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May 6, 2008

Under The Knife

Much Better

by Will Carroll

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Clayton Kershaw (0 DXL)
Is there any logic to the "Kershaw Decree" the Dodgers are employing with their young lefty? It's a marketer's version of the "Joba Rules", a limit of 25 innings per month limit designed to have him ready for September in the big leagues. Apart from that long-term goal, I guess this would also hold true if he was needed before then, but I'm not sure how exactly this is intended to work. Minor league starters average about five starts per month, meaning Kershaw would only get five innings per start; on the other hand, if he was skipped once, the workload goes up to six innings per. Of course, Kershaw threw 26 innings in April, so maybe the decree is new. Wait, no, he threw 6 2/3 in his last outing, leaving him only 18 1/3 to spread over an expected four starts, something that would nearly necessitate a tandem arrangement with somebody else on the staff. In that last outing, he threw an estimated 96 pitches, so even being low on the estimate-and I'm sure someone has the actual count-wouldn't make that a terribly taxing arrangement. If the goal is to keep his seasonal totals around the 150 mark, I can at least grasp that, though I'm sure that following some sort of logical program would be better than seemingly arbitrary edicts.

Justin Verlander (0 DXL)
Jack Morris may not be a Hall of Fame pitcher, but that doesn't mean he knows what he's talking about with pitching. Just because you're good at something based on a natural talent and a solid work ethic doesn't make you an analyst. I'll acknowledge that when it comes to the on-the-mound stuff, Morris knows more than I'll ever know, but when he ventures into my territory, Houdini-ing an injury, and does so with less evidence than he did when discussing Johan Santana's pitch selection, I have to call it like I see it. Morris claimed that Verlander looked hurt, that "he has to be hurting because he's not extending the arm"; I guess the mid-90's velocity and solid performance (albeit in a losing effort) against the Twins didn't convince him. I watched the tape of that game and Verlander's previous two starts, and compared them to a performance from last year (albeit only highlights). I don't see a significant difference. Paired with work Verlander was doing in spring training focused on movement and command over velocity and Verlander's insistence that he feels fine, I'm siding with the young pitcher over the ex-pitcher. Maybe Morris will discuss pitching to the score next.

Bronson Arroyo (0 DXL)
Reds fans might not be happy to hear that Arroyo is fine; his recent terrible results led Dusty Baker to put his starter in front of doctors and trainers for a full check-up despite Arroyo's insistence that he feels no physical problems. The medical staff concurred, finding nothing physical at the root of Arroyo's recent struggles. I asked one source who has seen Arroyo pitch twice this season if he saw anything different: "No, except he's not getting anyone out." The issue now becomes one for Baker and pitching coach Dick Pole to figure out. With his contract, Arroyo is going to be tough to trade or dump, and aside from that the Reds need someone who's going to take the ball every fifth day in order to protect the bottom of their rotation. If the team can't get him straightened out, isn't that an indictment of the coaching staff more than of the fired GM who signed him?

Scott Kazmir (0 DXL)
The best part about Kazmir's first start is that he'll make his second one. He came out of a tough initial assignment against the Red Sox feeling good, and reportedly felt just as good Monday morning, another good sign. His next two games won't get any easier, as he'll draw the Yankees and Angels in his next two scheduled starts, but an ace wants those assignments, and Kazmir is desperate to prove that he really is just that, an ace. It looks as if his elbow won't be what holds him back from achieving that goal, not now.

John Lackey (45 DXL)
Lackey made it through four innings and seventy pitches during his latest rehab start in High-A Rancho Cucamonga. While his results were mediocre, it was getting his work in without a setback that was the important part, and on that level it was a success. Lackey's had no recurrence of elbow pain or problems with his triceps during his rehab; he's scheduled to have one more start, likely back in extended spring training, before he gets activated. That last assignment is so that the Angels can control the number of pitches he throws, something they feel is important after Lackey came up a bit short of his 75-pitch plan on Monday. He's on pace to come back to the Angels in about ten days.

Pedro Martinez (60 DXL)
Pedro is back on a mound, and that's always a good thing to see, but the hamstring is being brought along very slowly and very conservatively by the Mets medical staff. Behind the scenes, Martinez is a bit frustrated with the pace, making the occasional pronouncement publicly that he's ahead of the schedule that the Mets are giving out. While the team isn't publicly saying when he'll start to face hitters, sources tell me that, assuming all goes to schedule, he should start a rehab assignment somewhere around the May 20th or so. Martinez hasn't had setbacks and the severity of the strain doesn't match the pace for return, so the biggest question right now is how much more safe than sorry the Mets are willing to be, and how quickly Martinez is able to get his stamina back.

Martin Prado (45 DXL)
The Braves' primary utility infielder will miss around six weeks after damaging his thumb; it's an injury not unlike what Andy LaRoche is dealing with for the Dodgers, though there was a different mechanism. So why does Prado, a light-hitting "futility infielder" as Jay Jaffe might call him, make the list? Because he's Chipper Jones' backup, and the Braves have needed that backup in place several times already this season; the Braves are hoping that Omar Infante's return later this month will plug that gap. Actually, the big hope is that Chipper Jones picked May for his healthy month this season.

Eric Chavez (90 DXL)
I tend to "rank" injuries, putting the biggest at the top and the lesser at the bottom, with Quick Cuts containing either the least important or the ones where I have less information. So what does it say about Chavez that he's now ranked below Martin Prado in this subjective exercise? Not much really, but the idea that Chavez will be an MVP-caliber player is long since gone-yeah, I predicted that not that long ago-and are down to the hopes that he can just be productive again. Surgery on his shoulders and back haven't brought Chavez to a place where he thinks he can play the field. The back is the bigger problem, but after the surgeries and six months of rehab, Chavez has to be nearing what the disability industry calls 'maximum medical improvement.' While Chavez says he could DH, the team is pretty well set at that position, so with three years left on his deal Chavez might be boxed in. He will continue his rehab in hopes that his back frees up, though it's looking like the All-Star break at best right now, with a lot of downside.

Max Scherzer (0 DXL)
There's going to be a lot of talk about Scherzer's unorthodox motion, from both scouts and the video-based mechanists around the baseball world. They'll talk about his head whip, his "M" pickup, and his high back leg. I don't have joint loads or any of the things that I'd like to have, and I honestly never saw him throw before Monday night, but I like what I see. The head whip is almost a red herring, having little or nothing to do with his delivery; it's more noticeable, but he has essentially the same ending position as Hideki Okajima. If anything, it will stress his traps and maybe his back over time. I love the compact, efficient motion, the great hip rotation, and the incredible arm speed he generates with what looks to be little effort. It's not perfect-one friend noticed an inconsistent landing point, while Kevin Goldstein points out that his delivery has been cleaned up over the last year. He got knocked around a bit by a good lineup and the D'backs defense didn't help, but he made a heck of a first impression.

Yovani Gallardo (140 DXL)
One of my rules is that if I don't have any new information to add to a discussion, I don't say anything. So, while Gallardo and his torn ACL is a big story, and many people have asked for my analysis, there's really nothing to add. Still, I broke my silence on XM today, so I'll give you something here-he's torn his ACL, we're not sure yet how complete the tear is, and there will be surgery rather more imaging, indicating just how the medical staff is perceiving this. If there's any upside, it's that there's been a ton of progress with ACL reconstructions, to the point where Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers will be back for the start of the next season after tearing his knee in last season's playoffs. That should mean an easy return by spring training '09 for Gallardo. There's some small consolation, in that this isn't his arm, and the injury does keep some mileage off of it while he's still young.

Quick Cuts: Curt Schilling is due to throw this week, his first session since his off-season injury. ... Kip Wells will have surgery to correct the blood clots in his hand. Good luck to him. ... Jimmy Rollins had no issues in his first rehab game and looks to come off the DL. ... Things don't sound too good for Al Reyes, and at this stage in his career, every setback becomes career-threatening. ... Orlando Hudson isn't moving well to his right; his hamstring is clearly bothering him. ... Johnny Cueto appeared to be a bit more consistent Monday night. He had better results than his last time out, though I don't have the PitchFX data available. ... Flash "E-Medhead," and that's on me. In yesterday's UTK, I mistakenly put in Damian Moss as having an appendectomy rather than Brandon Moss. Damian's actually starting Tuesday in Triple-A and appears to need no surgery just now. ... Jarrod Washburn said he felt a "pop" in his calf during a solid outing on Monday night. He left the game and his next start is in question.

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