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April 25, 2006

Under The Knife

Weatherman

by Will Carroll

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I got called baseball's version of the weatherman yesterday as I was coming on radio. I think that's a compliment and don't think it was a reference to the old Weather Underground or to Steve Carell's character in Anchorman. If so, I'll be powered by a wish for a baseball version of Super-Doppler. On to the injuries:

  • Todd Helton is out of the hospital, but still has no diagnosis. The acute gastrointestinal problem leaves me typing vague things like "acute gastrointestinal problems" rather than being able to explain much more. Helton's pain is reduced, which is certainly a good sign, though without a diagnosis there's a possibility that it could come back. The acute nature of the injury would seem to rule out many of the more chronic diagnoses that have been floated, such as Crohn's. Comments from trainer Keith Dugger indicate that the problem is not related to the other illnesses in the Rockies' clubhouse. I'm still a bit doubtful on the latter. Bottom line is that Helton is on the shelf until at least May 5; we still don't know whether he's recovering or just more comfortable. It bears a continued close watch.

  • A.J. Burnett got confirmation that his elbow is more or less intact. There are no structural problems, no chips, and--as far as imaging showed--no sharks in his elbow. The visit to Birmingham was intended to get Burnett to understand that there's not really anything that can be done with the elbow and that he'll need to pitch through whatever problem he's having. It's telling that Burnett needed the visit; his relationship with pitching coach Brad Arnsberg was supposed to be the support he needed and wanted.

  • Eric Gagne is getting ready to throw the ball again. He'll need a couple weeks to get his arm back into shape, but the nerve excision surgery appears to be a success. He's been able to stay in condition during the rehab and has been following much the same program as late-stage Tommy Johners. Since there were no structural changes, the only remaining concern is that the change (or lack) of sensation in Gagne's arm may change his delivery, even slightly. We should know soon.

  • The Braves are masters at this by now. Even with both of their middle infielders unavailable, the team isn't panicking, understanding that using the DL for an injury that will recover inside of the 15-day period creates a loss of value. Edgar Renteria is out until the weekend as he makes sure that the oblique strain is fully healed. His infield mate Marcus Giles has only been hitting off a tee for two days, but has had mixed results so far. Chipper Jones comes back early next week, so by May 1, the Braves should have their intended starting infield back, allowing them to start thinking about improving their team rather than just adjusting to hide gaps.

  • Eric Milton had his knee surgery and it was minor, as expected. Using past experience--including Kerry Wood's recent surgery--as a guide, Milton will be able to keep his arm in condition and get back inside of a month. Ken Griffey Jr. is doing better, but there's still no timetable for his return. The inflamed tendon is responding to treatment, making the team happy with its ultraconservative rehab plan.

  • In the All-Bad Karma trade of the off-season, Chris Young is now dealing with his own finger problem. Young has been losing sensation in his pitching thumb, describing it to reporters as either "numb" or "cold." Neither is good, and both suggest reduced blood flow. He's been put on medication and his response to it will determine whether or not he'll need to miss a start. If there's no positive response, Young will head to the DL.

  • As reported yesterday, Brad Eldred dislocated his thumb and is going to miss time. He's headed to Pittsburgh for surgery and, depending on the results of that, could be out anywhere between two months and the rest of the season. Eldred's game is solely power-based so anything that affects that is a major negative. With the Sean Casey injury, Eldred had a nice window to try and push himself to the majors. That's now gone due to his injury.

  • The Cubs continue to progress. Kerry Wood will throw in the Rookie League on Wednesday, Mark Prior is moving from long toss to batting practice, Felix Pie is killing the ball at Triple-A, and Wade Miller is starting to throw BP as well. We'll probably see them return in that order, which will change the way the Cubs look and play. Wood's setback over the weekend is the biggest hurdle, though as we said yesterday, his next outing is his most important.

  • Quick Cuts: The White Sox are saying all the right things publicly; behind the scenes, they're admitting it's a longshot that Dustin Hermanson will return. Their worst case scenario is him coming back enough to play, but not being effective Justin Verlander will be on a pitch count of 100 after he went 121 in his last outing. Good to see Jim Leyland's watching, or at least being told to watch Kevin Mench's shoes don't fit? Come on Ray Durham had a hamstring injury yesterday. This time, it was the tendon rather than the muscle. He's responded well to treatment, is day to day, and may avoid the DL I've had interns end up in front offices. Maybe I can have one on the field sometime soon Cole Hamels is healthy (finally) and has pushed himself to Triple-A. If he can stay healthy, he'll be in the Philly rotation by June.

Be sure to tune in to WGN Radio tomorrow night. Nate Silver will be in-studio with Kap and Waddle to talk some baseball, while I'll be joining in by phone. I can't wait to hear Kaplan's take on Nate's Page 2 list.

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