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I don’t want to sound flippant–I have family and friends in the path of
Hurricane Frances–but this is the first natural disaster that I can remember
affecting a playoff hunt. With the cancellation of the Cubs/Marlins game on
Friday, and Saturday’s tilt looking iffy, the Cubs stand to get a rest exactly
when they needed it coming off of the turf in Montreal. Makeup
doubleheaders could negate some of the advantage, but Nomar
Garciaparra
and Aramis Ramirez need all the healing
time they can get, while older players can use rest anytime it presents
itself. It will be interesting if this does have any material effect on the
wild-card race. It’s just another time we can watch the game of baseball for
years, yet still be surprised by something new.

On to the injuries…

  • The Dodgers got the first positive report on Brad Penny
    in a while. Penny had another mound session, this time with little or none of
    the neurological symptoms he’s shown, nor the lack of command that had marred
    his sessions. Penny will need to show a bit more before he’s ready to get back
    in the rotation, but there’s enough optimism based on his recent progress to
    aim for mid-month. That’s definite progress and something the Dodgers can use.
    With any nerve injury, there’s a definite risk of recurrence, so keep that in
    mind.

  • You’ll see Trot Nixon coming in time to activate him.
    Nixon headed out for a rehab stint on Thursday, going 0-for-3 in a PawSox win,
    but a looming three-game suspension may necessitate some roster shenanigans.
    This won’t be the normal three-card monte, but instead, Nixon may be activated
    slightly before the Sox had hoped in order to have him back at the same time.
    What’s that, you say? Instead of playing through Saturday, as expected, Nixon
    may only play Friday, get activated on Saturday, serving his suspension and
    being ready for the Oakland series. The Sox can make this move due to their
    outfield depth. Even healthy, Nixon is likely to share time with Kevin
    Millar
    and Dave Roberts.

  • For once, the Red Sox feel the Yankees pain. More specifically,
    David Ortiz is feeling Gary Sheffield‘s
    pain. Ortiz will have an MRI of his right shoulder on Friday to confirm the
    team doctor’s opinion. Early symptoms point to the bursitis Sheffield suffered
    through for most of the season. It’s something of a positive since sources
    were whispering that Ortiz had torn his rotator cuff earlier in the day. Like
    Sheffield, Ortiz will likely need some cortisone injections to make it
    through. Like Sheffield, he’ll likely see little effect on his game.

  • The Red Sox also think that Scott Williamson will be able
    to return. An aggressive, closely-monitored throwing program along with some
    clearly defined limits have Williamson coming back, despite likely still
    needing Tommy John surgery. The big test will come Friday when Williamson
    starts throwing breaking balls. If he can pass that and a couple more checks,
    he could be activated as soon as Monday. This is a big “buyer beware” sign;
    Williamson is known damaged goods likely to be placed in high-stress
    situations. If it works, great. There’s a better than average chance that
    Williamson goes down again.

  • The Yanks can’t let Boston have all the good news. Jason
    Giambi
    is making progress again, once all the side issues of health
    had been put aside. My Tampa sources tell me that he’s hitting well and just
    days away from starting a rehab assignment. The Yankees brass hopes that
    Giambi can get his swing back in time for the last full week of the season.
    That week would be something of a tryout for Giambi, letting Joe Torre work
    his mojo on the playoff roster. Some teams are concerned that even a limited
    Giambi could have some psychological effect if he’s on a roster, functioning
    as a “secret weapon” that a team can’t plan for in a short series. If my
    sources are to be trusted–and they’re usually very good–Giambi will be, at
    the very least, better than we saw this season.

  • In the end, the body fails most of us. Tim Salmon has
    pushed his harder and farther than most ever will before age and wear caught
    up. The left shoulder surgery is not just problematic, it’s going to be
    massive. Salmon has three “large” tears in his rotator cuff, some nearly full
    thickness. There’s no player at any age that has come back from such damage,
    let alone one in his mid-30s. Salmon’s position and player type may help,
    though it’s much more likely that we’ve seen the last of Salmon on the field.
    He was a good one.

  • I’ve been working on a project that’s not quite ready for prime time,
    attempting to measure “injury cost” – what the loss of a player really takes
    away from a team. It’s obvious that some players are more valuable than
    others, just as some teams have depth in certain areas. However, one of the
    more interesting effects is the occasional situation where an injury appears
    to help a team.

    David Newhan is becoming the poster boy for this phenomenon.
    Few would have expected Rod Barajas to be alongside him.
    Barajas’ performance didn’t have the “holy cow!” factor that Newhan’s numbers
    did, but he was not just an adequate replacement the Rangers hoped for when
    Gerald Laird went down. Even when Laird came back, he slumped
    while Barajas stayed hot. Hot, of course, is relative, as it’s hard to call a
    .263 OBP hot. It’s only in comparison that Barajas is a positive. All that
    said, Barajas has some back pain, forcing Laird back into a squat.

  • There’s more addition by subtraction in Minnesota. While Luis
    Rivas
    rehabs an injured left big toe. With Mike
    Cuddyer
    stepping in, his MLVr points to an improved Twins offense.
    Granted, there’s some defensive dropoff when Cuddyer is at second base, right?
    Probably not as much as you’d think. The miracle of the daily-updated DT cards
    shows us that Cuddyer has a Rate2 of 110 at 2B, Rivas is only slightly better
    at 116. Ron Gardenhire will have a very flexible bench come playoff time.

  • Ouch. Apparently Saving The Pitcher hasn’t been translated into
    Japanese yet, although I know one team has a copy or two lying around.
    Daisuke Matsuzaka, the Japanese Olympic ace, came back to
    Seibu and promptly struck out 16. It took him an unfortunate 149 pitches to
    accomplish this, and I’m guessing that even with his extra rest, he wasn’t
    given the same advantages Jason Schmidt had when he went long
    in a couple starts earlier this season. Matsuzaka is expected to come to the
    U.S. next season. Let’s hope he has an arm left to show off.

  • Quick Cuts: The White Sox have pushed Freddy
    Garcia
    back once again. If you’re waiting on him, your team is
    probably having the same problem as the White Sox… The Pirates may publicly
    hold out hope, but Sean Burnett is done for the season.
    They’ll go with younger options in hopes that next year isn’t another year
    like this one, or last year, or the year before that… Travis
    Blackley
    is going to be shut down rather than called up, the latest
    damaged Mariners pitching prospect… Kerry Ligtenberg and
    Josh Towers are both likely done for the season. Roy
    Halladay
    may be back in two weeks, just to make a cameo.

Have a great weekend, listen in for our last two-hour Baseball Prospectus Radio of the year, and if you’re in the path of Frances, please be safe.

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