There’s not a lot of injury news happening, just as it should be as players and their families are packing up for their annual trips to Florida or Arizona. Guys are in shape, tuning up to fight for jobs, and the best way to do that is to stay healthy. Pitchers on the DL last season got zero wins while out and injured hitters combined for an 000 OPS. Whether it’s the Yankees or a rotisserie team from Yonkers, team health and player injuries will likely be a major factor in deciding who plays in October.

Powered by Jellyfish, on to the injuries …

  • It’s a non-story that Barry Bonds had surgery on his right knee. It was a simple scope, what doctors call a “scrape and tape.” He had the bone surface cleaned and the cartilage smoothed; he’ll heal normally. Sure, he’ll miss much of spring training, but that’s more a conscious decision than anything else. Bonds had identical surgery on the opposite knee in November. Why not do both knees then, you ask? Most people, especially athletes, don’t like being on bed rest or in a wheelchair for any period of time. Staggering the surgery will keep Bonds on crutches. It’s hoped that having him miss most of the exhibition season will help keep him fresh for the games that count. No one seems to be worried about Bonds’ conditioning.
  • Bonds was hardly the only player whose knee was in the news. The offseason saw a seeming epidemic of ACL injuries. They range from the lost season of Jason Kubel to Lance Berkman‘s prognosis of a late-April return. Carlos Guillen should be back in May and Rocco Baldelli sometime after that. Aaron Boone–remember him?–will be back about the mid-point of spring training, but he’ll have had more than a year to recover.

    Why such variation? It’s not just the degree of ligament tearing, but also the strength of the surrounding muscles, the athlete’s willingness to rehab, and involvement of other structures. Slow players come back quicker than speedsters, and there are several other factors. A torn ACL is no longer a career-ender in most cases, so rejoice that these guys will all likely make it back to their previous level sometime in the not-so-distant future.

  • A source tells me about seeing Magglio Ordonez–my off-season white whale–actually running. “Slight limp, seems to be guarding slightly. Looks post-scope two weeks and its been two months. Might be maxed.” It’s not the best scouting report, although Ordonez’s running is the key we were looking for. Ordonez doesn’t rely on speed, isn’t going to lose much defensively, and has enough stability to keep any impact on his hitting base to a minimum. I don’t have millions of dollars to toss at him, but where I might have offered a Nomar Garciaparra-type deal last week, I’d consider an Ivan Rodriguez deal now.
  • Hank Blalock had a bit of a scare with his knee, causing a gasp-storm around Arlington, Texas. The stud third baseman “tweaked” his knee (translation: a painful popping) and was brought in for a quick check. There’s no apparent damage; it’s unclear whether it was even worthy of an MRI. Keep an eye on this through the spring, but remember that Blalock could be rested by moving him to first base or DH for brief stints. The Rangers have a lot of roster flexibility, perhaps a conscious mimicking of the Red Sox team that won the World Series.
  • Joe Mauer spent more time in this column than he did on the FieldTurf in Minneapolis. Reports through the fall were very mixed with many indications that both Mauer and the Twins were considering a position change. Mauer appeared at some Twins community events and was walking normally, proclaiming his health. It’ll take a spring of squatting before we know if Mauer is truly back to his top prospect status, but reports from my Ft. Myers moles are positive. Even at third base, that bat holds a lot of value.
  • I’ve sworn off injury re-creation this season, so it’s good to see that Gary Sheffield is healing nicely. His shoulder is on target for opening spring training on time. This type of shoulder problem has a pretty high risk of recurrence due to altered biomechanics, so it bears watching. Sheffield played MVP-level ball with an injury last season; I’d like to see what he can do healthy.

  • Quick Cuts: Reason I Have a Job #324 – This article leads with Landon Powell “tearing a ligament”, then tells us it’s his lateral meniscus. Medheads know the meniscus is cartilage, not a ligament. Powell? He’ll miss spring training, but it’s not considered serious … Cole Hamels got his “D’oh!” Award nomination in early this season. A broken fifth metacarpal will cost him two to three months and an invite to Phillies camp. The injury is known as a “boxer’s fracture,” which should give you some idea how it happened … Does it worry anyone when the Nationals are publicly proclaiming Nick Johnson to be “fully healthy?” Me too … Nobody else bid!Wade Miller is going to be one of those picks where you keep waiting, keep waiting and just as you’re about to take him, your buddy scoops him up. Don’t wait too much. Miller is making good progress with his throwing rehab program and has a very good shot to contribute by midseason … Joe Mays will compete for a rotation spot if his surgically repaired elbow can hold up. He’s on the verge of being one of the few Tommy John failures.

I’ve seldom received as much mail about a line that I didn’t think much about. I mentioned in the last UTK that I showed Bill Thurston, the legendary Amherst coach, my new grip for a curveball. With the normal caveats that pitchers should only throw curves with proper instruction and after physical maturity, here’s some pictures of the grip for my “tap curve.”

Some might recognize this as a slight variation of the “spike” or “knuckle-curve” used by Mike Mussina. I call it the tap curve because instead of applying any pressure with the index finger, I have the pitcher tap the ball slightly, a trigger to keep that pressure away. The pitch is thrown normally, set in the glove, supinated at release, and pronating through the follow through. If you really want to see it, come to my pitching clinic here in Indianapolis on President’s Day.

Next time you see this space, it will be Team Health Report time. We’re working on breaking down last year’s results right now, hoping to “show our work” without showing off the secret sauce. For now, I’m back to work on “The Juice” and BPR.