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April 12, 2006

Under The Knife

The Best Job in the World

by Will Carroll

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In the four years we've been doing BP Radio, we've had some great guests. It's easier at this point to name who hasn't been on rather than who has. Whether it's chatting with Peter Gammons or Bill James, talking with Peter King or Rob Neyer, whether it's John Smoltz or Jeff Bagwell or a GM, or even hearing Harry Kalas say my name out loud, we've talked to a lot of the big names. Today, I'll be interviewing Marvin Miller and I'm just beside myself. Miller, the former head of the MLBPA, is one of the greats; I wish I could announce him as "Hall of Famer," but I'm excited to have him on nonetheless. There are people I really want on the show--Bud Selig, Bob Uecker, Yogi Berra--but today is one of those days where I realize I might just have the best job in the world.

Powered by Peet's Anniversary Blend, on to the injuries:

  • Just as the Blue Jays get A.J. Burnett back, Roy Halladay is going to miss a couple of starts. While the party line is that the Jays are using a favorable schedule to be conservative with Halladay's "tight forearm," the fact is that this is a bit more serious. The flexor mass is an injury that has become more common in baseball (Andy Pettitte, Jason Schmidt, Troy Percival) and has been used by some teams to disguise elbow problems. That isn't the case here; the Jays are, from all signs, telling the truth about Halladay. The problem is more that the injury has been lingering all spring. Sure, Halladay could pitch with it, but where did it come from? Halladay's injury problems are reminding me more and more of Mark Prior's.

  • Speaking of Prior, the Cubs starter was back in Chicago, throwing from a Wrigley Field mound. Unfortunately, it was before the game in the bullpen, but it was a positive sign that Prior has made it this far. After throwing for Larry Rothschild (and giving a deposition in a lawsuit), Prior will head back to Arizona to continue working back to the other mound in Wrigley. Kerry Wood is also making progress, throwing a simulated game in Arizona. Assuming Wood recovers normally, the next step wil be sending him on a rehab assignment, likely in warmer weather (Daytona or West Tenn). That puts his return to Wrigley a bit behind the plan of May 1, but that should still sound good to Cubs fans.

  • The Mets are concerned that ace closer Billy Wagner may be turning into Adam Eaton. Wagner's middle finger has a torn tendon sheath, causing him significant pain when throwing, as it doesn't allow him to get the same "pulldown" on his pitches. That tight backspin is key to his boring fastball; without it, he's a bit more hittable, has lost about five mph on his fastball, and is having control problems. No one seems to be sure whether the injury is something Wagner will just have to adjust to, whether rest will help, or whether surgery is in his future. This is definitely one to watch--focus on his control to better gauge where this is headed.

  • One of the things I've found is that there's an elevated risk of injury in the near-term after a position change. Is Aubrey Huff moving back to third base considered a position change? I'm not sure if that had anything to do with the collision that injured him, though it does have me thinking that communication between players may be as big a factor as the new positioning. Huff ran into shortstop Nick Green while chasing a foul ball and strained his knee. He'll have an MRI once the swelling is down to determine the severity, though initial reports from sources say "moderate" and surgery isn't expected. We'll know more once the imaging happens and the knee has a chance to react to treatment.

  • Injuries in clusters can be the most problematic. Most teams have a good fourth outfielder, but when two OFs go down for any period of time, the depth can be tested. That's the scenario for the Red Sox. With Coco Crisp on the DL, a groin injury to Trot Nixon makes the move to call up Dustan Mohr smarter. Mohr will get the RF starts with lefties on the hill (set aside the fact that Wily Mo Pena has looked awful at bat and in the field). Nixon's injury isn't considered major and he won't hit the DL unless it doesn't progress--it'll be a retro move should that happen.

  • A dislocation is one of the most painful injuries there is. Hearing that trainers couldn't reduce (pop back in) the dislocated thumb of Ian Kinsler is painful just to think about. Kinsler had been hitting nearly .500, so this hurts in other ways. Kinsler will see a hand specialist for tests on Wednesday and what they find will determine how long he's out. A simple dislocation will cost him a month while ligament damage will require surgery and a loss of about three months. This is similar in nature to Rickie Weeks' injury from last season, so keep in mind that Kinsler is likely to lose some power and average once he's back, regardless.

  • If you're holding your breath waiting for Bartolo Colon to straighten things out, I hope you took a deep breath. Colon is still feeling the effects of the shoulder injury we saw in the playoffs last year, one similar to Ben Sheets and Jake Peavy. Peavy's the only one pitching well right now while Sheets took a conservative return path. You can't blame the Classic, since Peavy also pitched there. Colon is going to try and fight through his loss of velocity and movement; what he needs is a couple weeks off to rebuild and recover.

  • Quietly, Baseball suspended four minor leaguers--three for banned substances, one for use of a "drug of abuse." It's noteworthy that all are pitchers and that none is considered a top prospect. These are the first of the year and part of an extremely quiet spring on the testing front. There's always the worry that we're watching players who have tested positive and are playing out their appeals, something that remains under the new, stronger policy. There are very few problems that I see in the policy, but the opaque process and lack of a truly independent arbiter bothers me most.

  • Quick Cuts: Great article on knees and some Barry Bonds comparables David Wells got torched in his rehab start. Now we'll see what he can do against the Blue Jays on Wednesday Larry Bigbie will head out for a rehab assignment soon, then get back into the Cards OF mix "You're with me, leather." Holy crap Jacque Jones made a couple of nice defensive plays Tuesday on the few balls that stayed in the yard, but left the game with a mild hamstring strain Nomar Garciaparra is expected to be activated on schedule, next Tuesday Sean Casey missed Tuesday's game with what is being called a bruised rib. No word on severity or cause A friend asked "Is it just me or are homers and average way up to start the year? I know, small sample size. I can hear the theories now--MLB has juiced the ball to make it look like steroids weren't the problem." Oy, will it never end?
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