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February 20, 2006

Team Health Reports

Arizona Diamondbacks

by Thomas Gorman and Will Carroll

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Red light C Johnny Estrada: Estrada had a concussion last June after a scary collision at the plate with Darin Erstad, but it's his back that set off our warning alarm. That injury was sustained in late July, so Pre- and Post-All Star Break splits help show the seriousness of his problem. Pre-ASB OPS: .725, Post-ASB OPS: .540. It certainly doesn't help that he has to don the exhausting tools of ignorance every day. Also remember that this team doesn't really have a credible backup to cover for Estrada; Chris Snyder stinks (.598 OPS last year in 115 games).

Green light1B Conor Jackson

Green light2B Orlando Hudson: We're not too worried about his sprained ankle. Hudson will be a valuable addition to the Diamondbacks' infield, particularly when sinker-baller Brandon Webb is on the mound.

Green light3B Chad Tracy

Yellow lightSS Craig Counsell: THR Rule of Thumb: 35-year old shortstops will always get yellow lights. The position is simply too demanding for guys who were conceived a few months shy of LBJ's presidency.

Yellow lightLF Luis Gonzalez: Gonzalez isn't getting any younger and the THR system is still worried about his Tommy John elbow surgery in 2004.

Yellow lightCF Eric Byrnes: Captain America is always diving and jumping and flying into walls and the result is that he's always suffering from some sort of aching something or other. Perhaps worse, all the reckless play puts him in danger of a much more serious injury.

Yellow lightRF Shawn Green: This yellow is based on Green's age and position, and not so much on the shoulder injury from 2003 (though we can't help but point out that we were right when we said that that injury would seriously sap Green's power). If Green gets shifted over to center field again in 2006, this light becomes bright red.

Green lightSUB/CF Chris Young: Young fell during an off-season workout and snapped a bone in his hand. It's bad enough to prevent the super-stud from making the team out of spring training, but Byrnes is not going to block Young for too long.

Green lightSP Brandon Webb: Webb is heading out of the Pitcher Injury Nexus and he's shown that he can handle the workload.

Red lightSP Orlando Hernandez: El Duque had some minor knee problems last year, but it was his on-again/off-again shoulder issues that get him the red light here (54 days on the DL last season). It certainly doesn't help that the Diamondbacks will probably be asking for a lot more innings out of Hernandez than he's thrown in years.

Green lightSP Brad Halsey

Red lightSP Miguel Batista: The THR system doesn't like the big jump in innings that Batista will see when he steps back into a five-man rotation, but perhaps this light should be considered a very faint shade of red. Batista looked decent enough when given the workload of a regular starter in 2002, 2003, and 2004.

Yellow lightSP Russ Ortiz: High walk rates trigger a THR alert for possible elbow problems, but Ortiz has always had control problems. Ortiz probably isn't hurt, he's just bad.

Red lightCL Jose Valverde: Biceps and shoulder tendinitis? That's a prescription for a fire-engine red warning light if there ever was one.

Red lightSU Brandon Lyon: We really don't like all the elbow nonsense Lyon went through last year (ulnar nerve transposition surgery, followed by rehab--not surgery--to deal with a UCL injury). For what it's worth, Brian Bruney is a yellow and this whole bullpen is trouble.

The Diamonbacks always seem to have injury problems. In 2004 they clocked almost 1,900 cumulative Days on the Disabled List, which was the absolute worst mark in either league. In 2005 they more than halved their Days on DL total, but still sat above the average figure for all major league organizations, and many of their injuries seemed to be those nagging and irritating problems that an aggressive medical staff is really trying to avoid.

Is this all the fault of former Head Athletic Trainer Paul Lessard? That would be too pat an answer. Can you really blame a trainer for Richie Sexson's shoulder subluxation, or the annual breakdown of Oscar Villarreal? That wouldn't be fair. Since joining the league, the Diamondbacks have been a team of older players and injury risks, and it's not really a Medical Staff's fault when someone like Roberto Alomar gets hit by a pitch and has trouble recovering.

At the same time, though, the numbers are frustrating, so when Boston wanted to hire Lessard to be their Athletic Trainer, the Diamondbacks acquiesced. This worked out great for Arizona as they were able to hire Ken Crenshaw away from Tampa Bay and make him their new Head Athletic Trainer. Crenshaw was a leader of the 2004 Devil Rays Medical Staff that won the inaugural Dick Martin Award and he is very well-regarded in the field of baseball medicine. His staff nearly nabbed the Dick Martin Award again in 2005, and if anyone can turn around Arizona's sorry injury situation it's Crenshaw.

The other good news is that this team is shedding the injury-prone oldsters and replacing them with better, healthier players. Conor Jackson is likely to take over at first base, 26 year-old Chad Tracy mans the hot corner, and Orlando Hudson is a Diamondback now. Don't forget that guys like Carlos Quentin, Chris Young, Dustin Nippert, Miguel Montero, and Stephen Drew will be knocking on the door any day now. The younger talent will be easier to keep on the field and that's good for Arizona, because these kids can play.

The bullpen is still a mess, and the rotation has some great big red warning lights, but the long-term future of this team looks good. 2006 will be a consolidation year, and by 2007 the idea of Arizona as an injury-prone home for the aged ought to be long gone.

Related Content:  Year Of The Injury,  Trainer

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