I’m not one to complain–OK, I am–but here’s my weekend: Saturday around 7 p.m. was the start of my friend Brandon’s bachelor party. A good time was had by all. From there, I went straight to the Indy 500. No sleep, mind you. The ESPN 950 crew was at the track from 4:30 a.m. to 8 p.m., with all the action and rainouts you could ever want. From there, it was quickly home for a bit of sleep, then on the road to Chicago, where we had a great time at the Memorial Day Cubs Rooftop Party. I ended the trip with a fun interview on WGN with Dave Kaplan. Finally back in Indy, my phone is going nuts, and it’s time to bring you what you came here for.
So, on to the injuries…
- The Marlins may be at the top of the NL East, but there are plenty of problems in the clubhouse, if not the field. Two of their top pitchers are publicly feuding with staffers and Jack McKeon will have to get a handle on what some are calling a very volatile clubhouse. Josh Beckett was angered by his quick move to the DL, but the team continues to insist that they’re merely being proactive with Beckett. I’d think being proactive and communicating with your young star aren’t mutually exclusive, but I’m not there. A.J. Burnett is also angry. Ready to come back, Burnett feels slighted by the Marlins front office. These are two young stud pitchers, but they’re putting the emphasis on young–as in immature.
- The Jays have had so few arm injuries in the past few seasons that any setback comes as something of a shock. Dustin McGowan‘s recent injury was bad, but losing Roy Halladay for any period of time could push the Jays to punt 2004. Halladay was scratched from his start on Tuesday, complaining of moderate shoulder pain. He’s seen a doctor in Seattle, but I don’t have much more information as yet. I’ll be watching this one extremely closely.
- Ben Sheets has had something of a breakout season so far, but that has more to do with his location than his stuff. Sheets has always had the talent, but he got lost for a while during the former, rudderless Brewers regime. Things do seem to be changing under Doug Melvin, Ned Yost, and the underrated Jack Zduriencik. Sheets had an inner ear infection that left him too dizzy to make his scheduled start, but it normally takes just a simple course of antibiotics to recover. He should be back as early as the weekend with no ill effects.
- Nomar Garciaparra loves the International League. A couple years ago, he did a short rehab stint in Indianapolis since the field was so good. Now, the PawSox were in Slugger Field over the weekend and Nomar did well. He hit and fielded with no problems and seems very close to returning to the Red Sox lineup. A game Wednesday in Toledo could be his last as a Sock–a PawSock, that is.
- With Nomar back, that would leave only Trot Nixon as a major Red Sox player on the DL. (Unless you count Byung-Hyun Kim.) Nixon is making progress in his extended spring training, but not enough to move to a rehab assignment. Sources inside the team tell me that Nixon has no solid timetable for a return, with estimates ranging from two weeks to the All-Star break. There’s been no recurrence of the back injury, but Nixon has been described as “tentative,” especially on the bases.
- Rain pushed Joe Mauer‘s rehab back slightly. The Twins want him to catch back-to-back days to test his repaired knee before he returns to the majors. He’s scheduled to start again Tuesday and a decision will be made on Wednesday. It’s unlikely he’ll be in Minnesota before Friday, but it’s not impossible. Mauer has had a slow rehab, but that’s the result of the Twins exercising caution, not any setbacks on Mauer’s end. For Twins fans, it gets worse. Justin Morneau, someone who has nothing to prove at Triple-A, has been sent down to open up a roster slot. The Twins must know something about Morneau that no one else does, unless something bigger’s afoot.
- While Mauer’s rehab is going well, if slowly, Shannon Stewart‘s rehab from plantar fascitis has run into problems. His foot is not responding to therapy and he is still in significant pain. Any guess that he’d be back at the lower end of the six-to-eight-week estimates are now gone, and there are open questions about whether he can return by the All-Star break. Stewart may need to DH more, which would wreak havoc on the already jumbled Twins lineup.
- Chipper Jones had more problems with the right hamstring that sent him to the DL earlier this season. He left Tuesday night’s game, and early reports don’t sound good. The Braves did some treatment on him last night and will again today before making a decision. They’ve been especially slow with similar decisions this season, so don’t expect any sudden moves from Schuerholz and Cox. Jones is losing range and power from this injury. He’s already declining from a superstar level; this is hastening the slide.
- The Cubs set a record with nine people on the DL last week, but the light at the end of the tunnel appears to be brightening. You may have heard somewhere that Mark Prior would be back on Friday, and the Cubs finally confirmed that on Tuesday. Prior has looked great in his rehab outings. Kerry Wood is making normal progress with his triceps strain and should start throwing again by the end of the week. How he responds will determine his rehab schedule. Greg Maddux is fine–he used his cramp (a “side stitch”) to come out of the game. He felt he was tired, while others disagreed. Even on the hitting side, things are getting better. Mark Grudzielanek is nearly ready to start a rehab assignment and Sammy Sosa will begin baseball activities any day now. With all these injuries, credit Carlos Zambrano, Matt Clement and Moises Alou for keeping the Cubs in the race.
- It always strikes me as something halfway between sad and funny when I realize just how backwards baseball is in some ways. Sure, the game is great, MLB.com is miles ahead of other sports Web sites, and the marketing is starting to get a clue. On the other hand, Bud Selig is still commissioner, and there’s nothing like the organized process that the NFL and NBA have for their drafts. I’ll leave the gnashing of teeth on draft coverage to others this year, but I still wonder why there’s no draft combine. Get all the draft-eligible players in one place, see them do their thing in a controlled setting and most importantly, get a good physical and psychological profile. I’ll suggest Indianapolis for this since Indy does so well with football, but Tim Kremchek’s facility in Cincinnati would be pretty nice too. I mention all this because the Mets have found out that their prize import, Kazuo Matsui, needs glasses. What, they didn’t check his sight before signing him? Some of his hitting and fielding woes can be blamed on him not being able to see clearly. LASIK isn’t an option in-season and isn’t popular in Japan, I’m told. I recommend Oakley RX, Kaz.
- The Yankees are starting to play like everyone expected. Remember the panic in April? This team is too talented to stay down long, but the Yanks are far from invincible, and everyone’s seen their weaknesses–age and injuries. They’ll get a bit of depth as Kenny Lofton and Jason Giambi return over the next week, but the Yankees still expect to deal with more nagging, chronic injuries like this over the course of the season. Depending on the timing, they’ll be fine, but they’re always just a pitch away from devastation. They may soon use their resources to buy more depth.
- Quick Cuts: Scott Rolen left Tuesday’s game after a beaning, but he left under his own power. It was a precaution according to the team. Since no one else has, I’ll open up the discussion of Rolen as MVP…Tony Armas is back for the Expos. They need all the help they can get, but Armas has never proven he can stay healthy. He did look solid in his Tuesday start, though…Andy Ashby is making progress from Tommy John. He could pitch late this year, but 2005 is the more likely option…Al Leiter was activated, but his arm is still problematic. He’s pitching on guts and smarts more than talent now. He threw five solid innings in a Mets win on Tuesday…Fernando Vina is having more problems with his chronically damaged hamstring…A flood of e-mails on Sunday about Jose Reyes, but I’m not sure why. He’s yet to return to his rehab assignment, but the Mets seem willing to go slowly at this stage.
Keep June 12th clear on your Palm Pilot–we’ll have the first Pizza Feed in Louisville. More details soon and plenty more big events to follow. Back tomorrow.