Thirty games. Give or take a few, that’s the time we have left to answer the questions we have left. As the calendar flips again, heading downhill to the playoffs, I’ll be watching the injuries more closely than ever. Some will sneak by, but it’s getting harder and harder for baseball teams to keep injuries hidden.
On to the injuries…
- I didn’t expect him back, but the Angels have activated Troy Glaus. According to the team, he’ll be limited to DH, but could be used at first base “in an emergency.” It’s unreasonable to expect Glaus to match his early-season power numbers–he was slugging .694 when he went down–but by coming back early, Glaus’ contributions are all bonus. Given that the Angels were close to trading for Joe Randa just a few weeks ago, a limited Glaus is probably the equivalent at no cost. Players coming back this late in the season often get the “good as a trade” cliché going, but there’s little evidence to show this. Players who have missed a significant portion of the season can scarcely be expected to be the equivalent of an acquisition, which tends to address specific weaknesses with a successful player. It’s certainly a positive, but not quite as much as many think.
- Corey Koskie has a high ankle sprain, an injury that, if severe, can wipe out a season. The Twins think Koskie can be back in ten days, and will not DL him with roster expansion coming. There’s some discussion that Koskie may need to DH once he’s able to return, but with Shannon Stewart already getting some time there and Joe Mauer not able to squat, those at-bats are pretty precious. Third base is a weak spot for the Twins. The injury pushes Michael Cuddyer over from second, leaving Luis Rivas and Augie Ojeda up the middle with Cristian Guzman. If Koskie’s injury lingers, the Twins are significantly weakened.
- Losing a starter doesn’t help any team, but the Cubs are better positioned to deal with an injury than most. Matt Clement left Sunday’s game with what has been described as a back or neck strain. The injury is of unknown severity, but seems to be muscular in nature. Depending on how long it takes to interrupt the pain/spasm cycle, and Clement’s response to treatment, he could miss as little as one start. Glendon Rusch is the likely fill-in on a short- or long-term basis.
- How worried do I get when velocity is off over a certain number of starts? Pretty worried, but it’s just one piece of data. Velocity loss is the best predictor of fatigue for those of us who aren’t pitching coaches. Mark Mulder and C.C. Sabathia have left a couple mph on the shelf over their past few starts, but it’s not enough to say that they’re injured or even anything more than fatigued. Given that both make the top 25 (or is that bottom 25?) on the PAP charts for 2004, fatigue would seem to be the optimal explanation. I’m not predicting injury, even though both were red flagged at the start of the season (oops). I’m just giving you something I think is worth knowing.
- Steve Karsay may not be the pitcher Yankees hoped he would be, but he’s going to be a Yankees pitcher sooner than most expected. Karsay will be added to the active roster on Monday, making him eligible for the postseason. While Karsay is expected to take some of the load off of Paul Quantrill and Tom Gordon, he’s certainly not someone who can be used to set up at this stage. His success on the mound is relative. If he gets the rest of his bullpen mates some rest heading into the playoffs, he’s done his job.
- The Red Sox are still within shouting distance of the Yankees, not just because many of their fans are loud and shrill, but because they’ve played better baseball since the trade. It’s hard to say that injuries have held the Red Sox back this season in the same way that one could with the White Sox or even the Angels, but they’ve seldom had a chance to put out their expected nine, their best possible lineup. They aren’t sure when Trot Nixon will be back, but hopes are that he’ll be able to get in some time in the minors before those seasons end. Nixon was reported to have made “dramatic progress,” although observers on the opposition didn’t see much in his workouts.
Pokey Reese is on a similar timetable, coming back from his oblique strain. He’ll also visit Pawtucket this week with expectations that he’ll be back the following week. Manny Ramirez had a miracle cure of his sore knee Saturday night, coming back on Sunday rather than midweek as expected. The only negative news for the Sox is minor: Keith Foulke is limited to save situations only with a stiff back. He’s dealt with the problem for years, but it puts more pressure on the rest of the admittedly weak pen to have him limited.
- The Phillies are at least making more work for UTK as their hopes fade. Another vote of confidence doesn’t mean much for Larry Bowa in the face of a full training room. Pat Burrell will head out for a rehab assignment at Double-A Reading in hopes that his bat could come back before the team is completely buried. The brace he was fitted with is helping, but he’s delaying surgery that he will need. The same could be said for Billy Wagner. Wagner is exhibiting every sign of someone headed for an off-season date with a doctor, yet he’ll be back on the mound by Tuesday. The cortisone shot may be helping with the pain, but remember what Wagner did with his elbow. For a guy with a team option and fading postseason hopes, I don’t understand this. Randy Wolf and Kevin Millwood still hope to contribute, but how much remains to be seen. Millwood is a week away from throwing a simulated game despite recent progress, while Wolf is hanging on to hope before his Monday examination. I’d be very surprised if Wolf wasn’t shut down with the elbow problem.
- The Angels have more experience dealing with injuries than any team in recent memory, yet they’re also as hot as any team in recent memory. Jeff DaVanon is the latest to go down, this time with an ankle injury; he’ll miss a week. Looked at the anticipated lineup, DaVanon’s loss pushes the at-bats to the #8 outfielder, Curtis Pride. Try constructing a lineup that goes eight deep for any other team. The way the season has gone for the Angels, pick up Pride–he’s bound to get as hot as DaVanon or Chone Figgins or Robb Quinlan did while the at-bats were theirs.
- The damned appreciate the small things like spare change, last meals, and getting their catcher back. Mike Piazza made it through rehab without aggravating his left knee. His reward will be activation on Monday. It remains a bit unclear how Piazza will be used; the indication was that he would go behind the plate more, but he only played DH and first base while in St. Lucie. Piazza did catch on the side, which provides no indication how his knee would stand up to a normal workload.
- The Cubs lost Kyle Farnsworth, who has been about as good as Farnsworth Bentley in 2004, to the DL. The indignity is hitting the DL because a trash can he kicked, kicked back. A knee injury resulted and an MRI is forthcoming. Joe Borowski will be up this week; his velocity, however, remains somewhere between Chicago and Des Moines, left on the altar of the Hot Hand. (And yes, Bentley is the Jerome Benton of this generation.)
- Someone explain to me why every Mariners pitcher seems to come up lame if he’s under the age of…well, how old is Jamie Moyer now? Clint Nageotte is the latest on the DL. He tried to pitch through back spasms, but finally couldn’t take the pain. Bob Melvin described his motion as “a little hop at the end.” There’s no indication yet if the problem is muscular or structural; either way, Nageotte is likely done for 2004.
- Quick Cuts: Brad Penny did well in a long-toss session Sunday. He’s still a minimum of two weeks away … I don’t want to rant, but Lance Berkman‘s fake beaning made me about the most angry I’ve been in a while … Jason Giambi taking BP is a good sight in what has been a long season for my Tampa friends. Giambi reportedly looked “okay, but his bat seemed slow.”… Kip Wells starts a throwing program this week. It’s still unclear if he will (or should) return this season … I had the chance to be on Sporting News Radio this weekend talking some Barry Bonds. I was able to use some facts from Keith Woolner and Clay Davenport to prove just how good Bonds is. His performance Sunday…well, is the game really that easy for him? … Roger Clemens may be publicly debating a 2005 return, but privately, the important people know he’s returning … Jermaine Dye left Sunday’s game when his sprained left thumb was too painful for him to continue. That’s bad … Rusty Greer is facing more surgery on his neck, ending his comeback. It could be the end of a career … Paul Wilson should be back in the Reds rotation this week, if that matters to anyone not named Dave Miley.
It’s worth noting that Baseball HQ’s First Pitch Forum is full of fantasy experts and friends of UTK like Joe Sheehan, Jeff Barton and Jim Callis. There are early-bird discounts about to expire, so check their web page for more details. I’ll be in Arizona in early 2005 for the ASMI Injuries in Baseball Course if any medheads out there want to get that kind of knowledge.
Thank you for reading
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