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July 9, 2007

Under The Knife

Midseason Pause

by Will Carroll

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There's three things I learned this weekend. First, the iPhone draws a crowd. Anytime I took mine out-to check mail, to watch a movie on the plane, or just putting it through security-at least two people wanted to talk about it. Second, I stink at golf. Finally, no one puts on a Ballpark Event like Jamey Newberg. It's not filling fifteen suites or having Jon Daniels answer questions for over an hour that makes it great. It's not even that Jamey and his crew raised nearly $3000 for the "Hello Win Column" Foundation, an organization that brings cancer patients to the ballpark for a night so that they can have fun and forget their troubles. No, it's that during the sixth inning, I got to witness a wedding in the suite. Yeah, two Newberg readers, in matching Hank Blalock jerseys, tied the knot just before the dot race. As Devin Pike, the officiant said, "May your life together always be the seventh inning stretch." How perfect.

Powered by brunch at Wolfgang Puck's, on to the injuries:

  • The Red Sox let Manny Ramirez have his annual All-Star injury. This time it's a bit creative-"intestinal distress"-which means... well, I'm not sure what it means. It might be a nice way of saying upset stomach, but overall, no one seems worried. There's no word on whether Ramirez will head to San Francisco, though he is expected to. The reports are a little better on Curt Schilling, though he doesn't have a firm return date. He was seen throwing long toss over the weekend, definitely a good sign. Schilling wouldn't confirm or deny reports that he wouldn't start again until August 1, but take any date with a grain of salt. It's not just the vagaries of the shoulder injury in play here-the Sox have enough of a lead that they can be ultra-conservative, giving pitchers some rest while figuring out some things. Big leads can make July look a lot like September, so don't be surprised to see the Sox auditioning Clay Buchholz or Jon Lester while giving Schilling some additional time to get healthy.
  • The Phillies are focused on getting their bullpen back in action for the second half, with Tom Gordon about to become the first reliever to come back off of the shelf. He's looked good in his rehab work, and in his last outing on Friday, he hit the low 90's with his fastball and made some Single-A kids look bad with his curve. He could be back as early as the weekend, though it's fluid. Gordon has had no problems pitching, but he's still not where the team wants him to be with recovering from pitching; he's unlikely to be available on back to back days initially. Brett Myers is still just throwing on the side, with his next scheduled session coming on Wednesday. The Phillies have said that he'd be back soon, with Charlie Manuel even giving a July 13th date. That doesn't look likely, as he's still not throwing to hitters. Even if Myers doesn't go on a rehab assignment, he's still at least a week away, and a big question mark as far as effectiveness.
  • For Josh Hamilton, every day is a win, even if he's in a cast. Hamilton ends his storybook first half with his wrist injured and his team struggling, but there's some upside to the first part. That's because Hamilton's wrist is sprained, not broken as first feared, though the most confusing part of the injury is that neither player nor team knows exactly when it happened. The cast is to protect him, and is actually more of an immobilizer than a cast. He's expected to be back shortly after the All-Star break, but as always, things are seldom normal with Hamilton. The rest of the outfield might get even more jumbled up, as the Reds are sure to be showcasing Adam Dunn and Ken Griffey, Jr. in hopes they can finally get their price on one or even both. They will also be without utility infielder Juan Castro for the rest of the season after he tore a ligament in his elbow. I could not confirm that it was his UCL, but if so, he's likely headed for Tommy John surgery.
  • I love when I can actually quote someone on the record. It happens so seldom here, especially in light of the new anti-media medical regulations in place this year. Jon Daniels made no secret of when Mark Teixeira would be back during his Newberg Night Q&A-"First game back from the break," he told the crowd. He didn't go into details on Teixeira's rehab, but all signs point to him working with the Double-A Frisco team due to its proximity. Teixeira shouldn't have any problems when he comes back. At worst, he might be a bit rusty, but if you watch to see how he hits in the rehab games, you should get an idea whether to put him back in the lineup for Thursday.
  • Nick Johnson seemed to make some progress with his comeback in the late spring, but since then, there's been no real news. In this case, no news was good news, because what we have now could be really bad. Johnson saw Dr. Brian Kelly, a doctor who's known for his work in football, about his weakened right hip. Since this comes on top of his recovery from the broken femur, the first thought is that Johnson may be dealing with osteonecrosis in that hip. If you remember Bo Jackson, the term might be familiar to you. Johnson's not likely to be at that stage of severit, but the team is going to have a battery of tests run to try to pinpoint the problem. If you're waiting on Johnson's comeback this season, it's looking very unlikely at this stage.
  • Placido Polanco will definitely miss the All-Star Game, but why is a bit unclear. Variously reported as a strained lat, strained rib cage, and back spasms-all very different injuries-it took several calls to get a definitive answer. The injury appears to be a strained lat, with Polanco's description of it causing the varying reports. Jim Leyland has referred to it as a back spasm, which tells us the muscle is still in the acute stage of distress, while Polanco has described it as his side. The injury shouldn't send him to the DL, but lat strains can linger. With the break coming at an opportune time, it's tough to tell yet how much, if any, time Polanco will miss.
  • Brian Fuentes has been a surprising All-Star for the last couple years, not to mention a fun interview. I'm not sure if it helps that we know now why he had such a precipitous collapse over the last couple weeks-Fuentes has a strained lat, the same muscle that caused Bartolo Colon and Ben Sheets such problems over the last few years. The Rockies are describing the injury as mild and don't expect to push him to the DL, though its mildness certainly didn't show itself in the results. Assuming they're correct and this resolves in a short period, we'll see quickly if that's the reason Fuentes has struggled. The loss of velocity and movement on his pitches does match the symptoms of this type of injury, so this could be a nice "buy low" opportunity if you're looking for saves. The Rockies certainly are.
  • Homer Bailey and Robinson Tejeda are two pitchers that were sent down over the break and there will be more. Don't take this as a demotion, because it's not. The respective teams are simply trying to keep them on schedule during the All-Star break and with both pitchers having options, there's no real reason not to do this. Bailey looked better in his last outing, but by keeping him on schedule, the Reds will also be putting some extra innings on his arm. He's right around 90 innings between Triple-A and the majors now, so he has roughly ten to twelve starts left if the Reds aren't going to push him into the red zone.
  • Chris Carpenter is pitching well in rehab, but he's not pitching much. His latest outing, again in Single-A, lasted only 39 pitches over three innings. To get back to the standard plan-something I'm not sure Carpenter is on-he'd have one more start and he'd need to throw around 75 pitches. When he came back from his nearly identical injury, Kelvim Escobar made a couple relief appearances, but that was because Mike Scioscia needed an extra reliever, not a limitation forced on him by injury. Carpenter's not going to do that, and where his next start might be is up in the air, but the progress he's made thus far has looked good. He's showing that everything is more or less in place, besides his stamina, to enable a jump right back into the top slot in the Cardinals rotation.
  • Quick Cuts: Looks like Lastings Milledge is headed back to Flushing soon, perhaps right after the All-Star break. The Mets need something from their seemingly cursed left field slot. ... Remember Lyle Overbay? If people in your fantasy league have forgot him, he's hitting well in a rehab assignment and should be back quickly. He's showing some power, but it is Double-A. ... Cameron Maybin missed the Futures Game due to an injured shoulder. He'll miss some time after a subluxation. ... The Rays are doing some re-tooling of their rotation over the break, skipping J.P. Howell. Watch to see if they slow down the innings pace on Scott Kazmir and Jamie Shields by bringing up some of the younger guys over the next month, ending up with a de facto six-man rotation. ... The Angels will use the All-Star break to buy Bartolo Colon some rest. They'll skip his next turn, giving him more than ten days between starts.

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