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May 22, 2007

Under The Knife

The Policy of Truth

by Will Carroll

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I realize I may be one of the few people watching to hear things like "epitestosterone ratio" and "custodial malfeasance," but watching the Floyd Landis hearings only reminded me how good baseball's policies for testing are. They're not perfect--there are always going to be people that beat the tests, either through creativity, cost, or brute power. After so many calls for an industry-wide policy over the years and the alterations that have been agreed to, I think baseball is second to none in the matter of its policy. The game has crafted one that will likely never be contaminated by the type of serio-dramatic problems of cycling, the crass indifference of football, or the political problems of the Olympic movement. I'd like to see baseball get to the stage where, like the Olympics, the sport is seen as keeping the cheaters to an absolute minimum by creating significant challenges of cost and creativity for the aspiring cheat. What really comes of that sort of testing regime is an atmosphere where talent will almost always wins out. Give football credit for acting early and making sure that they won the public relations battle that's a good half of the testing equation; that's a spot where baseball continues to fail. Still, baseball is further along than most sports, and it's about time the public recognized this. It bears repeating: for all of its problems, baseball has done more than I ever expected and more than any other professional sport, despite a lot of reasons and obstacles.

Powered by my friends at Rally's Hamburgers, on to the injuries:

  • Roy Halladay is back to throwing pitches less than two weeks after his appendectomy. That's pretty amazing, but what's more amazing is that an observer told me that Halladay looked ready to go. Getting his appendix out wasn't the best way to get some rest and fix whatever was going on with his shoulder, though more than one person has suggested to me that the appendectomy suggests Halladay was hurting in his last start and that what I saw as poor mechanics may have in fact been a weakened core. We'll see once he comes back, which could be as soon as late next week. The interesting thing is that Halladay's back so quickly that he doesn't lose much stamina, making a rehab start unnecessary. I'm not sure we need to completely re-set the timeline on this type of procedure, but it's close.
  • The Angels saw what we saw in Howie Kendrick--a guy that wasn't quite ready to come back from his rehab assignment. After seeing Chone Figgins struggle early in his return from a finger injury, the team became convinced that they couldn't afford to let their young second baseman do the same thing. "It's about confidence," one source told me. "Mike Scioscia doesn't have the same confidence that he knows Kendrick and what he'll do that he did in Figgy." It's also a matter of Kendrick's confidence, a trait that the old school mindset of the Angels wants to be sure isn't broken by an injury-related slump. Kendrick isn't going back to Triple-A for long, just long enough to prove to everyone that he's ready. Once again, what we're looking for is bat control.
  • The White Sox do rehab better than almost anybody, bringing back nearly every player ahead of any other team's expected schedule. What's not noted as frequently is their outstanding work on maintenance. Joe Crede has known back issues--something that seems to plague the team--but it's very seldom that it acts up enough to keep him out of games, or even have any effect on his game. There aren't many teams who could keep a guy in the lineup and productive with a back injury that very nearly necessitated surgery last offseason. Crede was diagnosed with two herniated discs, so the risk of an exacerbation leading to that surgery is still there, but Herm Schneider and his staff have been able to keep Crede in the game so far. Thinking about Crede like we did with Mark Kotsay prior to his spring surgery is smart--he'll be productive when available, but there are going to be brief periods where the back will be acting up.
  • As the A's deal with the absence of Huston Street, the continued absence of Justin Duchscherer reminds us that 'injury stacking'--an injury that occurs at the same position or to in-line depth as with a closer/setup/short relief continuum--is something that few teams deal well with. The A's have shuffled the decks in the outfield and remained competitive, so is it too much to ask them to do so in the pen? While it's sabermetric orthodoxy that a closer is less important than a center fielder and that closers are found not created, it's tougher role to cast for in the short term. Duchscherer is no closer to a return than he was before the cortisone shot in his hip, meaning that either more aggressive measures to get the pain and inflammation down are going to need to be used, or he'll have to just take the time and rest needed to get back to a place where he can pitch. Patience isn't something the A's have shown with injuries this season, in large part due to their debilitating multiplicity. That Oakland has only picked up one save since Street went to the DL is telling.
  • The Tigers expect Jeremy Bonderman to take the mound on Thursday. They also expect him to show no problems with the blister on his finger. Blisters always have some recurrence risk, and we've seen enough pitchers over the past few seasons develop chronic blister problems that the Tigers are appropriately concerned. Just remember that this is now a known problem, one that can be watched closely by the trainers and addressed with small, maintenance-style changes. Bonderman will throw his normal side session on Tuesday, and barring a setback, he'll be back in the rotation as expected.
  • The Twins will be without Glen Perkins for at least a couple weeks after a shoulder injury. The lefty injured his teres major, but according to Dr. Keith Meister, it isn't torn. He'll head to the DL, and pushing him back down on the list of possible starters to round out the rotation. On the heels of Dennys Reyes' rotator cuff problems, despite of all their pitching depth, the Twins pen is looking thin this week.

Quick Cuts: If you wonder why the Yankees might bring Roger Clemens up after just two minor league starts, just read this year's BP essay on the Astros and look at the standings. There's nothing Clemens is going to learn in the minors, and sources tell me he's bored. ... There's a possibility that Jason Schmidt could head out on a rehab assignment by next week. If so, he's about three weeks away from returning, well ahead of most predictions. ... Derrek Lee is expected back in the lineup for the Cubs today, but it will be a game-time decision. The neck spasms are something you should keep in mind due to the recurrence risk. ... Dave Roberts is already swinging a bat and could be back from elbow surgery in early June. ... Jason Jennings is due to make one last rehab start in Triple-A before returning to the Astros. All I know is that the guy is killing my Strat team right now.

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