David Lennon is an award-winning columnist and author who has been a staff writer at Newsday since 1991.
When tests revealed this week that Michael Pineda would require season-ending shoulder surgery, the Yankees had some explaining to do. Given that Pineda struggled with his velocity from early in spring training, Brian Cashman was forced to deal with speculation that he received damaged goods from the Mariners in exchange for the Yankees' top hitting prospect Jesus Montero.
But Cashman insisted Pineda's MRI before the trade showed no pre-existing conditions and it wasn't until the team used a more intensive dye-contrast MRI on Tuesday that the labrum tear was announced by the Yankees. While Cashman believes that Pineda was hurt during his April 21 rehab start, there's no way of knowing that for sure, especially if a smaller tear never appeared on any previous tests.
Even so, it appears Cashman did all he could do to insure himself against this scenario, and probably more than most GMs would do in a trade. Sandy Alderson, now in his second stint as a GM, said that his precautionary measures in a swap are usually less than for a free agent signing.
"The standard procedure is the trainers for each club exchanging medical information," Alderson said, "and often there's a conversation between team physicians."
But MRIs and X-rays, the GM said, are not mandatory in all cases.
"Not necessarily," Alderson said. "If there's no indication of an existing injury, that wouldn't necessarily happen."
With free agents, the Mets have adopted a policy for full medical physicals - not just orthopedic checkups, but Alderson also accepts there is an uncertainty involved in trades, regardless of how thorough the pre-testing program is.
"Ultimately, the buyer has to accept the risk," Alderson said. "The seller has a good-faith obligation to say, OK, this is what I know and then the buyer either accepts that, builds upon it with other sources of information or rejects it."
COLON VS. GARCIA
The Yankees' decision to bring back Freddy Garcia on a one-year, $4-million deal seems bad enough now that he's winless (0-1) and sitting with a 9.75 ERA after three starts. But the strong April by Bartolo Colon, who the A's got for exactly half that price, is making the choice look even worse.
"If they would have made an offer, I would have said yes," Colon said Friday of the Yankees (as interpreted by Ariel Prieto). "Because they took care of me. I had fun there. I don't think about why they didn't bring me back to be part of their rotation. I just thank Oakland for giving me the opportunity."
Colon, who will make his sixth start Sunday against the Orioles, is 3-2 with a 2.62 ERA and opponents are batting .209 against him (compared to .385 vs. Garcia). He missed on a chance to become the majors' first four-game winner Monday when his scoreless streak of 18 1/3 innings was snapped. Still, he continued his freakish trend of firing consecutive strikes. Colon threw 20 straight Monday, which followed a streak of 38 in a row in his previous start.
LOST IN TRANSITION
It was described as a mental break for Reyes, who looked lost during his homecoming visit to Citi Field. As bad as Reyes has been at the plate - he was hitting .205 with a .263 on-base percentage - his five errors through the first 18 games were even more disturbing to him.
Reyes said two of those were dropped pop-ups inside the Marlins' dome. But even at Citi, he failed to come up with a soft line drive from the bat of Ike Davis, letting it kick off his glove as he lunged at the ball. Fortunately for Reyes, it was scored a hit, because the early E's have bothered him.
"I'd rather go 0-for-100 than make an error," Reyes said, shaking his head.
In nine seasons with the Mets, his career high was 18 errors, done twice in 2005 (161 games) and 2011 (124 games). In 2007, Reyes committed 12 in 160 games.
It probably isn't helping that Reyes must now play alongside Hanley Ramirez, who is still getting acclimated to third base, a position switch forced by the signing of Reyes. Even outside the lines, the two were inseparable at Citi Field, and were locker neighbors as well.
With Reyes conducting an interview, Ramirez cranked up his iPod speakers and began good-naturedly dancing behind the reporter before turning down the volume. When asked how the two manage to be more businesslike on the field, Ramirez smiled.
"We don't keep anything serious," Ramirez said. "There's not a reason to be serious. I think you just got to play hard and have fun."
With the Marlins off to a 7-12 start, it hasn't been much of a party so far.
"Knuckleball!" finished its preview run at the Tribeca Film Festival with Saturday's matinee, but should be back later this summer. The documentary focuses on the Mets' R.A. Dickey and the Red Sox's Tim Wakefield, two knuckleballers whose career arcs wobble as unpredictably as their signature pitch.
I had the chance to catch Knuckleball! - sorry for the pun - on Friday and was impressed by the blend of spectacular game footage with the behind-the-scenes storytelling. As Wakefield chases win No. 200, Dickey struggles to establish his footing in the majors, and their quests include entertaining cameos by Phil Niekro, Charlie Hough and Jim Bouton.
Some of the best scenes involve the quirky group just sitting around talking about the pitch, sharing a few laughs. Knuckleball! may be a baseball movie, but the nature of the title pitch, and the personality of the people who rely on it, give the film a deeper significance that extends well beyond the game.
52.4 - miles run in one day by Marlins' president David Samson to raise $550,000 for charity. So far, Miami's front office doing much more good raising money than spending it.
15 - days on the disabled list for Rockies' pitcher Jeremy Guthrie, who injured his shoulder falling off his bike when the chain broke on ride to Coors Field. Fortunately, Guthrie's lunchbox, thermos and bookbag were OK.
9 - runs allowed by Philip Humber in the follow-up start to his perfect game. It also broke Catfish Hunter's 34-year record for runs after a perfecto. Too little, too late for Mets' liking.
4 - incidents of fans running onto field at Camden Yards, where umpire Jeff Kellogg brought down the latest interloper Friday with open-field tackle. Mel Kiper Jr. immediately rates Kellogg as raw 6th-rounder with big upside.
0 - games played by $142-million outfielder Carl Crawford, whose rehab from wrist surgery was shut down Thursday after spraining an elbow ligament. In meantime, Bobby Valentine thinking of using Crawford for pitching changes at Fenway.