Sunday, May 21, 2006

dl triplets update, part three

in the third installment of our neverending story, we revisit the triplets kerry wood, mark prior and wade miller as they negotiate the treacherous waters of rehabilitation from shoulder problems.

the big news of the last 24 hours is that wood is experiencing shoulder pain.

Prior to Sunday's game at U.S. Cellular Field, Cubs pitching coach Larry Rothschild could not discount the idea of Wood being skipped a start.

"It's possible," Rothschild said. "But we'll have to see. It may not be even that (long). It may be quicker than that. He may be ready to go, so we'll see."

Are the Cubs concerned about Wood's health?

"There's concern because you'd like it to go smoothly, but with shoulders it's not going to go smoothly," Rothschild said. ."You just have to check out what the best thing is for him to get through this. We knew coming up these possibilities exist."

rather than repeat itself, this page will quote itself.

wood's rehabilitation is far from over -- the lingering effects of labrum repair run over years, not weeks. it is in fact quite likely that he will never be the pitcher he once was nor ever fulfill his considerable lost promise.

wood surely by now knows the difference between soreness and pain, and soreness doesn't put your next start in jeopardy. pain in the joint is not uncommon after labrum procedures, but it is also not uncommon never to pitch another major league game. wood knows he's in a contract year and is likely to gut it out if at all possible -- but this page expects even less from him now than its previously attested diminished expectations. part of the year and general ineffectiveness, perhaps forcing a move to the bullpen, seems a reasonable forecast.

prior, too, is progressing only very slowly. while virtually no one has seen prior pitch, reports indicate that, though the team is steadily increasing his pitch counts, his velocity is not there. consecutive reports yesterday and today in the sun-times:

Mark Prior threw 38 pitches over two innings for the Mesa Cubs when he pitched Friday in an Arizona rookie-league game. His pitch velocity still sounds short of what he needs for the majors.

"His fastball velocity came up a little bit,'' Rothschild said. "We'll probably build him up innings-wise next time out.''

followed by

Prior is scheduled to throw four innings in another rookie-league game Wednesday in Arizona, double his output from Friday in his first rookie-league appearance this year.

But the real issue is how soon he can show more velocity. He has been average so far, and that needs to improve for him to make a speedy return to the Cubs.

nearly two months since being diagnosed with a tear in a rotator cuff muscle, prior is still throwing less than 40 pitches without velocity. this writer isn't a doctor, but also doesn't think you need to be one to know that this does not correlate with an early june return. again, it would seem that prior's shoulder issues are not completely resolved -- and very well may not be this year.

miller, for his part, may represent the best of the three, if on-the-record comments from the team can be believed. a week ago, this was the news:

Miller threw two sets of 20 pitches Friday.

"[Miller] said it's the best he's felt in two years,'' pitching coach Larry Rothschild said. "I think he's building on that. ... Hopefully, we'll get them all going together at some point soon.''

rothschild also called miller a working week behind prior. maybe he would like to have that back, and maybe he wouldn't. but at least there hasn't been anything terribly negative since the revelation three weeks ago that miller was feeling stiffness in the repaired joint.

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