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June 1, 2006

Under The Knife

By June, Our Brook's Run Out of Song and Speed

by Will Carroll

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June already? Changing the calendar is usually a good time to look back and see if we learned anything from the previous month or whether an extra month gives us enough data to make bigger trends more apparent. So far, the 2006 injury picture has been well, pretty unclear. There doesn't appear to be any pattern--no significant increase or decrease, no unexplainable upticks or teams that appear to have taken a karmic asskicking. Making broad statements about injuries is difficult until the end of the season, so I'll save those for another day. There are plenty of injuries to go around, meaning the one thing we hope for--a systemic improvement in injury management--is something we're still looking forward to rather than experiencing.

Powered by annoying neighbors putting the last of their furniture in a U-Haul, on to the injuries:

  • Jake Peavy is going to miss a start, or at least the team wants him to miss a start. Peavy has been dealing with an injury to his shoulder since September of last year, one that is structurally similar to the injuries hindering Bartolo Colon and Ben Sheets. Peavy is fighting the idea that he shouldn't be out on the mound, willing to settle for having his start pushed back rather than missed. Peavy admits that his shoulder has been bothering him for the better part of a month. His effectiveness belies the problem, making it hard to say that he's degrading while pitching. Keeping Peavy healthy is key for the Padres, so expect them to watch him closely, shortening his pitch counts and using off-days to get him extra rest when possible.

  • The Yankee outfield continues to be the biggest concern for the team. Gary Sheffield has left the team to see another doctor about the continued problems with his wrist. The injection Sheffield took--not cortisone, but another anti-infammatory, probably depo-medrol--has already worn off. The problem looks, symptomatically, to be more of a chronic than traumatic problem despite having a singular event--the collision--to blame. There's no real fix for the problem aside from rest, something the Yankees can ill afford to let Sheffield do. Johnny Damon answered questions about his foot, re-explaining the problem after some erroneous comments he made recently. Damon has a small stress reaction in his sesamoid bone, another injury that is treated with rest. Damon also complains that the pain has spread from the initial area, suggesting that the problem isn't responding to conservative treatment. Again, rest is the best medicine for the injury, but time is not on the Yankees' side. How to balance the need for healthy players now and healthy players down the stretch is going to be the biggest decision the Yankees make this season.

  • The A's have always been very quiet about injuries, secretive to the point of ridiculousness, but that's never been a problem because the team is, for the most part, on the right side of the charts for days and dollars lost to the DL. That's all changed this year, with more significant and frequent injuries. The latest, a thumb fracture for Mark Ellis, is much like what the Rangers' Ian Kinsler had. It's not a long term problem, but one where the team will have to simply wait the six weeks to get their starter back. Kinsler is a great comp here and has to give the A's some hope, since he's shown no ill effects since his return. The A's did get Eric Chavez back on the field after x-rays showed no damage from his handcuffing. They're also closer to the return of Milton Bradley, who should start a short rehab assignment over the weekend.

  • After examination by a St Louis area specialist, Jim Edmonds has been diagnosed with an abdominal wall strain. That's not to say that a sports hernia isn't there--they are often tough to find on MRIs. With the current diagnosis, the medical staff is doing a "rule out," hoping that they can give him enough rest and rehab, plus get a response to treatment. Edmonds is likely going to head to the DL while the staff treats him for the strain. If Edmonds gets significant relief, they'll know they had the diagnosis right. If not, they'll move on to non-surgical options for a sports hernia. If all that fails, he'll have surgery. The importance of Edmonds to his team is not to be understated here; the team won't wait long before moving to the next step, knowing that they need him a lot more in September than they do June. Of course, that same knowledge might keep him from surgery. Given the timetable seen for sports hernias in the past, Edmonds and the Cards have only a couple weeks before surgery would mean an end to his season.

  • The Cubs are going in a few directions at once with Mark Prior. Forced to defend himself against the nattering nabobs of negativity, Prior is appearing to grow frustrated with the handling of his rehab. The plan of three rehab starts is being questioned publicly by Dusty Baker, while Prior is trying to explain why he's not where the public thinks he should be. Prior has a point on his velocity--that he often increases over the course of a game--but those who saw the start say that he looked fine, but that the ball doesn't have the same explosion or late life that he normally shows. The worst of the problem for Prior isn't the public, but the whispers from within the walls of Wrigley.

  • The Giants are, like the Cardinals, a team carried by its stars. Jason Schmidt left his Wednesday start with what looked like an injury but what turned out to be a cramp in his hamstring. The team, always smart with injuries, removed Schmidt as a precaution and the ace shouldn't have any problems with this in his next start. The team is also expected to rest Barry Bonds more, with some again raising the possibility of Bonds becoming something of a "hitting ninja" as one front office source called it. Felipe Alou has discussed using Bonds as a high-leverage pinch hitter, putting him in situations where the opposition would pay a high price for walking the slugger.

  • Wily Mo Pena heads to the DL to have his broken hamate bone removed. While this type of surgery sounds more serious than it actually is, the injury and the rehab are pretty grueling. Several top players, including Ken Griffey Jr. and Pena's teammate David Ortiz, have come back from this surgery without later problems and no loss of power. It does take a full off-season to get back to normal; even though Pena should be back in mid-August, the power will not be back until 2007. That makes Gabe Kapler's impending return even more important for the Red Sox, now suddenly thin enough in the outfield to play Trot Nixon against both righties and lefties. Kapler is expected back in a matter of weeks after rehabbing a torn Achilles.

  • Quick Cuts: Yamid Haad becomes the third player to test positive under the new penalties of the drug testing policy. He's also the third not in the majors when testing positive. As yet, there are no positive tests for amphetamines Daniel Cabrera had a nice rehab start in Bowie. He'll have one more before a return Adam Eaton has begun throwing and could be back before the ASB Joey Eischen is out for the season and is contemplating retirement. He'll have surgery to repair a tear in his rotator cuff Best wishes to Joe Nuxhall, currently hospitalized with pneumonia.
We'll talk draft on this week's BPR, previewing the action with Indians scouting director John Mirabelli, MLB's Jonathon Mayo, and our own draft guru, Kevin Goldstein. If you're in the Indianapolis area, I'll be at Victory Field today doing radio from 4-7 p.m. Stop by and say hi.
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