Under The Knife: Phils hope careful approach has Utley back soon
I love Vegas. I won't make any secret of that. As a full-on foodie, there's nothing like the place, even though I don't gamble. Despite the recession, Las Vegas is still one of America's favorite vacation spots, but would it make for a good sports city? I've always thought so, despite the city wanting to keep people on the casino floors. While basketball is probably the most workable sport for Vegas, baseball could as well. There's certainly room for a ballpark, perhaps
MLB has two franchises in need of new locations, in Oakland and Tampa Bay. Neither appears to have the ability to get a stadium done in or near their current location, so will moving be on the agenda? If so, Vegas is the second best location. (The best? New York/New Jersey. Yes, the area could handle a third team.) You might say that Vegas isn't big enough, but the 2010 census showed that the Las Vegas metro area is just shy of two million people and experienced 41 percent growth in the last decade. Compare that to Charlotte, often discussed as an MLB site, which has 1.7 million and a 32 percent growth rate. San Antonio (2.1 million) should be in the discussion, but is a tougher sell based on two "area" teams.
While tourism is still the biggest driver in Vegas, those two million people need something to do during the hot summer, so why not a ballgame? The heat would require a dome, sure, but keeping it non-retractable would reduce cost, allow convention use, and let's be honest, Vegas knows how to handle construction. Gambling is baseball's third rail, but taking Vegas games off the books is a pretty easy solution given the low handle on baseball games. Probable? No, but it's possible. Just imagine the celebrities you'd see and the possibility of a Cirque du Soleil 7th Inning stretch. I'm a big fan of the idea, once Stu Sternberg or Lewis Wolff finally throw in the towel on their Sisyphean stadium quests. Now, what do we name them?
Powered by Counter Culture's New Guinea coffee (sadly, not currently available), on to the injuries:
So I'm back on the Phillies beat, huh? Most of the news is good, so let's get the bad out of the way. Ruiz heads to the DL on a retro move all the way back to April 28. The team went the full 10-day retro with Ruiz in the hopes that he could avoid the DL, but with Blanton coming back off rehab, the roster spot was needed since they were, in essence, carrying three catchers. Brian Schneider will continue to handle the bulk of the catching, but he's under the Punto Slash, with an OPS of 575.
Blanton will be back to start Monday after good work over the weekend, but he won't be displacing Kyle Kendrick. Instead, Roy Oswalt heads to the DL with a back injury. The team allowed him to head home to Mississippi after storms damaged his property, but they also hoped the rest would help his back. It didn't and the retro move shows how little progress has been made. While Oswalt could come off the DL next week, it's unclear what his current timeline is. Oswalt has played through this and similar injuries, so it's very hard to get a read on it just yet.
Finally, Utley had a bang-up weekend, starting off in XST with a 5-7 day stretch including two homers. Don't worry about the big scary words in the report; what it comes down to is what's above. Utley's knees are painful and need maintenance. Let others get bogged down in the technicalities while you just win. The results are showing and will show in biggest settings soon. The next test will be back-to-back games, followed by a shift to "real games."
Injuries are often easy excuses for baseball teams. It's easier to tell the public a player has an injury rather than saying so-and-so is in the tank or that the team made a terrible decision signing him. That's not to say that Marco Scutaro was either, though given his play, the option of Jed Lowrie now and Jose Iglesias in the very near future, it is very convenient that Scutaro is injured. (He is. Don't read this as a hint that the team is faking things.) Scutaro's oblique strain was enough to put him on the DL, as the team assessed both the time he would be out and their roster before making the decision. Scutaro shouldn't be out more than the minimum, but the Sox aren't a sentimental team. Iglesias is a bit rushed and questionable with the bat, even among those scouts who love him, so you can't invoke a Yankee -- Wally Pipp -- just yet.
No-hitters are hard. Beyond the sheer pitch count that it takes to complete them, there's a higher stress level. A pitcher bears down, even as fatigue creeps in, powered by the adrenaline of the moment. Afterwards, there's often a price to pay beyond a typical start. While there's no multiplier that's been figured, the Twins smartly are delaying Liriano's next start, letting him get a bit of extra rest and maybe an extra day or two of basking in his achievement. The hope is that the no-no could boost his confidence as Liriano works to turn his season around. Still, people such as Bud Smith or Curt Schilling, who came oh-so-close to putting their names on the list, and in doing so, made the last great starts of their careers, serve as object lessons. It's nice to see the Twins doing something to avoid injuries.
The images done on Broxton came back with bone chips, but the real problem is what's causing those chips. Manager Don Mattingly said it came from the bones "slamming together", which is essentially a hyperextension and is the purest of biomechanical problems. The problem here is that Broxton isn't turning over the arm, preventing the force of the pitch from causing the hyperextension. This motion, called pronation, is a key to keeping the arm healthy, especially on breaking balls. Imagine you're swinging a hammer. You'll probably have no issues driving a nail in on your workbench, but imagine missing, forcing your arm to slow the hammer all on its own. That's what Broxton's arm is doing, apparently, and once you understand that, it's easy to see where the chips came from. He'll miss at least a month as they try to calm the arm down. There's no surgery being discussed yet, but the chips will likely have to come out at some point, which is a relatively minor procedure.
The Orioles have been floating along without Matusz, a streaky team without the guy who is their true ace. No one has stepped up in his absence, so he'll have the chance to take that slot back quickly. Of course, this O's team is about next year as much as it is this year as they continue the MacPhail-Showalter plan toward relevance. Matusz is more important in the future than he is now, so you're likely to see him (and the rest of the young starters) handled very conservatively, to the point of adding veterans. Like the Nats last season, the O's could use guys who are innings eaters who could take over as the young pitchers near innings limits. Matusz will pitch next week in A-ball. A dominant performance could have him back in Baltimore quickly, but it's more likely he picks up a second start somewhere in the minors and returns at the end of May.
There's a meme going around that Cruz's latest muscular injury is the result of creatine. The problem with this is that I've never -- not once -- seen any evidence that Cruz uses creatine. I asked several Rangers writers whether or not they'd ever seen creatine in Cruz's locker and none could remember seeing it. Here's the thing -- I don't know whether Cruz even uses creatine, let alone whether it's involved in his injuries. I do know that Cruz is a physical specimen, one that seems to be over-tight with chronic but minor injuries. Cruz's quad strain is relatively minor, but the team felt the need to use the DL to get the roster relief. He should be back at or near the minimum and slot back into his position. Getting Cruz and Josh Hamilton back and healthy for the second half is key for the Rangers. Keeping them healthy is even more key (and a much bigger challenge.)
No, Castro isn't hurt, so don't worry about that. Keeping him healthy is key for the Cubs, so the suggestion made a couple weeks back by my friend Dave Kaplan of WGN Radio isn't likely to happen just yet. Kaplan wants to see Castro move to 2B, swapping with Darwin Barney, a natural SS. I'm not sure Castro's defense is so bad that he needs to be moved or that Barney would be significantly better, but if Jim Hendry or Ari Kaplan are thinking about this, I'd whisper two words in their ear: Tsuyoshi Nishioka.
Nishioka had a full spring at his new spot of 2B, but it still wasn't "natural" to him, and one mistake -- getting on the wrong side of the bag with a guy bearing down on you -- cost him the pain of a broken leg and a month. (He's making good progress, by the way.) That risk is why moving Castro now would be even more dangerous. If it were to happen, the Cubs should do it next spring or announce it at the end of the season and give Castro time to work on it in the off-season. (For those of you in the Chicago area or with