With a month left in the season, it looked like everything was more or less decided. Well, except the fate of the Expos, anyway. Now, with a week left, there are still some open questions. Maybe you could have picked that Barry Bonds would be the MVP or that the Yankees and Red Sox might come down to their last series. The rest? Not so much. Everyone who picked the Rangers to be in the mix, raise your hand. No, you didn’t. All year long, I’ve watched the baseball season through the lens of injuries. Some teams have faded because of them. Some teams have succeeded by avoiding them. Some teams learned, some teams didn’t, and some teams won’t. That’s the beauty of baseball – there’s always something new and some advantage to find.

Powered by new music, on to the injuries…

  • Apparently Kevin Brown don’t need no steenkin’ healing. Just a day after having the pins removed from his glove hand, Brown will be on a mound. It is planned that Mel Stottlemyre will catch the returns throws, just as he did last time. Brown continues to try and push the envelope. According to team sources, Brown will be given every opportunity to start late next week and prove himself ready for the postseason. With the pins out, Brown is limited just by pain tolerance at this point.
  • Brad Penny is officially done for the season. Tests of his nerve irritation showed that it would take a matter of months, not weeks or days, for him to show any signs of improvement. No one feels that this is career-threatening, something of a good sign. He’ll begin a throwing program sometime this winter, leaving the Dodgers to dig for arms while they struggle to hold a playoff spot.

    The medical staff is coming under some question due to the recurrence of the injury. Why was this not caught before Penny went back on the mound? Were the situations in which they used Penny not accurate simulations of game conditions? More likely, the Dodgers did what some theorized: they gambled. Penny’s injury appears to have been so serious at the original point that getting him back required more rest than they had season left. They took as much time as possible, took a shot, and it didn’t work. Without more information from the Dodgers, all we’re left with is educated guesses. The Dodgers are left short of an ace.

    The Dodgers also are dealing with a recurrence of an earlier shoulder injury for Milton Bradley. Bradley has played well through the season despite the discomfort. The injury appears to bother him more while batting. Being able to play this long says something. It’s worth keeping a close eye on.

  • Hopefully, I can make it through a report on the Cards without getting hate mail. Chris Carpenter appears to have a similar situation to Brad Penny without the sharply delineated event. An electromyogram (EMG) diagnosed the problem; Carpenter’s expected final start on September 30 is now in doubt. That means that Carpenter and the Cards head into the playoffs without surety about how he’ll perform. This will force some moves on the playoff roster, such as keeping Dan Haren or Rick Ankiel around as an extra long-man. Carpenter has started on an anti-inflammatory dosing in hopes that the irritation can be reduced.
  • The Braves got some good news after Mike Hampton came off the mound Thursday. His side session went well and the Braves penciled him in for a Saturday start. Remember: it’s the day after that counts. Hampton will have to show up without significant swelling for the Braves to ink him into the rotation. The team remains concerned enough about his knee to keep Jose Capellan at the ready for Saturday and to debate internally whether they’ll need to have an extra pitcher on their postseason roster due to Hampton’s injury. Hampton is enough of an athlete that he should be able to adequately field his position.
  • Can a bulging spinal disc be good news? Only if it’s mild and not enough to keep a player off the field. That’s the news that the Twins and Michael Cuddyer received after an MRI. Cuddyer will have treatment and play very little in the season’s final week. Once the playoffs begin, Cuddyer will be the first bat off the bench and a super-utility player.
  • The he-said/he-said continued between Magglio Ordonez and White Sox GM Ken Williams. As I stated yesterday, we’re dealing with a contentious negotiation, a GM who many have speculated is on the hot seat, and a player dealing with an injury that has not been seen in baseball. Everything must be taken in context, though there is little to give us that needed context. Ordonez asserts that he is healthy, but until he hits the field at some point and demonstrates this, we simply cannot know. Ordonez’s comments must give some optimistic spin to what we know; again, we just don’t have enough information. I hope to have more substantial information on this early next week.

  • Quick Cuts: Ellis Burks was activated by the Red Sox. It is unlikely that he will make the postseason roster … Mike Cameron has missed time with a lesser version of what put Pat Burrell on the shelf earlier this season. Rest should heal Cameron’s wrist pain … The Pirates have shut down John Van Benschoten as a precaution. He’s pitched well in his first taste of the majors, but what I really want to know is, can he still hit? … Danny Graves is done for the season, due to his strep throat infection … Think drug testing is cut and dried? Not so much.

Keep some time in your weekend open for two events! This week’s BPR will be a good one. I interviewed Dan Shaughnessy and’s Cory Schwartz. I’m also hoping I’ll see a bunch of you at U.S. Cellular Field on Saturday. I’ll be there with my new Sidekick II. Thanks, T-Mobile!

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