Believe it or not–and for people who know me, this will come as a shock–I spent most of Tuesday speechless. At an hour much too early for me to be up, and not having had near enough coffee (or alcohol), I was squeezed into the back seat of an Indy Car today and taken around the track. I can’t begin to describe the experience, but suffice it to say that I came away with a new respect for what athletes these drivers are, how much courage–or stupidity–they have, and the fact that I really, really want to buy one of those when I win the lottery! If you have a couple hundred bucks lying around and you’re near a track when the IRL comes through, I can’t recommend this highly enough. Robin Miller of ESPN made fun of me all afternoon, reminding me that I only went 180 or so.

  • It doesn’t pay to be an NL closer in 2003. Actually, it pays quite well, and the medical plan covers everything, but the results aren’t very good. For the Giants, Robb Nen is done. Upcoming surgery to repair a partially torn rotator cuff will end his year and put him on a long road to recovery. Both Nen and Giants trainer Stan Conte admit this could be a career-ender, but both seem very upbeat, hoping this is what finally returns Nen to health.

    Much could be made of the usage of Nen in last year’s playoffs, but it’s one thing to risk injuring a mid-30s relief ace on the road to a ring, and entirely another to risk a young arm in April. Another upside to this surgery: Nen will have the same procedure and same doctor that Curt Schilling had in 1999. Always good to have a Cy Young-worthy comp of similar age and structure.

  • Mo Vaughn is facing the end of his career. Tests revealed that his knees have deteriorated to the point where he’s having severe bone on bone friction, leading to pain, fluid build up, and bone spurs. Surgery is not an option at this point, since doctors believe the problems would recur. Vaughn is an excellent candidate to try Synvisc, and several reports seem to indicate that this is being considered. At best, Vaughn will need a lot of spotting in and out of the lineup, and his best-case scenario at this point is following an Ellis Burks or Harold Baines career path.

  • It doesn’t sound serious, but like Derek Lowe earlier this season, there’s nothing funny about a cancer scare. Mike Piazza had a mole removed from his torso today, leaving him with seven stitches. He’d hoped not to miss time, but was uncomfortable for Tuesday’s game. He’ll likely miss one or two more, but being cancer-free is worth at least that and so much more.

  • I heard from a friend that some people think I take too much credit when I’m right and don’t take the heat when I’m wrong. I’d disagree…I’ll stand up when I’m wrong, when I miss something, or if I replace a mothballed starter with a long-retired catcher. One thing I was both right and wrong about, though, was Derek Jeter‘s impending rehab assignment–it will start Wednesday and be short in timeframe, but instead of being in Single-A Tampa, Jeter will head to Double-A Trenton. If Jeter can play without setbacks, he’ll be back in the Bronx by mid-May.

  • It’s possible that Brian Giles could be activated any day now. There was some speculation after Giles successfully ran around the bases in his new knee brace that he might even be activated on Tuesday. The final decision on a rehab assignment hasn’t been made, according to this chat with Dave Littlefield. Now, why aren’t more GMs doing things like this–talking to the fans, increasing transparency, and speaking intelligently about injuries? Oh yeah, Littlefield is smarter than most of them.

  • As the Reds start to heat up, they’re beginning to make moves. Like the shakeup they made a couple weeks ago that may (or may not) have led to their better play, they’re getting closer to the team they thought they had. Jimmy Haynes, re-signed to head the staff, is about ready for a rehab start, likely in Triple-A Louisville. He’s making good progress with his strained back.

  • In another smart Reds move, John Riedling was moved to the rotation for one and possibly more starts. With Chris Reitsma temporarily unavailable to start, using a solid reliever like Riedling just makes sense as long as he’s watched closely and used properly. The Reds have proven they can do this with Danny Graves, so why not see if the same tack can be taken by another guy with a great arm? Riedling does have a long history of injuries, but it’s worth a gamble–the likely result is his return to the pen, but there’s upside in taking the chance.

  • Well, Barry Larkin looked healthy tonight. The Reds will be smart and limit his playing time while his calf heals fully, but his bat seems fully functional. Still, as Scarlett said, “tomorrow is another day.”

  • Trot Nixon has been out a couple days and the Red Sox have determined that their outfielder has a scratched cornea. He should be back later this week, but keep a close eye on…well, Nixon’s eyes.

  • Darren Holmes is headed to the DL with a nerve problem in his shoulder, but that’s the good news. The bad news would have been that the numbness and tingling was the result of an aneurysm, since the symptoms were mimicking that much more serious condition. Holmes will be ready to return in the minimum and the Braves bullpen is strong enough to not miss him much. It should mean more innings for Jung Bong. The Braves are also very encouraged by Mike Hampton‘s revamped mechanics. If it works, give Mazzone another point toward baseball immortality.

  • If you’re looking for a source of cheap saves or just someone to fill out a pen, you might be looking at Jeff Zimmerman. He was great a couple years ago, then bad, then injured. He’s on track to return around the ASB, but even then, he’s more likely to be a spotted reliever than a closer.

For now, that ‘another day’ Miss O’Hara spoke of for me is the one that comes after some much-needed sleep. I’m sorry for the short, somewhat scattered nature of this week’s reports. Doing the pseudo-day job, the radio show, and living a life tends to spread me a bit thin, but hope you’ll put up with me for just a bit. At least people seem to be warming up to what UTK is all about, understanding that I’m not really as arrogant as I come across sometimes, enjoying our Pizza Feeds–and wait till you hear where the next one is–and starting to talk about injuries as a major part of both individual and team performance.

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