Will was kind enough to answer some questions I recently posed him.
Mark: A.J. Burnett recently left a game due to elbow discomfort that resulted from the breaking up of scar tissue. Is this a common occurrence for pitchers who have experienced major surgery? Moreover, is it something with which fans and management should be overly concerned?
Will Carroll: Yes, it's common. The body repairs itself with scar, a substance that's very good at its job, but only 70% as strong as muscle and tendon. (Remember, it's tendon that's used to replace ligament.) Worried? Concerned? Yes. Freaked out and rending garments? No. I'm more worried about the bone spurs in his elbow.
Mark: It seems like the Blue Jays, almost as much as any other team, are placing a great deal of trust in players with past health problems. From your experience, is this strategy more likely to backfire than succeed?
Will: I don't think it's got to do with health as much as ignoring risk for the chance of winning the division. Looking at the Yanks and Sox, there's a very small window where a team like the Jays could compete and they took the chance, health risk and checkbook be damned.
Mark: With the addition of Bengie Molina, the Blue Jays now possess two very capable backstops. Molina's conditioning (or lack thereof) has repeatedly come into question. Is a catcher of his body type more likely to decline faster and more dramatically than catchers who possess the archetypal athletic physique?
Will: Catchers tend to be big. Molina's been healthy and that's the best indicator. I mean, with any of the Molinas, we have genetic comparables and all three have been very healthy. Catchers of all sorts have knee problems. Heavy doesn't help, but I'm not sure Molina isn't predisposed to catching.
Mark: Reed Johnson has been nursing a sore right elbow throughout the spring, while his likely platoon partner, Frank Catalanotto, has been dealing with a sore shoulder. What are their respective short-term and long-term outlooks?
Will: Both have decent long term outlooks but rough short term ones. There's depth that should cover it up (Griffin, etc) but the idea of platooning two risky players is that having them both injured at the same time is less likely. It happens and the dropoff from them to the next best LF, solo or combo, isn't so bad.
Will Carroll is a very accomplished writer who is regarded as an expert on the medical matters of baseball. His work has appeared at Baseball Prospectus, The Juice Blog, and The Year of Living Chemically, among other places. Additionally, he is the author of two books, Saving the Pitcher and The Juice: The Real Story of Baseball's Drug Problems. The former is a thorough analysis of pitching injuries, including how they are caused and how to prevent them. The latter is an informative, thought-provoking publication that delves deep into the truth behind baseball's much-publicized drug problems.