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September 20, 2006

Under The Knife

When Shuuto Met Gyro

by Will Carroll

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There's been a lot of interest in the gyroball this year. You might want to check out Jeff Passan's great article on Yahoo, but generally speaking, more people now know what a gyroball is. Or I thought they did. This video recently surfaced on YouTube and people have begun e-mailing me questions. The problem is that Daisuke Matsuzaka doesn't throw the gyro and it isn't in here. Until March, I thought he did, but he doesn't. He does have a mean 81 mph slider with late movement that could be mistaken for a gyro at times, and he has tried to work on his gyro, but he says he's never thrown it in a game. I'm part of the confusion--in my initial article for Rob Neyer, I mistook the shuuto and the gyro. A shuuto is essentially a sinker, while a gyro is more like a slider. This month's Esquire has a brief write-up on the pitch, and there's plenty more to come. I have something set up in the near future where I'll get some solid pitchers to work with, to teach the pitch and see what happens. I'll keep you updated.

One other thing on Matsuzaka--when you see his pitch counts, you might worry, but it's very hard to equate them to American pitch counts. You see, Matsuzaka normally works on six days' rest. I have no idea how to translate that. It's one more fact that teams will have to figure out before offering the huge money it's going to take to sign the Japanese ace.

Powered by the return of Peter Gammons, on to the injuries:

  • The Yankees activated Gary Sheffield, but did not have him in the lineup. Since the Yankees are planning to play him some at first base, his return coincides nicely with Jason Giambi's needing a couple days off to heal up his chronic wrist problem before the playoffs. Expect Sheffield to be at first after the Yankees clinch, with Aaron Guiel manning the position in the interim. This move doesn't make much sense on the surface--Sheffield is better than Guiel, even when severely limited. It makes more sense when you know that players have an increased risk of injury at new positions. Sheffield can play the position for practice, pulling off any play that could be dangerous without any real consequence--in theory. Get the competitive juices flowing and I doubt it will work quite that way. Giambi's wrist isn't considered serious; at worst, a cortisone injection could be in the offing.
  • There's some uncertainty after Trevor Hoffman not only was part of one of the more memorable collapses in recent history, but when Hoffman's statements didn't match up with manager Bruce Bochy's. After the game, Bochy said he removed Hoffman because he "knows [Hoffman] only has so many bullets in the gun." Hoffman said he had no physical limitations. There are ways to make these statements match up, but they're all a bit of a stretch. Hoffman is an older pitcher, late in a season where he's been used more than he has in a decade. It's not a significant increase, but when you add in age and injuries in the interim, Bochy is smart to use him prudently. Keep your eye on his usage patterns as the Pads try to stay in the playoff picture.
  • There's still some confusion surrounding the future of Placido Polanco, but understanding the root of that confusion should get us somewhere. Polanco had soreness in the shoulder and had a cortisone injection to help reduce inflammation. Polanco had never had a cortisone injection, and didn't understand that the relief wasn't immediate, or that there would be soreness as it took effect. The pain he felt was similar to the pain he had initially had with the injury, and his confusion led to our confusion. It makes perfect sense that he would think that he had gone backwards and was headed for surgery. A few days later, the shoulder feels better and the Tigers are hopeful that he'll get back in the lineup for the last week. Polanco's return to function is a key for the Tigers' hopes in both that last week of action and October, because the team has struggled without him. This is partly a function of his value, and partly a function of being replaced by out machine Neifi Perez.
  • Playoffs always help recoveries. Players want to play, period, and the idea of their team being in the playoffs without them hurts. Aaron Rowand is likely to be available if the Phillies get into the playoffs, though a decision on whether he could contribute would be helped by a bit of an audition. Granted, the Phillies don't have any cushion to play with, so getting Rowand some playing time might be tough. I don't see where they have any excess on the roster, unless they choose to replace the fifth starter. Rowand's comeback from the ankle injury is a bit quicker than expected, especially for Rowand, who is a noted slow healer.
  • Once again, Jim Edmonds didn't make the trip with the Cardinals. He's still having headaches and nausea, and that can't be seen as a sign that he's making any progress from post-concussion syndrome. Still, the Cardinals are pushing to get him back for the playoffs, something I simply don't understand. All the reports I get from sources and reading the (excellent) beat reports from the various media that follows the Cards, I haven't found one positive sign. Maybe I'm missing something here, but like Corey Koskie and Mike Matheny, I think this concussion is the knockout blow for Edmonds' season.
  • The Twins didn't get the old good news/bad news joke. They got bad news and neutral news. The bad news is that Brad Radke isn't yet ready to join the rotation. His shoulder simply can't hold up, but that Radke is insistent on making one more start. That start will likely come at home, and I can only hope that he goes out like he wants, though I'm having some eerie feelings of Dravecky vu when I think about Radke. The start could be as short as one batter. The other big Twins injury is Francisco Liriano, who saw James Andrews on stop #2 of his tour de surgeons. He's likely to have an exploratory procedure in early October, as reported here first.
  • As this version of the Astros heads into what might be their last couple weeks together, the pitching is holding up despite injury. Roger Clemens isn't expected to miss any starts because of his mild groin strain. Roy Oswalt strained his neck and perhaps his wallet, but was able to come back and throw. Andy Pettitte has both an aching elbow and an ill father to deal with, so he's not rushing back. With only Oswalt assured of coming back for next season, the Astros will have to decide what price greatness is worth this offseason and how to best return to the level they want to be at.
  • Chipper Jones gets his way. Like perhaps no other player in baseball, Jones has credibility with his manager that extends to allowing him to essentially (and sometimes literally) write his name into the lineup. When Jones tells Bobby Cox that he's ready to play, Cox almost never holds him out, even when he's expressed some reluctance to the media. Jones is returning from a DL stint caused more by frugality than an injury; Jones' contract was paid by insurance only if he was on the DL. We'll see how healed the oblique is over the next few days, though expecting him to be normal and get more rest than usual as he returns is likely as much folly as thinking Cox wouldn't have Jones in the lineup Tuesday.
  • Quick Cuts: David Wells will make his start on Wednesday If I told you that the Yankees are still considering giving Carl Pavano a playoff roster spot, you wouldn't believe me, right? Chan Ho Park is hoping to pitch during the playoffs, at least in a bullpen role, though he could be back even sooner. That's amazing, considering he had a life-threatening condition last month There's no rush to get Ken Griffey Jr. back out on the field, especially with his big toe hurting as well as his once-dislocated second toe Call me innumerate, but I find WPA a joy-sucking statistical tool. The idea that Marlon Anderson, five hits and two homers or not, can be proven to be the biggest factor in the Dodgers' amazing win somehow irks me. I do, however, keep an open mind on it Jarrod Washburn left his Tuesday start with a calf strain. We'll know more on this tomorrow Jason Isringhausen will have arthroscopic surgery on Thursday to repair his hip. The surgery will take place in Nashville Brandon Phillips took a funny hop off his eye and left the game. Early reports are that Phillips was not seriously injured.

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