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May 9, 2006

Under The Knife

Game Shortage

by Will Carroll

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Short days stink. There aren't enough games, and seldom any day games to let me spread out my baseball pleasure. With the lack of games usually comes a lack of injuries for me to talk about. While I'm all for an injuries shortage, I want it to be an issue of quality, not one of quantity. For a while last night, I debated doing a mailbag column, which would have been a first. In the end, though, the phone buzzed often enough to give me plenty to discuss. That mailbag will have to wait, but fear not because, as Mark Twain once said, although history doesn't repeat itself, it does tend to rhyme.

Powered by my anticipation for tomorrow night's season finale of Veronica Mars, on to the injuries:

  • You might say that the Cardinals have been wracked with injuries thus far in May. The word "wracked" is a fun one, one I don't use often enough. In fact, it's hard to come up with ways to describe injuries without getting repetitive or going the way of the porn reviewers' "million different words for breasts" ethic. However, on a literal level, "wracked" means "to utterly ruin" according to Webster, and that's quite an exaggeration as far as where the Cards find themselves. The Cards got news that Sidney Ponson is a bit better off than Victor Zambrano, as he emerged from the MRI tube with a diagnosis of a strained flexor muscle as opposed to Zambrano's torn flexor tendon. Ponson is sure to miss a start, though early indications are that the Cards will give him a few days to see if it responds--this preserves the possibility of making a retro DL move. Adam Wainwright is available for an emergency start, and Anthony Reyes is the long-term option if Ponson is forced to the DL. My estimates are on the low side--Ponson will likely need two weeks before being able to return, but not much longer given the severity of the strain. Despite what the Cards bloggers think I'll say here, I'll go out on a limb: I think the Cards can survive the loss of Ponson for a while.

  • Where's Bartolo Colon? It shouldn't be this hard to find him, and that's not a crack at his weight. In fact, there's a very interesting article featuring a couple of Friends of BP that discusses "fat pitchers." Colon is just starting to throw now, doing what one scout calls the "Mark Prior workout"--long toss and some flat-ground throwing drills. The Angels initially targeted May 1 as their ace's return date, but that's not going to happen, and a May return is looking less and less likely. The next milestone will be getting back on the mound, so I'll continue monitoring that situation.

  • Jose Contreras has been so good this season that few saw a health problem coming. The White Sox aren't confirming Chicago radio reports that Contreras is heading to the DL with a hip problem. The Cuban pitcher had no problems prior to Sunday, when he reportedly injured himself while playing catch. Early descriptions of the injury--sharp pain in the lower back and hip--point to a lower back disc problem. The White Sox are likely to keep Brandon McCarthy in the pen and call up knuckleballer Charlie Haeger. Old BPR co-host Scott McCauley got a look at Haeger in Triple-A Charlotte this week and raved, so the Sox have that going for them. The team will make a DL decision on Contreras on Tuesday so that they can have someone in place for his scheduled Wednesday start.

  • We've all seen the signs, the asterisks, and even the "reality show." Barry Bonds is everywhere, and if his 715th isn't going to be celebrated, it's definitely going to be watched. Bonds' playing time and effectiveness are what interest me, two things that are subject to the whims of his health. Day games after night games are out, as are long consecutive-games streaks. However, Felipe Alou may be on the verge of doing something interesting. Sources tell me that Alou is considering making Bonds the best pinch-hitter ever. Bonds needs time off, is playing worse in the field, and is only seeing two real at-bats a night anyway. Alou's thinking is that using Bonds in a high-leverage situation where the opposing team is virtually forced to pitch to him might be the best use of his slugger's time. Perhaps 150 games of one high-leverage at-bat isn't much off of 100 games worth of two or three more general plate appearances. If it helps Bonds stay healthy and succeed, is it worth trying? The other factor in play is that, now that Bonds is just two homers away from Babe Ruth's mark, there is pressure to pass it at home.

  • One of the things that gets almost no notice--and I'm probably more guilty of this than most--is not noting the importance of medicine in sports medicine. I'm not talking doctors, I'm talking about the pills, creams (no, not that one), and injections that players use to keep themselves out on the field. The swelling in the elbow of Justin Duchscherer is easily controllable by modern anti-inflammatories. Unfortunately, those same drugs tend to be very harsh on the stomach, and some are simply intolerant of the drugs. I can remember when Motrin was still a prescription drug, but it would be handed out to athletes by the handful. The abuse of Motrin at that stage led first to an increased tolerance to the drug, and then increasing doses caused increasing gastro-intestinal problems. With Duchscherer, the A's are looking to other medicines or even injections if necessary. It's the little things you don't think about that often cause larger problems.

  • On the other hand, almost literally, is the situation of Gary Sheffield, because he's headed to the DL after refusing a cortisone injection. This is within his rights, but will delay his return. Sheffield is in the final year of his deal and nearing the end of his career, so he's citing both in his refusal. Long-term use of cortisone is known to have some drawbacks, though it is commonly used throughout sports and general orthopedics. Sheffield should be able to come back near the minimum two weeks, and his play during the injury is a positive sign for his future production.

  • The Brewers don't let much injury information slip, though if you listen closely, you can pick things up here and there. Adam McCalvy of MLB.com does a great job covering the team, asking the type of questions that get Ned Yost to slip up a bit on his preservation of absolute secrecy. Prince Fielder reportedly first injured his groin on Thursday last week, but is playing through it with treatment and stretching. The injury is minor enough that Yost wouldn't call it a strain, but the team is taking no chances with their league-leading rookie hitter. While Fielder is expected to play, the Brewers will be cautious until Fielder is back to full go.

  • After Nate Silver's look at the effect of the WBC on pitchers, I'm not surprised to see that Gary Majewski is piling on. Majewski didn't specifically blame the tournament, but does cite the alteration to his spring routine as cause for the tendonitis in his pitching shoulder. He'll be used sparingly while the meds take effect, but he is available, so the injury shouldn't be a significant long-term concern. The Nats are on pace to be at the far left of the DL days chart again, and it's about time that manager Frank Robinson took some of the heat for it.

  • Quick Cuts: If Everyday Eddie Guardado can't go every day now after a long, mostly distinguished career, what does that teach us? New iBooks introduced tomorrow? Sweet Imaging shows that Ryan Doumit has reinjured the same part of his hamstring. The Pirates are waiting to see how he responds, though it looks certain he's heading to the DL again Matthew Leach of MLB.com reports that Ricardo Rincon is headed for surgery on his pitching shoulder Remember last year when the winner of Yahoo's fantasy baseball would get a job with the Giants? Where's that guy now, and what's he doing?
Related Content:  Year Of The Injury

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