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April 24, 2006

Under The Knife

Break Out the Grill

by Will Carroll

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Lance Berkman suggested that the recent explosion of numbers confirms what many of us knew; pitchers were benefiting from steroids more than hitters were. The problem with this theory is that you have to accept two facts: that hitters benefited and that steroids helped pitchers recover quicker. I have yet to see real evidence that the first is true. While there's much more to the latter than the former, this is mid-April. Pitchers shouldn't be tired yet. Starters are on their fourth starts while relievers have barely been tested. Salomon Torres leads the league with 11 appearances and has yet to work three games in a row. What we're seeing is speculation chasing an illusion. If we want a substantive answer, let's keep our eye on the testers and see what we can find at the end of the season.

Powered by my Holland Grill and a beautiful spring weekend, on to the injuries:

  • Diagnosis doesn't always work like it does on House, M.D. People in pain or people who watch loved ones in pain seldom maintain their rational approach, wanting only some answer, some solution, or some miracle. Todd Helton does not yet have a diagnosis for a serious of symptoms focused on his gastrointestinal tract. His symptoms include pain, difficulty breathing, and a headache. Speculation on the underlying problem has ranged from kidney stones to Crohn's disease--until doctors find something, they'll treat the symptoms. One complicating factor is the rash of illness in the Rockies clubhouse, including Eli Marrero, Jason Jennings, and Matt Holliday in the last month. Garrett Atkins is also currently fighting a viral infection. There's a possibility that this is connected to those illnesses, but no hard evidence that there's any common factor. Helton's on the DL, but getting back on the field is the least of his concerns right now.

  • "There's a shark in there." I hate to steal from TWiQ, but this is one of the great quotes in the medhead world. A.J. Burnett describing his elbow and the image of some creature biting him as if his pitching arm was the girl at the start of Jaws is both humorous and frighteningly accurate. This predator is attacking Burnett's season, the Jays' chances of contention, and the wallet of J.P. Ricciardi. The good news is that repeated images have shown that Burnett's elbow has no structural problems, leaving us grasping at the possibility that Burnett toughed it through his contract year and cleared the physicals. Plausible? Possible? Probable? It's tough to say. Burnett's future is as cloudy as his diagnosis, but both should clear up a bit after a visit to Jim Andrews. The shark may be in Burnett's head as much as it's in his elbow. Expect the Jays to call up Casey Janssen to replace him.

  • The Mets signed Carlos Beltran to be their franchise player last year, but in the meantime, David Wright has become all that and more. Injuries to both these players are sending Mets fans over the edge and filling my in-box. Beltran is dealing with a strained hamstring again, so this is not comparable to Ken Griffey Jr.'s injury unless there are further exacerbations. The Mets are being exceptionally conservative with Beltran's treatment, an approach they also showed with Pedro Martinez. David Wright injured his groin dodging a pitch, and he's undergoing treatment to prevent further problems, though he'll likely keep playing. Ballplayers--even ones who have a great medical staff and who get lessons from Rickey Henderson in Spring Training--don't do nearly enough stretching. Lost time to muscle strains may be as expensive as time lost to elbow injuries.

  • Oscar Acosta, by all accounts a strong-willed teacher who believed so strongly in what he knew that he often forced conflict, was killed in a car accident last week. In Arizona, Kerry Wood called off a throwing session. Wood, a friend and protégé of Acosta, may have been affected by the death so I want to put a word of caution in reading too much into this. Wood felt pain and backed off, but let's see how his next session goes, which is scheduled for early this week.

  • The Angels don't seem too worried about Bartolo Colon, figuring that the same rest that's brought Ben Sheets back to his normal form is what Colon will need. Colon has progressed to throwing, though the team is resisting any urge to give their ace a return date. Colon could be back as early as the first week of May--assuming there are no setbacks--but expect the Angels to be more conservative and push to mid-May if needed. The team is also dealing with a strained hamstring for Maicer Izturis. No word on the severity, but any missed time will increase calls for Howie Kendrick.

  • Ray Durham is still good when he's healthy. His legs have been failing him off and on over the last few seasons. His most recent hamstring strain isn't particularly harsh, though Durham has less and less actual muscle to rebuild; his hamstrings are now just scar surrounding what used to be a strong base. Durham can still get it done but, like the guy he sits next to, he's nothing without a base. Age is insidious, but we've seen this one coming. Durham is a noted slow healer, so be aware of this in planning around him.

  • Larry Davis, the A's trainer, told MLB.com that Bobby Crosby isn't injury prone, he's just prone to strange injuries. That's not a category I'm going to try and track. Crosby's latest injury is a musculotendinous strain near the origin of the triceps. The location of the injury makes it tough to treat, so rest and anti-inflammatories are the best course right now. Crosby should be back sometime this week. Huston Street continues to progress with his chest strain, though please note I'm not saying pectoral strain. I'm honestly unable to tell you exactly where this one is. Wherever it sits, Street should be back sitting in the bullpen seat saved for closers later this week.

  • The Reds are comparing the knee surgery that Eric Milton went through to what Jason LaRue had, a simple procedure that will have him out just a couple weeks. Surprisingly, the concern is much more pronounced for Milton given the history he's had with that knee. Milton missed most of 2003 after having cartilage removed from the knee, so his Monday morning surgery to clean out the knee comes with more than the normal concern. Expect Milton to miss about a month with this. The news is better for Paul Wilson. He'll start his minor league rehab this week in Single-A Dayton. While he was reportedly planning to take three starts at various levels, the injury to Milton and the ineffectiveness of Dave Williams may push the schedule up.

  • Watch the video of Scott Kazmir just before he's pulled from the game and you'll see him futzing with his elbow, not his thumb. Now, it was his thumb that cramped up, reportedly from dehydration, but I'm not convinced that the two aren't related in some way. Reports from Tampa have Kazmir's thumb cramping into tetany, pulling across his hand. If you try this at home, you'll likely feel it in the palm-side of the forearm, near--but not in--the elbow. Most of the feel will be focused in the hand. It's probably nothing, but Kazmir's next start is going to be a must-see for medheads.

  • Quick Cuts: I've been asked a lot why Barry Bonds hasn't used Synvisc. I don't know the answer … C.C. Sabathia will have a rehab start later this week, likely for Triple-A Buffalo … I don't know what "sabreheads" didn't like J.J. Hardy last year, but it certainly wasn't me … Brad Eldred, still pouting from staying in the minors after Sean Casey's injury, now has an injury of his own. Eldred dislocated his thumb yesterday. Imaging will determine how long the big slugger is out … Steve Stanley retired. Is Mark Teahen the next of the Moneyball class to flame out? Teahen has a chronic shoulder problem that sources in KC say are career threatening "in the sense that by the time he gets healthy, he may not have a job" … Jeremy Hermida is looking good in rehab and should be back later this week. A quick rehab assignment is still possible … Chris Young has gotten started on the Arizona portion of his career. His spring training injury now healed, Young is back on the fast track to Phoenix … Mike Cameron made his Padre debut. The team thinks he should have no limitations, though it's worth watching him for the first week to see how his swing and stride look.

Like baseball? Of course you do. Like horse racing? If so, now you can combine the two! If you're in the Indianapolis area, I'll be at Hoosier Downs, just southeast of Indianapolis, every Tuesday from 4-5 doing radio. Stop by, play some ponies, and grab some great food.

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