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June 27, 2007

Under The Knife

Unorthodox Solutions

by Will Carroll

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Several years ago, I was at Wrigley Field, down in the Cubs' clubhouse. A player who was an early reader of UTK wanted to introduce me to Sammy Sosa. Of course, I had to struggle to be heard over Sammy's famous boom box, but once he understood who I was, he quickly made it clear that he wanted nothing to do with me. "I'm no hurt. Go away, injury guy," he said. It was true that Sosa wasn't hurt, but how he reacted was funny-and telling. People think that because I talk about injuries, I'm some kind of bearer of bad tidings or even a bad luck charm. Nothing could be further from the truth. I wish there wasn't as much for me to write about. By writing about injuries, I feel like in a very small way, I'm holding up a mirror to baseball. By pointing out injuries and how we can prevent or at least reduce them, it's my hope that the game gets better. I don't revel in a broken leg, or get any joy when a pitcher gets shelled. I hate seeing a hot prospect with bad mechanics almost as much as I writing that the former hot prospect is headed for surgery. I won't lie; I love my job, but I hate that there's such a need for it.

Powered by spy shots of the Mini Clubman, on to the injuries:

  • Instead of visiting the DL, Johnny Damon visited his chiropractor. As Tyler Kepner tells us in today's NY Times, Damon reportedly had four ribs out of place, which was corrected by his Orlando-based chiropractor. The early results are good-Damon didn't just play, he hit a homer in the Yankees' loss. Damon has had lingering problems with his back and legs all season long, so if this is what it takes to get him back on the field, so be it; I'm sure the Yankees will make sure he gets back to Orlando if that proves necessary. The bigger question is if this will last, or if Damon will get back to his occasional unavailability. His resistance to going to the DL is strong, so expect him to keep doing unorthodox things (although chiropractic care is much more accepted in baseball now than it was just a few years ago) in order to stay active.
  • The Orioles are siding with Miguel Tejada in his battle with a fractured forearm. They insist that the non-displaced fracture of his distal radius is the type of injury that heals well, and combined with Tejada's "proven healing ability," he should be back "very quickly." While the source declined to go on record, they did listen while I cited the similarities with Derrek Lee's injury last season. I also noted that Tejada's healing ability is hardly proven; in fact, it's nearly an unknown based on public information. Unless the Orioles have been able to hide other injuriesthat Tejada played through-certainly a possibility-there's not much to go on. A relevant example of this type of player getting hurt is Hideki Matsui, who actually turned out to be an average healer, based on time and injury. It's entirely possible that Tejada is special and can overcome the tyranny of averages, but when it comes to risk, I bet with the house.
  • The Cardinals seem to have their entire team in some sort of injury flux right now. Given their place in the standings, it's not hard to imagine that how they come out of this period will go a long way in determining whether their second half will be meaningful, so there's a lot of pressure on the medical staff. The team expects to get Braden Looper and Yadier Molina back this week, with Molina back behind the plate by the weekend, and Looper slotting back into the rotation even with the impending return of Chris Carpenter and with the acquisitions of Mike Maroth and Tomo Ohka. Carpenter will throw a simulated game on Wednesday, putting him on track to go out on a rehab assignment next week. As I said yesterday, sources tell me that the rehab will likely be no more than one or two games. The news isn't as good with two bats-Jim Edmonds needed a cortisone shot in his back, a quick fix for a problem that has been wearing on him. Right now, Edmonds is so slowed down by a multitude of injuries that the team is actually considering whether to shift him to a corner slot and see if they can take some of the wear and tear off him. Scott Rolen is also hurting; in his case, the ball he fouled off of his foot is keeping him from putting much weight on it at all. If that doesn't improve quickly, the team is going to have to DL him, though the team thinks that the bruise should respond in time to avoid that.
  • Joe Saunders got sent down from the Angels to Triple-A, but he's not going anywhere, because on top of the sore shoulder that caused Jered Weaver to miss his last start, now it appears that Weaver has strep throat. If he's unable to make his start tonight-and it doesn't look good at this stage-Saunders would be recalled, and Weaver placed on the DL. Since this would be a retro move, Weaver wouldn't need to be on the DL for long while the team gets a pitcher it needs. The Angels are also a bit concerned about Bartolo Colon, though much of their concern stems from what one source says are his "flat balls." (Yeah, you hear some funny phrasing in this job.) What he's saying is that Colon's fastball has seemed to flatten out; I can't wait for the point where I can call Dan Fox and check this out. The Angels will also be without Gary Matthews Jr. for a couple days, as he's down with a sore hamstring. He says he won't need to go to the DL, though the team will keep that option on the board in case of a setback or slow return.
  • Rich Harden seemed downcast when speaking about his abortive first relief outing. Filled with adrenaline and with all the A's hopes placed firmly on his fragile shoulder, Harden appears to have let the pressure get the best of him, pushing it too much his first time out. Harden told reporters that when he "tried to put something on it" he got the same pain that he had back in April. That's a bad sign, though sources tell me that Harden is far from back to his April status. In fact, he was throwing long toss with Bob Geren on Tuesday, and figures to be available for another relief outing this weekend, likely on Saturday. If you notice the similarities to a starter's rest period there, you're not alone. In some other good news, Huston Street has thrown two days in a row, and sources say that the team is very excited about the progress he's made since returning from Canada. The team is now thinking that he'll be back in mid- to late July. Finally, Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle reports that Justin Duchscherer is making progress and hopes to be on a rehab assignment next week.
  • The Jays breathed a collective sigh of relief after A.J. Burnett made it through his final bullpen session without problem. Due to start tomorrow, the Jays think that Burnett's shoulder will hold up well, though they appear to be taking few chances early on in his return. He'll be on a pitch limit of 100, but a source tells me that "100 is an upper limit. It's the Rubicon, not a suggestion," I was told in a slight malaprop. As with any shoulder injury, we'll be looking for velocity and stamina over the first few starts; given the workload prior to the strain, it's fair to think that after a couple of weeks spent resting, and with a managed workload, Burnett should be fine in the immediate future. The bigger problem will be when the pitch limits are raised or even lifted.
  • The Nats got some good news, if you consider no bad news to be the equivalent of good news. Shawn Hill saw Dr. James Andrews in Birmingham and came away without any negative reports. Despite the need for multiple drainings, his pitching elbow is not structurally damaged, though it's clear that his mechanics are causing him problems. There are unconfirmed reports that there may have been some analysis done of his mechanics, though I know that Dr. Glenn Fleisig was in Anaheim for the annual NATA convention. Also, for you Nats fans that jumped on me for slagging Cristian Guzman yesterday, my statement that I hadn't noticed he'd returned was aimed at me, not him. I had simply and literally not noticed his return.
  • Quick Cuts: Remember Kerry Wood? He was scheduled to throw in the pen on Tuesday, with hopes that he'll be able to start some kind of rehab assignment around the All-Star break. We'll see. ... Anybody want to take over my T-Mobile plan? I'll toss in the Dash for free. You know where to reach me. ... Jeff Cirillo is filling in for Justin Morneau now, but his knees aren't dealing well with the Minnesota turf. He'll need some time off, which is problematic for a team that's already thin on the bench. ... Brian Giles looked "strong" in his rehab according to one observer. He should be back in San Diego by the weekend. ... Bobby Kielty is on rehab in Triple-A Sacramento; he'll need a few more days that his eligible return date of Thursday, but not by much. ... Nate Robertson looked solid in his first start coming off the DL, though he did not get a decision. As expected, the only concern with him was stamina.

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