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March 27, 2008

Under The Knife

Wipeout

by Will Carroll

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J.D. Drew (0)
It's almost a real injury from a real game. The oft-injured Drew may never overcome his injury-prone tag; since coming to Boston, he keeps refreshing his credentials. His latest issue is a "serious" back spasm. It's muscular in nature, but the spasm was "very tight, very painful." With a long plane flight ahead of him, Drew's back isn't going to have an easy go of it. It will be interesting to see if he's sent back to Boston for more treatment, if he'll stick with the team and their staff, or if being in LA will give them a chance to send him over to Kerlan-Jobe. Gary Thorne noted on the telecast that the Red Sox said they were worried more about Game 162 than they were about Game Two, and it's a smart play. The Sox understand that Drew is likely to be available for 120-130 games, and that it really doesn't matter which 120. Due to the schedule, it looks like Drew will avoid the DL for now, though I expect the Sox to keep a retro move an open possibility.

Kelvim Escobar (180)
I have no idea where the phrase "it's all over but the shouting" came from, but this one's all over but the official announcement. Escobar has gone from a bit sore to done for the season in short order, having been diagnosed with a tear in his shoulder. The LA Times article about this is solid, but misses one detail: where the tear is, but that's tipped off in the Mark Mulder/Bartolo Colon comparison. Sources confirm that Escobar has a torn rotator cuff, with potentially more damage inside. The official word is that they're going to shut him down for a while and see if they can build his strength up around the tear, but surgery is almost always the end result here. It would stun me if Escobar is able to come back this season, and many are questioning if his arm can come back at all. It's interesting to note that Colon did have the same injury, but there again, since their World Series win the Angels have experienced a ton of shoulder injuries. They've had a couple of pitching coaches over that period, so I don't think we can point to any teaching point or mechanical philosophy, but it bears noting. Of course, it was noted.

Scott Kazmir (15)
The Rays put Scott Kazmir on the DL Tuesday, a move that had been in the offing for weeks. The retro move was actually a bit of a moot point, although it served to confuse some. While the move would allow Kazmir to come back in the first week of the season, the Rays have consistently stated that the plan they have has Kazmir continuing to build arm strength and moving towards a mid-month return to the rotation. Kazmir's progress has been slow, as the Rays medical staff continues to be very cautious with his throwing elbow. Scheduled to get on a mound early next week, Kazmir is likely to need at least one minor league or extended spring training start, which should give us both a solid timeline once that's scheduled and allow us to see just where he is. Missing two starts isn't good, but the conservative plan focused on arm strength is the smart one for the slightly-built Kazmir.

Richie Sexson (0)
Like most fans, I hate hearing about a player blaming injuries for his problems if they're not disclosed. I don't mean so much to me-I'll find out about them, most of the time-but if a player is hiding something from the team, that's entirely another thing. Sexson only hinted at injury problems last season, until his hamstring finally ended his especially awful campaign, but then he did some stronger hinting this spring. One thing he neglected to mention, then or now, was any sort of continuing problem with his shoulder. Sexson missed virtually all of 2004 with a dislocated shoulder and associated internal damage. Looking at his 2005 and 2006 numbers make it difficult to believe that the problem has suddenly recurred, unless the shoulder has once again gone lax, which according to two orthopedists I consulted would be a very unusual outcome. The cortisone shot he had this week in that shoulder was intended to help with what's described as 'mild bursitis.' That's a relatively minor issue, and one that's in line with what he's shown this spring. Sexson is a risky fantasy pick given his up-and-down performance over the past five years, but I don't see that his injury risk is any greater after this latest minor issue.

Duaner Sanchez (10)
The Mets are expected to place Sanchez on the DL to start the season. Coming back after missing 18 months because of multiple shoulder surgeries, Sanchez has actually had a great spring, showing solid velocity and decent command. However, he's still lacking some stamina, and is still taking more time to recover after appearances than the Mets are comfortable with. Sanchez's final test will be to be used in back-to-back games, something he wasn't able to do during the spring. He'll stay in extended spring training, and at some point in the next two weeks he'll try to get past the final hurdle. He'll be back with the Mets shortly after that, though where he now slots into the Mets bullpen is an open question.

Carlos Gomez (0)
It's worth noting any time a speed player injures a leg, even when it's a minor injury. The concept of the speed player is one that many fans don't fully grasp, and in the face of the work by James Click and Dan Fox to quantify the running game, it's important to explain why in my world why "speed player" has a bit of a different definition. For me, the term implies someone whose speed is his dominant skill. While Rickey Henderson would still have been a valuable player, even if he had Pete Incaviglia's legs, other speed players often aren't so well-rounded, making the risk of a leg injury even more dangerous to them. Gomez is a good example, with Jacoby Ellsbury, Juan Pierre, and Jose Reyes being others. While all of them have other skills, if their speed can't be used to give them range in the field and to leg out some extra singles and doubles, their value might be decimated. On the other hand, a player such as Curtis Granderson or a younger Carlos Beltran had a more rounded skill set, making them something more than a simple speed player. Which is a long way 'round to Gomez leaving a spring game with a hamstring cramp. He's had some leg problems, but nothing chronic, but as I led off with, as a speed player, even the smallest leg issue bears watching.

Rich Harden (0)
Harden looked like the Rich Harden of old, the one that few of us ever thought we'd see again. His performance against the Red Sox on Wednesday was nothing short of brilliant, and reports are that he came out of the game as healthy as he went into it. The A's are likely to monitor his workload closely and limit it where possible, but there are no indications that he's going to get special treatment. Many of you emailed asking about Harden's mechanics, and yes, they did look slightly different. His head seemed more steady, his body a bit more stiff, but in watching the replay of the game, I get the sense that Harden was just a bit more mechanical, rather than making any significant change. By that I mean he wasn't using the normal instinctual motion, and was instead thinking about what he was doing a bit more than normal. That's typical for players working on things, so given pitching coach Curt Young's tendency to be hands-off, we have to keep wondering what that might be for Harden. The early results are good, but I'm not ready to exhale just yet.

Kazuo Matsui (15)
Matsui is healing slowly. Is that enough? No... we all know the issue with Matsui, and it's painful merely to think about, so the fact that he's not quite comfortable yet seems very reasonable. Beyond that, there should be no real on-field issues, aside from perhaps some mild deconditioning. We'll have a better idea about when he'll be back once he starts baseball activities again, though reports indicate that it could be as soon as this weekend. Any thought that this could depress his speed or reduce his steal attempts beyond the first few weeks are just speculation, though those of you that play in the weekly head-to-head leagues should take that possibility into consideration. The Astros have several options at second base beyond Mark Loretta (the likely immediate replacement), so they can afford to be conservative with Matsui's return.

Milton Bradley (0)
No number this spring surprises me as much as that zero. When Milton Bradley tore his ACL in that freak incident late last season, he said he'd be back for Opening Day, and my response was "no way." Fast forward a few months, and it looks like Bradley was right. He's not only ready to be the Rangers' everyday DH, he's taken some turns in the outfield without any setbacks, and while he's not at 100 percent there, he's got enough mobility to be used in an emergency. The Rangers hope to avoid that scenario, hoping that Bradley is strictly a DH through the first couple of months, and keeping his bat in the lineup, but using him in the outfield would give the team more options. One other thing to note from Bradley this spring is the complete lack of issues he's had since coming to skipper Ron Washington's team. That could be even more important than the knee.

Randy Johnson (15)
A lot of people seem surprised that Randy Johnson will start the season on the DL. I'll admit that I haven't talked about it, instead just taking it for granted. Johnson is coming off of back surgery, is on the same plan as last year, and is just a little behind in building up arm strength, which means he needs a bit more time than spring training allowed. This isn't a setback, just another acknowledgment that Johnson will need special handling. The worry now isn't so much the back as the rest of the kinetic chain, since observers say he looks "stiff and upright" in his delivery. Johnson doesn't have to be an ace to help the D'backs this season, but he does need to be in attendance. We'll see him in Arizona mid-month, with a couple starts at Triple-A before that to help give us an idea of what we'll see.

Quick Cuts: Sometimes, the best ideas are the ones that make you go "wow, no one's done that before?" Simple, but needed. I'm sure someone thought that when I started up UTK (having missed the work of Rick Wilton). I had that moment last year with Squawking Baseball and this year, with Saber Scouting. Both well worth some space in your RSS reader. ... Best of luck to Angels lifer Preston Gomez, hospitalized after being hit by a truck. ... Jim Edmonds is looking shaky for the Padres' opener, but no one is talking about the DL, yet. ... One name that has been ignored this spring is Mike Gonzalez, the Braves reliever coming back from Tommy John surgery. He's making normal progress, and could be back in the Braves bullpen by midseason. By definition, that could give him save chances if Rafael Soriano and Peter Moylan stay brittle. ... The Cubs have "no rules, just common sense" regarding the use of Kerry Wood as closer, according to one insider. It should be very interesting to see how Lou Piniella uses him.

Related Content:  Back,  Shoulder,  Year Of The Injury

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Prospectus Matchups: O... (03/28)

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