As a political animal, I usually find myself on the side of the libertarians. As such, the debate surrounding the ban of ephedra had me on both sides of the argument quickly. While my stated position that ephedra and other performance enhancing drugs–effective or ineffective, legal or illegal–has no place in baseball or any sport, I also know that the market should be free to the utmost extent and that ban or not, players will likely use a substance anyway. Watching “Fear Factor” tonight, I saw not one, but two ads for products–Stacker 2 and Hydroxycut–that are suddenly promoting themselves as “ephedra-free.” This brings up two points: that the market will move from one product to another as quickly as possible when there are widely perceived negatives that could impact sales, and that as fast as we ban one product, another similar product will pop up in its place. As satisfying as it might be for MLB to drop a ban on ephedra at all levels and as good a PR move as it might be, in the end, it probably won’t solve anything. Education, in my opinion, remains our best hope.

  • Normally, the velocity readings I get from my sources tend to be between one and five mph slower than those you’ll see in stadiums or on TV. There are lots of technical reasons for this that I’ll leave to some enterprising writer to send to me, but one came through today that scared me: Randy Johnson…100 mph. Despite being a lefty, I’d bat right-handed against Johnson. But even so, I don’t think I want to do that, even in a dream.

  • Everything out of Rockies camp has been “Oh, Todd Helton, he’ll be fine. He got a shot in his back and he’ll be fine. He had this last year, but he’ll be fine.” I think part of the strategy is to say, “he’ll be fine” until they believe it themselves. Helton came up sore after a bus ride in Arizona, so what might a long plane ride, or a 162-game season, do to him?

  • Better news from Planet Coors: Denny Neagle was reported to have a “tweaked” elbow. OK, we didn’t make it two weeks before my most hated word made it into a report. One of my goals is to remove the word “tweak” from any discussion involving medical information. Neagle, in fact, felt a small adhesion break loose. This is a common occurrence after the elbow surgery he had. and means next to nothing in the long term.

  • It was pointed out to me by a pitching coach that Odalis Perez has pitched over 300 innings in the last 12 months when one includes winter ball, spring training, and the 2002 season. The shaky green light I gave him might be one of the ones I revisit later this month in my Team Health Report recap.

  • The Dodgers should get SUN pitcher Eric Gagne back later this week. He was able to play a game of catch and plans to be on a mound by the weekend. There should be no issues with his availability for Opening Day, but the odd thing I heard from more than one person today was that there were concerns about Gagne’s stamina. Last I looked, he pitched one inning at a time. How much stamina does that take? I’m just hoping the Darren Dreifort-to-closer rumors aren’t starting up again.

  • There’s never a good case of patellar tendonitis, but the one Danny Graves has is about as benign as could be. It affects him when running, but has no effect on his pitching. He’s being held out as a precaution, but he is available, and we get one of the famous “if this was game day, I’d be in there” quotes usually reserved for football from him.

  • The reported avulsion fracture to Scott Williamson‘s finger doesn’t match up with what’s being described currently. While a six-week stint in a splint would be normal for an avulsion, Williamson describes himself as ready to pitch. Team trainers concurred and he’s planning to throw later this week. I’m not sure what the disconnect between yesterday’s description and today’s is.

  • Austin Kearns underwent what was termed successful surgery in Cincinnati. During the scoping, three bone chips were removed from his elbow. Kearns will likely be out around 10 days. Rehab began immediately, and Kearns will return to Florida tomorrow.

  • No time like the present. Mark Wohlers will have surgery this week if Jim Andrews determines it is necessary. Wohlers sounded very optimistic, discussing a timetable for return that involved weeks and not months. If Wohlers’ availability really affects your team and your name isn’t Mark Shapiro, your team is in trouble.

  • While Wohlers and Kearns are going under the knife, might as well get some Brewers in there. Jayson Durocher had surgery this weekend to remove bone chips. He’ll miss around six weeks. Durocher should be a big part of the Brewers’ pen this year. Granted, almost anyone with a live arm should be, if they could stay healthy.

  • Things are a bit more optimistic regarding Jim Edmonds. While Tony La Russa was saying yesterday that Edmonds and J.D. Drew would likely start the season on the List, Edmonds yesterday said he’d probably be ready to go by Opening Day. Edmonds isn’t yet at a weakened stage like his former teammate Tim Salmon, but pushing Edmonds to a corner is one option being discussed for the early portion of the season.

  • Eli Marrero‘s stomachache would probably be no big thing for most players in the grand scheme, but Marrero is a cancer survivor, and every little bug brings up memories and fears. He’s planning to have more tests done, despite a negative CT scan. Marrero figures to get some CF starts in Edmonds’s place if he’s available.

  • If velocity is the best measure of health, things are looking good for A.J. Burnett. He was clocked as high as 95 mph in his last outing, and showed no problems afterwards. See, I told you not to worry about that elbow…yet.

  • BP’s Jeff Hildebrand was at the Phillies game where Brandon Duckworth felt pain and came out of the game. Jeff said: “If I had been slightly faster on the uptake I could have gotten you a picture of where Duckworth was indicating the pain was, but it was the forearm, on the inside of the arm, just below the elbow. It looked like he was holding his thumb and forefinger about two inches apart, roughly an inch or so below the bend of his arm in a ‘this is the problem spot’ indication.” Jeff’s description seems to keep with the flexor tendon theory. Duckworth has been sent back to Philadelphia for more tests.

  •’s Jason Michael Barker writes in with the tidbit that Jamal Strong dislocated his other shoulder while in high school. Yes, there is a genetic proclivity for this type of injury. Last time I discussed Strong, I said that Scott Rolen was the best comparable for Strong. Really, the better comp would be Danny Bautista or Phil Nevin.

  • Continuing today’s theme of injured pitchers and lost potential, Jon Rauch is not looking as good as he teased late last season. He’s been ineffective, his velocity is down in the 90 mph range, and his command is termed “Double-A quality.” Yes, it’s early, but labrum surgery is still the closest thing to a pitching death sentence as we have.

  • Yes! A Jeffrey Hammonds sighting! Like Sandy Alomar, Hammonds makes sure I always have fresh material to work with. Hammonds was hit by a pitch and has a “severe bruise” on his elbow. That’s nothing for him. He’s the player most likely to spontaneously combust on the field.

  • My note on Mike Lieberthal in yesterday’s UTK brought a response from reader Robert Kranz, a former trainer. He reminded me that the symptoms Lieberthal is exhibiting mesh well with a diagnosis of osteitis pubis. While it’s not an injury that I’ve ever heard of occurring in baseball–it’s more a soccer injury than anything–it is very chronic and painful. We’re watching Lieberthal closely.

  • I’ll let Chris Kahrl take on the issue of Carl Crawford and Rocco Baldelli being named as starters and 1-2 batters for the Rays, but I’m immediately placing Lou Piniella on the day-to-day list with stroke risk.

Back tomorrow with more arrogance, fighting ignorance.

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