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April 13, 2007

Under The Knife

Scratched Starts and Career Reflections

by Will Carroll

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Yesterday, Drew Bledsoe retired. (Yes, I know this is my baseball column, thank you.) Over at ESPN, a poll question went up quickly-"Is Drew Bledsoe a Hall of Famer?" Earlier this year at the NFL Combine, Aaron Schatz made an off-hand remark about Edgerrin James being a Hall of Famer. Each year, Jay Jaffe looks at the baseball Hall of Famers and frankly, I tried to come up with a comparable for those two guys. Is Edgerrin James, a guy just off his peak who made a bad short-term decision, like Mike Hampton or Jeff Weaver? Is Drew Bledsoe more like Tom Glavine or more like Curt Schilling? With every type of comparable, I realized just how high the standards were for baseball and how absurdly low they are for football. Greatness is subjective to be sure, but this disconnect here is something that I just don't understand. I know the voters for both take it very seriously and, all things considered, I actually like the football process better than I do the baseball one. What is greatness, and do we know it when we see it? Can we stare at a game day in and day out and really know that what we're seeing is historic? I think we understand "spectacular" better in this day and age, where Gary Matthews Jr and Endy Chavez made two plays that stand out but were essentially meaningless for their team's success. Even with the perspective of a full career, greatness isn't always apparent. I think it was Santayana or maybe Gandhi that said "Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in awhile, you could miss it." No, wait, it was Ferris Bueller. It's still true, so powered by all the greatness we'll see today and not even notice, on to the injuries:

  • It seems like it's been a while since we last talked about Mark Prior. Daily updates are a thing of the past as people have moved on, even Cubs fans. The drama that once surrounded both Prior and Kerry Wood has been replaced with resignation. Prior went to the mound on Thursday with a three inning or 35 pitch hard count. He reached neither, walking off the mound after the second frame with shoulder pain. He's headed back to Kerlan-Jobe to meet with Dr. Lewis Yocum, and as hard as this is to say, I'm almost hoping they open him up. Time after time, we hear stories of an MRI missing something that was found once a surgeon got a scope in there. Prior's been dealing with this problem for over two years by his own admission (if not the Cubs'). At this stage, conservative treatment has gotten him nowhere, and even if there's nothing there, Prior and the team would know. Would that be enough to restore his confidence? Would a cleanup or even a bigger procedure get him back to pitching? Will he ever be the Mark Prior he might have been? Who knows at this stage. I was re-reading Pat Jordan's "A False Spring" the other day, and wonder if the two of them have ever crossed paths. I have no idea where this is going, so I won't even speculate on a return.

  • Would you believe me if I told you that the Yankees rotation is getting healthier? Granted, I'd mean it's a bit better today than yesterday, but it's a true statement. Sure, there's a hue and cry about the poorly-titled "Director of Performance Enhancement" Marty Miller, a young guy with a background outside of baseball, but it's too early to tell if there's any real cause and effect here. Given some of Miller's published research at both the NASM, where Miller has published some work about movement assessments and recovery theory, and at California University, he's not some way-out guy experimenting on the Yankees, though one source thought that Miller's background would be better suited to rehab that prehab. A day after Mike Mussina pulled himself before pulling his hamstring, it looks like the "one missed start" diagnosis will hold; he'll be replaced by Sean Henn for that start and won't go on the DL. It's unclear if the Yankees will just slot Mussina back in with his next turn, or attempt to slot him back into the two upcoming series against the Red Sox. The Yanks also saw Chien-ming Wang and his progress first-hand this week, as he threw batting practice with an eye towards starting a rehab assignment sometime next week. He's still on track for a late April return after two minor league starts.

  • Jaret Wright got good news from the doctor, but still hit the DL. What gives? Fact is that despite there being no acute damage in the shoulder, Wright still was feeling soreness, and was shelved in the hopes that missing a couple starts now is better than missing a lot of starts later. The schedule also helped make this decision, since the Orioles won't need their fifth starter until late April, giving Wright not only time to rest, but also a couple rehab starts as well. Wright looks to miss only the minimum here, and if you're desperate for pitching, the injury might give you a chance to pick him up on the cheap, especially from someone who drafted him and now is watching him sit on the DL.

  • Rafael Furcal will be a game-time decision. Despite the setback he experienced in his second rehab game, the Dodgers will wait until the last possible second before deciding whether or not to activate him. The team has some flexibility and depth at the position, but none of their options are as talented as Furcal, making the decision not so much one of healthy or not healthy, but instead interlocking questions about the increased risk of reinjury and whether or not Furcal at 80% is better than 100% of Wilson Valdez. Fantasy players should wait and see what Furcal does in tonight's game before activating him. There's little chance you'll lose significant value by waiting, since he's unlikely to steal and has a tough set of matchups against the Padres, going against David Wells, Jake Peavy, and the newly-extended Chris Young in the weekend series.

  • Troy Glaus came out of a game again on Thursday, protecting an Achilles tendon that seems to be becoming more and more problematic. He lasted only two innings before needing a replacement, indicating that this is more than mere soreness, and that a day's rest isn't going to return it to normal. Glaus isn't headed for the DL quite yet, but this is definitely a matter of concern for Jays fans and Glaus' fantasy owners. First, there's the short-term risk of missed time and possible rupture, but in the longer term, the combination of playing on turf and increased rest could cut into his value. Added to some of his other problems, a leg injury like this could really sap some of Glaus power.

  • Josh Bard injured his groin on a slide into second, and yes, that's as painful as it sounds. He'll head to the DL to give the injury time to heal, leaving the Pads a bit shorthanded at catcher. Rob Bowen will take the starting slot, and the team's brought up minor league veteran Pete LaForest to back him up. Bard's injury is painful, but not expected to need more than the minimum to heal up; he had been hitting well early in the season, so if someone makes a panic move and drops him, he could be a nice waiver claim.

  • Carlos Quentin played in a spring training game and generated a stats versus scouts argument. Looking at his 0-for-3 line, you might think his torn labrum was still a problem, but a source who saw the game said "he scorched three balls right at people. If this was soccer, somebody would be screaming 'unlucky!'" (A soccer reference also gives me a chance to point out that Chelsea is only three points back of Man U.) Quentin is ticketed to make a couple starts at Triple-A Tucscon before returning to the majors early next week. The D'backs should also get Chris B. Young back on Friday after missing a couple games with a mild groin strain. Finally, don't take Randy Johnson's statements about his return date as a setback. He's still on schedule, and he's throwing for Triple-A Tucscon tonight.

  • The Rangers will swap out injured starter Jamey Wright for the now-healthy Eric Gagne on Friday, slotting Gagne into the closer's role in name, but know that some of his limitations now will keep Akinori Otsuka valuable. Until Gagne proves that his stuff is effective and that he can go back-to-back or even three days in a row, Otsuka will still get some save chances mixed into his workload. The Wright situation won't force a decision on a fifth starter until late next week, with Kam Loe having the inside track after a solid spring.

  • Two quality starts by Adam Wainwright are good early returns on his 'conversion' to starting. Fact is, he's always been a starter, and his move to the bullpen last season was a matter of desperation and genius. What's a bit worrisome has been his lack of control (seven walks against eight strikeouts) and his relative inefficiency (seven innings and 101 pitches, then 6.2 and 111) in starts against relatively weak offenses. Both can be attributed to his reliance on that looping curve, a pitch that can move so much it gives umpires trouble. One scout told me that "the pitch is so good, it looked like the Pirates just laid off it and let him have [the curve.]" The biggest question with Wainwright is stamina, so inefficiency this early in the season is not a good sign; watch carefully for any sign that it's time to sell high on him.

  • Gil Meche left last night's start with a hamstring strain. While I'm still working on getting more info, this sounds very similar to Mike Mussina's situation. Meche doesn't think he'll miss a start, but the Royals are going to be cautious, preferring to wait and see how it responds over the next few days. Keep an eye out to see if he makes his 'throw day' for an early indication on whether or not the Royals will be sending him back to the mound the next time his turn comes up.

Quick Cuts: Octavio Dotel will have an MRI Friday to check the progress of his oblique strain. He's at least a week away, with sources telling me he's "made no progress" ... John Smoltz went 122 pitches in an eight-inning complete game loss to the Nationals. I have no idea why ... Juan Padilla will have his flexor tendon repaired just a year after Tommy John surgery. If this sounds similar to what happened with Mike Hampton, right down to the surgery being done by Dr. David Altcheck, it is ... Interesting study done on catcher's masks. I think we're going to see some real changes here, and quickly ... Today's useless fact is that in 1984 on this date, I went on my first date. How's THAT for making you feel old? I wonder where she is these days. See you here next week and in Tampa Bay soon.

Related Content:  Back,  The Who,  Mike Wright

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