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July 5, 2006

Under The Knife

Break-dancing

by Will Carroll

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I'll start today by reminding people that Peter Gammons - Never Slow Down, Never Grow Old Peter Gammons' album is now available at iTunes or wherever you buy music. All the profits go to charity, so it's a nice way to send Peter a "get well soon" message. I'll also send a big "thank you" to all our military readers, who apparently like getting their baseball fix no matter whether they're home in the US or out on a ship somewhere in the [redacted]. This day is yours.

Powered by Yojimbo, on to the injuries:

  • The Braves continue to slip and to get hit by bad news. Bobby Cox sounds like a beaten man when discussing the initial reports regarding Chipper Jones. The longtime Brave is having more problems with his foot, this time more serious than last year's injury. The injury is to the opposite foot (right this year, left last year), and doesn't appear to have any relationship to the previous injury. The specific problem is a tear of the plantar plate of the second toe. Not only is this an odd injury that I know little about, most of the doctors I was able to reach out to on the holiday had no experience with it. I'll continue to work on this, digging through literature and trying to find a good source for information. Do we have a podiatrist in the house? All indications make this sound not as serious as last year's problem, one that kept Jones out just over a month. Jones remains able to bat left-handed and has a history of forcing himself into the lineup.

  • Matt Clement didn't look good during his rehab start. He ended early with soreness in the same area that put him on the DL. Clement lacked command and velocity, never cracking 90 during his outing. The plan was for him to make three rehab starts, and then return to the rotation around the 20th. That's certainly not going to happen now, forcing the Sox to make a decision about their rotation at the deadline without first seeing Clement. Add in the increasingly pessimistic tone regarding David Wells' availability this season--or ever, really--and there's going to be a lot of work to be done in the Boston front office on the subject of pitching and finding more of it. Clement will be re-evaluated by the team medical staff and his rehab adjusted accordingly.

  • The White Sox have been among the healthiest teams during their run of success the past few seasons. Coincidence? I think not. The team has been especially successful at keeping its starters healthy despite having several players who could be described as injury-prone. Whether it's being able to keep Jermaine Dye going, ensuring the continued stamina of the rotation, or adding some padding for Aaron Rowand, the effort is paying off. The team has gotten a bit lucky as well. Most recently, Tadahito Iguchi sprained his ankle in a minor collision, but came away with nothing more than a Grade 1 sprain that will cost him only a few days. The Sox will miss him, but won't be any more crippled than he is. This team gets it.

  • Opposable thumbs might be the best thing about evolution. Unfortunately, the process left us with a useful but complex and fragile structure. The function of opposable thumbs hasn't had time to adjust to the demands of baseball, leaving it one of the most easily disturbed structures. Jeremy Reed may miss the rest of the season after fracturing his thumb, with some inexplicably blaming Ichiro Suzuki for the injury. Reed is likely to need surgery to correct the problem, and is facing a situation where the expected four to six weeks is an aggressive timetable. Given the reports I'm getting on him, having him back this season is unlikely. The Mariners called up Shin-Soo Choo to play center, something that can't be a long-term solution. (Choo is scheduled to leave after the season to complete his required military service.) Add in that Choo has been playing the corner outfield slots in Triple-A, and this one gets more curious, especially for a team that's heating up.

  • "This is just like a sprained ankle. You just can't tape an elbow." This quote from Larry Davis, head trainer for the A's to the Mercury News, is solid information. Coming on the heels of what is variously described as a "failed" or "lukewarm" throwing session--Rich Harden threw 30 pitches from flat ground at about 75 feet--it's becoming clear that Harden is not at a point where he can begin building back towards a return. The ankle comparison doesn't really work; Harden is a pitcher, and he uses his elbow for 100 or more throws at or near maximum effort. The fastest runners don't put that much stress on ankles. I've often wondered if some kind of brace could be created for the elbow, one that would enforce proper mechanics without binding the elbow and hindering the normal motion. The worry for Harden now is that the extended time off without throwing will decondition him, much as we saw with Mark Prior this spring. There's a convergence here in a couple weeks, where the deconditioning risk meets the end of conservative care. That's the point where, in the shadow of the trade deadline, Billy Beane will earn his keep.

  • In a collision between Cliff Floyd and Jose Reyes, wouldn't your bet have been on Reyes getting the worst of it? Instead, Floyd is the one that left the game with a mild concussion. This isn't expected to be a long-term problem, though missing at least a game is likely. Floyd has long been a fragile player, so the idea of pairing him with someone down the stretch is a good idea. Instead of a strict right/left platoon, the Mets would be better served to use Floyd in much the way that the Giants have used Barry Bonds or, better, to get Lastings Milledge at-bats in the situations he is most likely to succeed in.

  • Things look cautiously optimistic for Kevin Millwood. A visit to Dr. Keith Meister, the well-regarded team physician for the Rangers, showed no serious damage in the bicep or the shoulder. Millwood still hasn't thrown, putting himself off schedule and likely to miss his next scheduled start. With the All-Star break, Millwood could get as many as ten days' rest without hitting the DL. The Rangers, however, may need to DL him anyway, to get a pitcher up. Having just heard GM Jon Daniels speak on Sunday about the need to find consistent pitching, I'd expect that Edison Volquez is at the top of the very short list of possible replacements.

  • Jonny Gomes now has a more definitive diagnosis for his troublesome shoulder, the injury that has limited him to DH/PH duty. Gomes has a strained coracoacromial ligament in his shoulder, one associated with both rotator cuff problems and with impingement syndrome. Even with the new diagnosis, there's not a new prognosis. Gomes will need surgery at some point, a very simple one similar to the type that Ryan Klesko recently had, but he should be able to wait until the off-season. Until then, he can still mash, just not throw without pain and further damage.

  • The Tigers are keeping a close eye on the workload of Justin Verlander. I've said in this space that managing that workload is going to be the biggest challenge that Jim Leyland faces, balancing the team's need for its #2 starter while keeping his innings to a minimum. You can look at it as the same problem that the Cubs had in 2003 with Mark Prior; the Cubs went for it, came close, and have been paying for it ever since. The Tigers will give him a bit of extra rest during the All-Star break, essentially using the break to skip a start. Verlander would have pitched on Sunday and will likely stay "on turn" for his next start the following Friday. There will need to be more of this type of proactive moves; Tony Kuttner points out that Verlander is on pace to break his personal innings ceiling in August.

  • Quick Cuts: A decision on Pedro Martinez's Saturday start will be made by Wednesday. All indications are that the Mets will give the start to Mike Pelfrey, DLing Pedro and keeping him off the All-Star roster… Interesting note on Ben Sheets and what he's been doing during his rehab: he's developed a cutter… Dave Roberts is back with the Padres. Not playing on Tuesday reportedly was due to the wet conditions… Seeing Cole Hamels with two innings pitched made my heart skip a beat. Finding out he didn't come back after a rain delay made me feel much better… Milton Bradley should be back from his shoulder issues after the break… Octavio Dotel should be back out on rehab this week, and back in the Bronx shortly after that… Tomo Ohka had a nice start at A-ball, keeping him on track to be back after the break… I wondered aloud--well, in print--about the reason that Rafael Soriano was not available over the past few games. Looks like it's more trouble with his pitching shoulder… In a world filled with mediocre, aging relievers, can no one can find room on a roster for a guy like Nate Bland?
Related Content:  Year Of The Injury

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