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September 7, 2007

Under The Knife

October Impact

by Will Carroll

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It's the end of a whirlwind week, and for the first time this season, I watched more football than baseball. Then again, there wasn't much to watch in a game made for TV commercials, so at least there were some good ones. Joseph Addai gave me (and much of Indianapolis) a scare on the first play, but by halftime, I could watch in passing and start working on UTK for today. After a short day of baseball, UTK's going to be a bit short as well, though the injuries we have could be the difference in some of these races, plus we're starting to see injuries that could have an impact into October.

It's a great time to be a fan, so powered by a secret energy drink that I've been working on with the manufacturer, on to the injuries:

  • The Yankees have been using up the punches on their "Buy four, get the fifth free" card at MRI's 'R Us this month, sending Alex Rodriguez for an MRI on his injured ankle just days after sending Roger Clemens in for one on his elbow. Rodriguez's ankle came back with only a bruise and mild sprain, but no internal structural damage. Those ailments certainly aren't affecting his play at the plate so far, though that's in large part due to the excellent treatment he's been getting. It's going to be a maintenance problem that the Yankees medical staff will have to stay ahead of to keep him on track for another MVP award, and another chance to step up in October.
  • The Angels are on a tear right now, but maybe "tear" isn't a word you want to use to describe their play. Vladimir Guerrero will miss some time with what is being called an inflamed triceps. Sources are telling me that this could be more serious, though the two people I have talked to on this disagree with each other. One says that the problem is really in Guerrero's shoulder, while the other tells me there's a "significant tear" in Guerrero's triceps. Given the symptoms, either explanation could be correct, so we'll have to sit back and wait for more solid information or for Guerrero to prove both wrong. The Angels have enough of a lead that they can give Guerrero time to heal up. If this is more than just inflammation, keeping him healthy down the stretch is going to become job one, meaning he's likely to see a lot of off-days.
  • The Red Sox won't be as damaged by being without Doug Mirabelli as they once were. I'll always remember them needing him so badly that they had to make an unbalanced trade and get him a police escort back into Fenway. Now, Kevin Cash has proven that he can adequately catch Tim Wakefield, so the Sox can let Mirabelli get his legs back under him. After coming back from a calf injury, Mirabelli left Thursday's game with an apparent hamstring strain. While the severity isn't yet known, the Sox have plenty of time to let him heal up in all but the worst scenarios.
  • Speaking of catchers, one of the biggest questions at the start of the season was who was the best of the great young catching crop. Joe Mauer was coming off a batting title, with Brian McCann and Russell Martin not far behind him. With two of those, injuries and workload become the defining variable. Mauer's leg problems have started up the talk of moving him to third base or DH, but I'm more worried about Martin's workload. Even when injured, as Martin is after being diagnosed with a sprained knee, the Dodgers keep loading up Martin. At some point we're going to figure out either that Martin is a freak of nature, or that he couldn't hold up under this workload; I'm not sure I like that binary outcome. Only the knowledge that Stan Conte is watching all the Dodgers' players gives me any reason for optimism.
  • After the way he exited, in such pain that he was biting his glove, it's good to see Jair Jurrjens throwing again. There's some question over whether he'll return this season, and if so in what role, though those answers are going to be dictated by the Tigers' playoff chances as much as Jurrjens' arm. The young pitcher has had arm problems at the end of seasons, making many wonder if he's not more suited to relief work, though the Tigers haven't yet given up on their young pitcher's starting chances yet. The most likely timing for his return would be the Tigers' upcoming doubleheader against the Rangers, but that's really pushing it on time and stamina. The Tigers also liked what they saw from Gary Sheffield. It was clear his timing was still a bit off, but some long fouls showed that for now the shoulder is strong enough to generate fear among the guys on the mound. The worry now is that it won't stay that way. Sheffield is likely headed for another cleanup procedure this offseason.
  • Josh Hamilton is dealing with a sore hamstring right now, which gives us an interesting bit of information. There's no question--and really never has been--that he's incredibly talented. His problems have mostly been off the field, but he's also had trouble staying healthy throughout his career. Whether it was the knee problem that ended his 2006 return to baseball or the wrist problem that cost him a shot at Rookie of the Year, Hamilton's been plagued by injuries since he's returned to the game. In the long term, that's got to factor into his projections every bit as much as his immense talent should.
  • The Phillies are smart in saying that the comeback of Cole Hamels is completely dependent on their record--if they fall further behind the Mets, they'll shut him down. Until then, he'll keep rehabbing, and he's making some progress. He'll have a throwing session this weekend, and depending on how that goes, he could restart his bullpen sessions. The best-case scenario is still a couple starts during the last week of the season, but we don't yet know how valuable or valueless that could be. In the longer term, Hamels should be fine, though the damage in his elbow does degrade his risk profile.
  • Maybe it was that drubbing at the hands of the Rays, but the Orioles have started shutting down and packing up for the 2007 season. Surprisingly, the team has shut down Erik Bedard. His oblique is "nearly healed up" according to sources, but the team doesn't seem to care, electing to protect their ace and move on to next season. The other notable name is Jaret Wright, who's been rehabbing much of the season, but will now end his O's career and perhaps his baseball journey, a journey that's been marked by poor usage and repetitive injuries.
  • Quick Cuts: I'm not going to comment on the Rick Ankiel story until I have more facts, but it looks bad. The biggest question now is if Bud Selig will enforce a non-analytic positive, as Roger Goodell did with Rodney Harrison in the NFL. The difference is that Ankiel's usage came before the substances were banned by baseball. ... Adam LaRoche is going to need to have surgery after the season to clean up his knee. Let's hope he has a better experience than Jason Bay did last offseason. ... It looks as if the Giants have shut down Noah Lowry, though there's been no official announcement. ... Van Halen tickets go on sale for Indianapolis on Saturday, and I can't bring myself to buy in. Last time I saw them live, their bass player wasn't alive yet, and David Lee Roth was on the stage. ... Anyone notice that Tom Gorzelanny is 13-7 for a bad Pirates team?

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