It’s that time of year again, the time to rail against the lack of pitch limits in the Little League World Series. Yes, I’ve argued in the past that pitch counts, absent context, aren’t helpful, but cost and training are a major consideration for Little Leagues. That makes pitch limits a reasonable tool. They’re easy to implement, proven to prevent–but not eliminate–injuries, and they make sure that each of these kids is given the opportunity to go through life with an intact arm, so that what they do at age 12 might not be the highlight of their life. As far as I can tell, no one at Little League is monitoring pitch counts, and repeated requests by phone and e-mail for more information were ignored. In an event that’s a worldwide showcase, it’s a shame that the opportunity to show what we’ve learned–part of USA Baseball’s guidelines for youth pitchers–isn’t being put on display. As much fun as it is to watch these kids excel, the last thing we need is for Kalen Pimental to end up on Tim Kremchek’s operating table.

Powered by the imminent need for change-of-address cards, on to the injuries…

  • The Cardinals finally gave confirmation during Sunday’s game that Scott Rolen is done. It was information that had been known for about a week, but Rolen had to get past his aversion to “letting his team down.” There had been a fair amount of pressure applied to get him to try and gut it out, even after Kremchek told him that surgery was inevitable. Rolen simply couldn’t go any more.

    The surgery will be performed soon, but not immediately. Outgoing team physician George Paletta will perform the surgery with Kremchek, an odd situation and one that’s stirring the rumor mill. Rolen is likely to miss between four and six months while rehabbing from the labrum repair, putting him back sometime during spring training. Rolen should return to full function, unlike a pitcher with the same injury (and of course, the injury is to Rolen’s non-throwing shoulder).

    The Cardinals are also watching Mark Grudzielanek‘s situation closely. The second baseman has an infection in his knee and was given antibiotics. This isn’t similar to Barry Bonds‘ situation, but could get serious if the infection is drug-resistant or there are further complications. The Cards will juggle their lineup a bit more and continue to win with pitching and Albert Pujols, though Mark Bellhorn could be an option.

  • The Red Sox pitching staff is in flux now, though it could be back shortly to where they thought it would be. Curt Schilling will move from the bullpen back to his desired starting slot on Thursday against the Royals. Now there’s a spot if I ever saw one. Schilling’s start gives Jon Papelbon another chance while Tim Wakefield is pushed back, giving the latter’s injured ankle some more time to heal. Keith Foulke is due to begin throwing after his own comebacker problem, and could be activated by the weekend. He’s still resisting even a short rehab stint. Add in the possibility of Craig Hansen being added before September 1 and Terry Francona is about to have a lot of options.
  • The Dodgers may be pushing a record for DL days if this keeps up. Odalis Perez has a strained oblique and could be headed to the DL now, rather then just missing a start. Edwin Jackson was called up to take his place today against the Marlins. Given the normal healing for an oblique, Perez could be done for the season. By the time he’d be ready, the season would have only a week or two remaining in it. The Dodgers also think that J.D. Drew will need more time, perhaps not returning until mid-September.
  • The Angels never thought that Dallas McPherson would be out this long when they placed him on the DL just before the All-Star break. Six weeks later he’s still out, and facing surgery to remove a bone spur in his acetabular labrum. This situation will be checked by Dr. Thomas Byrd, a hip specialist and team physician for the Tennessee Titans. McPherson has already had two doctors tell him that he needs the surgery, but he’s said he’ll get “eight opinions” if he doesn’t like what he hears.
  • Mike Piazza was frustrated that he was placed on the DL. He had hoped the Mets would give him a few more days to try and heal, but they simply didn’t see the improvement and needed to call up a viable backup. Piazza’s broken pisiform shouldn’t take long to heal so that he’s functional. He’ll come off when eligible, not because he’ll be healed, but because its easier to carry a limited player with a roster at 40 than it is at 25. It’s worth noting that we’re nearing that stage in the season where the DL is used less and less since there’s no real advantage if rosters are already expanded. Heck, it even keeps the worker’s comp premiums down.
  • There’s a concept in disability called “maximum medical improvement.” It’s used when someone’s done everything available to them and they just won’t get back to full function under the normal definitions. It doesn’t mean that they’re not functional, just not as functional as one would hope. The definition doesn’t exactly fit to Johnny Estrada; MMI takes years to determine and Estrada should get better with more rest or perhaps surgery. Estrada is at the stage where he’s not getting any better anytime soon and isn’t likely to cause much more damage by playing. He’ll be limited only by his own pain tolerance and desire to play.
  • Gil Meche heads to the DL with patellar tendonitis. This is just a week after he said publicly that he had “no strength” in his pitching shoulder. So, is this a new injury or was the knee problem preventing him from pushing off? Either way, the problem goes back to the injury monitoring in Seattle. The system is broken there and we have to, at this stage, take it on faith that something’s changing behind the scenes. Bill Bavasi has shown himself open to new ideas and to adjusting his plan; in light of the success of Felix Hernandez, and the danger associated with 19-year-old pitchers, Bavasi’s ability to figure out the injury problem in Seattle could decide how fast the franchise gets back into contention. Back as far as 2000, the inability to develop healthy pitchers has cost the franchise not only a supply of arms that could have avoided some of the back-end Band-Aids they were forced to use, but could have used the surplus to bolster the holes they have.

  • Quick Cuts: Tyler Walker heads to the DL with a sore elbow. Luckily for whatever playoff hopes the Giants have left, Armando Benitez is ready to close again … Ryan Freel should be back mid-September. Why? That I’m not sure on … Ted Lilly should head out on rehab this week, but the Jays have been very conservative … Tom Gordon is weary and now Tanyon Sturtze is unavailable due to to shoulder tenderness. That means the rotation is down to Option 6 and the bullpen is going to Option 4 … Adam Eaton is throwing well at Triple-A, including breaking balls. He’s expected to have one more start there, though the Padres could call him up sooner … I received an insane amount of mail regarding Dr. Mike Marshall after Murray Chass wrote an interesting piece. Marshall’s methods do have great scientific backing, but no documented results. Equations are fine, but it’s hard to argue with Tom House or Leo Mazzone when their pitchers are out on the mounds putting W’s and K’s on the board and yours are…well, Dr. Marshall, where are they?

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