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May 25, 2007

Under The Knife

Protective Caps

by Will Carroll

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For years now, I've been looking for solutions to the problem of pitchers being hit with batted balls. Happily, the solution is almost a reality. I've talked about the miracle substance called D3O in the past, but after experiencing it, I think that we're closer than ever. My friends from Xtreme Xperience in Canada (there is no U.S. retailer) sent me a couple demo Ribcaps. A few quick tests later, I'm amazed. They've turned a more-or-less normal looking knit cap into a what is nearly a helmet-like protective device. It's not going to replace helmets, but it's a nice intermediate step. If John Olerud were playing today, he'd have one of these. I'm hoping to have a rep on BPR soon and some video, but many of you will enjoy the mental image of me hitting myself in the head with a ball. Painless? No. Better? Absolutely.

In catastrophic cases where pitchers are hit by batted balls, this type of setup could mean the difference between life and death, or at the very least limiting a major injury. That New Era hasn't figured out a way to integrate this technology into the caps of pitchers and catchers is sad; change needs to happen and happen soon no matter where the solution comes from. We need it at all levels, quickly.

Powered by the new dog, Addison, on to the injuries:

  • When I turned in UTK yesterday, there was no new information I had to add about Brett Myers and his shoulder injury. Today, there's not much more, but over 200 e-mails force me to discuss it. Myers' apparent shoulder injury came with a quick loss of velocity, and showed some signs of being a rotator cuff injury. When Myers grabbed at the arm, he grabbed near the elbow and lifted. While most of the time an injured athlete's first reaction will be to grab and protect the injured part, sometimes there are other actions taken, especially in an area thats hard to reach. By lifting the arm, Myers may have been unconsciously taking stress off the shoulder, especially the rotator cuff. This is hardly the same as knowing the results of his MRI, something that appears to be scheduled for this morning. The question now is who replaces Myers as the team's closer in the short term; there are several candidates, including the just-returned Ryan Madson and former closer Antonio Alfonseca. The Phils might also bring up Mike Zagursky, a lefty closer from Double-A.

    The team also the nice problem of finding roster space for Ryan Howard, due to come off of the DL today. Howard has reported no problems with his quad during his rehab, yet the team seems surprisingly slow to get him back. It's interesting to note that Howard's rehab was overseen at Single-A Lakewood by longtime Phils trainer Jeff Cooper, who retired before the season.

  • The Braves sent Mike Gonzalez for another MRI. It's his third, and reports are that it hasn't set back his rehab, but was done to see if there was any change in his elbow after he began throwing. The Braves medical staff still doesn't have a solid diagnosis for what caused his velocity to drop and his elbow to swell up, leaving them in the uncomfortable position of hoping that things go well as he pitches his way back. He's eligible to return on June 1 and appears to be on track. Chipper Jones also has another injury to deal with--he had a cortisone injection in his right hand to help with some inflammation that he has at the base of his thumb. He'll be out through Saturday at least, but watch to see that he's able to swing normally from both sides of the plate before putting him back in your lineup.
  • A Ribcap wouldn't have protected Tom Gorzelanny from the Aaron Miles smoke-shot on Thursday afternoon. The smash came right up the middle and hit Gorzelanny on the back of his pitching hand, forcing him from the game. Fortunately, x-rays came back negative, and sources tell our own John Perrotto that the bruise did not look too bad after the game, and that Gorzelanny is expected to make his next start. The team will nevertheless sensibly wait to see how the hand responds prior to his normal side session before determining if he'll make that start. Tony Armas, just forced from the rotation, is available to fill in, with the Pirates unlikely to dig into their collection of Triple-A arms since Gorzelanny will not be pushed to the DL.
  • The Cinderella story ended quickly for Alejandro De Aza. The surprise Opening Day center fielder for the Marlins only lasted about a week before an ankle injury sidelined him. Since then, the ankle has stayed painful and swollen, making many wonder if something more was going on beyond a simple sprain. An MRI finally showed that yes, there was. De Aza has a small fracture in the ankle that may have been the root cause, though there's some speculation that the weakened ankle may have been more susceptible to a subsequent injury. Now that the problem is known, De Aza's timeline shifts, and he could miss time through the All-Star break.
  • After just more than a month on the DL, Orlando Hernandez will return for the Mets this weekend. His shoulder has made it through his simulated games without problem, though the team has little expectation of him going deep into games over his next few starts. In essence, they'll be pairing Hernandez with someone in a modified tandem. The intention is to get enough innings to avoid overtaxing the bullpen at the same time that they protect Hernandez from trying to do too much. It's a smart move by a team looking to improve its pitching without making any sort of panic move. The team is essentially building a playoff rotation, and banking that it will have enough to muddle through the regular season. All of this hinges on Pedro Martinez being ready around August 1, something that still appears on track, though we'll need to start getting more signs that he's progressing.
  • As we get closer to the draft, I took a look to see if the high usage of David Price was comparable to anyone in the past. With the help of Boyd Nation, who watches college baseball with a medhead eye and a calculator, I came across one interesting name who was worked hard in college: Justin Verlander. Verlander had a crazy workload during his time at Old Dominion, and hasn't been slacking over the past season and a half in Detroit. Given his lanky frame and workload, it's easy to assume that Verlander would be alongside names like Kenny Baugh, Kyle Sleeth, and other high-workload draftees who came up injured early on in their pro careers. Did the Tigers learn something, or is Verlander simply one of those freaks that can accept a high workload without apparent problems? That's unclear at this early stage, but workload alone makes it tough to make any judgment about Price's worthiness at the #1 slot. That means the rest of it has to factor in--the mechanics, the pitchability, and the finances--which means that Kevin Goldstein and Bryan Smith have their work cut out for them just as the Rays do heading into June.

Quick Cuts: Just a coincidence that Gary Majewski was called up from Triple-A as the Reds match up with the Nats. Riiiiight. ... Abraham Nunez will miss some time after being hit during a catcher's throw attempt and suffering a concussion. It's one of the odder injuries I've seen. ... Ladies, would one of you please explain the appeal of Kid Rock to me? ... Jae Seo gives up 13 hits and seven runs in five innings--and gets the win. Good lord, someone remind people of this next time they talk smack about a BP stat. ... The Rays finally pushed Josh Paul to the DL after a rough tag play at home hyperextended his elbow. ... Adam Loewen will find out if his fractured elbow is healing properly next week. The team is hoping he can avoid surgery. ... Batgirl, I salute you, and I thank you.

I could take all this steroid stress and let it worry me. Instead, I'm going to head to Carb Day tomorrow with my pal Jenn. If you're there (and sober), say hi. Otherwise, check in on this weekend's BPR for conversation with Dave Littlefield, GM of the Pirates, and a report from Japan. See you next week.

Related Content:  The Who,  Fractured Ankle,  Quad-a

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