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September 4, 2007

Under The Knife

Focusing on Focusing

by Will Carroll

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I was reading Steven Poole's blog entry on writing process and abandoning Microsoft Word, when I realized that while everything he said was true-I too all but abandoned Word earlier this year-that the process he describes for his writing is about as opposite of mine as it could be. That's just the nature of it. When I wrote my books, my process was a bit different than that when writing UTK, but I was still in the habits of UTK-not distraction-free writing, but distraction-intensive writing. Whether IMs, emails, phone calls, or text messages, if there was a WriteRoom equivalent of my writing room, I couldn't do the column. So while I dumped Word for the good-enough Google Docs, I'm still keeping my ellipse-filled, distraction-intensive style of writing, because as far as I can tell, there's just no other way.

Powered by ADD, on to the injuries:

  • Pedro Martinez is amazing. He wasn't great in his first outing, but he figured out how to be effective enough to get his team in position to win. If you look at the way he pitched, it's like nothing he's ever done. He mixed in five distinct pitches at varying speeds and locations that seemed to have the Reds off balance. Part of that might be that they didn't have much video to go on (I'd assume, but you never know these days!) and that Martinez didn't pitch this way in the minors. What he called experimenting with different pitches during rehab really paid off. The recovery between this start and next will be key for him and for the Mets, but given their options and an expanded roster, buying him extra rest wouldn't be a big deal. Keeping him at or around the 80-pitch mark for the next couple outings should go a long way in keeping him fresh. This is a case of brilliant handling from day one by the Mets and their medical staff, on top of a brilliant pitching performance by Martinez.
  • The blisters weren't a problem, but the elbow was. Roger Clemens left his Monday start grasping his elbow and complaining of a "grabbing" inside. There's a couple of possible scenarios here, none very good for the Rocket. Over his past couple of seasons in Houston, Clemens would wear down, but the symptoms usually showed up in his leg, not his arm. One reason that his late-season white-hat charge worked so well is that it delayed what many think is an inevitable weardown until later in the season, ideally sometime in late October. It didn't work the last couple of years, and Clemens' quick return to the Bronx may factor in here slightly. It's a lesser workload than he had in 2005 to be sure, but eerily similar to when he began having problems in 2006. Assuming that he is actually aging, we can also assume he'll wear down slightly earlier each year. If he can't go next time his turn is due, Mike Mussina will step back in, something Yankees fans are going to gnash their teeth about regardless. Clemens will have an MRI that will determine the next step, but there's some Nolan Ryan vibes that I'm getting here.
  • Speaking of buying rest, the Mets will give Mike Pelfrey another start after a solid outing this weekend in order to buy a little rest for Orlando Hernandez after El Duque had a cortisone shot in his chronically sore right (push) foot. Hernandez's role is still a bit unclear for the playoffs, and given the shaky recent play by the Mets bullpen, his playoff performance from last year has to be in the front offices' minds. Mostly, this is just two happy coincidences-Pelfrey's solid outing needing a reward and Hernandez's need for a bit of extra rest-rather than anything more planned or sinister.
  • The efficiency that was there against the Cubs was gone for Ben Sheets in his second outing, though the stuff was still there. Seeing Sheets' pitch count creep up before being lifted after six innings with a tie score was uncomfortable; after about 70 pitches, I started looking for Mike Maddux or Ned Yost, but there was very little variance in Sheets' style or effort from that point to when he was finally lifted. It's further and deeper than you'd ideally like to see a guy go in just his second start back in the absence of rehab starts, but in a division chase, asking an ace to go 120 doesn't seem excessive. The question is how Sheets will come back next time in a start that will have just as much pressure and the same pen behind him. In other news, Geoff Jenkins left the game and had x-rays on his foot; the images were negative for fractures, and he's day to day with what they're calling a bone bruise.
  • In a bit of a surprise, Scott Rolen has elected to have surgery to fix his shoulder. Sources tell me that the team is not happy with his decision, having encouraged him to wait. Tony La Russa was quoted in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch as saying he "wanted [Rolen] to make the decision when he wasn't at the height of pain." Apparently, that pain was enough to push Rolen back onto Tim Kremchek's operating table. The surgery should be a minor procedure, so here's the interesting part-it's conceivable that Rolen could be back in time if the Cards made it back to the World Series. Not likely mind you, not on either count, but the procedure anticipated usually takes about six weeks to come back from. While Rolen should be fine for next spring, his last, more major procedure only got him through about a season and a half, and he suffered problems along the way. The sad fact is that Rolen is going to be affected by his bum shoulder for the remainder of his career.
  • It's not often that you hear such a bleak report from a team doctor. However, there wasn't much that George Paletta could say beyond his statement, that he simply hoped that Juan Encarnacion could recover normal function, let alone play baseball again. Descriptions of the injury are notably sketchy, and I'm loathe to report what I've heard, not out of any sense of you don't need to know, but some details you just don't want to know. If you'd like to look up more, feel free to Google "blowout fracture." Encarnacion is facing extensive surgery to rebuild the orbital bones around his eye and cheekbone, but there's nothing but time and hope when it comes to his sight. Better news is coming for the Cards with Mark Mulder due to jump into to the rotation on Wednesday. Mulder will have a limit, likely somewhere around the same 80-85 pitch count that Pedro Martinez had. The Cards can only hope they get the same type of results from their pitcher as the Mets did.
  • The Phillies are getting healthier, but it's hard to say whether they'll have enough time left with their full lineup to make a charge. Chase Utley is back, but the time off he's getting says as much about the state of his hand as it does the virtue of the team's acquisition of Tadahito Iguchi. Utley should be able to ramp up his playing time, but if he doesn't, we'll know he was "rushed." Note the quotes, because rushed has taken on a very negative connotation, where people infer that a player has been put in a bad situation. Admittedly, it's never ideal, but if a training staff can get a player out on the field in a productive fashion and keeps the risk low or acceptable, as long as the player and the payer are willing to do it, why not? The worst-case scenario for Utley is that it re-breaks. Yes, that would be painful, but the subsequent downside would be having it re-fixated and letting it heal it over the offseason. Meanwhile, the Phillies' outfield is playing short-handed. Michael Bourn is still a couple weeks away from his return, while Shane Victorino could be out for the better part of a week after re-injuring his calf.
  • Hank Blalock returned to the Rangers lineup and promptly showed that the shoulder isn't going to affect his hitting. A grand slam was a nice return, but don't be fooled. Watch to see if his throws come back to their previous level. Blalock won't get the full job at third base back-there's just no need-so he should have plenty of time to recover and becomes a nice bat off the bench for Ron Washington. The Rangers are also watching to see if Akinori Otsuka can make some progress in throwing sessions this week. There's little chance of him getting back into competition and less of him getting meaningful innings, but the best result would be avoiding surgery and being ready for next season. His absence has provided a reminder that there's some depth in the Rangers pen, something that should be a strength next season.
  • The annual "maybe we should move Joe Mauer out from behind the plate" talk is starting up, coming with a side order of "maybe he's soft" discussion. Jim Souhan makes a nice case for Mauer moving to third (while making a nice dig at ManU), but this all pre-supposes that Mauer can play an adequate third base. While I think he could, no one has much of an idea, including Mauer himself, who's stated that he's never played the position. Worse, moving him to the hot corner would negate the defensive advantages that Mauer brings. Limiting his time behind the plate is smart from a medhead perspective, but eliminating it? That's a tougher call. If DH isn't a viable option, splitting time with Mike Redmond or whoever behind the plate, then perhaps third base it is. It's a move that the team and Mauer is going to have to make soon; he'll need rest this off-season, but if he's going to be an infielder, it would be better for him to start now.

Quick Cuts: Kenny Rogers made it through his Sunday throwing session, and will start Wednesday for the Tigers. ... Something looked very different about Roy Oswalt from the stretch. I'm not sure if that's good or bad and looking at the video, I can't tell exactly what. Anyone? Have there ever been more foul balls hit than in the Brewers' sixth off Oswalt? ... Paul Maholm is the latest Pirates starter to have problems. He'll miss a start after experiencing Jim Colborn, err, back spasms. It might push Zach Duke into a start despite a terrible outing in Triple-A. ... Anyone else having crashes with Silverlight in Safari on MLB.com? ... Rich Harden threw from a mound, but is at best 10 days away from returning to the A's bullpen. Any setback at this stage would end his season. ... R.I.P. Ottawa Lynx.

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