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September 26, 2008

Under The Knife

Back to the Way It Was

by Will Carroll

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I know that the UTK Wrap confuses some people who don't understand that it's a recap of the week's injuries, so today, I'll confuse you even more. With the regular season heading into its final weekend, there are too many situations where an injury may affect the outcome of a playoff race, how a team preps for the playoffs, or who wins a fantasy league. So today it's not enough to just recap the week that was, and this is a full-on UTK, just like we've had 85 times over the course of this season. Add in 31 UTK Wraps, 30 Team Health Reports, The Mill, and various other pieces, and it's been a full year of work for me. Part of this job is just showing up every day, because if you don't follow the daily patterns and flow of injuries and rehabs, you'll miss something. Thanks to everyone that's made this, the seventh year of UTK, one of the best. Powered by an e-mail that I sent to three friends on an April afternoon in 2002 that gave rise to this column, on to the injuries:

Kevin Slowey (3 DXL)
Slowey took a sharp comebacker off of his pitching wrist during his Thursday start, one of those nasty, unlucky moments that can happen to a pitcher. He may have gotten off lightly, with his team winning despite his costly throwing error, and without any fractures. While Slowey was expected to be the fourth starter for the Twins in the playoffs (of four), the team may have to go with a three-man rotation in the Division Series or hope that the rapidly fatiguing Glen Perkins can put up one good start. There's some time between now and the time Slowey would be expected to pitch, but there's also the chance that Ron Gardenhire would leave Slowey off of the LDS roster altogether, since many wonder about a young, fading rotation that's never had to pitch this deep into a full season before.

Yovani Gallardo (0 DXL)
Gallardo went 67 pitches last night, and if anyone saw a problem with his knee, I'd love to hear about it. I spoke with three people last night who I consider pitching "gurus" within the game, and every one of them asked me if this was normal, if ACL surgery has become so routine that this kind of recovery is now probable, and not merely plausible. The answer is simple is 'yes.' It's unusual in baseball, but even so there's the Milton Bradley situation to compare it to. Gallardo showed a normal motion, no real change in his mechanics, normal velocity in line with both his 2007 and 2008 averages on all his pitches, and certainly solid results for his first work in nearly a complete season. There's very little to say other than giving proper kudos to Gallardo and to the medical staff for what looks miraculous, but is actually the product of hard work. The interesting thing is that Gallardo now sets up to be the first game playoff pitcher, if necessary, and if they make it. How's that for a return?

John Maine (0 DXL)
Jerry Manuel told the press that he's old school and doesn't like throwing a young arm out there if there's a problem. (Hat tip to the LoHud.) OK, what the bleep? I really want to use words here that go beyond the objective tone of journalism, but this is simply unfathomable. If Manuel had better options, if the Mets hadn't won in such dramatic fashion on Thursday, and if the Mets don't end up making the playoffs, this is one of those small but important decisions that can later be seen as the make-or-break choice. It's not the decision-there were hundreds, even thousands along the course of the season that were just as important. Throughout the season and with every team, there are decisions made that I don't understand, but usually there's some explanation behind them that show logic, or that fits into some kind of plan, or that involves factors that aren't public. In this case, though, those assumptions have been thrown out by a manager's capriciousness. If Maine simply cannot pitch due to pain-something his bullpen work shows is possible-than there's no reason to activate him as a "reward." To not use an available pitcher, assuming he's a credible option, is malpractice.

Troy Percival (0 DXL)
Percival got back on the mound and made it through a scoreless inning, and though it wasn't dominating, it was good enough. One down, one to go, because Percival will have to make another appearance on Friday in order to prove to the Rays that he can go on back-to-back days. They may give him a bit of a stress test him over the weekend before they have to turn their roster in to the league offices. Percival isn't likely to close unless something changes, though he's in the mix with Grant Balfour and Dan Wheeler for the high-leverage situations. How the team uses David Price in the playoffs (if at all) remains to be seen, though there's no indication that they'll use him in the late innings. If Percival isn't able to go today or if he's ineffective, he'll be off of the roster for the Division Series.

Mike Lowell (3 DXL)
Lowell continues to fight through pain and swelling in his hip. The torn acetabular labrum will need surgical repair, but the Sox medical staff is working to keep him functional through the playoffs. There's almost no chance that he'll be able to play in every game, or that he won't be affected by it, but the Sox's flexibility (and that of Kevin Youkilis) helps here. Lowell can take a day off here and there and will be further helped by the inclusion of additional offdays in the new playoff calendar. When Lowell has this surgery, there will be a long enough recovery period that may put his availability for the start of 2009 in question, but Lowell tends to heal quickly, and he has certainly overcome longer odds in his career. He might have the highest production to appearances in UTK ratio in history.

Jeff Kent (0 DXL)
Joe Torre has told Kent that if he can't play the field, he won't make the playoff roster. Part of the problem is that with Rafael Furcal already a big question mark, the Dodgers simply can't afford two dead roster spots. It's a tough situation for Kent, who will try to show this weekend that he can go. The downside here is that sources tell me that Kent would shut things down if he doesn't make the Division Series roster, rather than continue to rehab. This may be at the direction of the team or that of Torre, but with Kent leaning towards retirement after this season, we may not see many more opportunities for truck-washing and mustache jokes. Kent's going to end up as one of those players who we look back on in 20 years and wonder why he wasn't more appreciated. I can only hope that Google is around to archive his attitude.

Mark DeRosa (5 DXL)
DeRosa will sit out the remainder of the season and rest his strained calf. The Cubs are playing it safe with their versatile player after he injured it mid-week. Called a moderate strain, the team seems to be more worried about DeRosa's ability to play the field than they are about his hitting. With nearly a week to rest up, they expect him to be ready when the Cubs face... well, we don't know quite yet who they'll face. It does complicate some of the decisions that the Cubs will have to make, since DeRosa's ability to play so many positions is a key to much of the team's flexibility. With the clinch, the Cubs can try to figure those out, though Lou Piniella's team won't lay down against the Brewers this weekend.

Nyjer Morgan (3 DXL)
I got to see Morgan play quite a bit here in Indianapolis, and if there's one thing that you notice about him, it's the speed. Victory Field has huge alleys, but with Morgan and the even-speedier Andrew McCutcheon, fly balls to the gap never seemed to find the ground. Anyway, you have to love a speedy guy who refers to himself as "Ny-Mo" in interviews. While Morgan didn't do much in his time in Pittsburgh, he was hitting and grabbing a few steals here and there. A hamstring strain ends his season, but it's not considered serious. Morgan will be one of a collection of outfielders looking to claim the fourth-outfielder gig in Pittsburgh next season, a team that figures to look significantly different when they report to Bradenton.

Quick Cuts: Ben Sheets made it through a bullpen session, but no one thinks he'll make his start on Saturday. ... Mariano Rivera has been shut down for the year, but everyone is insisting this is just precautionary. ... Chien-Ming Wang is making nice progress with his foot, and has moved up to running. He's expected to be back at full strength well before spring training. ... Mike Mussina will pitch Sunday as he tries to win 20 games for the first time in his career. ... I'm not sure if Jake Peavy's 53-pitch inning is the highest single-inning pitch count by any pitcher this season, but it has to be up there. ... Marlon Byrd is being shut down, and will have minor knee surgery next week. ... Todd Helton's back surgery went well, and he's expected to be at full strength by spring training.

Related Content:  The Who,  Playoff Roster

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