As we hit the theoretical halfway point–and why isn’t the All-Star break at the halfway point? It can’t be hard to schedule and there’s no real reason the game has to be on Tuesday, is there?–we’ve seen a heck of a lot of baseball. We’ve learned a lot, seen things we’d never seen before, been surprised more times than we can count, and we can’t wait for the rest. Meanwhile injury analysis is moving forward and hopefully getting better. I’ll be taking a look back at some of the things we learned later this week, typing up that column as I fly to New York. So, powered by an anticipation of a great second half, on to the injuries…
- It’s really not even funny anymore. Sure, I’ve made my share of jokes at Ken Griffey‘s expense, but just at the stage where he was finally getting some recognition for how good his career has been and revitalizing his present, his hamstring gave way. It wasn’t a particularly taxing play, but it doesn’t take much to split his chronically weakened hamstrings. I’d feel worse for Griffey if I hadn’t seen him stretching before a recent game. Like too many other players, he seemed to coast through the warm-ups. I’m not sure if there are other stretches he does, perhaps in the training room, but just the example he set didn’t help. Forget the kids in the stands, the kids on his team were watching and emulating him. Griffey is likely out a month, and with his condition, it could stretch longer. In his absence, the Reds will find out what Wily Mo Pena can do (two homers yesterday brought his season total up to 10, his season line to .270/.314/.491…PECOTA’s had him pretty well pegged so far). They’ll also see if John Vander Wal can come back from ACL surgery in just six months.
- I’ve said it before and I’m sure I’ll say it again, but what the Yankees buy with all that money is depth. Sure, you look at second base or the front of their bullpen and it may not look like it, but when injuries happen, that’s when the depth shows up. With Mike Mussina trying to pitch on three days rest and stressing his elbow, the Yanks could reach down and pull up a rejuvenated Orlando Hernandez. He played the part of “Good Contreras” today, going five strong innings. He only needs to make a cameo start before heading to the pen since Kevin Brown should make his rehab start on Thursday, then come back to the rotation next week. The Yankees have been extremely conservative bringing Brown back, so he should be ready once he does re-appear. Mussina, on the other hand, is a bit more concerning. Elbow soreness is never a good thing, but team sources sound worried that this is Mussina finally admitting something that’s been going on all season. Expect a DL stint in hopes that rest and treatment will dig up the Mussina that they need come playoff time.
- The A’s are using the break to buy a little time for the top of their rotation, setting Tim Hudson‘s return for the weekend. Mark Mulder will also wait until this weekend to pitch, since he’ll be starting in the All-Star Game. Hudson will have to be watched closely. His chronic oblique problems have often cropped up near the end of the season. With this earlier injury, he will have to be closely monitored both on and off the field. Mulder doesn’t figure to have any problems with workload, but he’s had unusual injuries two of the last three seasons. If healthy, the A’s are a good team in a crapshoot…I mean, the playoffs. If not, well, who knows if they even make it in what will be a close AL West and even closer Wild Card.
- The break is a perfect opportunity for some players to steal some rest. The Red Sox always let Pedro Martinez head out early, but this year, they let Manny Ramirez rest his barking hamstrings for an extra day too. Manny’s had difficulties off and on for the last couple years, leading many to believe he wasn’t playing hard. That may have been the case at times, but at others, he’s been playing smart, or simply under “Edgar Rules.”
- It’s hard for me to gauge the progress of Marcus Giles. He’s gone 0-5 in his first two rehab starts, but there have been no reports of problems. Giles is expected to play in the field for the rest of the week, then head back to Atlanta. He could be back in the lineup on Thursday, but expect a slow start.
- The Cubs have been playing without Todd Hollandsworth for nearly a week now, and it’s affecting the team. Moises Alou has been forced to play more, fatiguing him, while the bench becomes even more suspect in Hollandsworth’s absence. The foul off his shin has brought back some of the nerve problems caused in 2001 by a similar foul tip. Nerve injuries are unpredictable, so I’m really at a loss for any prognosis. The Cubs may need to find a similar bat to bolster the roster, especially with Nic Jackson out for the season in the minors (rotator cuff surgery). Adding in the absence of Aramis Ramirez showed the weakness in the Cubs’ offense. Ramirez will return after the break, but Cubs fans are hoping that Jim Hendry will bring back more than himself from Houston.
- Shannon Stewart enjoyed his trip to Rochester, but maybe he heard me on the radio this morning. Distracted by my prediction of his impending doom on Rochester sports talk with Dan Borrello–plantar fascitis simply doesn’t heal well in-season–he went 0-2 in his last game at Triple-A. He was activated off the DL for some unknown reason and will be in the lineup on Thursday. He played in left for the Red Wings, but he’ll start at DH back in the bigs. Expect Stewart to get more rest when the Twins play on turf, either at DH or on the bench, limiting his opportunities for the next couple months. If the race stays close with the White Sox, Stewart may be pushed, and that’s where I think the problems will start to appear.
- The Rangers are getting a bit healthier. While I don’t think this team is the type that will be healthy per se, they’ve done a great job of filling holes and keeping their key players on the field as much as possible. With R.A. Dickey, Laynce Nix, and Brian Jordan returning in the next week, that fills in some more holes and creates a bit more depth. While the Rangers have dealt with many injuries, this team does show a strong commitment to player health. Having head trainer Jamie Reed and team physician Keith Meister on board will pay off in the long term.
- It’s hard to explain the headline “Dustan Mohr tears biceps tendon; will miss one day.” Luckily, Stan Conte did just that. Mohr did indeed tear the long head biceps tendon, which is not the same injury suffered by Frank Thomas or Dean Palmer in the past that knocked them out for extended periods of time. Those injuries occurred near the elbow, rather than the shoulder. Mohr’s injury is most similar to one suffered by John Elway the year he won his first Super Bowl. The injury is serious, but doesn’t seem to affect Mohr’s play. While I expect more rest would have helped, the Giants are playing short-handed lately. Mohr simply can’t hurt himself more by playing, so if he’s effective, why not? This is a great example of effective, enlightened injury management.
- Quick Cuts: Odalis Perez should be back very soon. The Dodgers need him if they’re going to make any run at the NL West title…Miguel Olivo had the urethral stent removed and will begin a rehab assignment. Ouch–delayed sympathetic reaction there…Brandon Inge should be back just a couple games after the break…Anyone who thinks Randy Johnson isn’t healthy should consider that his agent is asking for an extension of three years in return for waiving his no-trade…According to Joe Morgan, Sammy Sosa “makes everyone around him better.” If that’s true, just how bad would Rey Ordonez be without him?
Check out Baseball Prospectus Radio from last week, check me out on Cold Pizza tomorrow morning, and I’ll check you out when I get back on Thursday.