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April 10, 2009

Under The Knife

Notes and Injuries

by Will Carroll

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CINCINNATI-Clubhouses are almost all alike. With the influx of new stadiums, they're all big, roomy, and filled with TVs and comfortable chairs. The clubhouse inside of Great American Ballpark is much the same, though it feels very different without the presence of Ken Griffey Jr. and Adam Dunn, two larger-than-life personalities who had dominated that clubhouse since the place opened, even after Dusty Baker took over last season. The leather couches and chairs seem empty without those two around, and for the most part, they were.

I took my first trip of the year down to Cincinnati and joined the gaggle of beat writers for a day. It's a great group that includes Mark Sheldon, C. Trent Rosecrans, and John Fay, but augmented by Marty Brennaman, the Reds' longtime announcer who held court. Brennaman was great, laughing about the goings-on of Opening Day, talking about the coaching situation at local Xavier, and explaining to me how Jeff Brantley came to be known as "The Cowboy". (Answer: Dusty Baker hung it on him years ago.)

The writers' group readied for their daily meeting with Baker in his office. It's a typical office, with only the pictures on the wall differentiating this standard desk-and-chair cubicle-style setup from that of any other manager. There's a picture from Easy Rider on the wall, something that seems a bit out of place, but Baker's not an easy one to categorize. We have the audio up at the BP Radio page, so you can hear exactly what it sounds like. Naturally, I got in a question about Aaron Harang's 114-pitch outing, which caused Dusty to raise an eyebrow before answering with more thought than most would expect.

---

Out on the field during batting practice it begins to feel as if you have that 'best seat in the house,' standing fifty feet from the cage, over by the dugout, seeing the swings the players are taking, hearing the coaches instructing, and occasionally overhearing something that surprises. Willy Taveras had missed Opening Day with the flu, but as he came out to the field, Dusty Baker stopped him in the dugout and asked "How are you doing? Are you sleeping well? Keeping food down?" It was almost touching, hearing Baker speak in a caring tone to one of his players, while at the same time looking for information he'd need. We often laugh at talk of a manager looking a guy in the eye, but that's what Baker did, and perhaps that gave him enough confidence to use Taveras as a pinch-hitter that night.

In the Mets' clubhouse, there was some confidence in the air after an Opening Day win that involved both J.J. Putz and Frankie Rodriguez. Rodriguez, who I'd met in Las Vegas at the Winter Meetings, talked briefly with me about pitching versus throwing and what he's learned about the National League, while Putz nodded, either to Rodriguez's points or to whatever was playing on his iPod. The rest of the team seemed very loose, especially Jose Reyes. I started to ask Johan Santana how he felt after his first start, but he anticipated the question and told me "I'm fine."

It was my own Opening Day in a way, after the actual had been delayed for me by weather. The new access won't be turning me into a beatwriter, but there are going to be more opportunities to learn, even from such an unlikely source as Dusty Baker, sitting at his desk spitting seeds.

---

One of the things that having Kevin Goldstein around does is to make me a little lazy. I don't have to follow prospects as closely, because I know that he'll know. I follow the major ones, and the ones that catch my interest. Nick Adenhart caught my interest a few years ago with his interesting injury story. Drafted by the Angels after he'd had Tommy John surgery, I often wondered if the gamble would pay off, and if it did, even if some crazy parents ended up thinking he'd found a shortcut to the majors. Adenhart got healthy and made it to the major leagues, the ultimate goal of any draft pick. I followed his progress, but I won't pretend to know if he'd have been good, if he would have pitched for years, or why there's any reason this happened. Robert Frost said that all he knew was that life goes on, but when it stops as quickly as it did for Adenhart, his agent Henry Pierson, and another in that car, we also learn that life stops for some. There's no reason, no good thing to say, no way to make sense of it. All I can hope is that Adenhart was basking in the glow of his performance, still full in the knowledge that his dream had come true, or at least one of them. He may not have gone out with a win, but with all of the great things that have been said about the young pitcher, he does go out a winner.

---

Brandon Webb (5 DXL)
Ken Rosenthal added an important detail to the Webb story. Just a day after "normal soreness," the Diamondbacks' ace continued to have that same soreness, forcing the team to juggle the rotation, skipping his turn to make sure that this stays normal. However, Rosenthal's story that a contract extension for Webb was nixed by an insurer does add an element of intrigue. It's important to understand that most contracts, even the large ones, are not insured. Moreover, Webb saw Dr. James Andrews of his own volition over the winter, in order to clear his own mind and to protect his interests if he was not going to be a long-term D'back. Andrews reportedly found nothing abnormal, but suggested a shoulder strengthening program. Andrews and Snakes' ATC Ken Crenshaw have a great relationship, with Crenshaw a regular and popular presenter at ASMI's conference, so this shouldn't be an issue. In context, the insurance part of this story doesn't bother me. The soreness that's costing him a start probably isn't much either, but if the team can't get ahead of this in a week, then I'll start to really worry.

Max Scherzer (10 DXL)
Rehab assignments are always fun, and I can't wait for the day when MiLB.com has as many games on as their big brother. Scherzer headed to High-A Lake Elsinore for his first and likely only rehab assignment, pitching for the newly named Visalia Rawhide. (Ick.) Scherzer was not ick, blowing away the kids with a fastball that touched 98 and showed lots of movement. One observer said that there was so much movement that the umpire was fooled a few times, which could explain the four walks. He hit his pitch limit before he could qualify for the win, but the outing was a success. The D'backs will wait and see if he has any post-game soreness, but it looks as if Scherzer will make his big-league season debut next Tuesday against the Cardinals.

Mark Buehrle (0 DXL)
The White Sox want Buehrle to "change his off-season routine," says the Chicago Tribune. Buehrle's reluctance to change what has always worked for him is understandable, and with almost any other team, I'd agree. The White Sox, however, have Herm Schneider. The point Ozzie Guillen made is that, with age and workload, things need to change for Buehrle, or for any pitcher. Since he's been complaining about soreness after spring training but still pitched well, it's difficult to say why this came up. The key point here is that Buehrle does have some issues that bear watching, and that the team is concerned enough about his future that they're already talking about it just a week into this season. Buehrle is usually the last Sox pitcher we need to worry about, but I have a feeling that might change.

Mike Redmond (3 DXL)
Joe Mauer (30 DXL)

So the Twins paired up two items of good news on Thursday, finding out that Redmond won't miss time and that Joe Mauer is on track. Redmond's groin responded to intense treatment over the last few days, so he won't need to go on the DL. It's still unclear when he'll be back, but Jose Morales has held up well enough. Mauer's timetable is "nonpublic" according to the Twins, but it's not very hard to figure out. He'll continue to hit, progress to running, and then move into extended spring training games. Each stage will take between three and five days. Mauer will then have a couple of rehab games before his return. In all, it should be within the next fifteen to twenty-five days, with the midpoint putting him back right around May 1. That's about right. There's always the worry about a setback with any kind of lower back issue, especially one as squirrelly as his SI joint pain has been.

Quick Cuts: B.J. Upton will rejoin the Rays on Monday. ... Ichiro Suzuki went 7-for-10 in his first game action since his ulcer was discovered. It's fun seeing the lines in extended spring training, since you can say things like "Ichiro is leading off every inning!" ... It's just one start, but with his spring work, you have to feel good about Chris Carpenter so far. ... I hope Chris Jakubauskas never gets hurt, and that's the only time I have to type his name. ... Rich Hill is about a week away from heading to extended spring training for the Orioles; he could be back in early May if all goes well. ... How long until someone suggests that steroids are back? Great numbers from David Pinto via Twitter. ... Kevin Kouzmanoff is dealing with a sore hamstring that might cost him a couple of games over the next week as the Pads' staff tries to get ahead of it.

---

Sit in with Will in Dusty Baker's office in the bowels of the Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati by tuning into the latest podcast by Baseball Prospectus Radio.


Click to download mp3

17 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

BP Comment Quick Links

Pietaster07

Chris Jakubauskas is at least easier than Doug Mientkiewicz. :)

Apr 10, 2009 10:09 AM
rating: 0
 
OonBoon

I like how you refer to Dusty's answer (re: Harang and 114 pitches)as "thoughtful" rather than rational or intelligent. Classy. I can't wait to get home and listen to the conversation. Dusty inspires curiosity, in the way that car accidents and burning buildings do. The danger is titillating.

One imagines rescuing the Reds' pitchers from DB. As I charged into the bullpen with my lasso, six-shooter, and garlic necklace, would I be eaten? Would my arm fall off? Would I be slapped to death by Corey Patterson, Willy Taveras, and Juan Pierre?

Apr 10, 2009 10:12 AM
rating: 1
 
dianagram

Could we not invoke the phrase "car accidents" for the next day or so? Thanks!

Apr 10, 2009 10:17 AM
rating: 0
 
dianagram

Re: Scoring increase from '08 to '09 ...

Let's look at this from a different angle. If we accept that the WBC impacts the early-season performance of players, should we not compare WBC years?

ML averages in 2009 through first 5 days:
.256/.332/.426 with HR every 29.15 ABs

ML averages in 2006 (last WBC year) through first 5 days:
.281/.351/.424 with HR every 25.22 ABs

and for completeness sake ....
ML averages in 2008 through first 5 days:
.245/.320/.385 with HR every 36.67 ABs

Hmmm .... and we can't even pin *this* on A-Rod! :-)

Apr 10, 2009 10:33 AM
rating: 1
 
Brian Kopec

"Redmond's groin responded to intense treatment..."

So he's one of those kinds, eh?

Apr 10, 2009 10:39 AM
rating: 5
 
eighteen

Volquez had nothin' Wed., but Baker left him in to throw 107 pitches over 4 1/3 innings.

Is Baker too stupid to learn, or does he just refuse to? My money's on the former.

Apr 10, 2009 10:59 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Will Carroll
BP staff

Couple things -- all the pitchers were having trouble, so I'd love to see if Angel Hernandez was the issue. Beyond that, Dusty was trying to get the win for Volquez, but left him in too long and blew that chance. The "W" meant more, though the 110 mark Baker talks about in the gaggle comes in to play here.

Apr 10, 2009 11:25 AM
 
antoine6

I kind of feel bad for Dusty Baker at this point. Everyone who reads BP think he's some sort if mindless monster out to destroy young pitchers and the game of baseball. He's like the easiest target for any fan who thinks they know what they're talking about (him and Juan Pierre). If Volquez played for any other manager, no one would raise an eyebrow.

I think Baker does do some stupid things as a manager, but people who have no idea what he's thinking just assume he's stupid. There's a difference. It's sort of off-putting to see so many people engage in negativity towards a guy for doing something that you can't even really measure. At least we know Juan Pierre is a crappy baseball player.

Apr 10, 2009 19:08 PM
rating: 4
 
OonBoon

Give the man an IQ test! No, but seriously, is one massive part of intelligence not the ability to learn from one's mistakes? The man must certainly have been told of the potential for serious damage he creates with his old school methods.

Pitcher abuse is like global warming. Yes, there are pitchers you can point to whose arms can withstand any demand placed upon them, but an examination of the trend clearly shows the consequences to those whose minds are open.

Apr 11, 2009 08:57 AM
rating: 1
 
prb798

Loved the audio segment and look forward to more.

Apr 10, 2009 11:51 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Will Carroll
BP staff

Thanks. I have to figure out better sound quality. I had a setup for an interview, not a "set your mike down and ask questions." Poor planning on my part.

Apr 10, 2009 12:01 PM
 
manupod

What about Scott Baker- anything?

Apr 10, 2009 12:28 PM
rating: 1
 
BP staff member Will Carroll
BP staff

Nothing new. Starting in Single-A Ft Myers tonight (Fri).

Apr 10, 2009 12:53 PM
 
bdoublegeez

Reports downplay Geovany Soto's injury. How problematic can biceps inflammation be? Should Cubs fans be concerned or terribly concerned?

Apr 10, 2009 12:44 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Will Carroll
BP staff

Eh, not too worried. Just have to get in front of it. Anti-inflams, treatment.

Apr 10, 2009 12:52 PM
 
bdoublegeez

Ah good! I can keep sharp objects around the house again.

Apr 10, 2009 13:31 PM
rating: 0
 
antoine6

Will: Charlie Manuel hinted that Hamels might have to miss his next start, after getting roughed up today in Colorado. Have you heard anything on his situation?

Apr 10, 2009 19:11 PM
rating: 0
 
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Premium Article Future Shock: Friday's... (04/10)
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Premium Article Under The Knife: Stayi... (04/08)
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Premium Article Under The Knife: Help,... (04/13)
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Premium Article Prospectus Q&A: Rob De... (04/12)

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