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May 20, 2007

Under The Knife

Yuck, Ouch, and Grumble

by Will Carroll

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Another weekend of baseball, this one spiced with interleague intrigue, the whispers about teams that have gone off the rails, and steroid talk. Jason Giambi have have put his foot in his mouth by trying to be honest, raising the ire of both MLB and the union. With the Mitchell investigation crawling along, though, it's really nothing more than a signpost story, something to note en route the fork in the road up ahead. Down one path is Barry Bonds earning acknowledgment as the Home Run King, even if it ends up being seen as the same type of crown as the one Pete Rose wears as Hit King. Down the other is the possibility that Mitchell, Novitzky, or somebody else derails Bonds' bid sometime during the next few weeks. No matter how crazy things get, at least baseball will ever top the drama surrounding Floyd Landis' appeal of his doping suspension, right? In an age where UFC can overtake boxing in popularity, I guess anything is possible.

Powered by Kelly Pavlik's nasty knockout, on to the injuries:

  • Removing a rib sounds like a gruesome procedure, and like most surgeries, it is. The procedure will be done on Hank Blalock Monday in order to correct a nerve that runs into the shoulder. The pictures linked above, while graphic, do a better job of explaining this procedure than I could do here, but for those of you with weak stomachs, they'll remove a portion of the first rib just below the collarbone. While this is more often seen in pitchers, the fact that it is in Blalock's throwing shoulder does complicate things for the third baseman. He'll miss somewhere around twelve weeks, leaving the Rangers looking for a solution in the meantime. Blalock should be able to return without problem after his rehab, but this is another obstacle that has held him well below most expectations.
  • Now that's an entrance. Derrek Lee is still dealing with neck spasms, but was well enough to knock the White Sox down and the ball into the distance when he hit a pinch-hit grand slam off of Boone Logan. Lee had missed most of the week while he tried to get his neck better with rest and rehab. No one seems to know the root cause of the problem, though most Cubs sources have been reluctant to talk with me this week. Lee is not yet ready to return to the lineup as a starter, but it doesn't look like it's far off. The Cubs are also moving into "moving on" stage by shaking up their bullpen with a decision to start grooming Angel Guzman to close. What does that mean for Kerry Wood? He's just beginning to throw after a couple months off, more doctor visits, and a cortisone injection into his problematic shoulder. There's no timetable at all, let alone an expectation for his return.
  • Josh Hamilton is used to rumors. In this case, there's no need. While several conspiracy theorists tried to turn his recent poor play and trip to the hospital into something, it was merely gastroenteritis, something most of us would call an upset stomach or stomach flu. I don't say this to minimize his condition, but to say that it's being treated just as it would for any other player. The fact that Hamilton has had problems in the past informs any thoughts on him, but they can't be the most important piece of information in cases where there's no evidence. Any player on the Reds with similar symptoms would be similarly sidelined and similarly treated. Where we can, let's try to give the kid the same treatment ourselves.
  • Howie Kendrick should be back with the Angels early next week, but did we see what we had hoped to from his rehab assignment? Coming into Saturday's game, Kendrick had gone 2 for 11 with four strikeouts and no walks. One of his hits was for a home run; that only shows that the hand is sound, not that it can exhibit the same kind of bat control he's known for. Yes, it's a small sample size, but it's still not a positive indicator, and we'll have to hope that he can show more over the next few days. Otherwise, Kendrick is someone who you might want to bench for the first week he's back in the bigs. The Angels are also hoping that Garret Anderson will be back soon-he ran the bases on Friday, but the bigger news is that Anderson is not likely to go on a rehab assignment before returning to the lineup.
  • The problem, as I understand it, is that Rickie Weeks still has some scar tissue built up in his wrist. Every once in a while, it will break free or tear. It's not a big deal other than that it causes some discomfort. Weeks is still guarded when it comes to his wrist, and still adjusting to having it become a chronic but minimal problem. His batting struggles so far this year can't really be blamed solely on the wrist-Weeks has actually adjusted well, increasing his walks while not seeing his strikeout rate climb appreciably. Both suggest that he's maintaining bat control, a positive sign. Given that his power has gone up at the same time, I see this as more of an adjustment period than one where injury is actually holding Weeks back, another big positive. Yes, it's buy low time.
  • Tim Lincecum's performance on Thursday will have more to say on the subject of Russ Ortiz coming back than Ortiz's rehab outings. While Ortiz had no problems with his elbow or the opposition in his first rehab start on Thursday, there's no rush in getting him back up; unless he suddenly starts channelling Juan Marichal, he'll head to the bullpen when he returns to the Giants. Moving to the bullpen isn't as big a deal as many are making it out to be. Given the likelihood of someone in the rotation suffering an injury, Ortiz provides solid depth. More importantly, the Giants will likely monitor the innings they put on Lincecum's arm during the course of the season. Ortiz could step in as a spot starter down the stretch, as the Giant take a cue from how Detroit kept Justin Verlander from racking up innings as they headed into the playoffs last season.
  • Nats pitchers are dropping like flies, yet Manny Acta's team doesn't seem much worse. Is this more of a commentary on Acta's managerial skill, or on the fact that the team's pitching stunk so badly that the drop to the replacements isn't noticeable? Given that two of the recent DLers, Shawn Hill and Jason Bergmann, put up very solid performances just before being shelved, I'd say that it's more the former. Acta isn't going to pull a Girardi and make this team look like a contender at any point in the season-he doesn't have a Dontrelle Willis, let alone a Miguel Cabrera, Hanley Ramirez, or Dan Uggla. To help patch the rotation, the team is hoping that John Patterson can make it back sometime in early June. He's throwing, but the big test will come when he gets back on the mound in about a week. He's still several weeks away from a return, and let's face it, he's only been healthy once in his career.
  • A's minor leaguer Craig Italiano used to be famous for being an out-of-character pick for the team. He was a fireballing Texas high schooler rather than the orthodox Moneyball pick that people expected. Sadly, the talent that inspired the A's to break from their own habits has never had a chance to develop. Coming off a shoulder problem, Italiano was struck by a line drive earlier this week, and left the game with a fractured skull. I've gone on and on about the need to protect pitchers from this type of injury over the past few years, but at least Italiano was lucky, and looks to be headed for a full recovery.
  • The Reds have filed a formal grievance over the Gary Majewski trade. The complaint centers on whether the Nationals indeed turned over all required records. Due to circumstances surrounding this issue, I'm not going to comment on this until there is a decision made. I appreciate the many emails asking for my opinion on the situation, but it's simply not appropriate for me to comment on this one.

Quick Cuts: Here's an interesting stat on Daisuke Matsuzaka : he's giving up a slash stats of .235/.300/.342. In other words, he turns opposing teams into Alex Cora. ... Chris Young (Arizona version) will miss a couple games with a minor groin strain. His one weakness so far has been fragility, especially in the legs. ... Way, way, way too much information. ... Is Roger Clemens going to end up as pitching coach of the Yankees or Astros? Don't be surprised if that's his next stop. In the meantime, he's doing some pitching and some teaching while he makes his way back to the Bronx. ... I'll be back in Florida this week and then at Indy 500 festivities once I get back, so please forgive slow email responses.

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