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August 22, 2007

Under The Knife

Life Goes On

by Will Carroll

"In three words, I can sum up everything I know about life: it goes on." Robert Frost was correct; it does. For the past few weeks, life seemed to come to a screeching halt, but it goes on. My mother, after a long battle with melanoma, passed on Saturday. We had her memorial on Tuesday evening, which means that it's time for me to go on. This column drives me, and to stop seemed almost unnatural, as if it was the opposite of what she would have wanted. She didn't like baseball, but she understood that I had a passion for it, and she supported that passion. She liked seeing me on TV, more because it made me dress better than for anything I had to say. She left me with a drive to do something, not just to write, but to make a difference. Over the next few weeks, you'll see the start of something that I hope is big. I'll be teaming up with the Shade Foundation to help raise awareness and research to keep someone else's mother from going through what mine did. In the meantime, it goes on.

Before we start, one quick note: I'm not going to try and catch up. In the six years that UTK has existed, I never took this much time off during the season, in large part because of a fear that no one would miss it. Now, faced with that, I'm just going to move on as if I'd written yesterday's column. Injuries that are important tend to linger, so we'll hit them eventually.

Powered by memory, back to the injuries:

  • The Phillies are in the playoff chase, but without Cole Hamels, their task gets a lot tougher. He'll have an MRI to see how damaged his elbow is, but many of the reports are using some semantic games to minimize the injury, making many wonder if it's worse than what is currently being reported. Naturally, many of the whispers have turned to the possibility of Tommy John surgery. It doesn't appear that Hamels is at that stage, though there's already been some discussion internally on whether he'll need scoping to get a look at that ligament.

    In better news for Phillies phans, both Shane Victorino and Michael Bourn are making progress from their leg injuries. Victorino will be back much more quickly from his calf strain, perhaps as early as Wednesday's game, while Bourn is just beginning to run and should be back during the first week of September.

  • The Brewers are fighting for their playoff lives right now, but much of their hope is forward-looking. Ben Sheets is on the verge of coming back, and perhaps in the clubhouse more than on the mound, that might provide a turnaround. Sheets' leadership is one of those things you can't quantify, but putting him back into a rotation that just demoted Chris Capuano certainly should be a major positive. His strained finger made it through Monday's simulated game, though he did develop a small blister. He's definitely not headed to the minors. Instead, the question is whether he'll start on Saturday, or whether they'll hold him back and throw him in their important series against the Cubs next week. By Thursday, we'll know what they've decided.
  • High ankle sprains are bad and tend to linger, which makes the quick recovery of Edgar Renteria all the more notable. Renteria is due to be activated Wednesday, having missed just the bare minimum of time since he was injured. Sources tell me that Renteria isn't showing any deficits in drills and appears to be back to full strength, just as he says. Some are even questioning whether Renteria did in fact have a high ankle sprain. Remember that at the time, the injury didn't look as serious as it turned out to be. Based on what I've been able to find out, it's one of those things where we're looking at a quick-healing player with an injury that was right on the borderline for a DL move, rather than a misdiagnosis.

    Elsewherre, the Braves have pushed starter Chuck James to the DL. James has been shelled lately and reports of shoulder tightness were enough for them to give him some time off. The shoulder is reportedly not painful, just tight and not allowing him to get to his normal arm slot and release point in his delivery. The team will use the DL stint to try and calm the shoulder, making sure his mechanics are sound before sending him back out there in early September.

  • The Astros are in no position to take risks with their ace. Roy Oswalt has a mild oblique strain, something he's had in the past, but with the team out of the race, they overruled his stubborn desire to pitch through it. He's not going to the DL yet, though the team is entertaining the idea. This isn't serious, but missed starts for Oswalt are certain to affect some fantasy owners. Remember that Oswalt heals quickly and tends to come back well, so don't be scared to start him when he does come back. It's my best guess that he'll make his next start early next week.

    The news isn't as good for Jason Jennings. His tenure with the Astros will end with surgery to repair a torn flexor tendon near his elbow. He should be recovered early next spring, though expecting him back for spring training will be pushing it. Given the exceptionally thin pitching market this winter, Jennings is still likely to get a Mark Mulder-like deal. In some good news, Hunter Pence was activated, although there may still be some bat control issues.

  • Obliques have a tendency to recur. The strain that the Padres' Chris Young overcame quickly seems to be coming back, but with a twist--Young's having trouble with his back, not his oblique, though there's a bit of an overlap issue. Muscles run together, making it difficult to say where someone is hurt exactly, not to mention the fact that most teams don't give us precise information. Young's trouble appears to be interrelated, with his back sore since his comeback, which seems to indicate that his body is compensating for the oblique muscle being weakened by the initial strain. It's a classic cascade injury, but luckily one that was caught early. Young may miss a start if they can't get the pain/spasm cycle broken quickly, but he should be able to avoid the DL.
  • Mike Lowell almost had his season end last night, but it was averted by a makeshift device. According to several sources, Lowell has a piece of catcher's shinguard taped to the top of his hand. It's a brilliant idea, so brilliant I wonder why it's not more universal in some ways. While there are some devices, like a padded batting glove or the more protective cricket gloves, Mike Reinold and crew can make do with some tape, though it's unclear when and why this started. Lowell took a solid fastball off his protected hand and when the ball hit the hard plastic, the sound was evidently very like a bone breaking, a hollow crack. The sound indicated that the bone didn't break, and that Lowell would keep playing. Chalk one up for the trainers in this case, and start checking to see how many other players have some type of protection we haven't noted.
  • The Angels aren't sure what to expect from Bartolo Colon for the rest of the year, but they're hoping they have a better idea after he throws a simulated game sometime this weekend. If the sim game goes well, Colon could head out for a very quick rehab assignment, perhaps as little as one game; remember, the minor league season is coming to a close. Given the nature of his problems--a cascade from his injured shoulder to his now-injured elbow--it's almost impossible to gauge whether or not he'll hold up over any sort of extended outing. The Angels and Mike Scioscia have been creative before, using Kelvim Escobar in the pen after his elbow problems from a few years ago, so don't be surprised if you see that type of move again.
  • The Rays hope to have Rocco Baldelli back on September 1, when rosters expand. The flexibility that expansion allows will give them a chance to play and rest Baldelli in ways that they can't with a 25-man active roster that includes 12 pitchers. Joe Maddon isn't going to lead a change back to the 10-man staff, although that might have to be one of Baldelli's better hopes. His legs might not allow him to ever be a full-time outfielder, meaning he's going to need to find the right situation to ever reach even a portion of his potential. Sometimes things click, as they have for J.D. Drew. I think it will take a trade, perhaps to the Rangers for Max Ramirez and Gerald Laird, to give Baldelli his best chance. For now, he's playing in the minors on rehab, mostly DHing.
  • Quick Cuts: We'll deal with Kirk Radomski later. Suffice it to say that it's not good, and that unlike Mark McGwire, he doesn't mind talking about the past. ... The Dodgers are trying to find rest for Russell Martin, but they're doing a bad job of it. An interesting thought--is there a "catch count" or some kind of innings limit on catchers? ... Follow me.... Rich Harden is throwing long toss, but it's looking less likely that there will be any sort of return to the mound this season. Unlike last year, there's no pressing need besides trying to figure out what kind of future Harden has. ... Mike Sweeney reluctantly heads out on a rehab assignment. He thought he didn't need it, but the Royals did; he should be back with the team on September 1. ... Joel Zumaya was activated on Tuesday and looked solid. ... Zach Duke will make a start Wednesday in Bradenton. If it goes well, he'll be back for the Pirates in September. If not, he'll be shut down. ... Jason Hirsh has begun long tossing. His comeback from a broken fibula is moving along nicely, meaning he could be back in the rotation shortly. ... I cannot thank you, my readers and friends, enough for the thoughts and prayers. They mean more than I can say.

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