Under The Knife: Time ticking on Utley, a fix for Lincecum, more
Not guilty verdict in Roger Clemens trial may not get him in Cooperstown
Even when back on field, Chase Utley's knees could give out at any time
Top biomechanist thinks Tim Lincecum's mechanics can be fixed easily
The Roger Clemens trial heads to the jury soon. I've been trying to ignore it as much as I can, but the one major question that I had was finally answered after the testimony was closed. The defense and the prosecution agreed to a statement that stipulated Clemens was tested randomly between 2003 and '07 and never tested positive for steroids. It was a very specifically-worded statement, as could be expected for a legal document, but there are two major takeaways: First, the dates indicate that Clemens was not on the oft-leaked '03 survey test list. Second, it does not address whether or not Clemens, like many players, tested positive for amphetamines.
When banned from the majors in '06, many, including myself, thought that stimulants -- "greenies" -- would have a major impact on the game. While some continue to try to make that case, especially regarding injury numbers, I see no evidence to support this. A large number of players have tested positive for stimulants, but under the current MLB policy, the first positive is not reported or penalized. Instead, the player is required to undergo counseling and is subject to increased testing. Baseball recently adjusted its testing policy to address the shortcomings brought to light by the Ryan Braun case, as well as adding several new substances to the banned list.
It's speculative until we get a result, but I'm not sure a not-guilty verdict will help Clemens in his most important upcoming trial, the one Hall voters will put on for him this winter. His absence from the 2003 list is very compelling, since the drugs his former personal trainer alleges he injected him with include several of the long-detectable anabolic steroids that other players were caught taking. Moreover, Brian McNamee did not make a credible case for how he used the steroid regimen on Clemens. Winstrol, the steroid McNamee says he used on Clemens, is most often "stacked," or used in combination with other steroids. In fact, Winstrol is almost always stacked with itself, pairing injections and tablets. It's also used more for "cutting" -- reducing body fat while increasing strength -- and is hardly the first choice anabolic steroid for a pitcher. (No, I'm not going to tell you what is.) The jury will have to decide if they believe McNamee, but Clemens and Andy Pettitte will get judged by the writers as well. I can't tell you which way either will go, but I know what my votes would be.
Powered by Fun., on to the injuries:
Utley will start an official rehab assignment on Tuesday. Players can go for 20 days on a rehab assignment, so it's possible that Utley might not be back in June. History tells us this will go quickly, perhaps even quicker than the ERD above. Once Utley convinces himself that he's ready, the Phillies tend to move quickly with rehab assignments. They wait long enough to test things, but don't waste time or at-bats on the minors. Given that Utley's knees are essentially a ticking time bomb, getting the maximum production from him is key for a team on the edge of sliding out of contention, and that's going to take a lot of planning. Utley's knee issues are comparable to Carlos Beltran, and that's the upside comp. Utley isn't yet in restrictive braces, but given how Beltran has succeeded through three separate medical staffs, it has to be considered a positive sign. Add in how well Utley played last year once he returned and this might be your last chance to get Utley at a reasonable price.
The Rangers missed injuries for two-and-a-half months, but seem to be catching all of them at once in their rotation. Ogando had just shifted to the rotation when he strained his groin on a fielding play. It was serious enough that they couldn't just skip him, though they don't think he'll need more than the minimum. In the meantime, the Rangers likely will shift Robbie Ross temporarily to the rotation. He's not going to be expected to take a full starter's load, but to go four, maybe five, innings and get the game to the bullpen without wearing it out. He'll get one or two starts, depending on Roy Oswalt's availability. Oswalt was at Frisco (AA) on Tuesday and didn't have an inspiring outing, though usually big league pitchers only care about getting their work in for these starts.
It only took nine pitches to put yet another young pitcher on the shelf. Morrow strained his oblique and will hit the shelf for about a month. The good news is that it isn't an arm issue, but the downside is that he won't test the 190-inning mark due to this injury. After going 179 last year, he was in place to test that final hurdle and become, the Jays hoped, a 200-inning ace. His inability to stay healthy is one of the reasons he's a Jay in the first place, but at 27, it's hard to see him becoming that consistent 200-innings guy. He can be a very solid pitcher that goes 175-190, something nearly as valuable, but baseball is very into defined roles. Look for Morrow to return after the All-Star break.
Seeing Weaver on a mound has to have the surging Angels happy, even if it was just a bullpen mound. Weaver is past the back spasms that sidelined him, and the Angels medical staff seems to think they treated the cause and not just the symptoms. He's going to throw a simulated game late this week and should be slotted back into the rotation after that. It means he'll go a bit longer than the minimum, but not by much. The Angels are more worried about making sure that Weaver stays in the rotation rather than getting him back quickly. The team has some pitching decisions ahead of them, and Weaver's return gives them some flexibility to deal with Ervin Santana, who has just fallen apart. Garrett Richards is a better pitcher right now, but it looks like Scioscia's tendencies will keep Santana in the rotation for now.
It's been a while since we talked about Carpenter. The Cards have been fine, with Lance Lynn filling in ably for Carpenter. That said, no one thinks that the Cards are better without their co-ace. He's making progress, throwing long toss and has said he's closing in on a return to the mound. Assuming he can do that, a quick return is on tap. Carpenter is in, perhaps, the last year of his career and even if he decides to continue, showing he can get back out there can only help. Stamina will be the part of the program he can't skip, but we'll see if the new-look Cards will be creative enough to get him back more quickly. He'd be a perfect tandem with Shelby Miller, but that's probably too much to ask. Look for Carpenter to start a rehab assignment in July and for his return to come in August.
The question I get asked most on the radio or on e-mail is: "What's wrong with Tim Lincecum?" It may be mechanical, if you believe Angel Borelli. Angel is one of the top biomechanists around, one who's been invited to speak at ASMI and who has her own show about biomechanics with Joe Castellano. Borelli thinks that Lincecum is "lift[ing] his arm slightly upward during what is supposed to be his forward acceleration motion; i.e., acceleration from the max external rotation involves shoulder blade protraction and shoulder joint internal rotation and elbow extension: Tim starts to protract (a little soon), starts to internally rotate as he hyper-abducts (lifts the arm up) and then leads slightly with the elbow before delivery." Yes, it's complex, but essentially, his timing is off. That's correctable and it's not even that tough a fix. We'll have to see whether the Giants staff and/or Chris Lincecum agrees and can institute a fix. It's certainly less drastic than moving him to the pen.
My sympathy to the family of long time Mariners scout Roger Jongewaard. He'll get credit for a lot of great signings, but he was also a great man ... Andy Pettitte took a nasty comebacker to his hand. He'll make his next start and I doubt anyone will boo him or throw needles ... Evan Longoria will start a rehab assignment on Friday ... Jacoby Ellsbury is getting closer, but he's not yet taking batting practice. He's very unlikely to be back before the All-Star break ... Brandon Beachy got some extra rest after the Braves noticed his velocity was down. Watch to see how that is on Saturday ... Tim Hudson will start on Wednesday, just a few days after a swollen ankle kept him out. Be very wary of starting him here ... Drew Storen threw from a mound this week and had no issues. The recovery from this type of surgery is pretty rote, so once he's back in a couple weeks, I expect good things ... Octavio Dotel is on the DL with elbow inflammation. He's several years post-Tommy John, a danger zone ... It's not Brandon McCarthy's xFIP that will get an MRI, it's his shoulder. The DL is a real possibility after the scan ... Remember when Andres Torres was considered a test case for hitting mechanics? Not so much any more ... Scott Rolen is closer than you think to a return. The Reds won't send him on a rehab assignment, even a short trip to Louisville (AAA) or Dayton (A). Plan accordingly ... This article is well worth reading, though I want to formulate my response more ... These bunting drills are getting dangerous. Brian Matusz's start tomorrow is in jeopardy, though X-rays came back negative. His swelling and sight will be the determining factor ... Amazing that Phil Humber has gone from a perfect game to nearly cut in a matter of weeks. But he has ... Nice to see Bobby Wilson is looking for something to help him with concussions. More catchers need to get on board ... Daniel Nava is day-to-day with a sore hand. Either Nava or Scott Podsednik is going to have to move to make way for Ryan Kalish, who has until 6/24 to be called up ... Rich Hill has had more than his share of arm problems. His latest is a strained flexor that will cost him six weeks ... Thank you for all your kind words about Simon.
Phillips: Cox, La Russa, and Torre added to Hall of Fame class
SI Now Live Monday December 9, 2013