Cubs lose. Astros and Giants win. Dodgers win. Brewers sold. Expos end. D.C. wins. Minaya out, then back in. Ichiro hits. Duque doesn’t, or wouldn’t have. My third season of the “Will Carroll Baseball Hour” ends, but the playoffs are about to begin. It’s the end of the baseball season as we know it and I feel fine.

On to the injuries …

  • In early January, I stood off to the side of a conference room in Orlando, talking with a group of people that included Dr. Jim Andrews, Tom House, and a few others. One of them, a very knowledgeable physical therapist, was asking about pitching mechanics. Later in the conversation, I discovered why: he was working with Orlando Hernandez prior to the pitcher’s multi-team tryout. My ears perked up and I was able to ask some pointed questions. What really got me was the absolute confidence the man had that El Duque would be back, pitching as well as he once had. Honestly, I didn’t believe it much at the time.

    Results speak. Hernandez overcame significant structural problems in his shoulder in much in the same way that Gil Meche and Chris Carpenter have. It looks, however, that while labrum problems can be overcome, there’s a significant fatigue factor. Hernandez was rained out of his Tuesday start, though he would not have made it anyway. “Tired arm” is the diagnosis, which is exactly what it sounds like and not a horrible negative. Without Hernandez, the Yankees pitching gets as thin as Mischa Barton.

  • The Red Sox are protecting their slugger, Manny Ramirez, by keeping him out of left field. He’ll DH as much as possible due to a tight pair of hamstrings. Ramirez has had problems with his legs since bruising his left knee in late August. If the Sox fall too far behind the Yankees to catch them–still Terry Francona’s stated goal–Ramirez is likely to sit. The Red Sox are also very concerned about Scott Williamson. Despite pitching only once in the past two weeks, Williamson has some soreness in the medial aspect of his elbow. (For medial, turn your hand palm up, then find the side of the elbow closest to the body.) It’s unlikely Williamson will make the roster for the Division Series with his velocity still below 90 mph.
  • Scott Rolen had a successful return to the lineup Tuesday night, or as much as an oh-fer can be called a success. Rolen was able to jump, field a bunt, and generally play the hard style he plays without incident. Expect him to get a couple more days off heading into the playoffs. The Cards also got good news from Steve Kline. The lefty was able to throw well before the game despite pain in his hand.

    The Cards have set their rotation for the playoffs, and Chris Carpenter is the odd man out. The Birds will go with a four-man rotation of Matt Morris, Jason Marquis, Woody Williams and Jeff Suppan.

  • Some worried that Roger Clemens‘ special circumstances would cause trouble in the Astros’ volatile clubhouse. Up until this point, it’s hardly caused a ripple. Phil Garner’s intention of dropping Clemens in a couple games as a reliever in hopes of “vulturing” a win for him might ruffle a few feathers. Garner wants Clemens to reach 20 wins. No word from Roy Oswalt, who has made it to the doorstep of that mark without any gimmicks.
  • Jaret Wright has gone from castoff to Game One starter in one season. Give much of the credit to Leo Mazzone and the Braves, though we should all take a look at the idea that any injury might heal if given enough time to do so. Wright took a comebacker off his right (push) ankle, causing what my source said was “amazing swelling and really quick.” The swelling was brought under control and reduced significantly by the end of the game. There’s a week for Wright to heal.
  • As much improvement as the Tigers have shown this season, it’s tempered slightly by the loss of Carlos Guillen. Losing Ivan Rodriguez would be even worse. Pudge left Tuesday’s game limping; early reports had him injuring his right knee. After the game, sources tell me that it was in fact his hamstring rather than his knee. Pudge is expected to give way to Brandon Inge for the next few days, perhaps not playing the rest of the season. The Tigers also are adjusting the expectations on Guillen after his surgery. They’re now hoping he’ll be ready for Opening Day.
  • If the Blue Jays are going to contend next season–and they think they will–then they’ll need a healthy, effective Roy Halladay. Halladay reached his pitch count in just his third inning against the Orioles Monday night, though he’s shown no ill effects after returning from the DL. With a full off-season to work his throwing program, Halladay hopes to be full strength for the entire ’05 campaign. I’m betting he’ll go too low in fantasy drafts next year.
  • Is Friday’s A’s starter Joe Blanton or Mark Mulder? How about both, kinda? Sure, only one pitcher can be the starter, though the A’s will have both prepared. Mulder will have a “very short hook” said one opposing scout, with Blanton at the ready behind him. The bigger question for Mulder is whether he can recapture the form he had at the start of the season in the space of one start. That’s unlikely, so Ken Macha and the A’s braintrust faces a tough decision: in a short series against the Yankees, would they leave out their winningest pitcher if he doesn’t give them the best chance to win?

  • Quick Cuts: Errata: In my Kip Wells item yesterday, I implied Wells had tendonitis of an elbow ligament. This is obviously incorrect and was the result of poor rewriting on my part. I had originally written that it was good that it was not his UCL and mixed things up before submission. My apologies … Aramis Ramirez was back in the lineup on Tuesday after fouling a ball off his calf Monday. He’ll be fine enough to play … Sean Casey left Tuesday’s game with cramps. He won’t be rushed back despite this not being serious … Chan Ho Park hasn’t pitched well since returning to be sure. He has, however, been healthy. For Park, that’s a big step … Jim Thome is still feeling the results of his collision with Mike Lieberthal. Perhaps that will make runners think twice about bowling over Lieberthal next year. For now, Thome will likely miss a couple games as there’s no real reason to force him out there … Cliff Floyd is done for the year. He’s under 400 at-bats for the second season in a row. Don’t expect him back in Queens.

Expect me back tomorrow. This week is too good to miss.

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