When we skip work on Opening Day to go watch the A's and sing "Take Me Out to the Ballgame," Justin Duchscherer may already have been taken out.
Justin Duchscherer, the A's number one starter and only Oakland Athletic on last year's AL All-Star roster, continues to experience nagging soreness in his elbow and is a possible scratch from the Opening Day roster. Even manager Bob Geren concedes, "His opening day start is definitely in jeopardy."
If Duchscherer is scratched, all indications are that Dana Eveland would pitch Opening Day against -- let me see if I can remember all of this -- the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Should that happen, my money says Edgar Gonzalez gets the fifth spot in the rotation.
Duchscherer had an MRI on the elbow Tuesday, and that sucker has been bothering him for years. He hasn't pitched yet this spring, and missed Spring Training in 2006 and 2007 with the same problem. He'll seek a second opinion from a team doctor with the Angels, but for the time being has been instructed to not even pick up a baseball for at least a week.
Let's think like Billy Beane for a moment -- which is to say to yourself, "What prospects can I get for this guy in a trade?" Consider that Duchscherer is a free agent at the conclusion of this season, and clearly Duke has something of a repetitive injury history. There's no question that that he'll return at full effectiveness once he's rehabbed the elbow, because he's done so twice in recent years. But there's no reason to question the elbow issue is going to come back in future Springs Training, because it's done so twice in recent years plus again this year. How many MRI's and elbow problems does a guy have before his elbow begins to get worn down? Beane may be keenly aware of when Duchscherer's trade value has peaked, and that may be just before this year's deadline.
Which is just two and a half weeks following what we hope is Duchscherer's second consecutive All-Star experience.
Joe Kukura is a freelance writer whose name is spelled "K-u-k-u-r-a", but it's pronounced "DUKE-sher".