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September 11, 2006

Under The Knife

Not Letting Them Win

by Will Carroll

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You can't look at today's date without trying to say something, and trying to find some meaning in what I acknowledge can be an at-times trivial column. I'm not enough of a writer to stand up to those who will comment on the day's meaning to all of us as Americans. To me, I look back to the statement that if we let them change our lives, then they've won. I say "they" rather than any specific group because it holds for whomever you want to fill in that blank. I'll mark the day by doing what I would have done on September the 11th before it became 9/11: You'll find me watching baseball, checking out ESPN's first Monday Night Football telecast, and putting a hurting on my two cell phones. I'll obsess over my fantasy teams, ride my bike with my iPod on, and I'll wonder what Apple will announce tomorrow. My life is a lot different in 2006 than it was in 2001, almost completely for the better. All that's different is that at no point tomorrow will I forget why being the same is so important.

Powered by my friends at Ladder 11, FDNY, on to the injuries:

  • Something I'd like to know is whether the TVL of a pitch (type, velocity, and location) has anything to do with the proclivity of a pitch to come back at the pitcher. Whatever it is that's costing Roy Halladay, he needs to stop. He's fighting for a Cy Young, but again, a comebacker has put his season in jeopardy. Halladay took a hard shot off of his elbow on Sunday, one that looked suspiciously like the shot that Mark Prior took last season. Happily, X-rays were negative and Halladay downplayed the hit, telling the Toronto Star that "it wasn't super painful." However, Halladay admitted there was some swelling in the elbow, though he didn't think he'd miss his next start. We'll keep our eye on this to see whether "Doc" Halladay lived up to his nickname with the self-diagnosis.

  • Hideki Matsui is back. The Yankees left fielder becomes the Yankee DH for the next few weeks. During his rehab, he's shown some lingering effects of the wrist fracture, such as a noticeable loss of bat control and power. The Yankees aren't terribly concerned, treating the next few weeks as a tune-up for Matsui. He'll play regularly, probably starting four or five games per week. The Yankees hope to transition him back to playing left during the last two weeks of the season, though team sources tell me they'd be comfortable continuing to use Melky Cabrera in left. The Yankees will also have to decide what to do with Gary Sheffield. He'll take live pitching for the first time on Tuesday, and is expected back about a week later. Ideally, Matsui will have transitioned back to the field, leaving the DH slot for Sheffield. I'm sure most teams would love to have problems like figuring out where to put Melky Cabrera in the playoffs. For management of his roster through so many injuries alone is why, if I had a vote, Joe Torre would be my Manager of the Year.

  • The Mets are at a point where they're not only thinking about their playoffs, they're making decisions. The chronic problems that Cliff Floyd is having with his calf and Achilles are threatening his position on the postseason roster. Although surprising, is there reason to think that there's anything Floyd can do about this? Not likely, since no one understands Floyd's situation better than the Mets medical staff. The acquisition of Shawn Green made this a possibility, though not one anyone expected. This bears watching closely, because there's something we don't know yet that's changed. In contrast, the Mets are more positive about Pedro Martinez, because he's had plenty of time to heal up his legs and get his arm ready. The Mets ace threw a four-inning simulated game without a problem. That puts him on track for a start next weekend in Pittsburgh.

  • Francisco Liriano contributed to a one-hitter that put the Rochester Red Wings into the International League finals. The above sentence may be true, but doesn't tell us much: Liriano went three innings and forty pitches, much less than the organization was hoping for. However, he was held back not by his stuff or by injury, but by weather, as rains delayed the game and the decision was made to not let Liriano go an extra inning. Liriano struck out four and walked one, showing his full arsenal of pitches, command, and normal velocity. It was as successful as a rehab start could be, putting Liriano in line for a start next Thursday.

  • So much for the bruise. Travis Hafner is done for the season after x-rays discovered a small fracture on the bone just below his ring finger. The fracture is incomplete, so surgery isn't likely. It's a sad end to what should be an MVP season, but shouldn't affect him going forward. This type of injury would normally keep a player out around eight weeks, so he'll have plenty of time to get healthy this offseason. The injury is about the only thing that contained him this season.

  • The A's have reversed fields on Rich Harden, at least publicly. For a couple months now, we've been told that when Harden returned from his sprained elbow, he'd head to the bullpen. Now, it's clear that Harden's rehab program is one designed for a starter. Susan Slusser got all the details directly from trainer Larry Davis, along with the problems trying to come back this late in the season might cause. I won't agree that it's always been quite so clear that Harden would return as a starter--just two weeks ago, the Chronicle said the opposite in this article. The A's won't have much of a chance to see what Harden can do. Given his current plan, it would be tough to get Harden more than two starts. Is that enough to tell if he's a better option than their #3 or #4 starters? That's one for Billy Beane to answer. The team is also resting Mark Kotsay, hoping to get him ready for the playoffs by resting his aching back. He'll miss much of the week after heading back to Oakland for a cortisone shot.

  • What is progress? Medical staffs will often talk about progress as if we see what they see. They see the small changes, tangible and intangible, seen over the course of a treatment or rehab cycle. For fans, we see lineups, missed games, and DL days. We're told that Ken Griffey Jr. is making progress despite continued swelling in the toe that he dislocated trying to track down a Barry Bonds homer. Let's be clear on something--Griffey's toe is no longer dislocated. A lot of stories are written as if the bone were still out of place. There's still no timetable for Griffey's return, but it will be longer than normal because of Griffey's tendency to re-injure his legs with even a small change in gait.

  • The Pirates won't use Mike Gonzalez as their closer for the rest of the season. This doesn't mean he's out. He'll test out his injured elbow early this week, but with very little to play for, the Pirates will start shifting the focus from winning now to making sure that the team is healthy for next season. Gonzalez figures to be back in the closer role in 2007, though they do have some options with younger pitchers like Josh Sharpless and Matt Capps. Gonzalez's elbow injury is one that should have little if any long-term effect.

  • This weekend, I spoke to several people in the game, both writers and executives, and there was a consistent theme--all of them downplayed the injury to Joe Crede. I wondered if they'd forgotten how good he was in the last postseason or that he's exceeded his output in nearly every statistical category. Each of them pointed out that Josh Fields is probably as good as Crede, and Fields was called up after Triple-A Charlotte was eliminated from the playoffs. Crede was back on the field Sunday as expected, though his back appears to still be a problem. The Sox don't have much margin for error left, so how they manage Crede and their third base slot will be critical to their chances. Herm Schneider is among the best in the business, so Sox fans should feel good about this.

  • Quick Cuts: Coco Crisp re-injured the finger that put him on the DL earlier this season. It's not thought to be nearly as serious Arthur Rhodes injured his elbow and will have an MRI soon. That could be a big blow to the Phillies pen, especially with Tom Gordon still tender Nate Robertson will have x-rays to check his ribs. He took a comebacker off his left side on Saturday. He's expected to be held back a couple days Yorvit Torrealba is out for the season with a strained shoulder. I mention this only because he's a catcher that plays in Colorado Laynce Nix will have surgery to repair his damaged toe. Point this surgery out next time someone says turf toe isn't serious Khalil Greene won't swing a bat until the end of the week, and even then it doesn't look like he'll be able to contribute much down the stretch.
Be sure to check out this week's BPR, a very strong edition that takes a look at some playoff contenders. I get a lot of questions about how people can call in. While the show isn't carried live in many markets, you can always call in between 9 and 10 am Eastern time each Saturday to be a part of the show.
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