Last night was a night full of team troubles–the type of night that seperates the contenders from the pretenders. The good teams will deal with it by using their depth and remaining flexible, while the bad ones will fall apart and blame things like chemistry. I have to say, I’m beginning to root for a collapse in some ways, because at rock-bottom might come the desperation that could lead to a team being run by Paul DePodesta, a Brad Kullman, or a Josh Byrnes. If injury is the ruinous road to riches…well, I’ll be the tour guide. Onto the injuries:

  • Alex Belth of Bronx Banter called me in a panic yesterday. The news on Bernie Williams had come out and I had to talk Alex down from an emotional ledge. The injury to Bernie is very comparable to what Randy Johnson has gone through. Repairing/excising a meniscus problem is as close to routine as surgery goes and the four-to-six week timetable is almost written in stone. Williams will likely have the surgery, come back around the All-Star break, and be the same great CF (at least offensively) we’ve all ignored for far too long.

  • This afternoon, Roger “299” Clemens had a precautionary X-ray on his hand. It was hit last night while he tried to barehand a comebacker. No results at this point, but the New York press would be apoplectic if there was something wrong. As secretive as the Yanks can be, they couldn’t bottle that up. One interesting note: If Clemens fails in his next attempt to nab 300 (versus the Red Sox in Yankee Stadium), his next start would likely be in Wrigley Field against Kerry Wood. Wow, Katy Feeney has to be behind this somehow–what a matchup that would be.

  • The injury to Pedro Martinez is one that has to be taken seriously, yet in-and-of-itself is not that serious. The lat strain is enough to land him on the DL and put a serious dent in the Red Sox rotation, but it shouldn’t seriously affect his season. With a fragile-yet-dominant pitcher, it’s not unlike the proper usage of the best reliever. Finding the spots to put him in with the proper combination of rest and sharpness is half the battle.

    And since Pedro takes every opportunity to discuss his need for a long-term contract, let’s take this opportunity to remind him that to get a big contract with big dollars, he’ll need to stay healthy. Unlike the NBA, an ace can’t just show up for a playoff run. Here’s a thought: Let’s assume the Red Sox and A’s are contenders next year. How about a Pedro-for-Mark Mulder trade? Boston gets a shot at signing a great, young, reasonably healthy starter in his prime, and the A’s get Pedro for yet another playoff run.

  • I’ll get a good look Friday as I go see my good friends the Fish take on the Reds, but Austin Kearns will probably not show any effects from a shoulder bruise. The injury occurred when Kearns collided with the catcher. It isn’t serious, but caution is always good with a great one. I won’t, however, be seeing Barry Larkin, who is headed to the DL with a calf injury. This is not the same calf that put him on the DL previously, so this one is beyond recurrent, it’s simple breakdown. At best, Larkin will be able to come back to a bench role if he hopes to contribute at all. Larkin’s condition makes me wonder if he might benefit from an Eric Davis-type sabbatical, but I have Larkin and Davis interconnected in my mind.

  • In San Diego, they’re dealing with three key injuries. Ryan Klesko may end up on the DL with an ankle problem that Klesko himself has been loudly whispering may be a fracture. If he ends up on the list, there’s a grab bag of prospects the Pads might take a look at. Mark Kotsay‘s back forced him to the DL while doctors attempt to let cortisone injections take hold. It will be next week before more is known. (By the way, cortisone is an anti-inflammatory. I had a couple emails asking why it was used.)

  • Jason Isringhausen has been able to make it through a couple light throwing sessions and the Cardinals are planning out a rehab assignment and longer-term plan. It’s been decided that Izzy will not be able to go on back-to-back days, and will require special rest and monitoring when he is used. I guess he’s better than what they have available, so it might be worth all the effort.

  • Byung-Hyun Kim‘s return from an ankle injury took a detour when he came up with a hamstring strain while running out a bunt. The hamstring injury isn’t serious, but does set him back at least a week. There are rampant rumors that Kim is headed to Boston or Atlanta, but despite the D’backs having sudden pitching depth, trading Kim for someone like Vinny Castilla is something south of asinine.

  • Denny Neagle is now sliding behind Scott Elarton on the help coming list for the Rockies. His rehab assignment was derailed by serious inflammation in his elbow. At best, he’s looking at another 30-day rehab and he may not be able to make it back this season.

  • Ray Durham is well ahead of his original timetable, and it may be for one of the most interesting reasons I’ve heard. Team sources indicate that Durham’s recurrent ankle sprains may have actually worked in his favor. Subsequent sprains are not as severe due to the laxity caused, and what tearing does take place is mostly old scar tissue. Let’s not forget that Durham has been rehabbing like crazy. Seeing him back at the minimum is possible.

  • Mo Vaughn was moved from the 15- to 60-day DL. It’s mostly a procedural move, but most are watching the countdown clock for Mo’s insurance to kick in. Note that it will be in the stretch between the All-Star game and the trading deadline. How convenient.

    Meanwhile, Mo is trying to find a doctor who will tell him what he wants to hear. What that is remains an open question. I just wonder if Mo’s insurance will pay off in singles. One of Mo’s possible replacements–and I use that term loosely–is former middle infielder turned bench guy Jay Bell. Bell, however, will need a replacement of his own while he’s on the DL with a strained groin. Whoever plays first in Shea appears to be standing with one foot in the grave. At least there’s some good news in Queens: Jeromy Burnitz is nearly back from his broken hand and could be activated as soon as Friday despite weak hitting during his rehab assignment. For some reason, he’ll play CF when he returns. I said “some” good news, and this passes for it for Mets fans.

  • The Expos are currently experiencing the death of a million small cuts. I think that comes from a bad kung-fu movie, but it’s a great line and I steal it all the time. Michael Barrett‘s finger will keep him out of games until the weekend, but it is not fractured. Brian Schneider is able to carry the load, even for an extended time, so it’s one position the Expos can afford to lose for a bit. They can’t deal with Brad Wilkerson missing much time, but he’s had everything from pink eye to shoulder stiffness and now, he’s added a hamstring to his laundry list of doom. For the most part, he’s played through it and put up a 900+ OPS. That’s the sign of a good player. Over at third base, Fernando Tatis may be headed to the DL with arrhythmia, or irregular heartbeat. This is a serious condition that will take tests to determine the cause. Added to his strained groin, Tatis is likely headed to the DL.

  • Quick Cuts: Matthew LeCroy returned from his broken nose to patellar tendinitis. Like the Mets, the Twins seem cursed recently…If bad things comes in threes, the Pirates need to watch their fingers. Matt Stairs joins Pokey Reese on the DL with torn ligaments in his finger…Jim Mecir‘s chronic knee problems may force him to the DL, but he’s still someone people should realize overcomes so much to be healthy any of the time. Riding him for missing some is pointless.

Have a great weekend. I’ll be at the Indy 500 on Sunday. I’ve survived my crazy month of May, but I’m day-to-day. Thanks for taking the ride with me.