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April 21, 2006

Under The Knife

Lee, Lee, Lee

by Will Carroll

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This column is about injuries. That's simple enough--who got hurt, how badly, and how it affects the player and his team. You'd hardly think that I'd spend a better portion of my day getting angry e-mails from team officials that don't want me to give away information that's right there for all to see. Injuries happen, and they're a fact of life in the game. As much as I wish there weren't so many of them, the line that "they're JUST a part of the game" is not going to make them go away. What will? Top-flight medical care, close analysis, and most of all, a continued focus on the magnitude of the problem, which is often that difference between winning and losing so many teams shrug their shoulders and say they can't find. I'm not saying that there aren't accidents, incidents, and things truly outside the scope of any team's ability to control, but trying to hide the problem rather than fix it is a good way to keep your team in fourth place. Not that I'm naming names.

Powered by my friends aboard the USS Ogden, somewhere in the Persian Gulf, on to the injuries:

  • What if I told you that Derrek Lee did not have a broken wrist? It shouldn't make you feel any better, but technically, he doesn't. Lee fractured two bones, the radius and ulna that make up the forearm. The fractures are at the distal (away from the body) end, so in normal conversation, we'd refer to the area as the wrist. Medically, the wrist is a complex of joints and small bones between the forearm and hand. Either way, the prognosis for both is very similar. Players coming back from fractured arms tend to come back better, without the loss of grip strength, so take good news where you can find it, Cubs fans. No matter what you call the injury, losing Derrek Lee for two months is not going to help this team score more runs. Oh, you want a little bit more good news? I fully expect Lee to beat that timeline back.

  • My pal Gene Patterson, an ATC from Georgia, spotted the injury to Scott Kazmir as it was happening. "He's doing something funny with his elbow," his e-mail said. On nearly the next pitch, Kazmir came out. Reports are vague and conflicting at this stage. The official word is that he was cramping up and was removed for precautionary reasons. Other speculation focused on the apparent sudden sensation (or lack thereof) that Kazmir experienced. We'll know quickly, though the uncertainty of not knowing won't have fantasy owners or Rays fans happy until they see their ace back on the mound with a quiet elbow. The Devil Rays are also hoping that Mark Hendrickson will be able to come back sometime next week, but that was after he was initially expected to be out for just the minimum. So far, he's not on track to do that. News is better for Aubrey Huff, with team officials hinting that he'll beat projections for return.

  • Is Barry Bonds reduced to the point that he's hoping that a trip to Colorado brings his stroke back? Is he working in the cage to see the pitches that he's having trouble picking up? With injuries and intentional walks, has any player this good ever seen so few pitches? There are a lot of questions surrounding Barry Bonds, but it all comes down to health. Even if you think Bonds is a creation of steroids, the gains don't just wash out of the system, nor are some of the drugs he allegedly took detectable, even under the current system. His knee, elbow, and back are simply, finally getting old. The horse isn't dead yet, for those of you beating it, but it's still got some power and poise.

  • Like most patients, pitchers want miracle cures. They want them and they want them now. Today's pharmaceutical culture often rewards those for whom instant gratification isn't quite quick enough. The Red Sox had hoped that Synvisc shot into the knees of David Wells and Keith Foulke would be the answer, but the results haven't been what they'd wanted. Foulke told the press that he got some results, but is back to the painful grind (literally) when pitching, while Wells is telling people he feels no different and will give it one more chance before hanging up his sizeable spikes. Boston's pitching questions seem to be multiplying now that it seems answers aren't going to be found in a syringe.

  • As soon as Carlos Beltran got back, he came right back out. Beltran lasted only five innings before being pulled from Thursday's game with tightness in his problematic hamstring. A recurring injury is one of the most frustrating things for a team, killing the possibility of making a retroactive move and putting them back at the start of a process. The Mets will likely push Beltran to the DL to allow him to completely (and hopefully finally) heal the current problem without opening him up to the risk of exacerbating the situation.

  • The A's won't take chances with crossing up Huston Street. Their young closer has a strained muscle in his chest, and is scheduled to get a couple days of rest to make sure it doesn't become more problematic. Justin Duchscherer didn't do so well in his first save chance with Street out, but the A's are nothing if not understanding that one game is not a relevant sample size with which to judge whether or not a guy can close. Given Street's participation in the WBC, many are watching to see if this is a normal strain, or a fatigue-created problem.

  • Putting Luis Castillo on the FieldTurf at the Metrodome was one of those things that just instantly sounded wrong. Castillo's history of leg problems, especially those with his hips, were not going to be helped by going to the hard plastic. First, Castillo pulled up after running out a single. Then, about a week ago, Castillo jammed his knee on a slide, and it's possible some compensation for the soreness contributed to the hamstring strain. No word yet on the severity, though the Twins have several options whether Castillo's out for a few days or a few weeks.

  • After finding out that Brandon Backe won't need surgery on his UCL (yet), the Astros have another pitcher with a similar injury. Trever Miller has been diagnosed with a moderate sprain of his pitching UCL and will be shut down for six weeks. We've noted in the past that Tommy John injuries can often seem viral in nature, coming in clusters within a team, and especially at a level. It's worth keeping an eye on this over the next month.

  • Noah Lowry was out on the mound, throwing a bullpen session, and from all reports looking good due to a trainer's tweak. The Giants medical staff, led by Stan Conte, is using a more guided approach to the placement of cortisone injections. The technique, broadly called interventional radiology, simply means that the treatment is guided by imagery rather than the doctor's educated guess. Something like angioplasty, where doctors thread a catheter up to the heart while watching on camera, is an example of the technique, though Lowry's treatment wasn't as serious or invasive as that. Lowry still needs to build strength in the oblique, but he's likely headed for a rehab start. It's a good sign, both that Lowry was able to throw at this stage, and that the Giants are once again at the forefront.

  • Quick Cuts: Jeff Bagwell seems headed for more surgery on his shoulder. That means the possibility of another comeback attempt… No grievance for Jody Gerut. He'll skip surgery and report to Triple-A Indy… Rafael Betancourt is awaing results of an MRI. Notice all these relievers getting injured?… Juan Rivera is still out, and if there's no improvement by gametime Friday, the Angels will DL him. There's speculation that Howie Kendrick will get the call… Mike Cameron played in a rehab game at Lake Elsinore. No report at press time on how he did… An inside-the-park home run? Sounds like Kazuo Matsui isn't having a problem with that knee anymore.

BP Radio's outside the studio this week, celebrating Little League Opening Day at the ballpark. We'll talk with the head of one of the top youth pitching studies as well as focusing on how technology changes how we watch the game with representatives from MLB.tv, TiVo, and Dish Network. I hope everyone will listen in or catch the podcast this weekend.
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