Monday, April 11, 2005

The Revenge of the Meniscus

You've probably heard the news that Twins pitcher Carlos Silva has a torn meniscus in his right knee, and will be out until the All-Star break if he has the damaged tissue removed, or possibly all season if he has it repaired. Before last April, how many of you ever heard of a "meniscus" (Dr. Jane, put your hand down) or had any idea of where it might be located in your body? I would have guessed it was somewhere between your tonsils and your adenoids, something you'd never miss if the docs took it out, and losing it might even clear up your sinuses. Now we all know exactly what and where it is (thanks, Dr. Jane), because a Twins player 'tis a nobody 'til somebody wants to take his meniscus out.

So the Carlos Silva Special Clinic will be on hiatus awhile; kids, tell your parents they can mail in for refunds, or apply all fees paid towards a Twins Flex 40 plan or another season package which gives you priority for postseason ticket strips (in the upper deck above rightfield). This is a setback, but should we be sweating it too much? If the Twins trust the talent they have in reserve, they should be able to patch together a replacement for what I expected out of Silva this season.

Even in his successful outing to start this season, the Mariners batted .346/.346/.500 against him. Last year, opponents hit .310/.342/.462 against Silva, and he had just a 3.37 K/9 rate (strikeouts per 9 innings). At his best, he walks a tightrope and depends on a lot of good luck to help the balls hit off him to find his fielders' gloves. Studies have shown that the odds are against young pitchers with a K/9 rate below 4.5 to sustain a consistent level of success for long. It helps him to have such fine control (he walked just 35 in 203 IP last year, and none last week in Seattle); but if he continues to let the hitters put everything in play, sooner or later more of those hits are gonna go where his fielders ain't. Unless he developed a strikeout pitch over the winter, I expected his ERA to regress north towards 5, if not higher.

It will be a challenge to replace 190+ innings in the rotation, but I look at it like the Twins just lost a #5 calibre starter. If Gassner, Baker, and anyone else who gets an audition can wrangle an ERA below 5.00 for that slot, the team shouldn't feel Silva's absence on the mound much. One door closing could be an opening for another pitcher to shine here. I feel optimistic that someone will step forward. Dave Gassner, front and center. Here's your moment.


At 4/11/2005 11:37 PM, Blogger SBG said...

I'm in agreement that there are other arms to take his place. I do believe that one Eric Milton had a meniscus problem, too, that caused him to miss virtually all of the 2003 season.

At 4/12/2005 5:20 AM, Blogger frightwig said...

I remember that he'd had a cartilage injury, aggravated when he rushed back to join the team before the 2002 postseason; I'd forgotten that it was specifically the meniscus, if I ever knew that in the first place. Thanks.

At 4/12/2005 9:17 AM, Blogger Third Base Line said...

I knew what and where the meniscus is, but only because I messed mine up seven or eight years ago. I've got me one of them rain-predictin' knees, now!
In a couple of years, we'll see the umps conferring over whether or not to pull the tarp over some field or other, and Carlos will flex his knee, ponder for a moment, then call out from the visitor's dugout, "No, no, it's just a shower! Keep playing!"

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