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May 30, 2007

Under The Knife

Fast and Furious

by Will Carroll

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There's an interesting chart waiting to be created out of my inbox. I think I could chart the mood of baseball fans, especially fantasy players, by both the volume and tone of emails. They come in fast and furious (literally) when there's a major injury, especially if it happens to the "Big Five" teams (Yankees, Mets, Dodgers, Cubs, Red Sox). There's almost always a pattern to them--the initial spike of "Did you hear about X", that tapers to "I bet I'm the hundredth person to ask you about X." Then it moves to "Anything new on X?" and starts to end with "What do I do now that X is hurt?" I learned early on while doing UTK that my readers were my most powerful tool--they never let anything slip by, point me to great articles, ask good questions, and help me catch my mistakes. It's no different now that the size of the audience has increased, since there's new ones all the time coming to join the journey that some of us have been on for six years, learning all along the way. I still try to answer each email, even though we have the chats and podcasts. One of these days, I'm going to figure out how to take calls for the podcasts.

Powered by Samsung DLP, on to the injuries:

  • Ryan Freel heads to the DL after his frightening collision in the outfield. While he's expected to recover, the already shorthanded Reds had to make the move for their roster's sake, and are being very cautious with Freel. I asked Joe Sheehan last night if players like Freel--the high-effort, all-out diving guys--are more danger than they're worth. Find me one that isn't always banged up or on the edge of losing his job. Look, you love having those guys around, but they seem fungible. My bigger question is about their tendency to affect the players around them. Norris Hopper came out of the collision fine, but what if it had been Ken Griffey Jr. coming over, or Josh Hamilton? If a player has to endanger himself and the people around him to play at the major league level, maybe we have to question if they really are at the major league level. That said, I think Freel is more like a J.D. Drew than a Bo Hart, someone who's going to have to dial it back, as Drew has done, to have any kind of career.
  • John Smoltz got the double whammy last night. He left with two injuries, but were they related? Smoltz was already playing with a previously dislocated pinky, but reinjured it while batting in the third inning, then injured his shoulder while warming up in the fourth. Early reports are that the team pulled Smoltz as a precaution, noting that his shoulder tightened up after slipping on his final warm-up pitch. The pain from the pinky may have caused some guarding-related muscular tightness, but this does seem as if Smoltz is doing exactly what he told David O'Brien after the game--he's just not as willing to pitch through pain as he once was. Smoltz will throw his normal side session later this week. and the team will decide if he will stay on schedule at that point.
  • Smoltz could teach some of his teammates a lesson about not playing when injured. The Braves will make a DL decision on Chipper Jones this Friday. He won't play before then, which is causing problems for fantasy owners around the country, but remember that besides the special treatment that Jones normally gets surrounding injuries, the team is also very conservative with the DL, waiting as long as possible before making moves. Jones had a cortisone shot that didn't have much effect on the pain and inflammation, so the real hope is that continued rest and treatment will bring the hand back closer to normal. That's admittedly a longshot now, though Jones' reluctance to remain disabled will surely factor into any roster decision. There's no clear-cut replacement either, and no one brought up from the minors is likely to get significant playing time.
  • Bartolo Colon has come up sore and could miss a start. The pitcher is coming back quickly from a rotator cuff tear, but is now said to have triceps tendonitis. Now, I don't think this is the proper term. The triceps tendon is in the elbow, and sources tell me that this is at the origin, near the shoulder. While it's unclear if this is in any way related to the cuff problem, one thing that leaps to mind are the multiple cortisone injections that Colon has had while trying to make it through the shoulder woes over the past few seasons. Cortisone weakens tendons over a period of time, so this problem may--and let me emphasize may--be the long-term consequence of repeated short-term fixes. This one bears watching over the next few days, to see how Colon can recover with rest and treatment.
  • Joe Mauer had something of a setback after workouts earlier this week. He came up sore again, and will have additional tests to make sure that his quad is healed up properly. This raises some questions about his availability for the weekend and about his ability to catch. The rub is, as we noted yesterday, that the Twins will not activate him if he's "only" able to DH. An MRI scheduled for Wednesday morning will determine their course of action, though the team seems happy being conservative with his return. These type of minor setbacks usually aren't that big a deal, but with the type of cascading leg injuries that Mauer is dealing with plus the insistence that he will only catch and not DH, I'm not sure we can treat this one as normal.
  • A's fans probably don't want to hear that Justin Duchscherer is heading to see the same doctors that performed surgery on Jason Isringhausen and his problematic hip last offseason. Then again, given the results that Izzy has had after the surgery, I'm not sure it's that big a negative. Duchscherer's hip doesn't seem to be getting any better, and this latest information should tell us that just trying to pitch through it isn't going to work in the short term. If Duchscherer needs that type of surgery, it's actually possible for him to return late this season, though that's unlikely. Here's a thought--Isringhausen's injury forced Adam Wainwright to the pen, where he helped the Cardinals a ton down the stretch. There's been talk about Rich Harden coming back and relieving. Will that be revisited now?
  • The Mets let the doctors get a good solid look at Shawn Green and decided that despite all of their outfield injuries, he'd be better off hitting the DL. Green had a CT scan that showed he'd need a week off after chipping the tip of his first metatarsal, the bone on the instep of his foot. This new information gives us a lot more to go on, and makes much more sense as to how Green thought he could avoid the DL. While painful, this type of fracture is unlikely to spread, and if there's such a thing as a good location, this is it. Green will be limited from running for at least ten days, but should be back relatively quickly, so this should not represent much more than the minimum DL stint. The Mets won't have Moises Alou back immediately to fill in the gap, but he could be back by the weekend after making continued progress. The team got more good news, in that Jose Valentin was cleared to play in rehab games. His biggest test is going to be adjusting to playing with the brace that will protect his knee from further damage.
  • Charlie Manuel seems a bit defensive when asked about Brett Myers. Myers' conversion to closer isn't about workload, it's about fatigue. The change in approach, warmup, and "stuff" from starter to closer, or even from mere reliever to closer, does things that we simply don't understand. Clearly, for whatever reason, Myers broke down in that switch. Would it have happened had he stayed in the rotation? Maybe. See, the frustrating thing is that we just don't know, making Manuel's "I didn't overwork him" as invalid as anyone that says he did. We don't know where that level is, and absent the invention of a non-invasive electromyogram that can be used in between innings, we'll be caught using inexact proxies and praying that old-school methods like those that Earl Weaver used work for guys like Manuel. Of course, Tom Gordon still hopes to be back before the All-Star break, something that would at least help the Phillies bullpen situation out some.

Quick Cuts: Guillermo Mota comes off of his suspension today for the Mets. He's been working a "rehab assignment," and should be added to the roster. Remember this when you boo Barry Bonds, Mets fans. ... Jason Schmidt will make a rehab start for Single-A Inland Empire on Wednesday. ... Late word on Mark Reynolds is that he did suffer a concussion in Tuesday's collision. More on this when it becomes available. ... No problems for Jeremy Bonderman in his second start back or Josh Beckett in his first. It appears that trainers are getting better with blisters. ... The Dodgers aren't worried about the shoulder soreness that held Takashi Saito out for a game, but don't be surprised to see Jonathan Broxton getting the occasional save chance as the team tries to keep Saito fresh. ... Call it what you want, but Ryan Doumit has a concussion. According to Jim Tracy, he's out with "dizziness" after being hit by a backswing. ... Gustavo Chacin is headed for another MRI on his injured shoulder, not a good sign after better than a month on the DL. ... Watch the injury to Chris Duncan. There may be more here than reported currently, and I'm working on something, hopefully for tomorrow. ... My recent obsession with concussions has brought me to the Ultimate Fighting Championships. Believe it or not, the cagefighters have a better system than any of the other sports. I'll have more on it soon.

Related Content:  Will Myers,  The Call-up,  Quad-a

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