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September 19, 2005

Under The Knife

Hobbling Down the Stretch

by Will Carroll

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Forget everything else--the rumors, the misconceptions, the speculation. If you want to know about Leo Mazzone, check out Jeff Merron's must-read article on ESPN.com that breaks down what makes one of the greatest pitching coaches of all-time so great. Mazzone has been a fascination of mine for years, but he's a tough man to get info on. What I know is that unless his pitchers become coaches, he's unlikely to beget a generation of coaches as his mentor, Johnny Sain, did. We need, somehow, not to lose his information and this article is a nice start.

Luckily, Mazzone avoided being in this report after being hit on the head by an Andruw Jones BP homer. "That ball left Andruw's bat, traveled about 450 feet, and the next contact it made was with my freakin' head," said Mazzone, who never saw it coming. "That thing came straight out of the sky. Then I was face down in the bullpen." That's classic Mazzone.

Powered by a weekend of great baseball and a couple hours' sleep, on to the injuries ...

  • Now that Barry Bonds has proven that he can hit home runs, play the field and pass a drug test or two, the question shifts to whether he can continue to play at this level long enough to catch the Gods of Baseball, or if he suffers the kind of rapid dropoff that befell Mark McGwire. Bonds has already outplayed his father, so that doesn't tell us much. His godfather and idol had already slowed well before he was Bonds' age, so again, there's not much to be learned there. Even Hank Aaron himself wouldn't clear 20 homers after age 40.

    Bonds has proven himself unlike any player, so it's really a matter of desire, pain management, and the ability of the world-class Giants medical staff keeping him on the field enough to break the records. Bonds is on record as saying he needs to get down to the 200-pound mark, something people are already mocking as covering for the loss of muscle many expect to see. This is normal advice for any person, athlete or not, with knee problems. Yes, Bonds admitted past steroid use during his BALCO testimony, something we may yet hear in open court. He's tested negative in 2004 and 2005, so wouldn't that muscle loss have already come? Let's all quit speculating and focus on what Bonds does or doesn't do on the field.

  • Now that the Cardinals have soaked the visiting locker room at Wrigley in champagne, the team can focus on setting up their roster and getting their team ready for the postseason. There's not much that needs to be done. Chris Carpenter is the clear ace, but behind him are a bunch of interchangeable parts in the rotation. There's even some speculation that the Cards will go with a four-man in the first two rounds. The one important thing that clinching gives is two weeks of rest for Albert Pujols. While Pujols will assuredly play, he'll rest as much as possible while not getting rusty. Pujols is trying to avoid another session of ultrasound treatments on the plantar fascitis that has affected him for two seasons. He's likely to have surgery at some point, perhaps this off-season. Just imagine what he could do if he was healthy!

  • There's no time for niceties like 100% or rehab assignments. Each day is a missed opportunity, and for a team like the A's, even the slightest missed opportunities pile up. Bobby Crosby has been a key to the team's success, his availability coinciding perfectly with the periods when the team did its damage. Crosby made it through agility and fielding drills and while there was some normal soreness, the A's medical staff seemed pleased, according to a player who observed the workout. He'll be back early this week.

    The news isn't quite as rosy for another A's key. At best, Rich Harden will start on September 27. Even this is shaky, since Harden is yet to complete a real throwing session with positive results. That date, if he makes it, would set him up for two starts, including the last game of the regular season. Moves like this help give some insight how the A's would set up for the postseason. Other teams will also give clues with rotation-juggling over the next week, so be on the lookout for that.

  • The best news that Padres fans could have is that Jake Peavy threw well and pain-free. Hey, good news, Pads--that's exactly what happened this weekend. Peavy's treatment and rest appears to have recharged him just enough to get back and have a couple starts before the playoffs. The worry here is that Peavy may have some internal problem but thus far images haven't shown anything beyond the normal wear and tear. Peavy will be handled carefully over the next two weeks, with short outings and extra rest the order of the day. If healthy, Peavy has a chance to be 2005's Josh Beckett.

  • The Yanks are falling behind and will need every edge they can find if they hope to catch the Red Sox. Mike Mussina would certainly be an improvement over the back end of their rotation, and would certainly be one of their playoff starters if it comes to that. Mussina won't have a September like last season's gem, though he does have a chance to make a couple key starts that would have Yankees fans forgiving his second straight disappointing season. After a 100-pitch simulated game, Mussina is on track to start next Thursday. He'll have a normal side session this week, so watch for any setbacks.

  • Felix Hernandez was the phenomiest of phenoms just a few short weeks ago. That doesn't make him immune to the problems most young pitchers face with adjustment, mechanics and usage. Hernandez looked out of sync in his start Sunday in Texas, losing control and looking at times like he couldn't find his arm in space. That could be fatigue, a bad day, or an early sign of elbow injury. As good as he is and as much as I hope he has a long, healthy career, there's nothing in Hernandez's profile that makes me believe that will be the case. His age alone will have him as a "red light" player next year.

  • There's no reason for Troy Glaus to be out on the field with his knee problem. On the other hand, he's not going to damage it more and surgery isn't an option for this, so really, it's up to Glaus and Bob Melvin to determine how long/often he plays. The medical staff is going to have the slugger as ready as they can have him. Glaus has guided his playing time all season with pain tolerance and hasn't been stupid by trying to play through it when it flared up. The D'backs will be watching Glaus closely through the offseason in hopes that rest and continued treatments can keep him from going through this again in 2006.

  • I'm not sure if this is a good sign for a player, but I had to look up how to spell Sean Casey's first name. "Shaun" didn't look right. If I don't know your name, that probably means you've been pretty healthy. Casey got lucky, in a way, taking no more than a concussion when he took a Humberto Cota elbow to the temple. Casey was unconscious, doesn't remember the incident, and could have had much more than what he has. It wouldn't surprise me if he weren't back by Tuesday. There's no reason to rush; as we've seen too many times this season, concussions linger.

  • Even with an expanded roster, the Marlins are running out of middle infielders. When Luis Castillo left Sunday's game with a sore hamstring, his latest in a series of leg injuries, they were left with guys who were there only to get a look at the majors, not play in a playoff chase. Mike Mordecai is only there to help his pension status, but could find himself starting if Castillo's injury is as serious as it looks. There's no margin for error, and Castillo has always been slow healing.

  • Quick Cuts: Expect Jeff Smulyan and Stan Kasten to pair up their bids and come out the new owners of the Expos, err, Nationals Wade Miller will visit Dr. Craig Morgan, one of the top shoulder experts, this week. Don't read too much into it, even with Miller being out for the season and facing more surgery in the off-season Ever noticed that Buster Olney never links to anything but newspaper sites? Why is it, then, that the newspaper writers that make up the BBWAA refuse to recognize 'Net-based writers? Moises Alou returned for the Giants and could be as big a presence as Barry Bonds over the last few weeks. It's too late, but it could get interesting Ken Griffey Jr. is done for the season. That shouldn't diminish a great season, proving there's still talent there when the health is ... Is Dustin Hermanson just resting his sore lower back or has Ozzie Guillen found a new closer in Bobby Jenks? "We had a reinstatement contract drawn up." Any questions? The Cubs won't say it, now or likely ever, but Aramis Ramirez is done for the season, as is Jerry Hairston Jr. It will be interesting to see how the starting rotation is used over the last two weeks Watch for Tom Gorzelanny on Tuesday. You'll see the best splitter in baseball I've seen since Mike Scott.

Back tomorrow and every day down the stretch, including some weekends. BP will be gearing up for what figures to be a great two weeks of drama that should carry over to October, both on the Web and on BP Radio.

Related Content:  Casey Crosby,  The Who

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