Like a quick pitch, let’s get right to the injuries …

  • The Astros established that they can win without Carlos Beltran. The winning streak continues in what seems like a streaky season all around. Beltran was said to be available as a pinch-hitter during Wednesday’s win, though Houston sources say this was true only in the sense that Beltran could have stood upright at the plate. His right elbow remains stiff and swollen. The Astros will avoid using Beltran until he’s functional, if not healthy, meaning they want him in the lineup tomorrow. There’s almost no chance he’ll be out into the weekend. There’s some discussion of shifting Beltran to left field and Biggio to center, temporarily, if Beltran has difficulties throwing.
  • Personal trainers are getting a shady image around baseball, seeming more like pushers or svengalis in sweatsuits than someone helping a world-class athlete keep himself in peak condition. The image that comes to mind is Paulie Walnuts, screaming illogical instructions and checking his latest haircut in the gym mirror. It’s an inaccurate image for the most part. Angels fans will want to thank Bartolo Colon‘s personal trainer for helping Jose Guillen. A series of exercises and manipulations fixed Guillen’s wrist problem, at least temporarily, getting him back on the field. The descriptions I got were a bit tough to follow, but it sounds almost chiropractic. There’s no guarantee that the condition will remain copacetic, but each day on the field is better than one on the bench.

    (Once you get past the incongruous concept of “Bartolo Colon” and “personal trainer,” you’ll be okay.)

  • The Dodgers look like they’re getting healthier. Looks can be deceiving. Edwin Jackson will be activated and placed in the bullpen. There’s still an Amber Alert out on his control, meaning that Jim Tracy will use him in extremely low-leverage, innings-sponge situations until he proves he can handle more. Jackson figures to be without a role come playoff time anyway. Brad Penny is a different story. Despite apparent progress, the Dodgers are lowering expectations for him, saying that Penny may not start during the regular season, while sources tell me that he won’t make the playoff roster unless he makes at least one regular-season start. It’s a confusing situation, one I’m working to clarify. I get the sense that the Dodgers are treading water with Penny, buying him as much healing time as possible.
  • The results of imaging on Matt Clement were positive. Positive in the good sense, I mean. According to Cubs trainer Dave Groeschner, the problems are not structural. The muscles in the neck and shoulder will receive intensive treatment for the next few days, while a side session on Friday will determine if Clement makes his next start or if Glendon Rusch grabs another appearance. The Cubs are juggling the rotation slightly with upcoming doubleheaders, making any missed time a bit amplified. The Cubs should get Ben Grieve back by the Marlins series on Friday. His shoulder remains sore after an encounter with the bricks and ivy.
  • The Braves may feel like they’re at dodgeball practice instead of a baseball game. In each game of a doubleheader, they lost a player to a plunking. In the first game, Marcus Giles was hit on his left elbow. The injury isn’t considered serious and he is expected to be back in the lineup tomorrow, assuming there’s no unexpected pain or swelling. J.D. Drew left the second game, also taking a fastball off the arm. The prognosis is the same for Drew, who is on pace to play 140 games, about 20 more than I would have expected. The news isn’t so good for Horacio Ramirez. He’s had some significant setbacks in his rehab, making it extremely unlikely that he’ll return this season. The Braves are going to use rookie Jose Capellan for at least two starts due to their rain-induced schedule. Capellan is auditioning for a spot in Camp Leo 2005.
  • A former Mazzone student isn’t having as much luck away from the Master as he’d like. Kevin Millwood did make a big step in coming back from a strained pitching elbow, making more than 100 throws in a long toss session. Millwood is throwing and pitching (yes, there’s a difference) without pain. If his arm strength is normal, he could be on a mound for the Phillies early next week. Larry Bowa wants to put Millwood in the pen, leaving Gavin Floyd in the rotation, but the paychecks may decide this one.
  • While the Expos play spoiler and consider changing their team name to “Limbo,” they’re also dealing with a number of injuries. For normal teams, a September breakdown would mean more playing time for the youngsters or a cup of coffee for organizational soldiers, but this is no normal team. Losing even a Rocky Biddle is a problem here. Biddle had an MRI after he left Monday’s game with a burning pain in his pitching shoulder. There will be more tests, but “burning pain” is never a good sign for a pitcher, especially one with a history of labrum problems. A doctor said to me earlier this year that he thought players could come back from labrum surgery, but not for long.

  • Quick Cuts: Jose Vidro had his knee surgery on Wednesday as planned. It was successful, but when’s the last time you saw a press release saying a procedure was a failure? Vidro will be ready for Opening Day next season … A non-Reds source tells me that Barry Larkin will likely be back for another season, but is not committed to finishing his career with the Reds. Given the same type of contract he played under this season, I think Larkin would be a much better fit (and box office draw) with the Reds than anywhere else … The day I said Scott Williamson had left his splitter on the shelf, he went out on the field and started throwing them. He had no more trouble with his out pitch than he had any of the others. He should be active by the weekend … Kazuo Matsui had another cortisone injection for his back pain. He’s done for the year.

Brian Gunn has an interesting piece over at Redbird Nation, building on some work I did back in March on value-based salaries. Expect to see a bit more on this in the near future. Idle hands are the devil’s playground, so I’ve kept myself busy doing an interview with Aaron Schatz at Football Outsiders regarding football injuries. If people like it, I’m sure I’ll do more of this for that cool site.

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