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May 14, 2007

Under The Knife

Non-Controversies and Dermatological Discontents

by Will Carroll

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Yesterday, I made a comment about Howie Kendrick that bears more explanation. I said to "watch his bat control" as he comes back from his broken finger. Bat control is not a scouty thing-it's merely a way to see the results of what is impossible to see from the stands. We can't see the x-rays that show Kendrick's finger is fused. We can't look in his eye and see if he has any residual pain. What we can see is if he's able to grab the bat well, allowing him to control the bat. By this I mean holding the bat, checking his swing, being able to make the fine adjustments that hitters have to make in the middle of the swing. Increased strikeouts, any sort of physical reactions with hits or checks, or any similar reaction gives us more information, something we didn't have before. Actually, the best information is seeing Kendrick looking like the pre-injury Kendrick. The goal of any rehabilitation is to return the athlete to a state as close as possible to previous function of a joint or muscle. It doesn't take a scout to see things like this, but if you feel like taking a radar gun and a stopwatch to the ballpark, I won't stop you.

Powered by the amazing Mother's Day brunch put on by the folks at Sullivan's Steakhouse-one that made my mom's day, and she's doing much better recently (thanks to those that have asked)-on to the injuries:

  • Yesterday, Kenny Albert, the Fox announcer standing in for Joe Buck, got on Alfonso Soriano as he hobbled around the bases, questioning his hustle. Perhaps he didn't notice Soriano limping, and clearly favoring his previously-injured leg. He might not have heard that Soriano was under orders not to overextend himself, and in fact had been told by the team not to try to leg out a double, dive in the outfield, or do anything that might re-injure the hamstring. Of course, players are players, and at times they will operate on instinct just as they sometimes run through a stop sign. This wasn't a question of Soriano's hustle or lack thereof. Instead, it was a question of someone not taking a longer-term view or the needs of the team into consideration, and raising a question to create controversy rather than to illustrate a point.
  • Any dermatological injury has to be taken seriously when it involves Josh Beckett. Of course, when we have a dermatological problem, BP has a staff dermatologist. I asked Dr. Rany Jazayerli what he thought about Beckett's latest problem, said to be a skin avulsion: "If it's a true avulsion, then the skin has been ripped through. In a typical friction blister, the skin separates somewhere in the epidermis, or at worst at the basal layer between the epidermis and the dermis. The deeper the blister, obviously, the longer the healing process. In an avulsion, the depth of the injury could be worse-in a worst-case scenario a full-thickness avulsion would tear away the skin all the way through the dermis, in which case it might take weeks to heal. I really don't know in Beckett's case, because I don't know how deep the tear is." If the cut is too deep, Beckett could miss a start or even need to go on the DL. We should know much more in the next couple days, but in any case, this isn't a long-term problem.
  • We finally get a Rich Harden sighting. The A's pitcher is throwing on flat ground and is "at least" ten days away from getting on anything with a slope. Given the time that he's been out and this latest guidance, June 1 would be an aggressive return date. Harden's shoulder is more likely to keep him out at least another month, given a normal progression, though I'm loathe to call anything in this process normal. One observer told me that Harden did appear very loose and threw with little to no effort during his weekend toss session. There's been some rumbling on fan sites that the A's should push Harden down the Kerry Wood path, switching him to relief, but despite his recent woes, I think it's a bit early to start that discussion.
  • Jason Giambi was back in the batter's box after treatment gave him a little relief from the pain in his heels. Giambi's been ordered to take batting practice in his tennis shoes, which raises a couple questions. First, why hasn't Nike, Mizuno, or any of the other equipment companies been able to come up with a set of spikes that approximate the comfort of normal shoes? Even more interesting, why hasn't some shoemaker been able to improve on the age-old metal spikes? Is this really as good as it gets for playing baseball? Giambi's situation is at the daily management stage. If he's able to keep things under control, he should be able to play effectively. However, like any injury that requires active management, it's hard to say how or even if it will affect his game.
  • The Cardinals activated Juan Encarnacion, but only because they had to. Encarnacion had batted well under the Mendoza line at Double-A, but had gone to the maxiumum 20 days on his rehab assignment. Dropped back into the six slot, Encarnacion went 0-3 with a strikeout and showed the same lack of bat control I mentioned with Kendrick. Encarnacion simply doesn't look recovered from his offseason surgery, though it's just one game and sample-size concerns should be noted. The Cardinals as a whole aren't hitting, but adding Encarnacion doesn't appear to be the kick-start that the Cards were hoping for.
  • Here's why you never trade depth-hours after it came public that Jose Castillo was demanding a trade, he was the replacement when Jose Bautista went down with an ankle injury. Bautista had x-rays that came back negative, meaning that he likely won't need to hit the DL. Still, the disgruntled Castillo is now the fill-in third baseman until Bautista is back. The Pirates are in an interesting dilemma, not just with Castillo, but with their depth all around the field. There's no glaring hole in their lineup, they're loaded with lefty starters, have a couple guys off to hot starts in the minors, yet there's no progress in the win column. Using the fantasy rule that in a two-for-one trade, the "one" is usually on the better end of it, the Pirates could put together multiple packages in hopes of upgrading their below-average slots. Plenty of teams would love to have a Ryan Doumit, a Paul Maholm, or a Jose Castillo. If Dave Littlefield can't put together a couple of these over the next couple months, the Pirates will be back in this same situation next year, looking up at the rest of the NL Central.
  • The Marlins' bullpen is a confusing situation, especially given the surprise trade of Jorge Julio. Henry Owens is still ten days away from coming back, leaving Taylor Tankersley as the guy who will get the ball at the end of games despite shoulder issues. Though some would point to the team's record, it's hard to find any spot in the game log where the bullpen situation has cost wins above and beyond the normal. The Marlins hope to get their outfield fixed soon as well: Jeremy Hermida has moved his rehab up to Triple-A, while Alejandro De Aza is finally running a month after a severe ankle sprain.

Quick Cuts: Errata-I stated that Mike Timlin was headed to the DL. I crossed notes between Jeff Weaver and Timlin, then didn't catch the error. My apologies. The item should have read that Timlin is not making progress with his shoulder tendinitis while on the DL. ... Derrek Lee left Sunday's game with neck spasms. It's not considered serious, just uncomfortable. ... The Rangers expect Kevin Millwood to be back on the mound Monday after missing a couple starts with a strained hamstring. ... Jack Cust is now officially the Cris Carter of MLB. ... Bob Wickman will be activated on Tuesday. He'll be back in the closer role for the Braves, at least for now. ... Remember I told you - the next Rihanna is Tami Chynn.

Related Content:  Bat Control,  The Process

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