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April 8, 2009

Under The Knife

Staying in Control

by Will Carroll

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I was watching MLB Network last night when one of the analysts talked about Mark Teahen's shift to second base. One of their points against the move was that he was "too tall." This reminded me of something I heard last year just before the NFL draft; an NFL front-office type made the statement about a tall cornerback not being able to make it in pro football. I asked why, and he explained (in far more detail) that when changing directions, a player had to 'break down,' bending their knees and back. They'd done enough film study on it that they had figured out that a player needed to drop between 15-25 percent of their normal height in order to make the necessary move. While the percentage was the same for a shorter or taller player, the taller player had to move more inches at the same speed. "It's just slower, period," he said. Football really is a game of inches, but I'm not sure the same skills are necessary at second base as at cornerback. The NFL team had analyzed film, measured athletes, and figured out the exact set of skills needed. An ex-pitcher says that it's never been done, and everyone nods, but that's simply not good enough, especially if you're a team like the Royals.

Powered by the CBS Sports iPhone app that lets me check my Tout Wars team and really obsess over it from anywhere at anytime, on to the injuries:

Felix Hernandez (0 DXL)
Hernandez looked normal in the highlights I saw, but then watching the game this morning, it was anything but... though it looked normal. That's impressive given that Hernandez turned his push ankle in the first inning. After the game he admitted that he was in a lot of pain, and he not only stayed on the mound, but he kept his mechanics under control. He had his usual flaws, but since an injury often causes a change in mechanics, I'm surprised at how little of an effect Hernandez showed. I didn't see him having it taped or treated, though that would be difficult to pick up on TV. In basketball, players' ankles often swell up if they come out of the game, something that would have happened every inning for Hernandez. One theory that an ATC I spoke with today had is that his ankle had already been taped as a matter of course, though if so, it wasn't that tight given the sprain. We'll have to see what, if any effect this has on his next start. I'm surprised that Don Wakamatsu and Rick Griffin were this willing to risk their ace on Opening Night. Maybe they were just watching the highlights.

Chris Carpenter
The Cardinals' potential ace in the hole this season is the return of their former ace. Carpenter has come back from missing nearly two seasons and he's had very little trouble with his pitching arm. There's more of an issue with a left calf strain that's been bothering him. It's his landing leg, so the cascade possibilities are lessened, but even a minute change could throw things off with Carpenter's rebuilt shoulder and elbow, leading the team to err on the side of caution. They're confident that he won't have any problems, and they have him penciled in for his first start on Thursday. The 'watch point' won't be anything specific, but just a matter of making sure that he's fluid over his stride. One scout I spoke with said that lower leg and ankle injuries tend to have a pitcher "pop up" and leave the ball up in the zone, so that's another thing to watch for on Thursday.

Brandon Webb
It surprised a lot of people that Webb is already throwing. It's not a special outing, but part of the normal routine for Webb and the rest of the D'backs. I'm sure he was watched closely, and that there was more interest in this light game of catch, but it's not abnormal, and for what it was, it went well. Webb said afterwards that he had only normal soreness, but Nick Piecoro points out that Webb's velocity was down into the low 80s just before he was pulled. Even though Webb isn't as reliant on velocity as he is on movement, there's still an element of "this high to ride the ride" with a fastball. Kevin Goldstein has noted in the past that there are almost no successful right-handed pitchers that live below 90 mph.

Vernon Wells
On the one hand, saying that Wells doesn't need extra rest means that he'll get a lot of at-bats. That's usually a good thing, but with his injury history over the last couple of years and even his problems in the spring, it's a bit odd that Cito Gaston isn't going to at least DH him occasionally given the roster options. Wells' hamstring hasn't been an issue since coming back from a few weeks off after straining it early in spring training, but as always, the Rogers Center turf is a concern in both the short- and long-term. Add in the recurrent wrist tenderness, and maybe Gaston is being too old school in managing Wells. Did the old school consider salaries while making out the lineup?

B.J. Ryan
We've come to ignore most anything the Jays say about an injury, at least from certain sources. It was easy to dismiss Ryan's spring as being the result of an injury, and given his velocity, it's the easy explanation. However, there has been no other indication of a problem besides the velocity. In his first appearance, Ryan was topping out at 87 mph, though it looked like his normal max-effort delivery. Is there an underlying issue, or is this like a Kenny Powers montage where the velocity goes down and down and then down some more? The Jays continue to insist that not only is Ryan healthy, but that he's still their closer. Brandon Inge showed that without his fastball, Ryan might not be able to hold down the job. The Jays picked him up and Ryan got the win, but it's the blown save that should worry Jays fans.

Ichiro Suzuki
Let's give some credit to the Mariners for transparency. Not only have they been up front every step along the way with the Ichiro situation, they've gone out of their way to do so. It doesn't really help us to know that Suzuki is scheduled for blood tests at 8:00 a.m. on Wednesday, but that kind of detail shows that they realize there's nothing to be gained in hiding things or throwing up smokescreens. Assuming all goes well with the test, Suzuki will report to extended spring training for a few days of hitting and conditioning, and then get in at least one game in the minors before returning to start his season. There's no reason to think that he'll have any trouble along the way, or any deficits once he does make it back.

Erik Bedard (0 DXL)
I've been as hard on Bedard as anyone, but the guy that was on the mound on Tuesday was the guy that made the M's give up Adam Jones and more. That guy had never been on the mound last season, even if the name on the jersey might have claimed otherwise. Bedard hasn't convinced me that he's past his injuries, or that the cyst in his shoulder was the big problem, but at least he's made me wonder again. Just as Carpenter's rebuild has worked, the early result on Bedard is also positive. The mechanics looked smooth and repeatable, the command of all his offerings was there, and while he was hittable, the Twins were hitting good pitches. Many have said that the M's should trade Bedard the minute that he pitches well enough to intrigue another team into giving up some prospects. Maybe so, but I'm not sure why I would trade a guy with results like that after he does it a few more times.

Kelvim Escobar (45 DXL)
It didn't take long for Escobar to suffer a setback. Mike DiGiovanna got the details first, and sources concur with his report. It's being described as just inflammation, a wear-down rather than a breakdown. It will push him back from a scheduled Thursday rehab start, and it's pushing some people toward the belief that he won't be able to handle a starter's workload, but no one I spoke with seemed overly concerned about this "stiffness." That said, it is a setback, and one that could alter the course of his rehab. I'm not adjusting the DXL at this point, but I'm certainly watching to see if it's necessary once Escobar's next step becomes more clear.

Jeff Zimmerman (NA)
Go look at his page. See where it stops there in 2001? You might think that he's been floating around in the minors. Nope. Zimmerman's career ended in 2003... or did it? The Mariners signed him this week after a tryout. This isn't the same as taking a shot on a post-surgical Chad Cordero; this is a Disney movie if it works. Zimmerman is known as one of the nice guys in the game, but this nice guy has had three elbow surgeries and it's been nearly a decade since his last save. This isn't so much an injury note as one of incredulity, but a case that bears watching.

Quick Cuts: Geovany Soto left Tuesday's game with a sore shoulder. No details yet, but it's said to be unrelated to being hit by a pitch early in the game. ... Brandon Backe is throwing, and on track to return in a few weeks from a ribcage strain. ... Mike Napoli will make his season debut on Wednesday. He hasn't been hurt, it's just that Mike Scioscia went with the hot hand in Jeff Mathis for the first few games. Napoli's knee isn't an issue here. ... When did Howie Kendrick become "Howard"? I didn't get that memo. ... Aaron Hill is showing no signs of the post-concussion syndrome that ended his season early last year. ... Tom Glavine made it through an 85-pitch simulated game without trouble. He'll come off of the DL when the Braves need their fifth starter next week. ... The Twins could make a decision as early as Wednesday on Mike Redmond and the DL. His groin will be re-assessed to see if Drew Butera will be needed. Sources insist that none of this will change the timeline for Joe Mauer's return. ... Remember Major League Baseball's press release about injuries being down this year? I'll have more details on that in Unfiltered soon.

Related Content:  Year Of The Injury

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