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July 28, 2006

Under The Knife

Live by Learning

by Will Carroll

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I'm reading the fantastic "Dingers" by Peter Keating right now, and learning a lot. I've often said that baseball history is my biggest weakness, something I learn more about every time I get the chance to talk with Steve Goldman. Keating points out just how dependent homers were in the post-war era on field dimension, something that the owners seemed to change with whim. Moving the fences in, moving them out, building Kiner's Korner or adding a snow fence to the cavernous Cleveland Stadium were all ploys to get more homers over the fences and people through the turnstiles. It was part of the game and had far more effect on home runs than anything else I can imagine. Just something to keep in mind over the next few weeks, when people suggest that the record books lack integrity.

Powered by the Series 3 Tivo, on to the injuries:

  • There are two ways to think about a backup. You can think of them as someone who's designed to keep the dropoff from a starter to a minimum. You can also think of them as someone who has a complementary skill to the primary player(s). The first is the most important function, and Tom Gorman's research shows that multiple injuries at the same time is one of the quickest paths to doom in baseball. The Giants were already without Omar Vizquel as his foot heals. Now, his replacement is on the shelf, as Jose Vizcaino injured his shoulder diving for a ball and will have an MRI Friday. Early indications look like a subluxation, something that would cause him to miss about two weeks if he was average, a couple games if he was Chris Burke. Felipe Alou used a versatile lineup to cover the problem, shifting Pedro Feliz to shortstop and Shea Hillenbrand to third. There's not even much of a defensive hit with that move--Feliz played 20 games at SS in 2004 at a 100 Rate2, while Vizcaino has the same rate this year when playing short.

  • The Cardinals have to be happy with the progress that Mark Mulder is making. Mulder is scheduled to face hitters early next week, according to Matthew Leach at MLB.com. Mulder finally has a clear timetable for return, though we'll have a clearer picture once the hitters tell us how much progress his mechanical work has made. Mulder will throw another side session on Friday, followed by a simulated game on Tuesday. If all goes well there, the Cards could send him out on a rehab assignment for the weekend. Leach's note gives us the clearest indication that mechanics are the biggest problem for the big lefty.

  • The Phillies are looking to deal a pitcher, in large part because Randy Wolf is ready. Wolf made his final rehab start without a hitch; sources at the game tell me that he looked solid, showing all his pitches and throwing normally, if just a bit off from his previous velocity. Some of that might be a lingering effect of the hand injury, but he's slotted to return to the Phillies rotation Sunday, conveniently helping them cover a doubleheader. Do not expect Wolf to come back and dominate-he'll be useful, but he's still in the post-surgical adjustment period where consistency is still coming back.

  • The Twins are surging despite an outfield stocked with replacements. Torii Hunter will have tests on Friday to see how the stress fracture in his foot is healing. He's eligible to come off the DL on Monday, though that is extremely unlikely. The timetable for a return is muddy here because the point of injury is unknown. Hunter had the stress fracture well before it was discovered, so if it began healing and didn't get held back by his playing through pain, it could have healed up by now. Since Hunter hasn't been running, his rehab has gone well, and team sources feel he could come back quickly. Watch for him running; once we see that, his name will be back in the lineup shortly thereafter.

  • The Braves are gearing up for the weekend series with the Mets, holding back the Joneses in the hope that they'll be healthy enough to make a difference. While Andruw Jones has looked better after dealing with a minor back problem, Chipper Jones is still looking uncomfortable at the plate, showing that the oblique injury is affecting him on both sides of the plate. Jones has a knack of going on a hot streak when playing hurt, something I credit to concentration. Watch his swings for signs of "robot": he has a jerky, stuttered swing when the oblique is tight, rather than his normal, smooth-as-silk power stroke when healthy.

  • I've received a ton of e-mails regarding the strange case of Eric Chavez, asking what's really wrong. My answer has been the same: "I don't know, and neither do the A's." A series of tests have shown that Chavez not only has tendonitis in his forearms, he has it in his elbows as well. Knowing this doesn't tell us any more about the causation, though one source tells me that the A's themselves feel that they now understand the problem more than they did before. It's seriously affecting Chavez at the plate, scuffling to keep his swing productive. Until the team can do more than minimize the symptoms, Chavez is going to keep being something less than the Eric Chavez of old.

  • There's injured, and injury-prone, and then there's cursed. Chris Snelling is clearly in that last category. The latest DL stint for Snelling is the result of an odd series of transactions, but speaks well of the Mariners' organization. Snelling was due to be returned to Triple-A Tacoma when it was discovered that he had been playing with a shoulder impingement. This had been noted on minor league reports and while he could play with it, sending him down costs him some money. The M's elected to DL him rather than option him. In the grand scheme it's not much, but I'm sure Snelling (and his agent) will remember. The injury isn't significant and for Snelling, it's nothing. He'll be out the minimum and be back on the field, though I couldn't tell you where.

  • Alexis Rios is due back with the Blue Jays on Friday after missing nearly a month with a staph infection in his leg. His final rehab start was rained out, but Rios has looked okay at both the plate and in the field, so it it will not affect his return. His timing might still be a bit off, but the division race is in full effect. Once again, 75% of Rios might be better than 100% of his replacements. Rios is still a bit hobbled, so he'll lose some range, speed, and power.

  • Quick Cuts: Orel Hershiser had a phenomenal set on ESPN's Baseball Tonight on Wednesday, explaining the difference between 'control' and 'command.' Someone should do a "Best of BBTN" DVD… Scott Sauerbeck injured a groin (his own) and is out, the latest in the plague of pitcher injuries for the A's... Jimmy Rollins will miss a couple of games with a Grade 1 strain of his right hammy… Keith Foulke is headed to Single-A Lowell for the weekend. As stated here, Foulke will be up quick if he shows he can contribute.

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