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May 20, 2008

Under The Knife

Throw, or No?

by Will Carroll

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Jorge Posada (45 DXL)
What if your catcher couldn't throw? There have always been poor-throwing catchers-yes, I'm looking at you, Mike Piazza-but in most of those cases they hit enough to make the value equation work, and there was at least the small threat that they could throw someone out. Maybe the best case for this we have is Mackey Sasser, infamous for his tic in getting the ball out of his glove. Sasser actually had a rate only slightly below average-about 13 runs below, with a 92 adjusted Rate2, or comfortably above replacement level. Now, to continue this exercise, what if Posada couldn't throw? Posada can hit at a high level, so could he still be used as catcher? Posada is worried about "throwing off balance" and how it might affect his shoulder. OK, how about this-if he doesn't feel that he's right, he just eats the throw and allows the steal? Do the Yankees use more throws over to hold runners close? More pitchouts? And just allow the steals? It's an interesting thought experiment, so if anyone has ideas, send'em in. Posada is playing catch and appears to be on track for a return in early June.

Pedro Martinez (60 DXL)
The Mets were so impressed with what they saw during Martinez's simulated game that they're accelerating his schedule. Martinez will join the team in Atlanta to throw again in front of Rick Peterson and the rest of the Mets braintrust, and then could go back to Florida for a rehab start. Since his stamina already seems up, and since they were already going to have pitch limits on him lower than normal (somewhere in the 85 to 90-pitch range, according to sources), he may only need one rehab start before returning. If all else is right-no strength deficits in the leg, solid mechanics, and good recovery-it would be a waste to use one of Martinez's 2008 outings on the minors. The Mets are being very fluid with his rehab schedule, letting Martinez's results and recovery dictate the pace. From what has been seen so far, there's little reason to think there will be much change in his results now that his hamstring has healed. Get him back in your lineup.

Jake Peavy (15 DXL)
While I don't agree with everything written in Tim Sullivan's piece on Peavy, I do think it's one of the best-written articles on an injury that I've read in a while. He talked to everyone from the manager to the pitching coach to a biomechanist with a blog in trying to put together his story regarding Peavy's injury. The team isn't saying anything about the results of the MRI aside from that they decided afterwards to put Peavy on the DL. Sources tell me that they think Peavy will miss two to three starts, or just enough to make that DL move necessary. Sullivan's suggestions that Peavy through fewer sliders and pitch with more efficiency seem reasonable, especially in that ballpark, but making any adjustment is difficult for a pitcher. The Pads are one of the smarter teams around and have a solid medical staff, but they'll be tested in how they deal with Peavy over the next couple months. Tim Brown's article on Kevin Towers includes the term "strained" in regards to Peavy. If that's the case, then the injury is muscular rather than ligament-related (which would be "sprained"). The two words are so close that they can often be mis-heard, so let's just take this as an indication rather than evidence.

Doug Davis (45 DXL)
With Jon Lester proving that cancer survivors can do anything, we should be less surprised that Davis is nearly back after undergoing the procedures to address his thyroid cancer. The D'backs haven't made it official, but everyone expects Davis back in the rotation on Friday after his Sunday start in Triple-A. Davis will be limited on his pitches, and sources indicate that he may be "paired" with Max Scherzer for at least his first start. That raises the question about where Scherzer will go from there: back to the bullpen, or back to Tucson to keep working towards being a starter? With Davis and Randy Johnson likely to miss starts here and there, I can see where Scherzer might work well as a swingman, assuming that he can keep his arm 'stretched out' to go at least five innings in those occasional starts. Scherzer is young and has a violent motion, so I'd be more inclined to both limit his innings and keep him at the major league level.

Andruw Jones (0 DXL)
The headlines-"Jones has knee damage"-make the situation seem a little more dire than it actually is. Jones does have a small tear in his meniscus, but it's not unlike what David Ortiz dealt with last season. Of course, Jones' mobility has much more of an impact on his game as a center fielder than it would on Ortiz's did as a DH. Jones' knee can't really be blamed for his terrible season thus far, but there is some question as to whether he could play on it for the rest of the season. Given his struggles, I have to think that the team is at least considering the idea of giving him a short vacation and hoping that somewhere in the rehab process, he'd remember how to play baseball while getting in better shape. It's possible that, like Ortiz, he could delay the surgery until the offseason; if he were to have it now, he'd miss somewhere around six weeks. I'll keep his DXL at zero unless Jones changes his mind about surgery.

Jose Contreras (0 DXL)
The big Cuban had his start pushed back a day due to some mild back spasms. While he gets some bad luck-he's now facing C.C. Sabathia-the back issue is very minor, and sources say that because this was a case where the Sox could push him back and not throw off the rotation, they did so. A smart play, and in this case the influence of Herm Schneider can be seen. I'd expect Contreras to be slightly limited tonight, in that he'll be held to around 100 pitches, though I'll be watching to see if he's getting a good bend on his follow-through to make sure that the back isn't still an issue. Contreras never seems to be fully healthy, but he seldom misses much time either.

Curtis Granderson (0 DXL)
Since coming back from a broken finger, Granderson has been well below his level. Over his last ten games, he's lost his bat control-fourteen strikeouts against only one walk. That's not his game, and I have to wonder if the finger is the biggest issue. It's tough to tell, because in the previous 13 games he played, his K/BB ratio was much more in line. Both are small samples, and could be nothing more than noise, but no one thinks things are right with Granderson. There's no way to know, short of either Granderson or the team saying so, if it's the finger or just a slump. If it is the finger, we'd assume that like several other of this type injury-think Chone Figgins last season-that it will heal, heal relatively quickly, and allow him to come back to level. If you can grab Granderson on the cheap right now, there's evidence to support that he'll be back to normal, one way or the other.

Austin Kearns (4 DXL)
Despite what initially looked like a surplus of outfielders, the Nats have seen them drop like flies instead. Kearns is the latest to miss time; his issue is in his elbow, where pain is keeping him from throwing. The culprit is thought to be some acute bursitis, which tends to clear up in days rather than weeks. Kearns has been able to hit off a tee, but is still limited enough to make him unavailable to play in the outfield. Since Kearns isn't hitting well and his arm is considered his best defensive weapon, this is a tough one for Kearns, and opens the door for Elijah Dukes. If Dukes plays well, this ache could end up "Pipping" Kearns.

Santiago Casilla (120 DXL)
While official word hasn't come down yet, it looks as if Casilla is headed for surgery, but whether that's Tommy John or something else is unclear at this stage. It could be that Casilla is headed to see one of the super-surgeons, like Andrews or Yocum, before making a final determination. It's hard to tell because the A's, aside from Rich Harden, have been relatively healthy over the past five years and haven't developed a pattern. At least on the pitching side of the ledger, the A's record remains very solid, though it has been is in decline since Rick Peterson left the organization. It's something of a red herring to use that as the benchmark; there's been a lot of turnover, though it's clear that at that point something changed. Casilla looks to be out for the season, but while I'll put up the big DXL total, there's also a chance it won't be that bad.

Mark Ellis (5 DXL)
It's sometimes hard to "see" thin. A team can go through a game or stretch of games without ever really being tested, but after one extra-inning game, some things become very noticeable. The A's had that on Monday against the Rays, in that by the time they got to the 13th it was pretty clear that there's some thin spots up the middle, limiting Bob Geren's options. He made only three lineup moves, twice using pinch-runners and using only one pinch-hitter (in the DH slot). The A's put infielder Donnie Murphy on the DL with an elbow issue, but they are still waiting on Ellis to return from his own injury. Ellis is running and is "close" to a return, though there's no solid date for that. The A's get some credit for not DLing Ellis in anticipation for his being back before 15 days is up, but there are some costs, especially as this drags beyond the original DXL.

Quick Cuts: Joe Strauss didn't hold back with his take on the Cards' medical problems. I can't argue with anything he said, and I'm curious to see how the team responds. ... After being examined by the team's physician, Roy Oswalt will make his next start for the Astros. ... Chad Fox is on the DL with ulnar neuritis; he has had three Tommy John surgeries. ... In ESPN leagues, Matt Garza's "owned" mark is only two percent. Seriously? ... Joe Borowski will return on Thursday and will immediately slot into the closer role. ... Jake Westbrook had his rehab start held to just under four innings due to rain. That may force a second rehab outing before he comes back to the Indians.

Related Content:  Back,  Finger

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