As we get closer to Opening Day, injuries are starting to take on more importance. Missing one or two games in Spring Training might mean nothing or it might mean a lost opportunity to win a job. It could mean that a retro trip to the List is about to happen or it could be the start of a cursed season. Each day, each injury is just part of the amazing journey that is any baseball season. If this spring is any indication, we’re in for one heck of a journey.

  • While the best-case scenario has come to pass for Brandon Duckworth, the missed activity has pushed back his 2003 debut, and he’ll likely begin the season on the DL. However, he’ll miss at most two starts. Duckworth is making excellent progress and as bad as it looked initially, everyone who believes in this young pitcher can stick to their beliefs. I believe he’ll break out, not break down.

  • The inner ear infection that has plagued Kerry Wood all Spring Training appears to be losing its battle to keep him off the mound on Opening Day. Wood should be ready for a battle with Tom Glavine, a battle of contrasting styles, results, and generations. Wood says he’s around 75 percent and expects to be rip-roaring ready to go–he’s also darn excited to be on the BP Tout Wars team.

  • In M’s camp, Kaz Sasaki was able to get back on the mound Saturday and exhibited only mild soreness. He’ll do a bullpen session Monday and seems on schedule to break camp with an adjusted spring schedule. If the team were in Japan, it would be hard to keep “Daimajin” off the mound, but the M’s Bryan Price does keep a close watch on his charges. Sasaki should be fine despite his idiotic 100-pitch outbursts.

  • Pedro Astacio is making some progress, throwing 54 pitches in a side session, but reports from the Mets say that none of the pitches had much velocity or life. If one were to put all their faith in the DIPS theory, Astacio could rely on what should be an above-average infield (and Mo) by keeping the ball down. Injuries may make it impossible for Astacio to test the theory. He’ll begin the season on the List and may struggle to healthy all year long.

  • I’m not sure how you pull a muscle on his little chicken legs, but Javier Vazquez has done it. A strained calf will cost Vazquez about two weeks and the Opening Day nod for the Expos. Vazquez should be fine with rest, and missing one start won’t hurt him or the Expos in the long term.

  • By watching Danny Graves and Byung Kim make the switch to the rotation, we’ve almost forgot about…about…ummm…Omar Daal. It’s hard to remember much of anything about the Orioles, or maybe we’re just blocking it out. Daal has had more success in the bullpen than in the rotation, and cursory research seems to show–no final conclusions yet–that switching roles in-season is more difficult. I’m not sure what that says for Daal this year, but a mild case of tendonitis doesn’t seem to say much either.

  • There’s no real news on A.J. Burnett, Jason Isringhausen, Paul Byrd, Kevin Mench, or Geoff Jenkins, but all signs are pointing to these players beginning the season on the List. Just mentioning this information in case it slipped by you or if you’ve been watching Keith Olbermann on MSNBC for the last couple days. (Keith, email me to set up your BPR interview.)

  • Jeremy Bonderman…his PECOTA comparables are Catfish Hunter and David Clyde. Does anyone wonder why I worry about young pitchers, yet revel in them just the same? I’ll tease you with the fact that I have a series of three pieces coming up in April discussing pitcher abuse from three new angles. It’ll give you something to read the week I’m in Vegas. (We can have an unofficial Pizza Feed in the sports book of Mandalay Bay. RSVP–no gambling on baseball allowed.)

  • Frank Catalanotto is one of those players that you’ll probably never get really excited about, but who can make or break a team’s season. While you can probably make pretty good guesses as to what Carlos Delgado or Rafael Palmeiro will do this season or any other, teams that win are the ones that get more out of the players they didn’t expect much from, that stay healthy. The Jays are expecting more than Catalanotto’s previous employers, and they also may have more health risks to deal with.

  • The Rangers can go back to looking to the future. While Hank Blalock and Mark “T-Rex” Teixeira push their way onto the Opening Day rosters, they’ll be bookending a player that can help overshadow any potential jitters. Alex Rodriguez will be back this week, perhaps playing in some games, but almost certainly ready for Opening Day and another season of being discriminated against for being the best player in the AL. A-Rod’s neck is responding “perfectly” to treatment, say Rangers personnel, but every twinge will be watched closely.

  • One of the conditions I least like to hear about is “flu-like symptoms.” Why is it flu-like and not just flu? There’s actually a reason–accuracy. Doctors get bent out of shape if you blame influenza for everything, and it’s next to impossible to truly diagnose. It’s also a great catchall, but not, as popularly thought, a euphemism for hung over or some other condition less mentionable. Gabe Kapler had something similar, but much less desirable; he was sent to the hospital with “violent vomiting.” With the muscles that guy has in his body, even his vomiting is probably stronger.

  • Travis Hafner had a mild recurrence of the chronic wrist problems. This time, it was diagnosed as a sprain. As I’ve said in this space, Hafner is just one of many similar players that have had hard-to-diagnose wrist injuries. A major league trainer I spoke to this weekend is blaming whip-handled bats and unbalanced workouts for the problem. “All these guys that have the problem have those skinny bats and giant biceps. They get the bat through the [hitting zone] so fast that when they try and stop it, their forearms can’t do it and their wrists take the brunt of it. Sprains, fractures, tears–until we get some sort of splint or taping set up, we’ll see more of these.” It’s as good a theory as I’ve heard and from as good a source as I have.

  • Despite medical objections, Jim Edmonds continues to insist he’ll be ready for Opening Day. The final say rests in the head of Tony La Russa and I won’t even try to guess what La Russa might be thinking. The conservative move is seldom the one he makes, so keep a close eye on Edmonds. Given their outfield options, I’d put Edmonds in right and Eli Marrero or Kerry Robinson in center until Edmonds is completely healthy.

  • Austin Kearns returned to the Spring Training lineup today for the Reds, just 13 days after minor elbow surgery. While he went 0 for 4, he seemed healthy, ran well, swung the bat with full force, and just seemed slightly nervous. Kearns should be fine for Opening Day, just one week away. It’s worth noting that the timetable matches that of Rich Aurilia last year so we are beginning to be able to say that bone chip removal surgery is now a two-week injury. Doesn’t that just sound amazing?

  • The Cubs aren’t panicking, even with Antonio Alfonseca out for at least a month. I guess when you have one of the shakiest closers in the business and overspent to rebuild a bullpen, April is as good a time to see what you have as any. Alfonseca is not a pitcher that relies on his legs a great deal, but I’d guess he’ll have some issues getting back, making the six-week mark more of a likelihood for a return. I’ll also really question his ability to come back without a rehab assignment of some sort. In the interim, the Cubs should go with the closer by committee.

  • In the latest chapter of the Dan Wright saga, Wright pitched from a mound this weekend, but was shut down at 30 pitches–well before his target of 45. The upside is that he felt no pain and will be back out on the mound Monday. He’s still expected to be in the rotation for the Sox, but I’m not hearing a lot of confidence. I do really like what PECOTA has to say about him however. I guess I’m one of the three people who has faith in him.

  • Bob Boone is thinking again–always dangerous. His latest big think is moving Barry Larkin to the outfield. I have no idea why this would be useful when the Reds have three great outfielders and a player they’ll be forced to carry all season and spot in when possible in Wily Mo Pena. Does Boone anticipate not carrying a fifth outfielder? A trade on the horizon? Did he not see Phil Nevin‘s conversion to the outfield?

  • Is a Joe Girardi injury the equivalent of a tree falling in the woods with no one there to hear it?

  • I’ll be really, really surprised if Ricky Gutierrez goes north with the Indians. While he’s made a remarkable recovery from extremely serious spinal surgery, he’s not quite ready. Also, the medical staff wants to see him more before letting him out on the field. I don’t fault the staff for some level of conservatism, especially on a team with a reasonable option in Casey Blake and an unlikely shot at contention. The more I look at the lineup for the Tribe, the more I like it and the more I think the rebuilding will be a very short process.

Back tomorrow…

You need to be logged in to comment. Login or Subscribe