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May 17, 2006

Under The Knife

Elbow Surprise

by Will Carroll

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Powered by the over 500 emails I've received in regards to Monday's column, for which I can never thank you appropriately or enough, on to the injuries:

  • Reason #310 Why MRIs aren't perfect: Mets physician David Altcheck opened up Victor Zambrano expecting to see some bone chips, a damaged flexor tendon, and the ghost of Scott Kazmir inside. Instead, the MRI missed the torn UCL and when Zambrano awoke, he found a redo of his 1996 Tommy John. Knowing that Zambrano has been pitching injured doesn't make the trade worse. It's an unfortunate incident that speaks to the need for better communication. Zambrano is out a year post-surgery, more or less, and I won't guess at where or how he'll make his return. Or even if.

  • Can the return of Eric Milton help the Reds stay in the NL Central division race? As much fun as some of us have had pointing out that a deal like Milton's--the classic example of having money to spend and ending up with the wrong guy, unable to claim the money shouldn't be spent--can only be measured relatively. Milton is a flyball pitcher in a home run park on a team with a questionable bullpen. That's a recipe for disaster, unless you remember that Milton's not replacing Tom Seaver or Jose Rijo. He's replacing Dave Williams, a lefty with an equally bad profile and worse results. Sometimes, "not as bad" isn't damnation, it's realism. Milton should have no problems with the knee post-surgery.

  • If you watch closely, you'll see some cracks in the Red Sox pitching machine. Curt Schilling is dealing with what looks like some base instability, causing him to shorten his stride and leave pitches up higher than he normally does. With his recent ankle problems, we have to wonder if the instability is related. Several of you noted Josh Beckett worrying with his middle finger, perhaps the start of the latest of his blisters. (Paging Dr. Jazayerli!) Beckett has been warming up with bandaids on his fingers to take some of the wear and tear off, though some have argued that this babying is counterproductive. Beckett denies any problem, saying he's just "doing maintenance." The management of these situations, whether from the medical staff or the coaching staff, is key to keeping the Red Sox on track and ahead of the reeling Yankees (and Blue Jays.)

  • The Yankees are trying to hold things together as their outfield implodes and their pitching staff crumbles. $200 million doesn't buy what it used to, apparently. Randy Johnson is looking for fixes while Shawn Chacon is trying to pitch through a painful bruise on his shin. The results from his last two starts are pure cascade, worrying many that his alterations in his normally skewed mechanics could lead to more problems. You'd figure that Jason Giambi would know all about pains in the neck by now, though he's had a fraction of the problem with the press that Gary Sheffield or Barry Bonds have had. Giambi missed Tuesday's slugfest after injuring himself on an attempted diving catch. The replay shows that Giambi--who's clearly out of practice with the whole diving thing--got a bit of whiplash as he landed and is lucky to only be sore. The team is being cautious since neck/spine injuries can linger. Given that the rest of the team seems to have some bump, bruise or break, they can't afford to be without the hot bat of Giambi for very long.

  • I was asked yesterday on my weekly Indianapolis radio gig if Hanley Ramirez could keep it up. I'd like that caller to know he jinxed things. Not really--there's no such thing as a curse in baseball, right? Ramirez has the talent to do almost anything, including keeping up his torrid start, if he can stay healthy. Unfortunately, Ramirez left Tuesday's game with a strained shoulder. He was at bat and manager Joe Girardi said after the game that Ramirez felt the non-throwing shoulder pop in and out. Ramirez's response to treatment and the extent of the internal damage--if there's any at all--will be clearer tomorrow.

  • One of the more interesting stories with a medical angle is the one about Adam LaRoche and his laid back attitude. LaRoche was benched after a series of inexplicable mental lapses--inexplicable until it was leaked to the press that LaRoche has ADD. There are conflicting reports on whether LaRoche is being actively treated, how long he's been diagnosed, and if his diagnosis is valid. If this is a real problem for LaRoche and he's not being treated with medication, it begins to take on a different light, not unlike Gary Sheffield refusing cortisone. This one bears watching.

  • Sometimes when I fail to mention an injury, people panic. Other think it means that I don't care about their team or that I think the injury is insignificant. Not every injury makes it in here; I leave that job to Rotowire, who does a phenomenal job at getting all the news out. When I didn't talk about Lance Berkman and his mild strain of the left hamstring, it was only because the mainstream press had all the information. This case is one where I simply had nothing to add to the conversation. Berkman's being treated conservatively, though he's still bothered by the injury when fielding and accelerating. Kudos to Alyson Footer and the rest of the Astros beat writers for covering this one well.

  • All I think of when I hear that Mike Lieberthal will be out another two weeks after finding a small fracture on his left kneecap is: where the heck is Chris Coste? Coste was the best story in spring training, hitting over .400 and playing nearly every position. A numbers game and a late acquisition sent Coste back to Triple-A, though. Coste's tanked since the send-down but you can imagine the crush of being so close and then having Pat Gillick wave away a dream. Lieberthal is hurt in his contract year, another in the long line of injuries to the talented but oft-injured catcher. The Phillies' one big hole now is at catcher, perhaps the toughest slot to fill in-season.

  • The Brewers have been dealing with more than their normal share of injuries lately, though if you watch closely, you'll see that their planning is showing itself more when tested than it has in the past. A player like Bill Hall is good to have around to back up at multiple positions and to whack the occasional pink-batted homer to win a game. He'll get the chance to play his natural position with shortstop J.J. Hardy likely headed for the DL with a strained ankle. Hardy was worried it was a fracture and it certainly looked ugly on replays. Pitchers like Dana Eveland and Ben Hendrickson can hold down the slot credibly while Ben Sheets takes an extra couple weeks to fully heal. Injury management isn't just about keeping players off the DL; it's about being ready when they are and, once again, the Brewers are proving that they get it.

  • Quick Cuts: Those foul balls really took a toll on Albert Pujols. His ability to play through pain is going to be a big part of his legend someday Coco Crisp's undisclosed illness is now disclosed. He had kidney stones, an intensely painful experience. I've had them and would rather be shot in the kneecap Chris Burke heads to Triple-A to test his shoulder. He could be back as soon as the minimum (May 22) Someone with good pitching knowledge tells me that Randy Johnson's knee isn't the real problem, but that we could see some changes by Friday The Marlins are taking their time with Jeremy Hermida, letting him build confidence in his swing Tanyon Sturtze is headed to see Jim Andrews about his rotator cuff tear. I hope I don't have to tell you how bad this is Eric Gagne faces hitters in a simulated game on Friday. Expect him back within a week if things go well David Wells heads to Scranton on Sunday for his rehab start Brian Bannister will make a rehab start on Thursday, matching up with Jose Lima.

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