March 9, 2003

The Injury Bug

Quite a few good topics from this weekend, so let's just dive right in, shall we?

Phil Nevin, who just recently started playing the outfield for the Padres, dove for a ball in a spring game against Chicago on Friday and severely separated his shoulder. From what I've read, Nevin will need surgery and it sounds as if he will likely miss the entire 2003 season.

Here's what Nevin had to say about it:

"It has to be put back together," Nevin told the San Diego Union-Tribune in a telephone interview Saturday night. "It has to be fixed. It'll happen again and again and again if I don't get it fixed."

I don't know about you, but when I hear about a part of someone's body needing to be "put back together" it doesn't sound very pleasant.

Nevin missed a lot of time with injuries last year and wasn't all that great when he played, but from 1999-2001 he posted SLGs of .527, .543 and .588 and he hit 41 homers and drove in 126 runs in 2001. Obviously this is a pretty big blow to whatever playoff chances San Diego had to begin with.

I can sympathize with Padres fans though, because my team, the Twins, got some horrible injury news over the weekend too. It was announced about a week ago that Eric Milton would need surgery on his knee and originally everyone was saying he'd miss about 2 months, which would mean he'd be out for the first month of the season. Now it sounds like he'll miss 4-6 months and there is a chance he won't pitch at all this season.

Whereas the Padres don't really have a great replacement for Nevin in the outfield (they may go with Xavier Nady, Brian Buchanan or Roberto Kelly - yes, that Roberto Kelly), the Twins have Johan Santana ready to step into the rotation in place of Eric Milton.

Here's what I said about Johan back when the Milton story first broke last week:

The good news here is that Johan Santana, whom I have been yapping about for some time now, will likely get a chance to begin the year in the starting rotation. I've said it before and I am sure I will say it a thousand more times: Johan Santana has the most long-term potential of any player - pitcher or hitter - in the entire Minnesota organization. He's a special player and I think he will take a huge step up this year, in no small part because he'll get a chance to start every 5th day.

To use a Bill Simmons line: I wish I could buy stock in "Johan Santana will be a star." Sadly I can't, but talking endlessly about him on my blog is close enough.

Since we are talking about injuries...

Mets pitcher Pedro Astacio has a "sore right shoulder" and will likely begin the 2003 season on the disabled list.

This isn't really front page news, but it gives me a chance to do something I have been trying to find a reason to do for about 2 months now, which is show you Pedro Astacio's stats from last season:

Half      IP      ERA     OAVG      HR/9

1st 111 3.17 .237 0.97
2nd 81 7.00 .293 2.22

Like I said, I've been waiting to share this information since I first noticed it a couple months back, but I didn't think a random entry about Pedro Astacio would interest many of you.

It is absolutely staggering to me that a team would allow a pitcher that had been very successful for the first half of the season to pitch the entire second half of the season as poorly as Astacio did.

First of all, how a guy with a 7.00 ERA pitches 81 innings in half a season for you is beyond me. But that point is almost irrelevant. Pedro Astacio came into the 2002 season with some serious questions about his shoulder. If I remember correctly, he was given the option of having shoulder surgery after the 2001 season or simply trying to "play through it" and he chose the latter, which is fine, I guess. However, if you have a guy with a serious injury red-flag and he starts the season very well and then completely implodes, don't you think that maybe someone should have pulled him from the rotation before he got 81 more innings in?

Hindsight is always 20/20, but it seems incredibly obvious to me that a guy with a 3.17 first half ERA shouldn't have a 7.00 second half ERA unless there is something wrong with him. And, when that player that there is obviously something wrong with has a history of shoulder problems...well, I think a team should be a little more cautious than to allow him to pitch 80 innings, many of them coming after it was painfully obvious he wasn't himself.

One more interesting stat: Astacio gave up 12 homers in 111 first half innings and then gave up 11 homers in 25 September innings. Ouch. It doesn't surprise me that his shoulder is acting up again and it shouldn't surprise the Mets, although I bet it does.

Finally, I wanted to catch up on an "old" story that I talked about last week...

Last Tuesday I talked about Byung-Hyun Kim possibly moving into the Arizona starting rotation.

Here's some of what I said:

I think it is an excellent idea.

The basic idea with a pitching staff is (or at least should be) to have your best pitchers pitch the most innings.

Anytime you think you can potentially get 180-200 innings out of a pitcher like Kim, instead of 85, you try it. Byung-Hyun Kim has been a dominant reliever for the past couple of seasons and if he can continue to pitch at anywhere close to the same level as a starter it would give Arizona the best 1-2-3 punch in the league, by far (although that isn't saying a whole lot, since Johnson, Schilling and Aaron "The Human Home Run Allowing Machine" Gleeman would be one of the best 1-2-3 punches too).

Kim made his most recent spring start last Thursday and pitched 4 scoreless innings (with only 1 hit allowed).

Here's a little from the article about the game:

Most significantly, the 24-year-old sidearming right-hander threw just 42 pitches, 30 for strikes. Manager Bob Brenly has said Kim must cut down his pitch count to become a starter. He was known to throw 30 or more pitches in an inning as a closer.

"BK was fantastic today," Brenly said. "He's always been a very quick learner and very coachable. We told him what he needed to improve on from his last start, and today was a tremendous step in the right direction. ... That's what we envision him doing for us all season."

Sounds like very good news all around. Kim was able to quiet some of the "concerns" that people had about his pitch counts (which is something I discussed in a lot more depth in the Tuesday entry) and it sounds as though Brenly is counting on him to be a starter.

Any development that means special pitchers like Kim will not be put into roles where they can only pitch 70 or 80 innings a year is a positive development in my book, so I am definitely rooting for Kim to succeed.

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