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April 6, 2006

Under The Knife

Depth

by Will Carroll

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It's clear that something happened in the game of baseball, either in the late sixties or early seventies. It was a subtle change, but as it got around the league after starting in football, players on every team were known to use this substance openly. Whether it was better than what some had previously used is open to some question, but the game of baseball has been completely infiltrated since the eighties. More advanced forms keep coming and elite athletes have been dealing with scientists on testing new forms. Certain athletes are known users--Derek Jeter, Mark Prior--while others simply dabble, but few question the need for this performance-enhancing product that users say help with recovery, mental acuity, and endurance.

Of course, Gatorade is legal, but I can see where you might have gotten the wrong idea reading that. It's an interesting question on why some things are banned while others aren't--the slippery slope in defining "performance enhancing." With a hat tip to Chris Snethen of Oregon Live for the idea, on to the injuries:

  • My e-mail inbox buckled today with the questions about Derek Lowe. That Lowe and many others in the game use substances such as Ritalin and Adderall should come as no surprise. That Lowe is allowed to use the substance despite the new amphetamine ban should also surprise no one. We've discussed the therapeutic use waiver in this space before and all indications are that Lowe went through the proper procedures to gain his waiver. There's no definitive study that shows whether or not athletes who need these drugs to function gain any performance enhancement, but the judgement has been made within the game that these can be exempted, not only in baseball, but in most sports. That doesn't address the abuse of these drugs by some players and highlights the problem that the waiver procedure is designed to protect against.

  • A pair of injuries in San Diego isn't shaking up the Padres so much as showing just how well Kevin Towers did this offseason. The shoulder injury to Ryan Klesko appears to be headed towards season- and perhaps career-ending surgery, as he's slated to have a new MRI and more consultations. Adrian Gonzalez has usurped Klesko's role on the team anyway, stolen in the Adam Eaton trade. Mike Cameron is still coming back from an oblique strain, but the team smartly kept the versatile Eric Young on the roster for 2006 for just this type of situation. Once Cameron is back, the outfield will take on a new look; we'll see if the whippet-style outfield helps cover all that Petco territory.

  • Several readers pointed out that Freddy Garcia was significantly off his normal velocities in his first start this week. Dave Kaplan at WGN told me that Garcia reported that he "couldn't get loose or break a sweat" for the game. Garcia's mechanics have always been a bit worrisome, though his numbers have looked solid regardless. It's something that could be as simple as the weather and the early season, but it could be an indication of something more problematic. Any injury would mean that the depth the Sox have in their pitching would go from luxury to necessity. The Sox also had Jermaine Dye leave Wednesday's game with a mild calf strain. He's been healthy in his time in Chicago, due in part to their caution with him.

  • The Braves will get a rotation test as Horacio Ramirez leaves his first start and heads directly to the DL. The lefty strained his left (push) hamstring running out a bunt and left the game immediately. He hadn't been effective up to that point, so the decision wasn't hard for Bobby Cox. Initial reports have the strain as moderate, and he'd be expected to be out about a month. John Thomson is his likely replacement in the rotation while the roster spot will be filled by a reliever. The Braves also have Chipper Jones, dealing with a mild recurrence of his chronic oblique problem. He's not expected to miss much time, though Jones is notoriously difficult to remove from the roster.

  • After a bullpen session that went better than expected, Ted Lilly now is slated to start on Saturday for the Jays. With A.J. Burnett out and no clear replacement, there was a bit of pressure on Lilly to make the start, so watch him closely if you're counting on him to go deep into the game. Josh Banks and Casey Janssen were the likely replacements for Lilly, so you can see that the Jays weren't exactly dealing from strength here. Watch Lilly's velocity on Saturday for some indication on how strong the shoulder really is.

  • It looked like Julio Lugo's injury--combined with an injury to his "he's still here?" backup, Luis Ordaz--would push the Rays to bring up B.J. Upton. No such luck: Upton stays in Durham while slugger Russ Branyan takes Ordaz's roster slot. Lugo doesn't appear headed for the DL, going day-to-day while Nick Green holds down the position in the interim. Given Lugo's post-injury declarations about how hard the muscle pulled, this is a bit surprising, so I'm watching this one closely.

  • All signs point to Cesar Izturis starting a minor league rehab by the end of April, putting him on track to come back at some point in May. The maximum length of a rehab stint is 30 days, He's already throwing, long-tossing from 150 feet and making some plays in the field during the spring. It's unclear where he'll play once he's back or if the back problems he was dealing with before the elbow surgery have cleared up. Many teams will be watching Izturis' comeback in anticipation of the Dodgers dealing him before the deadline.

  • A colleague in New York passed on that Carl Pavano is not off to see Dr. Robert Watkins. Pavano has seen him previously, but this time it was simply a check of the most recent MRI. Pavano, I'm told, has looked terrible this spring in one new regard--he appears winded and out of shape, as early as the first inning of his start. Whether this is conditioning or pain that's showing is unclear; what is clear is that the Yankees shouldn't have much expectation of a positive contribution from last year's big signing.

  • Frank Thomas can still hit, but reader O.T. was at last night's game and says he "looked horrible running. He was visibly limping while running to score and trotted in the 8th before being lifted for a pinch runner. He's changed his batting stance a little, lifting the ankle a bit." The question is whether this problem is going to hold up and if not, how long until it breaks down. Larry Davis and the A's staff have their work cut out for them on this one.

  • Quick Cuts: Tagg Bozied used to be a prospect. A fluke injury--popping his patellar tendon when celebrating a home run--seems to have cost him that status. Released by the Padres, Bozied is one more data point on the risks of prospectdom, pitcher or not Rafael Soriano hasn't looked like the player he used to be. That's a good thing. He's looked smoother in pumping his mid-90's heat. The M's seem to have some handle on Soriano, if not the rest of their staff Adam Eaton had surgery on Tuesday, repairing his damaged finger. He's out until the ASB at minimum Keith Foulke had the ball hit hard on him in his first appearance on Synvisc knees. The velocity and mechanics looked good, so why was he hit hard? Efficiency. Staked to a lead, Foulke isn't going to nibble this season. He realizes the defense behind him is improved, though this strategy doesn't work as well in Arlington as it does in Fenway Aaron Cook looked good in his first start of the season. His health has to make the Rockies and Pirates feel good Jeremy Bonderman told the press he's "feeling something" in his elbow. Uh oh.

For those of you in the Chicago area or, as with most things, listening in on the internet, you'll be able to hear a lot more BP on the radio. BP and WGN Radio have teamed up, bringing you regular appearances each Wednesday at 7:20p Central. I'm excited about this collaboration between two great organizations.

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