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August 14, 2006

Under The Knife

Liriano Watch

by Will Carroll

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I spent the last few days being the dumbest guy in the room. Once a year, BP gets the team together to discuss business, a meeting that occurred over the weekend in Chicago. In between those discussions, the topic always came back to our shared passion, and I learned as much talking to Keith Woolner and Clay Davenport as I have in a year of writing. I watched Justin Verlander pitch (badly) and pointed out why to Rany Jazayerli. Kevin Goldstein demonstrated his encyclopedic knowledge of prospects and Frank Black's music. Several of you showed up at Harry Caray's on Friday to talk some baseball (and soccer), learning that the passion that the group has for baseball is very, very real. What's coming out of those meetings is going to be exciting and will make the experience here at BP even better. I'm honored to be a part of it.

Powered by my Dad--his birthday happened over the weekend--on to the injuries...

  • Sometimes bad news can hide good news. While most of the report on Francisco Liriano was gloom and doom, the bottom line of the report was actually good. The Twins are glad that they waited for the MRI, getting a "clear picture" according to my medical source. "It had a signal," he said, indicating a part of the MRI that shows up as "abnormal," "but it was scarring, not an acute tear." In essence, Liriano was tearing apart the weakened portion of his once-injured and healed UCL. The pain he felt caused him to alter his mechanics, leading to cascade injuries, first in his forearm, then in his shoulder. Further tests showed some tendonitis in the shoulder, leading the Twins to put Liriano on a shoulder-strengthening program prior to any throwing program. There's no good timetable for this injury, mostly due to Liriano's reliance on his slider for effectiveness. It's my best guess that he'll be back in early to mid-September, though the Twins' status in the AL Central is going to be a big factor in determining when, or whether, he pitches again this year.

  • Let's clear this one up right away. This rumor is false. Yes, Mark Prior did pitch only once a week on many occasions, not an uncommon occurrence for the "Friday pitcher" at a major program. The rest of it is either confirmably false or unconfirmable speculation. I was tipped on Thursday that Prior had some lat problems, though the Cubs are sticking to their diagnosis of rotator-cuff tendonitis. Either way, the diagnosis speaks to a cascade injury due to pitching through weakness. He's shut down for at least a couple of weeks, making a meaningful return very unlikely. Let's also clear up the mechanics issue. Prior, before this latest batch of shoulder injuries, had great mechanics. Say what you will about Tom House's results (and I'm a fan)--Prior was in large part held together through his workload by those very good mechanics.

    The Cubs are also watching Derrek Lee closely over the next two weeks. It's not likely that he'll make a meaningful return, though it's possible that he'll get into games in September as more of a test than anything else. His return to his established level is one of the keys to the Cubs "plan" for 2007.

  • The A's have had their second half run tempered by injury. Rich Harden remains out and while he's making progress, he's also not expected to make it back to the rotation. The slow progress he's making-- completing a short-toss session--are positive, but the time he'll need to get game ready from where he is doesn't mesh well with the time left in the season. He's going to be cutting it close for getting any innings in the minor leagues, and the A's don't have enough of a lead yet to think about using him in a meaningful relief role. A's fans are watching for any sign of an acceleration in his rehab, one that's likely not coming.

    The A's are also showing patience in the rehab of shortstop Bobby Crosby. His extensive injury history is forcing a real slowdown of the normal timetable for return from this type of back injury. Crosby has exhibited a tendency to have compensation/cascade injuries when playing under the 100% level. Don't expect Crosby back on the field when eligible this Tuesday.

  • The Cardinals don't have enough pitching depth to just toss someone out of the rotation. That leaves Jason Marquis hanging by a thread, waiting on Mark Mulder and his upcoming third rehab start. Mulder looked good in his first outing, but took something of a step back in his second. The jump from Single to Triple-A contributed, though Mulder's Michelin Man look after the game says that at best, the team is still being very cautious with his left arm. Mulder is still losing his arm slot when the shoulder begins to fatigue, something that occurred in the third inning of his last start. I don't have high expectations for Mulder if and when he returns to St. Louis. The arm action I saw looks as if rest hasn't corrected the problem.

  • Justin Verlander might have been tipping his pitches, but he was definitely "pitching uphill." I mentioned that I watched his start on Friday with Rany Jazayerli. I pointed out how Verlander was dropping his back shoulder and actually raising his front arm, as he is in this picture. Looking through tape and images, it's clear that Verlander often throws this way. While not ideal, he's certainly getting good results. Verlander's mechanics do not hold up well when he's fatigued; he gets looser with his arms and spins at the end of his release, losing his balance in the midst of his delivery. The Tigers are well aware of these flaws and his fatigue. The question now is whether he can be effective enough while being used the proper amount in the midst of a pennant chase.

  • The Mets are in no rush to get Cliff Floyd back. This says far more about their cushion in the NL East than it does their need for Floyd in left field. In fact, it says quite a bit. Floyd has begun his rehab at the Mets' Florida complex, though it will move at what could liberally be called a conservative pace. The division is really not in question now, so the team wants to make sure that Floyd comes back in a form that will allow him to be effective through the playoffs. Expect Floyd to be used in odd patterns as the team attempts to both keep him healthy and try to determine the optimal usage patterns. There's no question that Floyd can return and be valuable.

  • Khalil Greene just can't keep his hand and the ball out of each other's way. For the second time in a week, Greene is out with a hand injury. Just as soon as his finger healed up enough to get back in the game, a pitch hit him on the very same hand. X-rays were negative, though further tests are scheduled to confirm the early results. Assuming there is no fracture, Greene should be back quickly, limited by pain tolerance and function.

  • The Nationals can take their time with Jose Vidro, though his comeback is important to the team's future. Vidro had a nice start to his rehab with no problems at Single-A. He'll step up to Double-A for his next start and should be back sometime late this week if all goes well. The team could be more conservative, since they'll be watching to see if Vidro is healthy enough to trade. A move with Vidro would clear up money and open up second base, two things that would help them retain Alfonso Soriano.

  • The news wasn't so good for Hideki Matsui and the Yankees. Matsui did not make enough progress to take the next step, leaving him still at least a week away from taking part in full baseball activities. He's not yet catching long toss or swinging the bat with both hands, meaning that he's at best 15 to 20 days away. The end of the minor-league season is key to Matsui, since he will need to work on his timing. It's notable that Matsui has never had this type of layoff. His work ethic would suggest that he'll be ahead of schedule, though most players who don't have any context for injuries actually take longer. The Yanks will take Matsui whenever they can get him, though they're smart enough not to rush him. Joe Torre actually opened the door to Matsui missing the rest of the season in a quote late last week, though there's no new information to suggest that's more than Torre saying that the team is willing to be patient.

  • Trot Nixon and Jason Varitek are both working as hard as they can, while the medical staff is making sure that these two Type-A players don't overstress their rehabs. Nixon is hitting with a purpose-built brace that limits his range of motion, protecting his healing bicep while allowing him to work on his hitting. Varitek is throwing now, but still has some swelling and reduced motion in the knee after 10 days. The progress he's made suggests he'll come in somewhere around the 3 1/2-week point, or around August 25th.

    The Sox are also encouraged by what they've seen from Keith Foulke. The expectations are low, but Foulke could be activated this week if the team feels he can contribute something. At worst, he'll continue working until rosters expand and get some mop-up time in September.

  • It's been a lost season for Brad Eldred, Ryan Doumit and much of the Pirates organization. Both are expected back at some point, though whether that's with Triple-A Indy or at the major-league level once rosters expands remains to be seen. Neither figures to see much playing time in any situation. Injuries have pushed both back in the organizations plans, with Doumit passed by Ronny Paulino and Eldred's window closing as he lacks development. Both still have talent, but the direction of the Pirates in the offseason will be key to both of these players having a productive future.

  • Quick Cuts: So Shawn Chacon is injured on top of bad? Nice return on Craig Wilson. Chacon had fluid drained from his knee and is questionable for his Tuesday start on so many levels Chipper Jones is back in the Braves lineup. That, along with a Braves win, makes Jenn Sterger happy Ervin Santana should take the ball next time he's scheduled to. Good news after a tough comebacker Kent Mercker is done for the season and may call it a career, depending on how bad his elbow injury is Troy Glaus left Sunday's game with a reported foot injury. Sources tell us that Glaus' knees were having problems with the hard Minnesota surface The Rangers are juggling their rotation to give Kip Wells additional time to heal a sprained foot Clinton Portis is out three to five weeks with a subluxated shoulder. Oops, wrong column.

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Premium Article Future Shock: Monday M... (08/14)
<< Previous Column
Premium Article Under The Knife: Liria... (08/09)
Next Column >>
Premium Article Under The Knife: Conve... (08/15)
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Premium Article The Ledger Domain: The... (08/14)

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