I understand the reasons that Major League Baseball cancelled the Japan trip, but I’m curious what it means for the teams from a preparation standpoint. With other teams already complaining that spring training is too long, the Mariners and A’s are now dealing with being in a week early and having no plans for how to replace a trip scheduled to start tomorrow. Keeping people sharp, pitchers on schedule, and injuries away will be a key. The easy solution is to keep the same schedule–add some exhibitions in cities like Portland or Sacramento, then play the games as scheduled, in Washington, D.C. If it’s good enough for the Expos, why not two more teams? Why not take the opportunity to sell baseball in new markets, to showcase stars, and possibly an amazing American moment with President Bush really throwing out the first pitch, echoing his Yankee Stadium moment of almost two years ago. Sure, it’s short notice, but Baseball is America. Make it happen, Don and Bud.

  • Yes, I skipped over Alex Rodriguez yesterday. It wasn’t that I didn’t know about his cervical (neck) injury, but that for once, the major media outlets appeared to cover a sports medicine story properly. With superstars like A-Rod, they seem to suddenly realize that they should do what I do every day–talk to trainers, doctors, and other experts. I skipped discussing the injury because I really had nothing new to add. It’s my opinion that A-Rod will be fine, that Jamie Reed will watch him closely and make sure that any exacerbation is dealt with aggressively, and that A-Rod will once again have an MVP-caliber season. Disc injuries can be serious, but this one is very small and should have little to no effect on his play.

  • Today’s UTK Jeopardy! category: Pitchers not ready for Opening Day.

    Okay, I’ll take Pitchers Not Ready for $100, Alex. This pitcher was one of the breakout stars of last year’s World Series, looks oddly like Kiefer Sutherland (who plays a psycho almost as well as his father), and fell down early in spring training, injuring his shoulder. Who is Jarrod Washburn? Correct. Washburn’s injury isn’t major, but the setback will make it impossible for him to be ready to start Opening Day. The assignment will likely go to John Lackey, a pitcher I’m not high on (like most Angels.) Washburn should miss one start at the most.

  • I’ll stay with this category for $200, Alex. This dominating youngster appears to be all the way back after Tommy John surgery and 2003 is expected to be the year he lives up to the hype and dominates the NL. However, in an early pox upon the BP Tout Wars team, he has suffered more than most during spring training, missing time with a respiratory infection and now an ear infection that makes him nauseous and off-balance. Who is Kerry Wood? Correct! Wood should recover fully, but hasn’t been able to build up the stamina necessary to go on Opening Day. The assignment could fall to Matt Clement or even Mark Prior.

  • Same category, this time for $300. To the surprise of no one, this injury-prone set-up man will start the season on the DL, placing pressure on new acquisitions and the Yankees’ own fragile closer, Mariano Rivera. Who is Steve Karsay? Karsay was making progress after off-season surgery, but he was unable to throw on consecutive days and after “feeling something,” he’s been shut down. Karsay’s no stranger to the List, and all the talk about the Yankees’ depth that assumed health is now moot, as they no longer have it.

  • Same one, for $400. He goes by many nicknames–Octopus, El Gordo, El Pulpo, Tony Six Fingers, and Blonde Ampitchin’–but he also blows more than his fair share of save opportunities. Once called a “six-fingered freak” by Harry Caray, this Cubs pitcher fell while fielding a ball on Tuesday and tore a muscle, putting his Opening Day status in doubt. Who is Antonio Alfonseca? Of course. That one was almost two easy. There are varying reports on Alfonseca’s injuries–some saying groin, some saying hamstring. The injury looked more like a groin, but he grabbed at his hamstring, which is usually the best early sign of where an injury occurred. The Cubs have plenty of options in their bullpen, so the loss, while significant, is far from crippling, especially considering their strong starting pitching.

  • Let’s close out the category with the $500 answer. The Cardinals were excited to acquire this former Mets phenom, ignoring a history of arm problems and counting on him to show up in the ninth. Who is Jason Isringhausen? Yes…but the judges come in and remind us that Izzy will in fact make it to Opening Day. He’ll be unable to pitch on back-to-back days for at least the first month of the season though, giving opportunities to Steve Kline and Mike Crudale. Izzy is actually ahead of schedule, something not uncommon for Cardinals players.

  • The Cubs will begin the season with Mark Grudzielanek–who is apparently a very good-looking man–on the List. One would think this is great news for Bobby Hill, since he’s been hitting more like Will Carroll than a major-league second baseman. There’s some talk that Ramon Martinez might sneak in, but anyone that heard Dusty Baker’s tirade against reporters who questioned his commitment to Hill should REALLY question his so-called veteran bias.

  • Great news for Eli Marrero and the Cardinals. The valuable utility player, likely to see most of his time this season in the outfield, is feeling much better after switching antibiotics. Marrero had been dealing with serious stomach pain, making anyone that remembers his battle with cancer wince.

  • Mike Lieberthal continues to see improvement from his pelvic injury. He started a spring training game for the second day in a row and reported no pain, before or after. I still think that Todd Pratt is an adequate backup and that Larry Bowa would be very smart to keep Lieberthal away from those three- and four-day-in-a-row catching stints.

  • Phillies phans get Brandon Duckworth back tomorrow after a scary bout of tendonitis had a lot phearing the worst. He should be ready to take his turn as the phifth starter. While I’m not worried about the tendonitis, Duckworth is getting a lookover for the THR Update. More on this soon.

  • Josh Beckett and Jeremy Affeldt update: no blisters. I haven’t seen ANY reports of blisters across the majors so far.

  • Here’s a stunner–Wily Mo Pena has a strained groin. Pena will be on the 25-man due to an odd contract situation, so everyone expects him to have several stints on the List to, in effect, hide him. I know Jonah and Nate disagreed with me rather vehemently this weekend, but I still see something in Pena that I like and have him in a couple leagues. If Bobby Cox can win with Rafael Belliard, Ozzie Guillen, or Vinny Castilla on the roster all season, so can the Reds.

  • The Reds made one move today, placing Russell Branyan on the List. He wasn’t expected back until May and will likely need a rehab assignment to tune up once he’s able to play. Branyan had off-season shoulder surgery which could help eventually restore his power, and should have no lasting effect on his Rob Deer skill set.

  • Eric Gagne came back to game action after a back injury that had the Dodgers worried, but only made one pitch before being struck by a comebacker. He’ll have a nice bruise where it hit him on the calf, but that should be about it for effects. Gagne will need to get in some work to find himself and again, everyone keeps talking about stamina, making me wonder what Jim Tracy has in mind for the Goggled One.

Some have emailed asking about Team Health Reports. They’re all finished, but not all are visible on the front page. A simple search of the BP archive will bring up any of the THRs not selectable from the front page that I wrote over the first couple months of 2003, and we’ll have an index page for those set up soon.

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