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August 24, 2009

Under The Knife

Repeaters

by Will Carroll

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Chipper Jones
Jones is or is not a lot of things. One of the things he isn't is a 1-for-22 guy, not without something being wrong. Sure, randomness rules the world, but I believe Jones' wrist is the issue here. He's been playing through the pain for a couple of weeks, but check swings really seem to be the big issue, leading many to believe he might have something along the lines of the tendon issue that Mark DeRosa and David Ortiz have dealt with in the past year. Jones is tough to read with injuries, but I have to think that an extended slump is going to get to him and push him to sit for a while. The Braves don't have great options with Martin Prado out, but finding something better than 1-for-22 isn't hard.

Aaron Harang (10/4)
At least we can't blame an emergency appendectomy on Dusty Baker, but Harang is likely done for the season after having emergency surgery to remove his appendix this weekend. While some players have come back from this quickly, especially given the changes in the surgery over the past decade, the Reds' place in the standings and the time of the year likely combine to make it so that Harang will be told to rest up and be ready for 2010. The issue now is how the Reds will fill out the rotation with their top three pitchers all on the shelf. Kip Wells will be the immediate replacement, but look for the Reds to use September as audition time, figuring out who will help them next year and what weaknesses they'll need to address.

Adam Jones (8/26)
The Orioles have the start of something good. Some young players with potential and some young pitching give fans in Charm City something to dream on. Keeping that core healthy is key, so watch for them to be very conservative with Jones; he left Sunday's game in the first inning with spasms in his "mid-back." We'll assume that phrase indicates his lumbar region and that the spasms are a muscular issue rather than anything structural. Assuming he responds to treatment and medication, the O's have nothing to gain by pushing him back out there. They can live with Felix Pie if it prevents this from becoming a chronic problem for Jones.

Alfonso Soriano (8/25)
The Cubs have five more years of Soriano on the books, something that Joe Ricketts is probably taking a long look at right now. That's a lot of money, and given Soriano's production this year, that could hang like an albatross over an aging, win-now team that isn't winning now. The hole at second base and the drop-off in production from Soriano and Geovany Soto are clear problems on offense, though Soriano's issues can be partially explained by injuries. He's had knee, hand, and back problems this season, but it's the knee that's acting up again. "Running is a problem," he told reporters and yes, that is one of the things he has to do. He'll undergo treatment for the next few days and is expected back by mid-week. With Milton Bradley and a diminished Soriano on the books, the Cubs seem to be surprised that having two DHs in an NL lineup is a problem. How Jim Hendry re-configures this team under new ownership is going to be as much a test for him as reconfiguring the Cubs back into a contender.

Freddy Sanchez (9/3)
The Giants knew what they were getting. Sanchez is a quality hitter when he's out there and decent enough in the field, but it's the "when" that's problematic. Since winning the batting title, Sanchez has spent more time in this column than at the top of any stat leaderboards, reducing the value he has. He's an upgrade, but the shoulder problem that has kept him out for nearly a week is a chronic one that was tough to control in Pittsburgh. Dave Groeschner and his staff are new to Sanchez, and their methods may or may not be different, which makes it maybe better, maybe worse, or maybe the same. You know how I feel about unknowns, and this is a chronic situation with an added unknown element. Sanchez still can't even swing a bat, so the DL is looking more and more likely.

Nick Johnson (9/2)
Let's just pause a moment and note how infrequently Johnson has appeared in this column this season. He's on pace to play in as many games as his 2006 peak season, but not be as productive. Still, it's good to see that he can be relatively healthy; it's a simple hamstring strain that has kept him out a week this time around. The team expects he'll be back tomorrow, but there's a chance they'll DL him if he's not ready or if they just don't feel comfortable pushing him. Given what we know about Johnson's healing time, there's more than a small chance they'll make the retroactive move. That ERD above is the date where he'd be with the DL move, so call me a pessimist if you must.

Francisco Liriano (10/4)
The Twins are fading, and with that the team seems to be taking the chance to shut down or at least limit Liriano's workload. Coming off of Tommy John surgery, Liriano has had trouble with both his forearm and shoulder. There's also questions about his innings total last year. Yes, he threw 180-plus frames last season, but as I've said before, there's an issue with minor league innings. They don't "count" the same, and I can't figure out a better system than just ignoring them. (It's something we're doing more work on, hopefully in concert with Matt Swartz, who's an Excel Iron Chef.) Liriano simply hasn't been the same since his surgery, and even before he was obviously doing things that led to the surgery. Getting him back to form is going to be one of the big tasks for the Twins in 2010; we can only wonder what might have been if they'd straightened him out for 2009. Granted, saying that much is assuming that it's even possible. The Twins won't have Liriano start again this season, though injuries to other pitchers could force their hand. I'm listing him as out for the season, since that's both the most likely outcome, and the best one as far as the Twins are thinking now.

Manuel Corpas (10/4)
We're not used to seeing infections secondary to surgery in baseball. It's happened, but we've seen it a lot more in football for some reason. Tom Brady and Peyton Manning both famously dealt with it last season, and both are back and fine. We can only hope that's the case with Corpas. He had surgery two weeks ago, and needed to be opened back up to clean out some infection in his pitching elbow. It's unclear how, if at all, this will affect him in the short and long term, but it precludes his return this season. The Rockies held out some hope that he could be ready for the playoffs, but even that's a long shot.

John Smoltz
Kyle Lohse (9/10)

Smoltz made a nice debut for the Cardinals, but the real test is his next start. His velocity stayed around 93, a nice enough number, and he was certainly effective against the Padres, but the problem he had in Boston was recovery. The four or five days between starts wasn't enough to get him back to 100 percent, not even in the minors and with the low pitch counts associated with rehab starts. Look for his velocity to drop his next time out, or for his stamina to be in question. If he's still at 93, then the Cardinals figured something out that a team considered the most advanced in pitcher management didn't. The Cards will have to hope Smoltz holds together since Lohse didn't. After fighting arm trouble the past few weeks, Lohse strained his groin and hit the DL. He's not expected to be out more than the minimum, and there's hope the arm might benefit from the extra rest.

Quick Cuts: Reports are good on Akinori Iwamura as he continues rehabbing from his knee injury. He's likely to be up before the rosters expand, but its unclear whether he'll reclaim his spot at second base immediately (or at all) given Ben Zobrist's season. ... James Loney missed the weekend with FLS. He's expected back Tuesday. ... Joe Saunders is expected to start this week for the Angels. Good pen sessions have them hoping he can solidify the rotation. ... Dallas Braden is in full shut-down as the A's continue to try and get his foot problem under control. He's unlikely to return this season. ... Carlos Gonzalez will miss a week after cutting his hand. He should come back fine once he gets his grip back. ... Chris Dickerson left Sunday's game with a sprained ankle. No word yet on the severity. ... Scott Downs is expected back in the Jays' bullpen this week, but he's not likely to get save opportunities right off the bat. ... Tim Wakefield will be activated to start Wednesday, but his calf is still an issue. ... We had an amazing event at Autozone Park and the HiTone in Memphis on Friday, with a good crowd for both the ballgame and the concert. Ft. Myers and Pittsburgh should be fun too, with lots of special guests joining us at PNC Park.

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