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There’s this lull in sports during July where there the only major team sport being played is baseball. Sure, ESPN kicked off its coverage of the World Series on Tuesday (of Poker, that is), but next Wednesday, we’ll be left with…well, nothing really. It’s a perfect opportunity for baseball to step up and stand out, to really shine at a time where there’s no competition. With the races tight, baseball is instead doing what it normally does in marketing: nothing. At least MLB is trumpeting its part in driving people to the movie theaters last weekend instead of to ballparks. I’ll call that a brain cramp in the league offices–they’re listed as day-to-day.

Powered by the return of The Amazing Race, on to the injuries…

  • It’s hard for me to deal with pitchers like Josh Beckett. They are the most frustrating type of talent. It’s not the pitch counts, the mechanics, or anything in the normal realm of sports medicine that could keep his gift on the mound. I only hope he ends up closer to fellow Texans Nolan Ryan and Kerry Wood than to someone like David Clyde. Beckett has what is being called a skin tear. Rather than the normal pocket of skin that fills with fluid, the skin just came right off. Beckett reported that this is the worst problem he’s had and the first time he’s bled from blister-related problems. Expect this DL stint to be long, along the lines of Jeremy Affeldt last season.

  • Speaking of Kerry Wood, his rehab start in Triple-A Iowa went extremely well. He combined with Sergio Mitre, who got an odd four-inning save, for an Iowa win. Wood went five innings, striking out four, and giving up two singles. Wood now heads back to Wrigley and seems ready to start on Sunday. Ryan Dempster will make his second rehab start in Iowa tomorrow.

  • The All-Star break always brings out a spurt of questionable injuries, laid out for public consumption to give players an acceptable out if they (or their teams) feel they need the rest. Kenny Rogers has a good chance of being named the AL starter, but with his pitching schedule such as it is and a mild hamstring strain, Joe Torre might be forced to look elsewhere.

  • I’ll steal from Greg Rakestraw on this one: As good as the Cardinals are, they’re no more than one major injury away from disaster. Worse, the disasters are all reasonable possibilities. Scott Rolen has been exceeding even high expectations. He’s on pace to push his 90% PECOTA projection. The worry has always been his back, but now, Rolen is having problems with his knee. An MRI showed damage, and while doctors recommended that Rolen try Synvisc injections, Rolen’s going to try and play through it. Expect Rolen to get more rest where La Russa can steal the time.

  • A reader suggested to me that I shouldn’t minimize arthroscopic knee surgery. It’s still not something any athlete wants, but the result is minimal time loss, near 100% success, and a predictable rehabilitation. Sure, it’s serious, but it’s not serious. Phil Nevin proves the point here. He’s expected to be back in the Pads lineup after the minimum 15 days. With the All-Star break, he’ll miss about 10 games.

  • It’s been known for a while that Luis Gonzalez would shut it down for Tommy John surgery if the D-Backs fell out of the race, but it’s getting to the point where the team has actually looked into scheduling for Gonzo. Assuming the surgery is performed before the end of the season and that the tear has not gotten significantly worse over the course of the 2004 season, Gonzalez should be back healthy by spring training. The best comp here is Tony Womack, at least in rehab expectations. Womack returned to the game in just five months, and his tear was worse.

  • The Astros are hoping that they can continue to get by without Jeff Kent. With the break looming, Kent is still hobbled by a hamstring strain. Available as a pinch-hitter, Kent might play under “Edgar Rules”–no running hard out of the box and no taking an extra base. If Kent is allowed the extra rest, the hamstring won’t be serious enough to be a longer-term problem.

  • The Blue Jays aren’t expecting Vernon Wells to make it back before August. The injury, at the junction of calf and tendon, is a tough area for healing, with limited blood flow. Wells is a key part of the team’s future, so with the team out of contention, expect caution here.

  • It had been expected that Junior Spivey and Craig Counsell would be short-term Brewers, but few expected the Brewers to be, well, good. Counsell has played a part in the team’s success, while Spivey has been effective, though injury-prone. Spivey’s latest shoulder injury should keep him out only a couple weeks after an MRI showed no structural damage.

  • Quick Cuts: Ellis Burks will have another knee surgery. His new return target is late August…Carlos Delgado and Bob Wickman made their returns last night. Mike Sweeney isn’t far behind…The Cubs aren’t saying it, but they’re thinking Steve Blass when they see Andy Pratt. Speaking of Blass, has anyone seen Rick Ankiel lately?…Zach Day heads to the DL with tendinitis in his surgically repaired pitching shoulder after getting cranked for eight runs in 1.1 innings on Monday.