August is an interesting time. It’s just after the deadline, players are getting fatigued, and managers are looking to spot guys as the heat of summer takes its toll. Teams can make big moves or blow out their chances for fall success, so I’ll watch closely to let you know which ways the teams are going. Even in this nearly-decided regular season, there’s still enough time to collapse, if not catch up.
On to the injuries …
- Ken Griffey Jr. convinced the Reds medical staff that he was healthy enough to be activated, but he was not in the Reds’ lineup for their Tuesday night thumping in San Francisco. Griffey is able to sprint, stop, and change directions to the satisfaction of the team and should slot back into center field immediately with regular off days. There has been some speculation that the Reds might try Austin Kearns at third base in an attempt to find enough slots for all their talented bats, but team sources say that’s not likely. Given the awful track record of outfield-to-third base conversions, that’s a wise choice.
- The Astros cling to hopes of a wild-card berth in the playoffs, but their pitching staff will have to improve to make that dream come true. Andy Pettitte is making progress, but is still unlikely to answer the bell for his next scheduled start. Wade Miller is looking less and less like someone they can rely on for any innings. Miller had another cortisone shot in his ailing pitching shoulder and will not throw for ten days. In the best-case scenario, Miller could get back by September 1, but surgery is the next step if this shot doesn’t relieve the pain in Miller’s damaged shoulder.
- The rehab-start struggles I referenced a few days ago will keep Tim Hudson from returning to the mound on Thursday. Instead, the A’s will have Hudson work a longer than normal bullpen session to test his stamina, then will likely have someone ready to come in after five innings on Saturday. This will tax the bullpen slightly, but is smart to protect Hudson since his value is amplified by the pennant race. (Yes, I know it’s “division race,” but that sounds lame.)
- After two years of sturm und drang, the Mets are conceding that Mike Piazza may have known best all along. The move from behind the plate has done nothing for Piazza, either in helping him stay strong all season or avoiding injury. He’ll likely move back behind the plate for the majority of the season, with the Mets planning to acquire a first baseman in the off-season. It’s certainly easier to find a decent first sacker than it is a slugging catcher, as the cheap trade of Doug Mientkiewicz showed. Piazza’s position change shouldn’t affect much else.
- This year’s breakout player has to be Mike Young. New position and all, he has really outplayed all but his 90th-percentile PECOTA projection. It would be a crushing blow to the Rangers’ hopes for a title if Young–or any member of the Rangers’ great young infield–were to miss any time. Young missed Tuesday’s game with back stiffness. I can’t find any mention of this being a problem previously, so we’ll need to wait and watch if this is minor soreness or the harbinger of doom that a back problem is for a middle infielder. Eric Young got his first career start at shortstop in Young’s absence.
- Give a gold medhead star to Brad Radke. Radke went to the Twins field and medical staff and asked for some extra rest. He’s not injured, but like many players, he is fatigued. The Twins will juggle their rotation slightly, moving Radke back a day and using Terry Mulholland in a spot start. Many will ask if this makes Radke more of an injury risk. The answer is no. Radke seems self-aware enough to keep fatigue from becoming injury, but the Twins do need to be conscious of the fact that Radke’s state will require extra rest, close monitoring, and the type of flexibility that this latest move shows. With Grant Balfour still not right and headed for the DL, the Twins have some pitching challenges.
- Giants pitcher Jerome Williams may miss much of the remaining season with his triceps/elbow injury. A CT scan showed a buildup of fluid that trainer Stan Conte feels may be hiding some problems. While Williams will have more scans, ligament damage has been ruled out. The Giants will be juggling their rotation over the next week, moving Dustin Hermanson to closer while attempting to find someone to pitch Williams’ innings.
- Carl Everett remains unable to play with a severe quadriceps strain. He’s missed three games and is unlikely to play in the next few. The DL remains a possibility, as does a waiver trade for the Sox. The continued injuries marring the Sox’ lineup keep GM Kenny Williams looking for solutions. Everett’s injury was a known quantity coming in, putting the onus on the GM for this one. With Frank Thomas and Magglio Ordonez likely gone for the season and perhaps gone from the Sox after the season, the Southsiders are once again looking at what might have been.
- This year, J.D. Drew has done what many of us expected him to do if only he could stay healthy. He’s lived up to his promise in his first year in Atlanta, having only minor health problems despite his damaged knees. He now has an injured right wrist, done on that most dangerous of baseball activities this year, a checked swing. He took a cortisone shot and should be back on the field for Wednesday’s game.
- Kazuo Matsui will miss at least one more game with his swollen, bruised ankle. He attempted to fight through the pain, but simply had to get some rest and healing. Matsui was injured on a hard, but clean, slide last Friday as he made a double-play turn. Matsui’s defensive problems won’t be helped by any loss of range. The Mets should know that Matsui had a reputation in Japan as a slow healer.
- In a sight all too familiar to Royals fans, Mike Sweeney left Tuesday’s game, hobbling to the clubhouse while clutching his lower back. It’s the same location that forced him to miss some time last month and has cost him time in each of the last three seasons. The chronic back problem is something that will take years from his career and hinder his performance when he is able to play.
- It would have been enough to see him out on the mound, but when Rick Ankiel struck out three and walked none in the Florida State League on Monday night, both Cards fans and medheads rejoiced. Cards fans can hold out hope that Ankiel could finally live up to his promise, while medheads have another data point that “Steve Blass Disease” is actually a medical condition related to proprioception in the elbow. Ankiel has a ways to go and is operating under strict limits, but he will be up in September. While it’s too much to think that Ankiel could be the rotation saver the Cards need, it’s not out of the question that we might see him pitch in the playoffs.
- Quick Cuts: There’s an interesting article in the Washington Times about the media and medical conditions. Thanks to reader Paul for the link … Ben Molina heads to the DL with a broken finger. Brother Jose Molina will take over starting duties … Chan Ho Park will have a Triple-A start on Thursday, despite the announcement that he would not pitch again this season. There’s the off chance that the Rangers’ desperation for pitching could bring him back … While heat illness in baseball is far from the problem it is in football, this is an interesting new device that could have broad impact … Tony Armas was scratched when he could not get loose prior to his start. The Expos hope he will be able to go later this week … Omar Vizquel left Tuesday’s game with a bruised foot … Jeremy Affeldt had a good bullpen session. He could be back in two weeks for the Royals.