As Ivan rips into the Mobile area, my thoughts are with everyone there. I convinced my father to not “ride it out,” so at least that worry is out of mind, but he’s watching it come ashore aimed at his home. It puts baseball into context very quickly.

Then again, I was never one for logic, so lets get to the baseball. Powered by 160-mph winds, on to the injuries…

  • The Cardinals are just a couple games from clinching, even with the NL Central crown long since conceded to them. Matt Morris came off an exam to pitch seven strong innings Wednesday, surely making Dave Duncan and crew breathe a little easier.

    The news wasn’t so good on Scott Rolen. Team doctor George Paletta feels that the calf strain was a bit more significant, meaning that Rolen is out at least another week. The strain is very high in the calf (and don’t be confused when the Cards reference it as the “gastroc”–it’s the same muscle), which complicates the recovery absent immobilization. Although the prognosis may have changed, Rolen is expected to be back in time to shake off the rust for the opening round of the Cards push for a Series title. The Cards also think Steve Kline may be back as early as the middle of next week. Kline is insistent that he gets some game work before the playoffs.

  • The Phillies got a major scare as Jim Thome and Todd Pratt bounced off each other during Wednesday’s game. Both were shaken up, but escaped serious injury and neither is expected to miss time. Thome, the far more important player down the stretch, has a bruised chest that shouldn’t affect his swing.

    Kevin Millwood is slated to return to the rotation, another boost for the Phillies. The Phils are being either a bit creative or a bit desperate. I don’t mind either; they both give us new solutions. Millwood’s first start will come this weekend. He’ll be limited to only two innings or 30 pitches with another starter ready to go behind him. It’s the strategy often seen in minor-league rehab starts, one I’m surprised isn’t used more often in the majors.

  • The Padres took a big hit to their admittedly slim hopes when the finger injury of Khalil Greene came out worse on X-rays than expected. Injured on an error, Greene’s finger is fractured, essentially ending his rookie campaign. This is the second miss of the year for finger injuries, an admittedly tough diagnosis. Earlier in the season, Jeff Cirillo had a similar problem. Greene should come back next year with no problems, hoping to avoid the sophomore slump. Wait, has anyone around here whacked that theory with facts?
  • It’s a bad week for the Burnetts. I half expect Mark Burnett to come up with a sore arm on Thursday’s premiere of “Survivor”. A.J. Burnett is the best pitcher with the surname and a key to the Marlins’ late-season hopes. Just 16 months post-TJS, Burnett is having some swelling and pain in his repaired pitching elbow. He’ll have more tests, perhaps consulting with Jim Andrews once Ivan blows past Alabama. Minor elbow problems are routine with post-TJS pitchers. Things like adhesions or chips–something Burnett had before the surgery and presumably had cleaned up–could be the culprits. Complete TJS failures are extremely uncommon.
  • Burnett’s former teammate, Brad Penny, is making slow, steady progress. I’ll restate that I think the plan of allowing Penny as much time as possible given the calendar and the Dodgers’ divisional lead is sound, assuming that’s actually the plan. Penny is scheduled to throw a simulated game on Friday. He’ll use all his pitches and throw at full speed, so this will be a big test. Given that the medical staff is willing to let him air it out, it’s likely that if he makes it through, he’ll be back in the rotation early the following week.
  • Wade Miller has finally told the Astros he won’t return this season. Not that they were expecting him to. Instead, the Astros have pushed on with Roger Clemens, Roy Oswalt, and the touring cast of “Cats.” The success they have can be mostly attributed to run support and to the rightly-praised Carlos Beltran. Miller is expected to “pursue options” on his shoulder, usually a euphemism for surgery later in the year. Miller may be a non-tender this off-season, making him someone who would make an intriguing pickup for a team that can wait for him.
  • Continuing the surname theme, Bill Mueller left the Red Sox to get another opinion on his knee. He sought out the surgeon that performed his original surgery, assuming he had the best look at the knee in its various states. There’s no word on the results, though Red Sox team sources said that they expected Mueller back in the lineup soon, perhaps for the Yankees series. Kevin Youkilis and Mark Bellhorn are able stand-ins, showing off the Red Sox flexibility. The Sox are worried that Doug Mientkiewicz is hiding an injury. He’s been pushed to the bench due to an extended slump.
  • A couple of pitchers took comebackers, always a scary situation. Jose Lima had a liner hit his pitching hand on Tuesday. It’s not expected that he’ll miss a start, though the Dodgers have options if they need to push him back. Matt Riley had a harder hit, with a bounder catching him like a Bernard Hopkins uppercut. It looked bad when he laid on the ground, then much better when he hopped up and went another seven innings. He got the loss, one he can pin on his teammates and not his pitching.

  • Quick Cuts: Adrian Beltre is a bit banged up. Jim Tracy is stealing rest for him in hopes his oblique and ankle don’t get aggravated down the stretch … Robb Quinlan is done for the season with his oblique strain. The team hasn’t made a determination on the playoffs, though those seem unlikely for him … The Twins think Terry Tiffee may in fact be able to come back for the last week of the season … Trot Nixon is still feeling “tightness” in his quad, so don’t expect regular appearances in right field until the playoffs.

Back tomorrow.

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