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September 10, 2007

Under The Knife

Glausgate

by Will Carroll

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When Troy Glaus signed with the D'backs for four years and $45 million, he was actually taking a one-year pay cut. He'd made $9 million in the last year of his deal with the Angels that had bought out his arbitration years, and although he'd been an All-Star the season before, he'd also spent the better part of two seasons injured. I said this about him heading into free agency:

His shoulder injury is well known, making his planned usage by a new team more important than the injury. His power is back, evidenced by his late-season flurry, so a team with an open first base or DH slot should have no problems. If Glaus has to go back to third, that's not as proven a commodity. Like Mark Mulder last season, he's rumored to be fine. On his first throw across the diamond, we'll know.

That's almost exactly how things played out with his shoulder. Of course, Glaus has had other injury problems since then, both with the Diamondbacks and with the Blue Jays, but if the report at SI.com is true--and there's little reason to doubt it at this stage--then Glaus is about to take a place standing next to Rafael Palmeiro on a very short list of All-Star-level players with a proven steroid past. Glaus didn't test positive like Palmeiro, and he never waved his finger at Congress, so it will be interesting to see the public reaction. Was Palmeiro's offense the positive test, or the lying? Does America only care when steroids help break milestones, or is there really outrage at the integrity of the game being compromised? On the heels of Rick Ankiel, Jay Gibbons, and whatever subsequent names get released, it's time to once again look back and decide what's really important--what happened then, or what we can prevent from happening in the future. Baseball's putting its money on the past, which is simply sad.

Powered by the next hundred emails calling me an apologist, on to the injuries:

  • The Diamondbacks took a big blow after it was found that Orlando Hudson had torn a ligament in his wrist. The injury occurred on a slide, but we've learned that headfirst slides actually aren't significantly more dangerous, so I won't blame that (even though I still wince when I see players do it). The thumb-side ligament was avulsed from the bone, and there was simply no way for him to continue without surgery. He'll have that done Monday, and should be able to continue his career without much issue, but he won't be able to do it this year. Hudson has been a big part of the team's success, especially as part of the defense behind Brandon Webb. Augie Ojeda and Alberto Callaspo will take over at second in the meantime.
  • The Tigers appear ready to shut Jeremy Bonderman down. They're not throwing in the towel on the season just yet, though this certainly doesn't help. Bonderman has been having trouble for several weeks and will head for an MRI today to determine the exact nature of the problem. Given the symptoms--good velocity, Bonderman complaining that he "can't extend"--it reads like bone chips or spurs, though there's always the worry that there's damage to the UCL. If Tigers fans need hope, they can just look back to 2005 ,when Bonderman was shut down early, but came back to pitch them to the World Series the next season. Bonderman is still just 24 and hasn't been overworked, but he has been worked hard from a young age, and in some cases that usage comes back to haunt a hurler. Dr. Glenn Fleisig at ASMI compares pitching injuries to smoking--you don't see the damage now, some never see the damage, but you still don't hand a pack of smokes to young kids.
  • It was another five innings for Pedro Martinez, his first at Shea Stadium since last year, and it was another solid outing. Once again, he mixed up his pitches effectively enough, but his control seemed a bit off at times, though Martinez again proved able to wriggle out of jams by fooling hitters rather than falling back into his old habit of trying to blow them away with a fastball. His velocity is still at 90, but that's enough with his mix of pitches and command. If he can get his location back, at least to the point it was in his previous start, he'll likely be the Mets' ace in October. The Mets will go with a six-man rotation once they slot Orlando Hernandez back into the rotation this week, another move done to keep Martinez fresh and to help make a determination on what the playoff rotation will look like.
  • I've gotten a lot of emails, some taunting me, about Daisuke Matsuzaka. If you want to taunt me about a guy who should end the season with almost exactly the number of wins I'd expected and 200 quality innings that helped his team to a division title, fine. Gyroball? Sure, he'll deny it, but C.J. Wilson used it to help him rack up saves. As for Matsuzaka's recent slump, I do think he's tiring, but that it's more akin to a dead-arm phase than a danger zone. Matsuzaka's mechanics remain very steady. One other factor is that teams are getting more and more video and scouting on him, which will force him to adjust. Given his repetoire and history, I'd put my money on Matsuzaka adjusting more quickly than hitters. He still deserves the Rookie of the Year, based on his work so far.
  • The Yankees are having a small problem with Derek Jeter--he wants to play. The problem is really in Jeter's knee, where what the team is calling patellar tendonitis is causing him pain and some decreased speed and range. A couple rest days here and there would help, even if the problem is deeper inside the knee, as I believe. Jeter, on the other hand, believes he helps the team more on the field, but if Gene Monahan and his staff are telling him to sit, there's likely some longer-term concerns. If Jeter's knee were to get worse, it could cause a longer-term loss of the Captain, which would be much more problematic heading into October. As the Red Sox hold their lead and the Yankees pull away in the Wild Card race, getting some rest for Jeter and others is going to become key.
  • We haven't had many of the dreaded "sports hernias" this season, as oblique strains have come up a bit on the buzzword scale. Walt Jocketty is not likely to call the loss of Chris Duncan to a sports hernia a tragedy, but it's certainly a problem for a lineup already taxed by injuries. Duncan was in obvious pain over the last couple games, and is now headed for imaging and consultation to see if surgery is necessary. I'm told that there were discussions about bringing up Colby Rasmus, but with Ryan Ludwick and Rick Ankiel available to flank Jim Edmonds, I'm not sure I see the reasoning. Longer term, Duncan should be fine once the injury is corrected, by surgery or by time.
  • I don't talk much about Milton Bradley because there's only so much you can say about his chronic oblique problem. Not only is Bradley not a quick healer, he also continually re-injures himself trying to get back into the lineup to overcome what he feels is a wrongly-awarded tag of injury-prone. He's not quite on the Rondell White or Cliff Floyd scale of things, but there's something interesting here. Yes, all three of the players I just mentioned are black, and yes, there are plenty of injury-prone white and Hispanic players. The fact is that those are the best comps--like White and Floyd, Bradley has remained effective through a one-part chronic injury. Having the career of those players isn't ideal, and is certainly not what Bradley or the Padres hope for, yet both of those players' career paths aren't a bad downside. The injury-prone tag is tough on players because it focuses on what they don't do rather than what they do. What Bradley does, when healthy, is pretty solid.
  • Cole Hamels is making progress. He's been throwing, but now he's headed back to the mound, at least for a bullpen session. The Phillies expect their ace to be ready to throw mid-week, and if everything goes according to plan, he could be back early the next week. That would give him two, perhaps three starts if they all went on short rest. Hamels has felt no pain in his elbow during his long toss, according to sources, but the true test will come when he steps up on the mound. Hamels credits the training staff and treatment for getting him back on the mound, so if anti-inflammatories are all it took to get him back, that's a positive longer-term sign as well.
  • Dear Mr. Coonelly: Congratulations on the new job. Could I make a suggestion before you're even announced as the new CEO? One thing that's definitely lacking with the Pirates is a focus on injuries. The team used to be cutting edge, back when longtime trainer Kent Biggerstaff was there. Now, it seems there's always some injury cropping up, like the continuing bilateral knee problems for Jason Bay, or the latest injury, an ankle sprain, to Ryan Doumit, just back from a wrist injury. With a young pitching staff, a focus on injury prevention and management would bring quick returns and keep talent on the field. Good luck.--Will.
  • The Orioles have elected to shut down both Erik Bedard and Jeremy Guthrie. Both are dealing with oblique strains, and given the team's record--Baltimore is only competing with the Rays for the first overall pick next year--it's a smart play. Neither pitcher should have any long-term problem, though with Bedard, this likely ends his quest to lead the American League in strikeouts for the season, leaving it to Johan Santana or Scott Kazmir.
  • The Giants used the word "strain" when describing the injury to Noah Lowry. It confused some people, since it's very easy to mix up "strain" and "sprain"--I do it occasionally--and because on the heels of Russ Ortiz's Tommy John surgery, many were worried Lowry was headed for the same fate. Instead, it appears that Lowry has a mid-grade strain of his flexor tendon. That's not good, but it could have been a lot worse. By next spring, Lowry should be fully healed and ready to go.
  • Quick Cuts: It's easy for Bill Madden to throw Carlos Pena under the bus without one shred of evidence, but these days, evidence isn't that necessary. It's still terrible journalism. If Maddon ever once called for testing in baseball prior to 2004, why is he not willing to accept that now? ... Rafael Furcal will miss a couple games while the Dodgers try to heal up his ankle ... Mike Napoli returned for the Angels and even caught on Sunday, showing no problem with his hamstring. ... It's the return of Matt LeCroy! He's now once again the Twins' backup catcher and perhaps DH. ... It will be interesting to see who Frank Coonelly names as GM, though it's clear to many I speak with that he'd like a talent evaluator. That could mean someone like long-rumored candidate Tony LaCava, Peter Woodfork, or Rick Hahn. ... If you're wondering, yes, some Pirates players did celebrate when the move was made on Friday.

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