It could have been worse. Hurricane Frances wasn’t as bad as expected, but certainly bad enough. What it has done is throw a curveball at the Cubs and Marlins. Separated by only 2½ games, the teams will now compress the full complement of six games they will play this season, echoing the seven-game classic from October of last year. The Cubs got some rest for their players, but will be asked to make these games up in doubleheaders. The Marlins also got rest, but figure to have fewer home games and, like the Cubs, may be forced to play games on what would be rest days before the playoffs. There’s always something new in baseball, but races that come down to the last day are a welcome rerun.

Powered by the greatest all-night TV show ever, on to the injuries…

  • Kevin Brown and his battle with the dugout wall has been covered in depth by the mainstream press, so there’s little value for me in recapping it. Where I differ is in the prognosis. Brown has long been known as a tough guy, a bit of a throwback, willing to fight through pain that would sideline others. Brown had surgery on Sunday to fixate the displaced fracture of his third and fifth metacarpal in his left hand, yet the normal three-week period for post-surgical healing should only be a guideline here. Brown will be able to keep his throwing shoulder in shape and he will press to get back out on the field. Any disciplinary action off the field will affect getting Brown back on the field, so this is a story that has a couple chapters left to be written. I’m not sure we’ll see a Willis Reed moment, but Brown should–should–be back for the playoffs.
  • The Angels got a bit of a scare from Troy Glaus over the weekend. Glaus’ rehab was done to get him back in the lineup before the shoulder was completely ready, leaving him open to an elevated risk of re-injury. To alleviate this, they are using him so that he is unlikely to encounter the types of situations in which he may fail. An awkward fall on Saturday caused the concern, but after he was pulled from the game as a precaution, Glaus came back Sunday with a homer, proving his health.

    The picture is less clear for Jose Guillen. The outfielder has felt his hand go numb, which is one of the symptoms of advanced carpal tunnel syndrome. Since he’s not known as a big “Doom” guy like Lew Ford or “Everquesting” to all hours of the night like Curt Schilling or Doug Glanville, the cause is unknown. Guillen has been sent to a specialist for more tests in hopes that it can be fixed. In the meantime, Jeff DaVanon will see more time in left field.

  • For every player and team, there’s a point at which any injury takes that player low enough that the next available option is the better option. The A’s reached that with Jermaine Dye this weekend, bringing in the first of the Moneyball draft class, Nick Swisher, to help. Dye’s thumb had reached a point where the lumbering outfielder was bunting for hits. It remains unclear to everyone but the A’s if Dye’s injury is a sprain or fracture, leaving us to guess about the prognosis. The symptoms are difficult to assess from performance, but like the A’s, if you have a better option, use it.
  •’s Matthew Leach got it exactly right in assessing Larry Walker. He’s a “brilliant baseball player, skilled in pretty much every facet of the game, who suffers his share of injuries.” Perhaps Leach understated the case a bit, however Walker has been exactly what the Cards expected since bringing him over. Walker was pulled from Sunday’s game with what was thought to be a sprained right knee until an MRI showed only a small bone bruise. Walker will be limited until he feels fully recovered, but with Ray Lankford back and an insurmountable lead in the NL Central, the Cards can give Walker as much time as he needs. Expect the rehab-experienced Walker back later this week.
  • On some teams, it would look like desperation. For the Red Sox, calling up Pedro Astacio and Byung-Hyun Kim is almost a no-brainer. The roster expansion allows numbers to help rest what has been an injury-taxed bullpen. Astacio is not expected to get any starts, but it’s not out of the question if the Sox get to the point of setting up a rotation rather than battling for a spot. Kim won’t be used in pressure situations, so don’t go looking for saves here.
  • There’s progress for Roy Oswalt. He experienced no problems with the glove-side intracostal (ribcage) injury that has bothered him all season during a 60-pitch side session over the weekend. Oswalt threw all his pitches and went immediately into the rotation. His first start will be on Tuesday. While he’ll likely be limited to 80 pitches or so, that’s still plenty for the surging Astros.
  • The Giants have pulled into a tie for the wild card with the Frances-induced schedule oddity of the Cubs, but they still look like, as James Click called them “Barry Bonds, Jason Schmidt, and the cast of ‘Saved By The Bell’.” One of their biggest weaknesses is rotation depth, which is why they’re using a couple of rookies to go as deep as possible to cover for a weak bullpen. Jerome Williams looks to be back on the bump sometime later this week, just a matter of weeks after minor elbow surgery. He’ll be operating under pitch limits and the watchful eye of Stan Conte.
  • The Phillies continue to work the roster like they’re still in the playoff chase. After activating an injured Pat Burrell last week, they did the same with Billy Wagner on Saturday. Wagner has a better chance of contributing than Burrell does, but it still seems an unnecessary risk for the Phillies unless they’ve already written off bringing Wagner back in ’05. Wagner’s rotator cuff is likely to be a long-term problem. The advent of Frank Jobe’s “thrower’s ten” exercises have greatly reduced the number of cuff injuries in the last decade, leaving only the most serious injuries as the ones we see.
  • The O’s are looking to next year already. They didn’t get the same boost the Tigers or Angels did from their free spending over the winter, but that shouldn’t stop Peter Angelos from doing it again. The biggest check he should write is one for Ray Miller. Already, he’s altered the delivery of Sidney Ponson, bringing much better results. Ponson remains overpaid, but since Miller’s return, he’s not a complete loss. The O’s are also unlikely to bring Rafael Palmeiro back, or even have him play enough this September to vest his option.
  • It was make or break for Freddy Garcia. With a side session on Sunday in Chicago, he would have been shut down if there were pain in his forearm. Two reports have him pitching without pain, but without his normal velocity, so it wasn’t a slam dunk. Garcia will have one more test on Tuesday, but he is expected to take the mound on Wednesday when the Sox take on the Rangers.
  • A successful appeal put Trot Nixon back on the original plan for his return. He’ll have one final game at Triple-A, then catch up with the Red Sox in Oakland. Nixon hasn’t had problems with his quad during the rehab assignment, though it hasn’t been seriously tested in game conditions. While Nixon won’t be asked to take on a full workload, he should still be an upgrade over the current rotation in right field.

  • Quick Cuts: There are whispers that Brad Penny may make a start in the next ten days … Mark Loretta will miss a couple games with a bruised right ring finger. Check the VORP charts and see if Loretta’s standing doesn’t surprise you … The Padres brought Andy Ashby up for September. He’s coming back from Tommy John surgery late in 2003 … Ivan Rodriguez is hardly a source, but he’s unsure if Ugueth Urbina will be back this season. The situation really puts baseball in perspective … Lots of e-mail about A.J. Burnett this weekend. Why is he back so quickly? I detailed the rehab he and others have been using in Saving The Pitcher … I’m so close to the top of the standings in the Sportsline “Expert” League. Any suggestions?

The playoff push starts with the Labor Day weekend, so I’ll be back tomorrow.