If you had the Marlins to win the World Series, then head straight to Derek’s favorite sports book at the Venetian and collect your winnings. I don’t expect a long line. I’m willing to bet in all the expert polls–even the ones involving the BP crew or Jim Baker’s Predictatron contest–that few if any predicted the Marlins to win the division, let alone the title. While they broke my heart in the NLCS, I give Josh Beckett, Jack McKeon, and all of the Florida Marlins a ton of credit. One key: they overcame injuries like A.J. Burnett with depth, filled in adequately (or in the case of future superstar Miguel Cabrera, way more than adequately) when they had minor injuries, and were flexible without sacrificing the necessary components to a winning team. I just hope Jon Sciambi and Len Kasper won’t blind me with those big new rings they’ll be sporting soon.

  • From the NY Post : “An MRI revealed an inflamed tendon in Jason Giambi‘s left knee as well as patellar tendinitis. The condition is chronic and he will have to undergo diagnostic arthroscopic surgery after the World Series.” Sometimes, it’s good to know where my work hasn’t made it. You, of course, realize that an inflamed tendon is the very definition of tendinitis. Giambi will have surgery, but the recent pain that kept him out of the World Series could indicate more damage than expected. This will surely bear close watch.
  • The Yankees will also be watching as Derek Jeter undergoes his expected off-season shoulder surgery. As we saw with Phil Nevin, the time period from surgery to game-ready is reduced from previous expectations due to new technologies and techniques. Jeter should return in plenty of time for Spring Training, assuming he maintains the new timeline we’ve seen established in the past year. There should be no ill effects and in fact, Jeter should be expected to improve slightly, on a pure health basis. I’ll leave the actual projections to Nate and Clay though.
  • As I stated a couple weeks back, A.J. Burnett has begun throwing and is well ahead of schedule, putting him more on a Brandon Claussen timeline for return from Tommy John surgery. Burnett is expected to return before the All-Star break, likely in a relief role. Jack McKeon’s done well using starters as relievers, so why not do this in the regular season. Seriously, why not do this? No one’s given me a good answer as to why it wouldn’t work.
  • While I won’t get into the ethics of using an off-label prescription in this space, Mark Mulder does appear to be making a speedy recovery. No one besides Mulder knows if he really would have been able to go in the ALCS, but the A’s are going to use every advantage they might have, and secrecy appears to be something a few teams think gives them an edge. While I admire Billy Beane and Brian Cashman, and the others who think they’re getting things over on those of us that cover these issues, the odds continue to get smaller that secrets stay secret. That advantage, like any market inefficiency, will narrow over time.
  • Casey Fossum will be a big part of the Red Sox rotation next year, assuming he can stay healthy. In order to help that, Fossum visited Dr. James Andrews and had a minor clean-up in his shoulder. Nothing serious was discovered and the surgery reportedly went exactly as planned. Fossum should be ready to replace John Burkett in the four slot in ’04.
  • There’s some question as to whether Corey Patterson will be able to return to CF at full strength in time for the opening of the ’04 campaign. Patterson, in all likelihood, should be able to step back into the role with little problem and will only need to concentrate on keeping the gains he found in the first half of the season. With two injury-prone corner outfielders, the Cubs will need two solid backups, one that can play center and one that can slug off the bench. I’m not sure if what they have now fits well.
  • After tendon/heel surgery, Cliff Floyd is already walking without pain. The additional clearance for his oft-inflamed Achilles should keep him healthier, at least in that area, and on the field more (for him) than he was last season. He’ll likely be the focal point of the Mets offense.
  • Lots of e-mail questions regarding Melvin Mora‘s progress. After knee surgery to repair his MCL, Mora should have no problem returning to his former versatile self. MCL repair does not have the rehab or the consequences of the more serious ACL repair. There’s no health reason he can’t be the Melvin Mora we saw last season.
  • Bone chips are bad, especially for pitchers. Finding five chips and a spur? That’s finding out you’re rooming with Corey Feldman on “The Surreal Life” bad. Terry Adams had that experience, but surgeons feel he’ll be able to pitch by Spring Training. For those born without the risk-averse gene, Adams could pay off.
  • Let’s do a lightning round on pitchers coming off surgery: Darren Dreifort‘s experimental knee surgery is doing well and “Mr. Glass” should be back on the mound for Spring Training. Tony Armas Jr. is doing well and could be a good pick-up if the Expos non-tender him. Kris Benson‘s off-season workouts are behind schedule slightly, but he’s still expected to be a big part of a good, young Pirates rotation. Nick Neugebauer will make another comeback, likely as a reliever for the Brewers. If you’re waiting on Ryan Anderson to finally show up, keep waiting: Anderson is out until at least June and probably won’t pitch competitively in 2004.
  • Ryan Ludwick was able to overcome a serious hip injury to come back, but a knee injury that required surgery may be related to the hip. Ludwick could be one of those players who’s always a bit balky due to a past problem, but he’s also got the talent to make you forget all about it when he’s on. He’ll be in the mix with the rest of the plethora of Indians outfielders for next season, but he might see more of Buffalo than Cleveland in the early portion of the season.
  • I recently reported that a Phillies source had told me that Vicente Padilla had indeed been injured in his car accident. Later reports from the Phillies and their team doctors refuted that report. My source was working from old information and I apologize for the inaccuracy. Padilla, in fact, was checked out by team medical staff and has only minor injuries and should be fine for Spring Training.
  • We’re not at a stage yet where shoulders are like elbows, but with every advance and even every surgery, we’re learning and getting closer to a ‘routine.’ Medical advances like this neat-o device are just one factor helping pitchers with injured shoulders come back. It’s still better to prevent than repair, however.

UTK will be back on an irregular schedule, as events and situations warrant, but just as injuries never sleep, they often don’t have an off-season either. My e-mail still works, so feel free to use it. Thanks to everyone for a great season, especially my friends and colleagues here at BP.