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July 19, 2006

Under The Knife

Multipliers

by Will Carroll

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Powered by Zooomr, let's get right to the injuries:

  • The NL West is so tight that it will be decided by luck, a bold move, or health. The Dodgers placed Jeff Kent on the DL, a costly injury for them and one that will shuffle their already confusing infield situation. Kent couldn't heal up with the extended rest from the All-Star break--the oblique strain actually got worse instead of better, according to quotes from Kent in the L.A. Times. The growing number of oblique strains over the past two seasons has been well-noted, but the increase has given everyone more practice, figuring out new treatments and techniques, and thereby reducing injury recovery times. Kent has already missed ten days, so seeing him back in two weeks isn't out of the question. A month is still the standard timetable for a grade two oblique strain.

  • When it rains, it pours, even when you play in a dome. That dome, and the turf beneath it, seem to be more and more of a problem, and having a new, open-air grass field on the horizon isn't much of a source of comfort in the meantime. With Shannon Stewart out indefinitely and Torii Hunter out a month on the short end, the last thing the Twins needed was a problem with Jason Kubel. Kubel has made an astonishing recovery from his devastating knee injury, up to this point showing no lingering after effects. We still shouldn't be too surprised that he's having some soreness in the opposite (right) knee. This is pretty typical, even as far out from the injury as Kubel is, due to changes in gait, and yes, that hard Minnesota floor. It would be tough to ask Kubel to play through this given his history, though that's apparently what Minnesota has done. Watch this one closely.

  • I'd make a joke about Nick Swisher and Casey Kotchman here if it weren't for all the trouble Lance Armstrong got into at the ESPYs. Swisher believes he has mono, something he's had before. Since the markers stay in the blood forever, it's impossible to tell now if he actually does, though Swisher said a lot of things in the SF Chronicle, and it's tough to tell how the medical staff is treating this. Swisher isn't playing like a guy with mono, though if you accept that he's been playing most of the season at reduced strength and stamina, his numbers look even more impressive. I don't expect Swisher to have more problems than he's already shown.

  • Despite the boos and the wrong-headed hatred, Alex Rodriguez is at the top of a short list of irreplaceable players. Yesterday's X-rays showed no break in his left foot after hitting a hard foul ball off of it, meaning he'll likely miss only a few more days, if that. Since it's his "step" foot, I don't think this should impact his batting at all, but defensively, there could be some minor impact while it calms down.

  • The idea of a knuckleballer is that they're not only effective, but that they become a rotation multiplier. You know that day after day, the knuckler is going to be there, ready to go if an emergency starter is needed or if the bullpen is unable to go an extra inning. Tim Wakefield has always been the base for the Boston rotation, becoming special enough that Wakefield and the team signed what amounts to an infinite option. Days before his 40th birthday, Wakefield has undergone extensive tests to try and figure out the cause of significant pack pain. Previous indications were that he was having back spasms in his upper back, between the shoulder blades. Now, after CTs and bone scans, the problem is appearing structural. Wakefield is out for his Saturday start, forcing the Sox to go find a minor leaguer to take the ball. Nevertheless, they'll be very slow to DL him, instead giving him every chance to come back.

  • The long season can wear on rookies. Hanley Ramirez hasn't hit a wall yet, though his hot start has been tempered by a minor hand injury, some equally minor back problems, and now some soreness in his right knee. These problems aren't significant, but all have brought him back to earth, sapping some of the sizzle he showed in the first half. If Ramirez also shows the expected effects of seasonal fatigue, the slow dropoff to a more normal and expected level could be severe, making him even more risky for more of these nagging injuries. In non-keeper leagues, he's a nice "sell high" candidate.

  • Tony Clark was signed to do what he did last year. It was folly, expecting a repeat career year--there's a reason we call it a career year (or as some might call it, a fluke). However, he was held back by a lingering shoulder injury that is finally pushing him to the DL. Conor Jackson has been the beneficiary of this injury, but a healthy Clark would be an asset down the stretch for a team that can use every possible weapon in its unlikely run. Josh Byrnes and his team have some tough decisions in the weeks ahead. Much like the Angels, the Diamondbacks are trying to both contend and rebuild all at once, and only the Braves have done that successfully over the past decade.

  • Tomo Ohka did what was expected of him in his first game back from the DL. His control and his velocity looked good and his five-inning, 90+ pitch performance met or exceeded the expectations set for him. The mere return of Ohka should help both the rotation and the bullpen, though Ohka's subsequent outings will have to be longer. By only going five, Ohka gave way to the weak front half of the bullpen, the one that's been exposed again and again by the replacement starters for Ohka and Ben Sheets (who's about to make his final rehab start in Nashville today). The team hasn't been able to make the right moves in the bullpen, and Ned Yost has boxed himself into defined roles far too much for a team that, despite all the problems and injuries, remains in contention for both the division and wild card.

  • Quick Cuts: As expected, yesterday the Brewers announced that J.J. Hardy will have surgery on his ankle. The injury is very similar to the one suffered by Curt Schilling in 2004, and we saw how that affected him… Mark Prior is expected to start either Friday or Saturday after missing the minimum with a mildly strained oblique… Damian Jackson was placed on the DL with esophageal spasms. That's got to be a first… Jered Weaver had a good long-toss session, and will start this weekend… Dmitri Young should be back with the Tigers before the weekend… Pencil in Brandon Backe for a Saturday start. That's what Phil Garner has done… I can only hope that Wednesday's Greg Maddux vs. Roger Clemens matchup is as good as it sounds.
Related Content:  Tomo Ohka,  Year Of The Injury

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