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August 21, 2006

Under The Knife

Cascade Blues

by Will Carroll

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Okay, so shoot me, but I was watching the Colts-Seahawks game tonight while the Sox and Yanks were in rain delay, and something in particular caught my eye. One of the things that NBC is doing to promote its new Sunday night game is a modified fantasy contest, with the winner getting a trip to New York to meet the studio team of Bob Costas, Cris Collinsworth, Jerome Bettis, and AL-Kings leader Peter King. Costas immediately bemoaned this prize, sarcastically saying "my fantasy is to spend every week hanging out with some fantasy geek who'll badger us with questions about the next week." Somebody should probably point out that he's got one of those so-called geeks in studio with him already, and King's not that much of a geek. The rest of us "geeks" are out here, watching the ads that pay your salary. I'd suggest that the least you can do is at least pretend to not loathe the people who watch you each week. Fantasy players and statheads have always been ghettoized by journalism geeks, and that despite the passionate interest and open wallet that they bring to sports. It's time that everyone realized it, got over whatever bias they have against fantasy players, and realized that they're the audience, not the enemy. There's a good reason that guys like Bill Simmons--who cultivates and feeds his audience--have gained ground. People like Bill, or myself I like to think, like our readers. More importantly, we respect them.

Powered by an opening day win by Chelsea, on to the injuries:

  • Losing Tom Glavine could devastate the Mets coming down the stretch, even with the lead they have. Glavine is dealing with a difficult-to-diagnose vascular problem in his pitching shoulder. Reports have variously described it as a blood clot, a blocked artery, or as an aneurysm. According to team sources, only the latter has been ruled out, with additional tests hopefully providing guidance for a solid plan. The uncertainty makes it impossible to know what to expect in the meantime. A blood clot, while serious, could be handled with medication. If it's more serious than that, surgery could be in the offing, much along the lines of what Kip Wells had earlier this season. That would end Glavine's season, including the playoffs. Omar Minaya has internal options-including a suddenly resurgent Oliver Perez-but the Mets need Glavine back if they're to remain the best team in the National League.

  • Watching the Yankees and Sox play, I wondered exactly where to place this report. If you've never noticed, I try to use the "descending pyramid" as I compile my reports, listing the most significant injuries at the top by default. Contenders tend to have those more significant injuries, making it tough for me to decide where to put a graf about the Red Sox. Trailing as I type this, the Sox have struggled with injuries all season long, creatively filling the gaps with available replacement players and a deep farm system. Nevertheless, there's a point where this strategy falls apart, and it's something we see repeatedly with teams that suffer multiple concurrent injuries. Jonathan Papelbon may have pitched well this season, but his mechanics show just how fatigued he is at this point of the year. His arm is flying out, leaving many of his pitches up and in to right-handed hitters. He still has good velocity, meaning he can get away with mistakes, but if he continues to lose efficiency, he'll only get more fatigued, a cycle that normally doesn't end well. I think he's going to be saved by the arm strength he built up as a starter, but tonight's entrance-bases loaded with no one out and the season on the line-shows just how different the workload is for relievers and starters. As if matters weren't complicated enough, the Red Sox are merely hopeful that rotation anchor Tim Wakefield will be back at some point in September; he's beginning to throw, but there's no timetable for a return.

  • Mike Maroth had a good start in Triple-A, pushing the Tigers to make a decision. It had been expected that Maroth would be called up and inserted into the rotation. That would give the Tigers six starters, allowing them to rest Justin Verlander and the rest of the rotation an extra day. However, Jim Leyland has now decided against that idea, saying that if Maroth comes up, someone will get shifted out of the rotation. It's possible, though unlikely, that the someone could be Verlander. It would be hard to shift Verlander to the pen, so the DL is a possibility, though again, a remote one. Verlander hasn't been the same, mechanically or in terms of results, since crossing the 130-inning mark. It surprises me that he fatigued so much so fast, but he's still throwing in the mid 90s. Maroth has nothing left to prove on rehab, though its possible he'll get one more start with the Mudhens while the Tigers make a tough but important decision. Rumblings that Maroth was a bit sore after the start might be enough to keep him down for the time being.

  • The A's took a big hit when Huston Street strained his right groin. This is the one in his push leg, so the adductor isn't quite as important as the abductor here. It's an uncomfortable injury, so his comeback will be more about pain management and pain tolerance than function. Once Street is able to pitch comfortably, he'll be able to come back quickly. The A's recent surge allows them something of a cushion to get Street back, meanwhile experimenting with various bullpen solutions in the interim. One option could be Rich Harden, who has begun throwing again, and as is, Harden could be called on to set up Street once both have returned.

  • The Cardinals had no depth at the start of the season, so give a ton of credit to Tony La Russa for keeping his team in the division lead despite its outbreak of injuries. Albert Pujols' stint on the DL didn't kill them, and Mark Mulder's time on the DL hasn't killed them, so it may take a complete team-level breakdown to give another squad a chance to wrest control of the NL Central away from them. But how far are the Cards from that? David Eckstein (strained oblique) is joining the list of injured Cards. His skill set is tougher to replace with Hector Luna gone, so any extended absence could have more impact than Eckstein's stat line would suggest. Jim Edmonds is still having trouble with dizziness, something chronicled by Matthew Leach at MLB.com. Juan Pierre's catch at the ivy showcased how the elbow injury is affecting Pujols-it's costing him between ten and twenty feet after contact, and the injury is likely to cost him an MVP trophy. Mulder is the most interesting of the bunch, as he'll replace Anthony Reyes in the rotation this week. The move amounts to skipping Reyes in the rotation, since he's sure to be back once rosters expand in two weeks, but Mulder's performance is key to the team's playoff hopes. Much like Glavine and the Mets, the Cards need a solid number two to have much hope in a short series.

  • The Reds have gotten more than most expected from Eddie Guardado since acquiring him. Now he's injured, which is what most expected. A MRI showed that Guardado has inflammation in his elbow, not surprising given the problems he's had in his shoulder. The normal cascade pattern is holding for Guardado, who's now in much the same situation as his former teammate, Brad Radke. Both are holding on, hoping that their damaged arms can do just enough to give them one more shot at the postseason. For those of you wondering how much some athletes want that ring, look no further than this. Guardado heads to the DL, but shouldn't be on for much more than the minimum. Rest will help, but there's a point of diminishing returns.

  • The Yankees are watching their pitching depth. Now that Octavio Dotel is back, they're hoping that they dodged a real bullet when Kyle Farnsworth took a Wily Mo Pena comebacker off his shin. Farnsworth was off crutches and will likely avoid the DL after what could have been a season-ender or worse. Carl Pavano was dominant over four more rehab innings, showing solid velocity and command. It's possible that he could come up before roster expansion as a swingman, though indications from sources are that the Yankees would prefer to hold him in reserve, letting him continue his rehab until they need a starter or can bring him up without impacting their active roster.

  • The Twins still have life after taking two of three from the White Sox, but injuries continue to plague them. Jason Kubel had made it through nearly a full season without significant problems with his surgically repaired knee, but he's now reporting pain in both knees. This isn't uncommon after a normal knee surgery, as a slight change in gait often leads to problems on the opposite side. Add in the home field turf, and it's small wonder that Kubel will need to DH a great portion of the rest of the season. The Twins depth in the outfield is already being tested, and a grass field can't come soon enough. The good news is that Francisco Liriano will begin throwing this week. It will be a slow, conservative throwing program, so don't expect him back on the mound in game action soon. He is unlikely to be back in time to make a minor league rehab stint, making it more difficult to gauge his recovery.

  • Brandon Backe has reinjured his UCL. He'll head to the DL, but again appears to have avoided Tommy John surgery. There's a point where the continued tears of his UCL and the accompanying scarring may weaken the ligament to the point of catastrophic failure. Backe's an arbitration-eligible player, and will be an interesting decision point for the Astros as they head into the offseason. A risky pitcher who's beginning to get expensive might be someone they non-tender as they move into their next era.

  • The initial report I got on Chris Young was on the Arizona outfielder, not the tall Padres pitcher. One of these guys needs a nickname soon. The injury was actually to Chris Young the pitcher, and reports I was able to get once I figured out which one it was were confusing. The Padres' official site reported the injury as a strained shoulder, while most other reports, including from team sources, indicated the problem was in his back. I sense that this is something of a description problem. We saw this with Ben Sheets-does the non-medhead press refer to a lat injury as 'upper back' or 'shoulder'? Neither is correct, but both are good enough for most reports. Later clarification from Amanda Branam of MLB.com proves my point-Young strained his rhomboid muscle, a large muscle in the upper back located between the spine and shoulder blade. Gold medhead star for Amanda. More will be known about Young's injury in the coming days as he reacts to treatment, but remember that Young himself refuted my report of "tired arm" a while ago.

  • Quick Cuts: Wrong, wrong, wrong. Joe Morgan questioned the K-Zone graphic several times during the Sox-Yanks game, saying his eye trumped the technology. Sure it does, Joe. Derrek Lee continues to make progress towards a comeback. All information I've received in the last week on him make off-season surgery a very remote possibility, putting Dusty Baker's comments in an interesting light. The Padres will keep Ryan Klesko on the DL after his rehab assignment is up this week. He won't play until September at the earliest. Khalil Greene heads to the DL with his finger and hand injuries. It's part injury, but also part precaution. Jae Seo left his start with recurring pain in his left groin. Mike Mussina left his start against the Red Sox in the fourth with a "tight groin." There was a rain delay, as if everyone here wasn't watching. More when available on this injury.

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<< Previous Article
The Week in Quotes: Au... (08/21)
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