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July 10, 2006

Under The Knife

Which Limp?

by Will Carroll

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By the time you read this, I'll be in Pittsburgh. Brad Wochomurka and I will be covering the All-Star Game for Baseball Prospectus Radio and, like last year, we'll talk with as many players as possible. If you're in Pittsburgh--writer or fan--be sure to send me an email (wcarroll@baseballprospectus.com). I'd love to meet up with you, though there's too much going on with the All-Star festivities to do a Pizza Feed.

Powered by a stop at Tim Horton's, on to the injuries:

  • I won't be seeing Manny Ramirez in Pittsburgh. The top vote getter is taking a disproportionate amount of heat for missing the game, even getting openly questioned on yesterday's Fox telecast. Tim McCarver said the worst thing about his knee injury was "remembering which leg to limp with." It's easy to say that Ramirez is faking an injury, but almost as easy to actually check on the injury. Ramirez is suffering from a small tear in the medial meniscus of his right knee. It's an injury he can play with, but one that can "grind," a bone-on-bone situation that is unpredictable and painful. The decision was made a while ago by the Red Sox to keep Manny on the field as much as possible. One possible solution that's been mentioned is using Ramirez at DH more often, moving Kevin Youkilis to LF and David Ortiz to 1B. There's some defensive penalty to be paid, but it keeps the best bats in the lineup.

  • The official end of Kerry Wood in Chicago may yet be avoided, but this season and this contract both look to be over. Wood has a big dollar option that could be bought out, though many expect him to re-sign an incentive-laden deal to stay in Chicago. I'm not so sure. The Ryan Dempster signing last winter makes keeping Wood tougher, since the money they'll need to offer to keep him will likely be in the mid-level closer range. Wood has a small tear in his rotator cuff and in one of the tendons in his shoulder, something that looks to need a surgical fix. No decision has been reached on if, when, or even who will do the surgery, though many in Chicago are grumbling about the political games the medical staff are playing right now, looking for someone outside of the "inner circle" to blame for this latest problem. Wood, if he avoids surgery (as he is leaning towards), could come back in a very limited role. Put me on record as saying that I think we'll see Kerry Wood before 2006 is over.

  • The news went from bad to worse for Cubs fans when Mark Prior was scratched from his Sunday start. Prior injured himself during batting practice, straining his left oblique. The Cubs used Glendon Rusch instead, choosing to be cautious with Prior. There are conspiracy theories already making the rounds saying that Prior's shoulder is again bothering him, but sources have indicated to me that we should take this one at face value. A complication to the story is that the Cubs won't see Prior again until Thursday, making treatment and observation a bit tougher. Prior is headed home to San Diego, leaving the Cubs to wait and hope. Early indications are that the injury is minor.

  • The Dodger career of Eric Gagne looks finished, though again, the team could come in with an incentive-laden deal. Scott Boras won't let his client be guilted into a low-dollar deal on the concept that the Dodgers are still "owed" something for the last two years. If anything, Paul DePodesta went in the right direction--a big dollar, shorter-term deal, a model that Ned Colletti followed in getting Rafael Furcal. Gagne had a microdiscectomy of his L4-L5 disc, a procedure that removed a large chunk of spinal disk, the same one that had caused him problems in 2003. The surgery should allow Gagne to come back without problem in time for the 2007 season. Where he plays is up to his agent and what should be an interesting free agent market for injured pitchers with potential.

  • 31 pitches. That's what John Patterson threw in the first inning, and what ensured there wasn't a second inning. He left the game with what the team is deeming a strained forearm, the same injury that had him on the DL for nearly two months. Patterson will have a cortisone shot and spend his ASB healing. If the problem is recurring this quickly, Patterson won't be able to rely on cortisone to get him through the second half; it would be just too damaging to take that many spikes.

  • Jose Reyes is a lot further down the list than Manny Ramirez, perhaps because his injury won't prevent him from playing in the ASG. Reyes was spiked and received stitches to close a cut on his left pinky finger. Reyes is available as a pinch runner and should be back in the lineup shortly after the ASB. Since the cut is on his glove hand, it shouldn't affect him in the field and the placement should keep it from affecting his batting from either side in any significant way.

  • The Padres have gotten more than they expected out of Mike Piazza, who's been an ideal hitting catcher. He'll hit his 400th career homer sometime in the second half--he's only a couple away--and pairing him with a better defensive catcher would make for a nice platoon. Unfortunately, Josh Bard and Rob Bowen have allowed 20 of 23 would-be basestealers to steal. As with most aging catchers, Piazza has sore knees. He wasn't expected to play over the weekend to give him more of a rest, but a comment to the press convinced Bruce Bochy to give him one more start. Piazza remains risky, but in his limited role, he has a much better chance of staying healthy than he has in the past. It looks like Piazza's decision to stay in the NL worked out.

  • The Angels tend to be good when the medical staff keeps the team on the field and bad when the injury stats head down. This year breaks the pattern. Most of the injuries the team has experienced have been the nagging sort that don't show up in DL stats, a big problem when assessing the effectiveness of team medical personnel. An example of this is Garret Anderson, who has clearly been affected by injury, declining precipitously over the past few seasons. His problems with a bad left hamstring are related to the problems he's had all season with a stiff lower back. It's one thing to find at-bats for a guy who gives you the offense that Anderson once did and quite another to keep hoping that he'll return to that level in the midst of a normal decline.

  • The Twins watched Carlos Silva pitch all of last season with an injured knee. That injury turned him into an efficient control freak of a pitcher with matching results. The knee was fixed in off-season surgery, but the surgeons seemed to have removed some of his stuff in the procedure. Is it possible that being healthy actually causes a lack of effectiveness? Yes. We all know by now that pitching is a very complex and inter-related function with one small thing affecting numerous other things. Silva quite possibly was forced by the injury to be more efficient and to focus on his mechanics to avoid pain. The Twins are blaming the World Baseball Classic for Silva's problems, but a new knee injury may render the fingerpointing moot. Silva is complaining of similar symptoms to last year and is scheduled to have an MRI on Monday.

  • Rick Griffin and his staff have the inside track on the Dick Martin Award, though there are several teams on their trail. If Jeremy Reed is only out four weeks, as some are speculating, that will give those hopes a boost. They deserve credit for the first half and for their most important task, keeping Felix Hernandez healthy and effective. The M's skipped Felix Hernandez this weekend as a means of controlling his innings and giving him an extended mid-season break. There are no indicators that show that Hernandez is dealing with seasonal fatigue, but the catch-22 of keeping a young pitcher healthy is that he can rack up big innings totals. Like Justin Verlander, Hernandez is going to get into the "danger zone" of between 160-190 innings. Hernandez, with 172 IP last season, will need to be watched closely, something the M's are certainly doing and with sudden success. One other note--pitching is individual. Though we talk about pitchers in the average, some will exceed those and some won't. General guidelines like pitch counts and "danger zones" should be understood in that context.

  • Quick Cuts: Across the league, many players got Sunday off. Don't read more into it than there is, but those getting the day off often have small, nagging injuries that we may not have noticed The Reds are worried that David Ross, a breakout player for them, has a hernia. He's likely headed for the DL, though the team will use the ASB to see if it can be avoided Don't expect Robinson Cano back immediately after the ASB. He had a minor setback, meaning he's still at least a week away from returning to the Yankees lineup Melvin Mora was back in the lineup Sunday, showing that his Saturday oblique injury wasn't serious Ryan Klesko is ahead of schedule. He took batting practice with the team and looked "very sharp" according to team sources. He's expected back from shoulder surgery in August, but could be back ahead of that John Thomson left his start early with what is described as a "stiff shoulder." We'll be watching this one Chris Young looked great on Saturday. If he's got dead arm, I know a lot of pitchers who would love to have what he's got Classic.

There will be no UTK until Friday since there won't be games during that time, though I'll be hard at work on the radio side of things. Enjoy the games and the break.

Related Content:  The Who,  Year Of The Injury

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