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May 29, 2006

Under The Knife

Memorial Day Edition

by Will Carroll

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A lot of people e-mailed me this week asking about the scout's comments in Kevin Goldstein's recent Future Shock column regarding Tom House. It should be no secret that many within baseball don't agree with House's methods. I am lucky enough to have gotten to know Tom and I've seen his results, whether it's for a major league pitcher like Mark Prior, Cole Hamels, or Barry Zito or for hundreds of other pros over the years, or for a willowy pre-teen competing against kids literally twice his size in Orange County. (Yes, that's a story I hope to tell soon.) There's always room for an argument here; when there's groupthink, we've ceased doing our jobs.

Powered by those we should remember not just this weekend, but every day, on to the injuries:

  • The Yankees have barely had their expected lineup on the field this season, making me question the value of depth when I look at where they are in the standings. The Yankees look like a regular team when devastated rather than a 1000-run monster. While they don't have able replacements for any position, the one where they could be most hurt is behind the plate. Losing Jorge Posada for any extended period would be brutal due to the nature of the available replacements. Posada has a torn hamstring tendon, but won't require surgery at this point. If done, he would miss two months and would likely have the tendon removed rather than repaired. Catchers need their legs as much as speedsters, so this will bear a close watch. The Yanks will get Bubba Crosby back soon, for what that's worth. Crosby is in Tampa and may have a short rehab stint before returning to the Bronx.

  • The Red Sox haven't pulled away in the AL East because they've had their own series of injuries. As Coco Crisp comes back, it's one step up and two steps back to quote the Boss (Springsteen, not Steinbrenner). Manny Ramirez is dealing with some back spasms, something he has had before, though usually more as an annoyance than a real problem. A back injury to Ramirez would be an interesting test for someone who has regularly had his work ethic and passion for the game called into question. Wily Mo Pena heads to the DL with a wrist injury. It's not expected to keep him out long-term, though any wrist problem for a slugger can linger. (Apparently, Ian Kinsler didn't get that memo.) The Sox will also try and deal with the comebackers that are taking out their starters. Both David Wells and Matt Clement took balls off their legs--Wells took one off his damaged front leg, while Clement took his off the ankle of his push leg. I'm not sure which is worse for a pitcher, given an equal hit. At least the Red Sox are getting good with pitchers and legs--plenty of practice.

  • The e-mails were relentless--Mark Prior had been placed on the 60 day DL. Don't worry, Cubs fans: you have plenty to worry about, but this was a procedural move only. Designed to free up a roster spot for Tony Womack (insert your own joke here), Prior was not going to beat the 60-day clock back anyway. Prior has had no setbacks and will start on Monday night in Peoria, the first of three rehab starts he'll make. No one is expecting Prior to have the same results as Kerry Wood did earlier this month in Peoria, but seeing numbers in the nineties on the gun would be a big step. The Cubs will also get a better idea when their offense comes back. Let's face it, Derrek Lee appears to be the only offensive player on the roster given the team's performance since his injury. Lee will have the second cast removed and he'll begin testing the strength of the wrist this week. I expect a pretty quick comeback once he begins swinging.

  • Jim Edmonds is a key part of the Cardinals, but like so much of the team this season, he's hurting. The team is unsure if Edmonds is dealing with an infection of a lymph node in his groin or a hernia due to the pain and inflammation. He's going to be seen by doctors once he returns to St. Louis, taking a series of tests to determine the cause. A hernia might sound like the worst case scenario with surgery taking him out for the better part of the season. There are worse possibilities and our thoughts are with Edmonds until those are eliminated as possibilities. The Cards are also leaning towards skipping Chris Carpenter for another start. If so, they will probably retro him to the DL and give Anthony Reyes another start.

  • Horacio Ramirez came back and beat the Cubs, but while the Braves were hitting balls out like it was batting practice, John Smoltz pulled up lame after covering first and stepping on the bag awkwardly. Smoltz has a history of some back problems, something often connected to hamstring problems, though there's no way of knowing the interrelation here. The team will be conservative, waiting and watching, and will be very slow on the trigger for a DL stint. The Braves may be forced to call up another catcher after Michael Barrett did his best A.J. Pierzynski imitation and bowled over Todd Pratt at the plate. Pratt had to leave the game with a swollen forearm; one source said it looked broken, though there's no hint of that from the Braves. The obvious candidate for a callup is Jarrod Saltalamacchia. I hope for my editor's sake he's very, very healthy throughout his career.

  • As the Dodgers training room goes, so go the Dodgers. When it's full--as it was at the beginning of the season and all of last year--the team looks bad. When it's normal, the team has enough talent to contend in the division. The last month has been good and Eric Gagne's return appears imminent--he'll have one more rehab appearance at Vegas after a perfect inning on Saturday. Gagne looked good with two K's while hitting 95 on one scout's gun. The Dodgers are watching J.D. Drew closely. The oft injured OF is dealing with shoulder pain that is in the same shoulder (right) and location as where he had repairs last season. While Drew bats lefty, it is his throwing shoulder.

  • The Nationals have a new owner and what looks like a bright future. The present is wrapped up in keeping what talent they have on the field. With Jose Guillen heading to the DL with a strained hamstring, the good news came in the form of a weekend bullpen session for John Patterson. One observer said that it looked as if he was working more on mechanics than rehab, which could indicate that his problem forearm may have been caused by something rather than just being 'random.' Patterson is spinning his breaking balls and should be ready for a rehab assignment next week.

  • The Angels continue to sink, weighed down by injuries, though Jered Weaver gave them a nice lift with his debut. He's fighting his brother for a rotation spot with Bartolo Colon throwing on the side. Colon is about two weeks from a comeback, meaning the Angels will decide on his rehab starts early this week. Expect him to make just one before getting back to the bigs. Darin Erstad had a second cortisone injection in his problematic ankle. The next step is surgery if there's not enough relief from this injection. Again, with a bone chip, he'd be able to return quickly, though there are not as many comps for ankles as there are elbows. One team doctor I asked pointed to Erstad's back problems as a source of his trouble--"A back will affect so many things because the body works to protect the core, unconsciously most of the time. Core training sounds like a clich้ right now but we might be undervaluing it in assessing the overall nature of sports injury."

  • Mike Maroth will leave the Tigers and get his elbow checked by Dr. Lewis Yocum. Maroth is known to have bone chips and is likely to have surgery to remove them. A great comp is Kelvim Escobar last season, missing a short time after surgery and coming back strongly for the playoff run. Maroth is likely to be back for the stretch if he has the surgery soon. There's no reason to wait, since the Tigers have the depth to stay in the race.

  • Migraines are one of the greatest mysteries in medicine. As much as we know and for all the advances we've made, there's still very little we can do to predict or relieve the searing pain. Vinny Castilla was driven from the Padres lineup, felled by a powerful migraine that affected his vision. There's no way to predict how this will go--it could be a lingering and long term ailment or it could vanish as quickly as it arrived. There's no more unpredictable condition.

  • Quick Cuts: A nice first step… Lance Niekro will come off the DL when eligible Tuesday. He's had a good rehab … Brad Wilkerson will have a cortisone injection in his wrist mid-week. Look for him to miss some time, but come back stronger by the weekend … Expect Cole Hamels back at the minimum, but keep a close eye on him. Statements that he "shouldn't have said anything" about his shoulder pain are worrisome … A reader asks why extended spring games aren't considered part of a rehab assignment. I don't know the answer … Sean Casey comes off the DL Monday … Of all the reactions I thought I'd have when Barry Bonds passed the Babe, I didn't think it'd be "finally."
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