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March 22, 2007

Under The Knife

So Excited

by Will Carroll

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If there's nothing like a vacation, there's also nothing like a productive day to catch up on things at home. I spent most of the day chained to my laptop and my Bluetooth, talking to sources, reading up on what I'd missed and planning the next week of my coverage. Injuries never stop, and the flow is key to how I cover them. Maybe some people can wait a week to cover things and yes, there's some perspective lost by the daily flow, but this is the way I do things, soaking myself in the injuries and information.

As I head into an action-filled weekend in New York, baseball's heading into the final week of spring training, when injuries can make or break a fight for position, when they alter the plans a front office had for a roster, and when we finally see the rubber meet the road for 2007. Is everyone else as excited about this as I am?

Powered by raw suspense, on to the injuries:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Here's why you keep six starters: Freddy Garcia struggled for 30 pitches and then left his Florida game today with pain in his biceps. Sources tell me that the pain was nearer the shoulder than the elbow, but "nonspecific." This isn't exactly what it sounds like; a nonspecific injury means that we're looking at an area or multiple possible causes that a differential diagnosis. Most baseball diagnoses are nonspecific, at least in public. You hear "rotator cuff" instead of "infraspinatus" or "elbow" instead of "UCL." Face it--most of you care more about "out six weeks" than what caused it.

    Garcia's struggles and injury seem traumatic, in that he's had no signs of trouble previously. This one will bear watching as the diagnosis and prognosis get more specific.

    It's ironic that the injury comes on the same day that the team announced Jon Lieber was headed to the bullpen. I was all set with a great answer on how moving to the pen might affect Lieber, but that's moot for now and the happy accident of not being able to deal Lieber will help the Phillies if Garcia is out for an extended period.

  • It's been three years since I wrote a piece at Slate about labrums. It still shows up high on the Google rankings and I get questions about it (almost as many as that April Fools article that fools people three years later) even today. However, in just three years, the article is essentially obsolete.

    The injury is still devastating, but not career-killing for pitchers. For position players, it's just a bother in many cases. The state of the art moves that far that fast. The D'backs are hoping that whichever way this goes for Carlos Quentin, the news is better now than it would have been a few short years ago. Quentin tore his labrum in his non-throwing shoulder during a swing last weekend and will be out while he rehabs it for an undetermined length of time, though most opinions are that he may be able to make it back for Opening Day. The injury speaks to some laxity in Quentin's shoulder, not unlike the shoulder injuries we saw with Richie Sexson and J.J. Hardy a couple years back. The D'backs have some options, like Scott Hairston, if Quentin is out for a while. This should only affect his hitting, so I expect a quick comeback.

  • It's OK to tag Rocco Baldelli as injury-prone. He's owned up to that problem despite the fluky nature of his series of injuries. More worrisome is the now-recurrent hamstring problems. It's one thing for a player like Baldelli to blow out his knee in a one-off accident and quite another to have hamstrings that threaten to go chronic. Staying healthy hasn't been in Baldelli's skill set yet, so starting off the 2007 season with more hamstring issues has to take some of the shine off his value to the improving Rays. While it's far too early to say how this will affect Baldelli in the short term, it's much easier to say that this added risk has to take him down the fantasy draft boards by a couple rounds.
  • The A's have some positive news finally. Eric Chavez is getting relief from his forearm pain with chiropractic care, though the chronic problem will likely crop up. It's more of a known quantity this season, meaning that the A's medical staff should have a better chance at controlling it. Having a known palliative also helps. Bobby Crosby went 1-for-3 with a double in his first action, though the late game means I don't have any reports from people who saw the game or the ability to download and watch before deadline. Watch to see that he's back tomorrow for a real positive. The A's are also cautiously optimistic about having Bobby Kielty back for Opening Day after minor knee surgery. It will be very close, but if Bob Geren is willing to play with something of a handicapped bench, Kielty could likely add some value as a pinch-hitter for the first week or so. The decision may come down to how the roster shakes out more than Kielty's health.
  • Chipper Jones has been dealing with a recurrent oblique injury for the last couple weeks, as well as continued foot and ankle problems. Bobby Cox has always let Jones have something of a free rein in Atlanta, and he knows that the last week of spring training means nothing for Jones. While Jones is expected back in games on Thursday after demonstrating that he was pain-free this week, Cox is likely to hold Jones out for as much as the rest of the time in Orlando. If Jones is forced to rest in season, this is a net positive for his rate stats while something of a drag on his counting stats. I don't think it adjusts his value very much, because any loss in playing time is offset by a decrease in his injury risk. Cox's control of Jones would be a big positive, if it holds.
  • Things are actually going pretty well for Kerry Wood, though you wouldn't know that by picking up any paper from the Chicago area. He had a minor muscle strain, missed time as a precaution, and now stands to start the season with a short DL stint. Being cautious with Wood seems prudent to me and if he's going to miss any time, the cold blustery April days at Wrigley seem as good as any, especially with all the options that the Cubs have in their bullpen. The thick gloom of the media is missing any of the positives that have come from Wood's spring. He's proven he can be effective, he just hasn't proven that he can stay healthy. There's a lot of relievers you can say that about. The Cubs also announced publicly that Cliff Floyd was not going to be a platoon partner for Matt Murton (or Jacque Jones, who could use one.) His Achilles will be helped by prudent use early in the season, especially, once again, if the weather is particularly abrasive.
  • Is it just me or have there been more auto accidents in the last year involving players? Luckily, most have come though with only minor injuries. Rich Aurilia escaped without even minor injuries after a wreck Tuesday, but the Giants gave him a day off, then had him back in the lineup briefly on Wednesday. There was no word on why he left the game early or if that was the plan all along. There's not much in the way of information on this, so we have to go by results. This bears watching if you've drafted Aurilia for your fantasy bench.
  • The more I look at Hanley Ramirez playing the game or his PECOTA card, the more I like him. I didn't see it last year, even as he ran away with the Rookie of the Year trophy, but hey, I'm no scout. Watching him this spring through the miracle of MLB.tv, I see it now, that same spark like a 1983 Ryne Sandberg; not great yet, but all the tools and an idea how to use them. Ramirez had a mild strain of his groin, something that will hinder him a bit. Added to his shoulder problems, the question remaining is does Ramirez hold up under the continued consistent workload of a superstar player. So far, that's the only tool he hasn't shown.

Quick Cuts: As we wait for Pedro Martinez, Mark Mulder and Bartolo Colon to come back from rotator cuff problems, let's hope they tip their cap to Paul Wilson, still trying to come back from his cuff problems two years later. Released by the Reds, he'd probably be the number-two starter in Washington ... Speaking of Colon, he had a solid session Wednesday. One source contradicted quotes from Mike Scioscia, telling me Colon's velocity was about the same but that he looked more comfortable with his breaking pitches added into the mix ... Jered Weaver, as expected, will start the season on the DL, missing one, perhaps two starts ... Mike Timlin will also start the season on the DL, leaving the closer role wide open in Boston with just a week left before everyone in Boston starts whispering "committee" ... Yhency Brazoban threw to hitters in Dodgers camp, but don't be fooled. He won't be back in the bullpen before late May at the earliest. He's a decent late-round flier pick in deep leagues ...

 

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