I’d actually written a fairly sizeable intro to today’s UTK, but as I stared at it on the glowing screen of my computer, I decided that didn’t like it. I’ll ignore weird e-mails, invective-laced phone calls, and most if not all of the lunatic fringe of baseball and simply talk about injuries tonight…which is probably how most of you like things anyway.

  • So close. Mike Sweeney was ready to rejoin the team, and Tony Pena even had his name on Monday night’s “pencil” lineup card, but Sweeney came up sore again on Monday morning. Sweeney felt the pain in his neck after falling back to avoid an inside pitch. The Royals are being very cautious with Sweeney and his return, knowing what an important cog he is in this near-miracle season. According to Rick Sutcliffe on the ESPN telecast last night, Sweeney described the pain as a “one-and-a-half” as opposed to the original pain of “eight.” Yes, this perception of pain is scientifically proven, and the one-to-10 scale is the most commonly used. There are some conspiracy theories going around that Sweeney wasn’t ready and the setback is a smokescreen. I can’t disprove it, but Sweeney has been adamant about his return timetable. My other concern–once Sweeney does return, wouldn’t a smart pitcher go up and in to try and cause the same thing?
  • It’s easy to blame airline food for getting sick on a flight, but since most flights don’t get more than a small glass of tomato juice and some peanuts (“WARNING: MAY CONTAIN PEANUTS”), it’s getting to be harder to blame it. For Rich Aurilia, he wishes it were just some bad turkey or clam chowder. After experiencing nausea and pain on the flight home from Cincinnati, Aurilia had surgery Monday to remove his appendix. He’ll be out between two and four weeks, depending on his comfort level. For Giants fans, this means–celebrate!–more Neifi Perez!
  • The Cubs wasted no time in activating Mark Prior, choosing to do so on Monday rather than waiting for the day of his start. There’s no real reason why one might be better than another unless getting Sergio Mitre back to West Tennessee was some priority. Prior was widely expected to be activated and make his first start Tuesday in his home town of San Diego. The only concern at this point with Prior is his stamina. One thing that bugs me about this situation, though: Why do you call up a guy (Mitre), then send him back down two levels?
  • Ryan Dempster went in to have bone chips removed and came out with a rebuilt elbow. Mind you, it’s not like Dempster woke up to the medical equivalent of a surprise party, but it does have to be little disheartening for both he and the Reds. As unlucky as Ken Griffey Jr. has been, Dempster has been worse, sucking up more than $3 million and showing almost nothing. Meanwhile, the Reds are also dealing with the loss of Jimmy Haynes, perhaps for the season, and looking forward to next year’s rotation of Jose Acevedo, Aaron Harang, Brandon Claussen, one of Danny Graves or Ryan Wagner, and perhaps one more, like Ty Howington, or a free agent signed with Steinbrenner’s petty cash.
  • Dr. Tim Kremchek was busy on Monday, going in to fix Ken Griffey’s shoulder. I had been told this was done at the same time as his ankle surgery, but that was incorrect. Griffey’s operation was anticipated, and the fact that he was reasonably healthy between his return from the DL and the ankle injury is a major positive. He should be ready for Spring Training 2004.
  • Corey Patterson will complete his rehab near his home in Georgia. It was released yesterday that Patterson’s torn ACL was not as completely torn as thought, but the rehab is pretty much the same, as is his timeframe. With almost nine months to recover, Patterson should be as close to full-go as he will ever be when Spring Training opens.
  • Worse than not getting anything at the trading deadline would be losing something you didn’t expect. The Astros face this scenario with Richard Hidalgo, whose problematic hip is acting up again. He missed the tail end of 2002 with this problem, and sources say that this is being presented in much the same manner. Hidalgo is experiencing pain from such strenuous activities as standing and walking–definitely not a good sign.
  • The Cardinals have had everything go wrong except for plagues of locusts, frogs falling from the sky, zombies roaming the stands, and having a five-inch screw put in the elbow of one of their pitchers…oops, wait, that last one did happen. Still, the Cards are right in the thick of the NL Central chase and getting a semi-healthy Jim Edmonds back would certainly help their cause. Despite missing more than a week and most of the post-All-Star Game games, Edmonds has not hit the DL and is expected to be back in the lineup on Tuesday. Like most similar situations, Edmonds’ status is tentative and he’ll only return if there are no setbacks and problems and Tony La Russa writes his name in.
  • OK, I’ll call shenanigans on this one. If Bud Selig is going to selectively enforce the million-dollar rule, he might as well start enforcing the DL rules on occasion. With Jeff Cirillo, the Mariners are making a mockery of the rulebook, giving Cirillo time off to work on the mechanics of his swing, not to heal from a shoulder “injury.” The simple solution? Make the M’s play without Pat Borders until Cirillo is eligible to come off the DL. On second thought, though, Borders might be punishment enough.
  • Kazuhiro Sasaki should be back in Seattle by Thursday, but he will have one more rehab start on Tuesday in Tacoma. (Tuesday in Tacoma? Sounds like a country song…) Sasaki looks healthy, but has been ineffective, which doesn’t make Derek Zumsteg feel much better these days.
  • The sight of Troy Glaus taking on Cal League pitching strikes me as oddly humorous. Glaus is a big guy–really big–and while I’m sure there are big guys in Single-A, that mental image of him towering over the others (like some kids in the Little League World Series Regional here in Indy…I swear they need steroid testing more than MLB) sticks with me. Glaus will probably spend a couple games in Rancho Cucamonga and then rejoin the Angels early the following week.
  • If an MRI taken on Friday comes back clean, the Royals are expected to sign Kevin Appier to a deal, allowing him to slot into Jose Lima or Jeremy Affeldt‘s slot. I’m a bit surprised by the move, given that Jimmy Gobble had a nice start and that Affeldt could be used more effectively, but maybe Jin Wong sees something the rest of us don’t. Maybe Appier has something left or perhaps he’ll just function as something of an inspirational leader, telling tales of monkeys and pitching changes from days of yore.
  • Quick Cuts: Michael Tucker left the field on a stretcher after fouling the ball off his right leg. It looked eerily similar to the injury to Jermaine Dye two years ago… Corey Koskie was activated from the DL, going 2-3 and batting cleanup…Ismael Valdes will make a rehab start, likely in Double-A Frisco (a short drive from Arlington), instead of returning to the Rangers rotation on Friday…The Orioles are telling people that Kurt Ainsworth is way ahead of schedule and could go on a rehab assignment in the next couple weeks. At that pace, he could pitch in Baltimore by September…Jose Contreras is ready to start a rehab assignment at FSL Single-A Tampa. His start on Thursday puts him on a track to be in the Bronx when rosters expand…Austin Kearns heads to Double-A Chattanooga for a rehab assignment. The Reds did this just to tick me off. I’ll be in Louisville this weekend…David Wells will make his scheduled start on Wednesday…Jim Thome won’t miss time with a mildly strained groin.

Thanks to the many readers who let me know that Bobby Hill wasn’t called up because he’s currently on the minor league DL. The MiL DL is a notoriously spotty piece of work, but that’s no excuse just the same. Hill has a deep thigh bruise.

Just a quick warning: if you’ve received an e-mail from me infected with Klez, it’s not really from me. I’m evidently in a lot of Outlook address books. Get a good anti-virus program and dump Outlook. I use The Bat. Oh, and expect details on a Cleveland Feed very soon.

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