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September 26, 2007

Under The Knife

Tune-ups and Shut-downs

by Will Carroll

Hobbes said that, "between true science and erroneous doctrines, ignorance lies in the middle." For someone so often accused of arrogance, I say 'I don't know' more than anyone other than Alberto Gonzalez, and I'm proud of this ignorance. I have my guesses, my biases, and the things I am still unlearning, but when possible, I try to avoid saying things I do not know or cannot prove. Yes, much of my work is based on anonymous sourcing, but it is rigorously checked, not least of all by you, the reader. Another Hobbes quote addresses the life of man, but can also be applied to the span of a baseball career: "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short." Some may argue poor, but the rest holds true. For all the work of BP and its predecessors, in my area specifically but also in general, we are ignorant of a great many things, and must not be afraid to admit as much.

Powered by Top Flite D2s, on to the injuries:

  • Yankees fans don't want to hear that Roger Clemens has been shut down. The alternatives just don't sound good, though this is a necessary and actually expected step. Clemens' chronic left hamstring is the same one that had a flare-up during the 2005 playoffs, so this should come as no surprise. The fact is that Clemens' body can no longer do what it used to do for as long as he used to do it. In short bursts, he's shown himself to be effective, but he's also shown himself to be the rough equivalent of late-stage Nolan Ryan. That's not a bad thing, but the Yankees are also trying to figure out what to do with Clemens for the playoffs. If they use him as a starter, they'll need to have a shadow-either Mike Mussina, Philip Hughes, or Ian Kennedy-which would affect the makeup of the pen and the roster in general. I expect this to go down a lot like 2005, especially if the Yankees get as deep as the Astros did.
  • The nature of the news on Kelvim Escobar is all over the map. The swelling in his shoulder has gone down, and the team expects to start him this weekend, which confuses the playoff rotation a bit. To confuse matters even more, the team is going out of its way to deflect questions about the nature of the problem in his pitching shoulder is. As is, they've pushed his next start back from it's scheduled place in the rotation, making it unlikely he could go until Game Three of their LDS, no matter what the schedule. Don't expect much change to the postseason roster because of this, though-unlike the Yankees, the Angels have a deep bullpen and were likely to have had Bartolo Colon on the roster as a number four or long man anyway.
  • Remember on Monday when I said that "Mike Cameron was sore due to [the hand injury], but isn't expected to miss significant time." Well... not so much. It turns out that he won't just miss some time, he's done for the season. While the hand didn't show much damage immediately after the incident, it turns out that there was a torn ligament near the thumb and a volar plate fracture. The latter is interesting because it is almost always the result of a "jam," a forced hyperextension. Watching the play on video doesn't show much detail, but it also doesn't show where there would have been a hyperextension, when we now know that there obviously was. Cameron will need surgery to fix the ligament and is done for the season. As with any hand injury, this could linger a bit, though full function does tend to come back with time. Cameron is a free agent at 35 years old, so this is not going to be a positive line on his resume while looking for work. Nevertheless, Cameron could be available as a pinch-runner.
  • At this time of the year, we see players going both ways with injuries. We see some teams shutting their guys down to keep them from going too many innings, to get a jump start on surgery, or just because they shot a bear. We also see the opposite with players in the playoff chase, playing through injuries that would have put them on the DL if they'd happened just last month. Matt Holliday is a case in point, playing through a mild oblique strain that's bad enough to have him wincing on most swings. He's still productive, going 2-for-4 against Brad Penny and the Dodgers, and helping his team win their ninth straight, but there's also no question that he would be on the bench or DL if this was August. Since Holliday can't get the rest he needs to heal up, the Rockies will have to find ways to protect him, and then hope that the treatment he's receiving continues to keep available to deliver the same results.
  • The Brewers are making it interesting in the NL Central, though they'll now have to do it from here on out without Johnny Estrada, their starting catcher. He has a torn meniscus in his knee and will need surgery, meaning he's done not just for the regular season but also for any playoff games they might get to play if things break their way. As a long-term problem, this is as simple as it gets for a knee surgery, though as a catcher, it could be also be a sign of declining durability. That said, several catchers, including Jason Varitek, have had similar procedures in-season and have shown few signs of problem since. The Brewers will finish out the week with Damian Miller starting and Vinny Rottino backing up. It's an offensive hit, though not as much of one as the Brewers might have initially hoped back when they first brought in Estrada. Rottino is more an emergency catcher, though he's a decent bat.
  • With Magglio Ordonez close to locking up a batting title, one source I spoke with questioned the timing of an MRI on his sore heel. "They trying to shut him down and let him back into the title?" he asked rhetorically. The answer looks to be no, since Ordonez was back out on the field, and went 2-for-4 with a homer. Ordonez told the press that the heel has been bothering him for much of the season, but that the MRI showed no real damage. In that case, don't mess with a streak, Magglio. I'm not sure if a free agent signing questioned so strongly has ever turned out so well. When Scott Boras is sure enough in one of his players to give you some kind of out clause, that's a sign you're probably not going to need it.
  • The problem stopping that Adam Dunn complained of was enough to end his season. His knees had some "crap in them" according to a source, and that debris will be cleaned out with a simple 'scope. In the long term, this is of no real concern, though many will point to Dunn's added weight as a possible contributing factor. They'll also note that with almost any team, his ultimate position is going to be first base or DH. Dunn should be back next season, somewhere, and the knee won't be a problem.
  • Quick Cuts: Who's on today's shut-down list? Jason Bay, Scott Baker, Rob Mackowiak, and Shawn Chacon. ... Manny Ramirez didn't show any problems in his return to the Red Sox lineup. That's a good thing. ... It says a lot that the one game Joe Mauer will start behind the plate in the last week will be with Johan Santana on the mound, with the Twins ace going for the K title. ... Albert Pujols will play until he gets his 100th RBI, then shut it down, though the Cards are watching him very, very closely. ... Orlando Hernandez made it through a throwing session, and the Mets hope to get him on the mound sometime before the weekend. ... If you don't think Ruben Amaro Jr. knew about Pat Gillick's impending retirement when he turned down the Astros GM position, you're wrong. ... Danys Baez has elected to have Tommy John surgery, and will miss the 2008 season. ... Jake Peavy is likely to go on short rest Sunday, if needed.

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