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October 2, 2007

Under The Knife

Playoff Health Report, AL

by Will Carroll

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I'll steal from myself for the format of this year's Playoff Health Report. The color designation speaks to how much the player will be affected by his injury, with RED meaning that the player should be considered a non-factor, YELLOW meaning that the injury will affect or limit his play, and GREEN indicating that the player should be able to play through the injury without it having a significant affect on his play.

We'll start with the more settled AL, where injuries have played a significant role all season. The Red Sox used depth and roster construction to overcome the problems they had this season, while not getting hit with too big of an injury stack. The Yankees had a major injury cluster that unsettled their rotation through the first half, but patched things together both through promotions and by landing Roger Clemens. The Angels ran away with the division, then seemed to fall apart as they reached the point at which they could put it on cruise control. The Indians ... well, they've given me next to nothing to talk about all year long, so the playoffs are no different. Four different stories to tell through the medhead prism, yet they all end up in the same place, andwithin three games of each other. That's pretty amazing, yet compared to the last week of the National League, it's a snoozefest. I doubt October will be boring in the very comparable and competitive American League.

So powered by 162 games of great AL baseball, on to the playoff teams' injuries:

Red Sox

Eric Gagne: Red light He seems out of sorts, both by role and by mechanics, and the changes he made after coming over from the Rangers only seem to work every other outing or so.

Jonathan Papelbon: Yellow  light As with last year, he wore down, but unlike last year, he didn't wear down so much that he ended up hurt. He's filthy when he's right, and ordinary when he's not.

Mike Timlin: Yellow  light Used lightly after returning from shoulder problems, he's been far from automatic, and is more a gap reliever than a trusted stopper now.

Hideki Okajima: Yellow  light The rest appeared to help him, but if the Sox are tested and the bullpen leaned on, Okajima's fatigue could re-appear quickly.

Daisuke Matsuzaka: Yellow  light As he tired, his expansive repertoire got smaller, making him much more hittable. He loves the big stage, but will he be on it with his best pitches available to him?

Kevin Youkilis: Red light The wrist injury is getting better, but is still painful. It will get better with time, but that only counts if the Red Sox can get by the Angels with one of their best hitters limited.

David Ortiz: Green  light He's been playing with the sore knee all season long, but there's no reason he can't do it another month.

Manny Ramirez: Yellow  light There's still some recurrence risk for his oblique strain, even with the benefit of the team's exceptionally conservative rehab plan.

Coco Crisp: Green  light Sources in Boston say that Crisp is over his viral infection and ready for the playoffs.

J.D. Drew: Green  light Drew finally seems to have settled into his role in Boston and gotten on the same page with the medical staff. A big October could get the fans on his side.

Jacoby Ellsbury: Green  light His calf cramps shouldn't be a problem, and after going nine-for-nine on steals, he could be this year's designated Dave Roberts.

Angels

Kelvim Escobar: Red light As much of an uncertainty as anyone, Escobar's shoulder appeared to hold up in his last start. He seems to tired around the 75-80 mark, so as long as he's held to under 100 pitches, he should be usable, although the risk is that this could leave the bullpen exposed. The Angels seem to understand this, slotting him for only one start in the LDS.

Jered Weaver: Yellow  light Weaver's well past the "rule of 30" hurdles, so depending on how far he goes during October, there could be an effect down the line. There shouldn't be much problem, especially if his pitch counts are kept reasonable.

Bartolo Colon: Red light He came back from the rotator cuff problem quickly, but wore down and fell apart mechanically, ending up with more shoulder and elbow problems. He's been both Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde when able to pitch, so there's no way to know which will show up in the playoffs.

Justin Speier: Red light He's pitching on a sprained knee, which could lead to some mechanical changes or, worse, a loss of velocity.

Vladimir Guerrero: Yellow  light He's fine at the plate, but the triceps strain keeps him from throwing with his normal firepower. If he's unable to play in the outfield, the arm injury will cause a roster cascade, slightly changing the flexibility that the Angels use to their advantage; Kendry Morales' playoff spot is what's at risk here.

Gary Matthews Jr.: Red light Knee and ankle problems ended his season on a definite down note. Will the days off get him back to full mobility? Sources indicate that he's still going to e very limited.

Chone Figgins: Red light Is a 19-for-63 September a better indicator than the 0-for-22 that he ended his season with? The wrist injury is still a major concern, especially at the plate.

Garret Anderson: Green  light Even with pinkeye, he still gets the green light.

Juan Rivera: Red light Rivera is unlikely to make the playoff roster because he is still not fully recovered from the the broken leg that he suffered last winter.

Indians

Here's why the Indians are in the playoffs--not only are they talented, they're healthy as well. Lonnie Soloff and his team deserve a ton of credit, not only for keeping the team relatively healthy most of the year, but for having them at their healthiest after 162 games. There's no significant problem at this point of the season, with only the question of whether or not David Dellucci will make the playoff roster giving us anything to talk about. The irony is that there are rumors one of the leading candidates for naming rights at Jacobs Field is the Cleveland Clinic, a top research hospital.

Yankees

Roger Clemens : Red light This seems almost exactly like 2005. Clemens' hamstrings got old faster than his arm, which will force the Yankees to shadow him with a starter in the bullpen.

Phil Hughes: Green  light Can a hamstring injury be a positive? Yes, when it comes to young pitchers, because while you'd rather that Hughes didn't have the injury, it also worked to limit his total innings pitched.

Joba Chamberlain: Green  light Are there Joba rules in the playoffs? As much as everyone complained about them, the rules kept him effective and healthy enough to make a playoff impact.

Hideki Matsui: Yellow  light He's gone from an iron man to a regular resident of the training room in the space of a year. The knee is more of an annoyance than a problem. He wasn't fast to begin with, and will likely be limited to DH duties during the LDS.

Derek Jeter: Green  light He's got the same kind of knee problem as David Ortiz, but a far different set of his responsibilities. If it affects his range, will anyone notice?

Johnny Damon: Green  light This might be the healthiest that he's been all season.

Jason Giambi: Yellow  light The foot isn't bothering him enough to keep his lead glove off of the field, which gives Joe Torre continuing flexibility with who he sticks in the DH slot. Giambi has enough health issues that he'll likely never be the feared slugger he once was, but he's still dangerous.

Shelley Duncan: Red light He's been playing with a sports hernia, which might lead the Yankees to leave Duncan off of the postseason roster.

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