-injured White may need surgery to reduce and control the shoulder, something that would end his season and could end his career.

    The Tigers are also playing without Carlos Guillen, who could be headed back to the DL. Guillen, as well as some of the other players who have come back from ACL surgery, have shown that while getting back on the field may take only a few months, it's still quite a while before they are back to full strength. The conservative route may be taken in the near future for similar injuries, given the number of setbacks seen this season.

  • The Twins are already playing without Torii Hunter and his extra "I," so losing Jacque Jones for any period of time would cause the Twins to slide even further out of contention. Jones missed the weekend series with a strained oblique and the Twins are going to go the Braves route with him, hoping that it improves enough to let him play before the 15-day minimum of a DL stint. The Twins might be short-handed in the interim, but given the options, it's the best one available. Don't expect much from Jones this week and be aware that a retro DL move remains a possibility.

  • The Blue Jays think that Roy Halladay will be ready to go this weekend. He's finally fielding without pain, moving around well off the mound, and is covering first base with his normal stride. While a date hasn't been firmed up yet, pitching coach Brad Arnsberg is expecting him back for one of the two weekend games against the Tigers. Remember that there's never been a problem with Halladay's arm, so he should pitch normally. The Jays figure to be conservative with him in his first starts back.

  • Joe Torre and Mel Stottlemyre take their fair share of criticism. Keeping the team in the race given the talent they are actually working with says something, though. Now, it's time for the real test down the stretch. Torre and Stottlemyre will have to closely monitor the usage and effectiveness of Mariano Rivera. He started slow after altering his off-season workout and has been used pretty hard while the Yankees struggle to stay in the playoff picture. Torre has some hard decisions, balancing the need to maximize the use of his best reliever and keeping his best reliever available for the situations in which he really needs him, given the lack of a second option that Torre has confidence in. The key to the season might just be the handling of the the guy who may one day be considered the best closer ever.

  • Khalil Greene heads back to the DL as his bad luck continued Sunday. Greene dove for a ball and ended up jamming his toe into the turf, breaking his big toe. He's expected to miss two to three weeks and may lose a bit of speed and range when he returns. It's an injury like this--something that is not only unpreventable but seemingly random--that decides races.

  • Quick Cuts: Good news, Buckybackers! Bucky Jacobsen is hitting well in A ball and could be back in Seattle sometime around September 1 Ryan Klesko had a cortisone injection in his lower back. Expect him to miss some scattered games down the stretch Larry Walker took BP before Sunday's game. There's still no timetable for his return No X-rays (yet) for Matt Morris. The Cardinals don't think he'll miss any time, though they may try buying all their starters some extra rest again Nice pickup. Matt Baillie was pitching in the Northern League earlier this month. Now he has a no-hitter in Double-A Dustin Hermanson will have off-season back surgery...assuming he can stay healthy until then.

If you're near Indianapolis and don't hate football, come by Tuesday night and meet Aaron Schatz and me at a Pro Football Prospectus book signing. We'll be at Borders just south of the Circle at 7 p.m., then adjourn to hang out with our friends at the Rock Bottom across the street. Hope to see some of you there!

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