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I haven’t had as much fun at a Pizza Feed in quite a while. I think the group that joined us for the White Sox Feed feels the same. We were treated to a nice Q&A with two White Sox officials in a great conference center, followed by a picnic-style buffet and a good game. A win for the White Sox might not mean much this season, but those of us that heard the Q&A learned a lot about what they hope will be a successful Sox team next year. I have a good feeling that we’ll be back there next season, so don’t miss that one.

Powered by Bawls, on to the injuries …

  • As the Cards can attest, there’s value to having a big lead and to wrapping up a division early. The Twins have a week to get healthy and are taking full advantage of it. Torii Hunter is being rested, Johan Santana will be given a short start this week, and Cristian Guzman is hoping his sore shoulder will benefit from a couple games off.

    The more serious injuries are those to Luis Rivas and Nick Punto. Rivas has bone chips in his elbow that will require off-season surgery, something there’s just not enough time to do this season. You’ll remember Rich Aurilia returning in just two weeks after similar surgery. Punto will not be ready for the playoffs after breaking his collarbone, pushing Augie Ojeda onto the playoff roster. Also of note: Joe Mauer has been taking grounders at third base all week, prepping for next season. He let one go by during drills that hit Ron Gardenhire in the leg, not the best way to make an impression.

  • The Cardinals are getting a bit more healthy. Scott Rolen ran in front of trainers and coaches, clearing him to play sometime this week. Rolen will be used sparingly and asked not to go all out, something that will probably be difficult for him. Matt Morris will also get some rest, skipping a start to set the rotation for the playoffs. This skip indicates that Morris will get the ball in Game One and that Chris Carpenter may not pitch in the Division Series.
  • The results weren’t so good for Kevin Brown. In his first start since his self-inflicted injury, Brown took a pummeling from the Red Sox. A couple good things could be taken away from it, however. Brown had no problems with his left hand or his padded glove. Also, he did not hit anything after being removed from the game. Brown will have one more start to prove that he, not Jon Lieber, should be the fourth Yankee starter in the playoffs.
  • Watching Mark Mulder during the Sunday night game was pretty painful. Not only were the results bad, his mechanics are clearly off, forcing me to wonder if A’s pitching coach Curt Young is seeing the same things many others are. I got three calls during the game from people asking if Mulder’s arm angle was normally that low, if his hips looked slow, or what I thought was wrong. I’d say all of the above. Mulder’s on record as saying he’s been “not right” since the All-Star break. It says something for his normal mechanics that he can be as fatigued as his velocity would suggest without injury. Heading into the playoffs, Mulder may have the best record on the A’s, but right now, he’s their fourth-best starter, maybe fifth if you include Joe Blanton.
  • The Giants are very encouraged by the eight innings they saw from Jerome Williams as he comes back from minor elbow surgery. His next start will be for the Giants, not in the Instructional League; his turn may come up on Thursday, assuming the Giants are still in contention. Williams could be in the playoff rotation as well, though all indications are that the Giants are elated by the performances of their young pitchers down the stretch.
  • The Braves will be setting up their playoff roster with rest and a bit of rotation juggling. Mike Hampton looked good enough this weekend–despite his knee injury–that there is now no question that he will be a part of the playoff rotation. The Braves will be without Mark DeRosa, though. He’s torn his ACL and will have surgery as soon as possible. As bad as he was at the start of the season, DeRosa has been valuable off the bench since then.
  • Big slumps are often just slumps. In my field, we have to look for these as possible indicators of injury as well. Craig Biggio‘s recent 0-fer finally got him to admit he’s playing through a hyperextended elbow. Biggio was held out of Sunday’s game, but he’s likely to be back in the lineupshortly. Phil Garner loves grit, and Biggio is nothing if not gritty. Gritty and injured isn’t the best combination. Jason Lane might be a better option for a team fighting for a playoff slot.
  • The continuing saga of Sean Burnett took another sad step. Burnett had Tommy John surgery last week and the damage seen inside the elbow prompted Jim Andrews to wonder how Burnett could have been throwing without excrutiating pain. It’s a very good question. Burnett’s damage was repaired. There’s no clear correlation between damage and return dates; it’s more a matter of the rehab, as was pointed out in the recent Tommy John piece. Lloyd McClendon is taking some heat, but using the wrong examples to defend himself. Greg Maddux doesn’t often go 100 pitches, and he’s one of the more efficient pitches in history. McClendon is right to watch pitch counts and trust his pitching coach. He should just note that what he and his pitchers need to learn from Maddux is efficiency.
  • Maybe it’s the name. A.J. Burnett is making progress after his stop on Jim Andrews’ table last year and a quick checkup this month after some elbow pain. He’s continuing to throw in hopes that he can return. With the Marlins out of the chase, it is much more likely that he’s done for the season. It’s unclear what the pain means in relation to next year for Burnett. Most sources think it was minor and that he’ll have a chance to be dominant again next season.
  • Some people don’t learn. Jose Reyes may be returning from his broken leg, though the eyes of Mets fans focus on his chronic hamstring problems. The time and money the Mets put into him this season seems to be a loss; Reyes simply refuses to use the modified running style. Instead, he’s focused on going to see Mackie Shilstone this off-season. Shilstone is a great salesman with mixed results. If I were the Mets, I wouldn’t let him handle one of the more valuable commodities on my team. Reyes, frankly, worries me. He has all the talent in the world, yet treats his tools with disdain. That type seldom lasts.
  • I’ve had the MLB drug-testing program explained to me, yet it often doesn’t make sense. Yes, it’s possible that Barry Bonds–and others–have not been tested before this late point in the season. No, I don’t understand why. Bonds welcomed the tests, a smart move on many fronts. A clean test–or rather, the lack of any positive result–will only underscore his achievements this season. Cynics will say that Bonds’ late test will allow MLB to hide any negative results in the offseason, but I’ll take this chance to again say that I believe Bonds has never taken steroids and that the steroid problem in baseball is one of perception rather than reality.

    After making use of MLB’s cup, Bonds played on Sunday, ending his game in the ninth, deciding his knees were sore enough to call it a night in a losing cause. Bonds blamed the problem on his back’s maladjustment. Bonds counts a chiropractor among his entourage. I wouldn’t worry too much about the knee: it wasn’t sore in the third when he crushed a Jeff Weaver change-up.

  • Quick Cuts: Brian Jordan will be limited to DH duty for the rest of the season. A hamstring strain is the latest leg problem with which he’s been afflicted … Jody Gerut will have his ACL surgery this week at the Steadman Clinic in Vail. I’ll skip the obvious jokes … Kevin Millwood is likely done for the season after straining his groin … Todd Walker will see more playing time as the Cubs struggle to hold their wild-card lead. Mark Grudzielanek strained his right hamstring on Friday … The Cubs are happy. A pitching coach told me “Mark Prior finally found his release point. It’s better late than never. Makes him very tough to prep for–this is Prior ’03, not ’04.” … This is the creepiest trailer I’ve ever seen … Lots of questions about Jake Peavy throwing on short rest. The Padres are watching him closely as they try to get him enough innings for the ERA title … Juan Encarnacion will have off-season shoulder surgery, fixing a torn labrum and associated cleanup. I’m a big fan of the Sun-Sentinel‘s headers.

Seven days to go. I’ll be here all seven as we go to the wire in the NL wild-card and AL West races.

Thank you for reading

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