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September 28, 2009

Under The Knife

The Final Stretch

by Will Carroll

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Adam Wainwright
We begin the final week for UTK with the eternal question: WTF? The Cardinals let Wainwright go 130 pitches in search of a division-clinching win while he's also seeking a Cy Young Award. The Cards did clinch, but we need to look at this game a little deeper. On the surface, we have to notice that the Cards' bullpen hasn't been locking down leads lately. A bullpen should only be used when the pitcher is tired, making the reliever a better option (i.e., Ryan Franklin at 100 percent is better than, 60 percent of Wainwright or Chris Carpenter, right?), or when the matchup throws that equation off for a batter in a key situation. Beyond that, the Cards knew that by clinching, they could give Wainwright extra rest before his next start and extra rest before he takes the ball in Game One of the LDS. Add it all up, and while there's still some room to question whether it was really necessary, it was not a snap decision to push someone or let them go further than they should.

Jon Lester
When Jon Lester got hit in the leg, my initial thought was of Roy Halladay. A few years ago, Halladay was hit in the shin, breaking his leg and ending his season. Halladay's bad luck was just that, a matter of inches and angles, velocity and opponent, and this incident could have just as easily ended Lester's season there and then. For that matter, it's the same difference between Lester and Bryce Florie, or Lester and Hiroki Kuroda. The ball hit Lester on the thigh, in a "meaty" spot that had to hurt, but overall it should be nothing more than painful. Lester should recover in time to make his next start, while the Red Sox have options if he needs an extra day or so to be fully recovered. I could belabor the point that pitchers need more protection from this kind of risk, but then again, I'm not sure I'm ready to advocate a football-like thigh pad in an area nature has already built up.

Pedro Martinez
Brett Myers (10/3)
Chan Ho Park (10/2)

There's always a cost to high pitch totals, especially for a guy like Pedro. Even though his seasonal fatigue level should be lower than most, Martinez's shoulder didn't start from the same baseline as most pitchers. He might still be a sports car, but he's more like this one than that one. Things change over time with use, including the inside of a pitcher's shoulder. Martinez's issue with soreness was helped by his chiropractor, but who knows what comes next at this stage? It could be that he can't pitch in the playoffs without him, or under a full moon. While beating the Mets had to be a big deal for Martinez, it wasn't so significant for the Phillies, and they have to hope they did the right thing. With a shift of J.A. Happ to the pen likely, they seem to think they did. The rest of the bullpen might or might not come together before the playoffs: Myers won't be back before Friday, Park is throwing but isn't 100 percent, and J.C. Romero didn't light up the instructional league during his latest session. There are a lot of decisions to be made, and not a lot of answers yet.

Aaron Cook
Cook has gone from shut down to a playoff starter in the space of about ten days. The funny thing is, nothing really changed in the meantime. His shoulder is still an issue, but he made it through Friday's five-inning start without problems, and more importantly he recovered well over the weekend. With their playoff spot all but locked down, they might give him some extra rest or just use Cook to space the rest of the playoff rotation. His ground ball-inducing ways are still amazing, making some wonder if he, like Jose Contreras, could help the team in relief (albeit in very different roles). Cook's tendencies make him a big change from any of their other starters, or at least more extreme.

Yadier Molina (9/30)
The Molina family is known for many things, but speed is not one of them. Even so, the Birderati were all atwitter about Molina's lack of hustle over the last week. We'll see how this plays out, but Molina fouling a ball off his leg will give him some time before he does. As with Wainwright, Molina and the rest of the Cardinals will get some extra rest as they tune up for the playoffs. Molina has always played well with small dings, just like most catchers, and shouldn't have any trouble healing up over the next week.

Jose Reyes (10/4)
Time has run out for Reyes. Just as the season wraps up, he's ready to run. He was able to do some full-speed work over the weekend, but he won't make an appearance for the Mets. Instead, they'll have to be happy knowing that Reyes did make a recovery of some sort, and hope that they can use the offseason to prepare him for 2010. The problem with the offseason is that while the team has ways of keeping track of players, it's much harder for anyone else to do so. Even then, the Mets will need faith in Reyes' full return, along with assessments of the rest of their players at a time when their medical staff is being evaluated. A loss of consistency could be an issue.

Scott Rolen (9/29)
The Reds haven't gotten much from the deal for Rolen. He's been off the field with various issues-most recently back spasms-as much as he's been on it, and he's down on virtually every rate stat. About the only consolation is that he has been slightly better than Edwin Encarnacion has been in Toronto, but the Reds never really were focusing on 2009 in acquiring Rolen. Instead, the idea was that Rolen should help the team in 2010 seemed to be the bulk of the reason to bring him in at all. If his chronic back issues didn't get better playing in Cincinnati this season, I'm not sure what they can expect from him next year in his age-35 season, however. The Reds should get him back on Tuesday, giving him four days off, which will hopefully keep him active through the end of the season.

Quick Cuts: Josh Johnson missed his Sunday start due to illness. He'll slot back in later this week. The Phillies think Carlos Ruiz will be back Tuesday. He'll take batting practice on Monday as a test of his wrist. Francisco Liriano's start was a disaster, lasting 1 2/3 innings before he was pulled. He lacked control, making many wonder if his elbow will ever be better. Derrek Lee missed the weekend with neck spasms, caused when Angel Guzman hit his helmet in congratulations. That's one for the 'weird injury' file. Michael Young wants to finish the season on the field and not in the trainer's room. He'll likely be limited to DH. Things haven't gone well in the last couple of days for Russell Branyan; his back may keep him from returning this season. Kevin Kouzmanoff is expected back tomorrow. He has missed much of the month with back and leg issues.

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Kiss'Em Goodbye: Texas... (09/28)

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