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June 16, 2006

Under The Knife

Two Questions

by Will Carroll

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I constantly get asked if I want a job in baseball. (Seldom does someone in baseball ask it, you'll note.) I say I have the best job in the world and remind people that I'm the least qualified person I know. Sure, I dream like every other passionate baseball fan, but I'm no Keith Law (Harvard) or James Click (Yale) or Gary Huckabay (UC-Davis). Dan Shaughnessy did a great job capturing why it's so amazing that Chris Snow of the Boston Globe got the job. I may have to consider rooting for the Wild a bit now, but only if Chris promises to do something about those hideous jerseys. The other question I get asked is "How do I get a job in baseball?" The answer is be like Chris Snow--be smart, work hard, and be prepared. It will only look like luck to those who don't pay attention.

  • It's good to hear that Rich Harden not only won't need surgery at this stage, but that the original reports that my story Monday was based on were incorrect. It's interesting to see just how much coverage this has received and even more interesting that the A's have been up front and clear about the situation. If my report hadn't come out, would we be hearing from the team's orthopedist, something I can never remember occurring? If my information was incorrect, then it appears that the team was working from similar information. Dr. Jerrald Goldman told the Chronicle that the injury looked better with a follow-up MRI than initially indicated, meaning Harden may only miss a month. Part of my job is to get the correct information on injuries out; this isn't the way I want to have it happen, but the end result is that we have a better understanding of what's going on with Harden.

  • The news is similarly good for Bartolo Colon. The big righty will be back in an Angels uniform, setting off all sorts of those "good problem to have" depth problems. Colon should get the ball this weekend, though Mike Scioscia wasn't sure exactly how things would slot, making it possible that Colon could come back as late as Monday. Colon has looked good without dominating during his minor league starts. Using Ben Sheets, Jake Peavy, and Colon himself as comps, there's no clear indication that the shoulder injury could not recur. Colon has always been a high effort pitcher with inconsistent mechanics, so it's good to be wary in the early stages of this latest comeback.

  • Speaking of Ben Sheets, the Brewers have been very quiet regarding their ace. There's really been no news for Sheets, as he continues to throw side sessions from the mound, trying to discover a comfortable and effective motion with his reconfigured shoulder. The conservative tack of the rehab doesn't actually give us much information; the Brewers tend to the conservative in the rehabs they have, though I'll admit that there's a small sample size problem over the past three years. The data isn't as good in the minors, but in the cases I know of, the team has been patient with its best prospects. If it's any consolation, once Sheets comes back, he'll be at 100%. I just don't know when that is.

  • The Indians lost Casey Blake to an oblique strain, making the loss of Jason Michaels to a sprained ankle even more problematic. While Blake can be replaced by Franklin Gutierrez, the outfield is one place where the team doesn't have much depth. One solution might be to push Andy Marte back to the OF and up to Cleveland temporarily, though that seems far fetched. Blake will be out the normal three to four weeks, making the Michaels injury even more key. Michaels sprained the ankle trying to save a home run. There were no good angles of it on the broadcast and the highlights aren't yet available, so keep your eye on this one.

  • The Cubs are getting healthy and in a division where no one is running away, there are credible if implausible scenarios where they could get back into things. (I hear Inigo Montoya in my head--"I do not think that means what you think it means.") Derrek Lee isn't going to be back quite as quickly as I had thought or as Cubs fans had hoped. After taking swings, Lee's wrist was sore but not swollen, pushing back his next move, which is hitting from a tee. Once Lee can hit live pitching, he'll return quickly. This isn't really a setback, just a readjustment of an optimistic goal. Kerry Wood should be back quickly and will be a starter again. The stamina questions that have hampered him lead the Cubs to believe that he couldn't be available enough. This is again a question of finding a balance between availability and effectiveness. If Wood can't pitch six or seven innings every fifth day, why not use Carlos Marmol as a swingman or use Wood as a long reliever, going two or three innings every couple days, shifting the burden on the bullpen twice a week at least? Mark Prior will also be returning, likely on Sunday so that he can debut in front of the home crowd. Like last year, he's getting a late start. Also like last year, his problems appear to be behind him. Finally.

  • The Astros get a run of games against the struggling Cubs and sweep, then back that up with an interleague series against the Royals. My pals at KVET in Austin told me that this was the time when the Astros had to make a run and I agree. Chris Burke and his freaky shoulder were a big part of the Cubs sweep and if the team can get healthy while adding Roger Clemens, memories of 2005 are going to come up. Brandon Backe might again be a key as he tries to come back from elbow problems and avoid the knife. The depth the team has allows him to take the conservative route. The team doesn't have a replacement for Morgan Ensberg, however. When he's healthy and hitting, the team is dangerous. When he's not, well, they're not, either. Look for him to get back in the lineup this weekend with the medical staff watching closely.

  • Quick Cuts: If you saw Carlos Lee wince on a swing Wednesday and you got worried, you weren't alone. The Brewers had no comment on the incident Here's an interesting thought on Mike Sweeney--if he had used HGH (and no one is accusing him), he sure didn't get any results from it. He's rejoined the team but no date for his return from chronic back problems is in view Tyler Walker won't need Tommy John surgery. That's good, but he will be out for at least six weeks Brilliant.
Related Content:  Back,  Blake Wood

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