The word of the day is “fatigue.” At the end of a long season, every player is dealing with fatigue to some degree. No one is “fresh,” no one is one hundred percent. There’s very little research done on fatigue in baseball players and how it affects them. It’s little things, being a step slower, a mile per hour slower, or having to think just a second longer. It’s little things that win and lose games. Add the seasonal fatigue to in-game fatigue and there’s another factor for managers to consider–and be criticized on.
Braves vs. Astros
- Carlos Beltran may miss his coming-out party. He’s day-to-day after taking a 96-mph Juan Cruz fastball into his ribs. X-rays were negative, though negative X-rays don’t reduce the pain and soreness Beltran is feeling. Beltran’s injury was made worse by his extended position on impact, making it impossible for the muscles to tighten and protect him. Jason Lane may get the Game Two start if Beltran is not ready.
- Roy Oswalt got his Toradol shot to deaden the pain of his oblique injury on Wednesday. While his injury has been a bit forgotten due to his performance down the stretch, it’s still there. Leaving Roger Clemens in so long is a bit of a curious decision, one that may come back to bite Phil Garner. The Astros don’t have another real option for Game Four, nor are they expected to add a fourth starter assuming they make the NLCS. It showed a lack of confidence in the bullpen to leave Clemens in the game that long.
- Jaret Wright seems to be attractive to baseballs. Just a week after taking a sharp liner off his ankle, Wright took a sharp liner off his shin. He’s considered available, though Bobby Cox has shifted his rotation back to a four-man, adding in Russ Ortiz for Game Four, if necessary. This adds some healing and resting time for Wright. Lost in the story of his comeback is the giant jump in innings–56 last season to 186 this season.
- Chipper Jones is hurting but playing. Seen icing while on the bench, Jones’ injured right hand is giving him problems while batting, making it hard for him to grip the bat securely. Expect some loss of power and difficulty hitting the inside pitch.
- Surprisingly, Andruw Jones is fine. Clemens could be heard by ESPN mics saying Jones was “about to buy one” in the inning after Beltran was injured. Jones didn’t appear to be digging in during that at-bat.
Cardinals vs. Dodgers
- Anyone concerned about the knees and shin splints of Larry Walker can stop worrying. Walker was part of the Cardinals “New Gashouse Gang,” crushing home runs like doing so was trendier than trucker caps. The Cardinals remain weak in starting pitching, bringing Jason Marquis in to start Game Two, though eight runs of support will disguise that weakness well. The Cardinals may use Williams in Game Four, if necessary, skipping Jeff Suppan. There’s also some rumblings of Chris Carpenter being available for the NLCS.
- Odalis Perez pitched to his norm against the Cardinals. He may be 2-1 lifetime against them, though the 9.64 ERA is a bit more telling. Perez is likely to come back in Game Four, if necessary, though the Dodgers are considering their options a bit. Leaving Edwin Jackson off the roster cuts off most possibilities unless you consider Elmer Dessens an upgrade.
- Keep an eye on Jeff Weaver‘s mechanics early in Game Two. His stride length got inconsistent as the season wore on, leaving him prone to keeping the ball up in the zone. I don’t think I have to tell you what the Cardinals do to pitches up in the zone. I’m not sure what The Wizard can do about that.
Angels vs. Red Sox
- Curt Schilling made it through the second half of the season with an injured ankle and no discernible affect on his pitching. It says something that two of the top pitchers in the playoffs are here because of good painkillers. Schilling re-injured the ankle slightly during his Game One start, though both he and team trainers say that he will be available for a Game Four start, if necessary.
- Trot Nixon was able to play the field without incident in Game Two. His chronic quad injury limits his running, meaning he’d likely not be playing were this not the playoffs. The Sox have plenty of options for right field and DH, so expect Terry Francona to mix and match, looking for the best–and healthiest–lineup.
- How do injuries affect the Angels? This isn’t the team they expected to bring to the playoffs. At the start of the season, no one, not even Bill Stoneman, would have expected to start Chone Figgins at third base or Jeff DaVanon in center field. Each injury tends to chip away at value or at least depth, two things that may be overcome but always have some cost.
- Many people e-mailed to ask me about Vladimir Guerrero; on a long running play in Game One, Guerrero ambled back to right while appearing to limp. Yes, he did appear to limp, but it’s merely an awkward gait caused by a back brace instead of any current injury. “He runs like Redd Foxx,” said one trainer.
Yankees vs. Twins
- I don’t think I’ve ever had quite as many responses as I did to my rhyme challenges. While I admire the efforts, many of you should not consider poetry as a career! I especially enjoyed the Spanish versions, spinning “Santana” and “mañana” as a couplet. Now that Ron Gardenhire has thrown his two aces, Johan Santana and Brad Radke, out against the Yankees, what does he have for them mañana and where does that leave him if he gets past the Yankees? Carlos Silva, part of the Eric Milton deal, will take the hill. Game Four is yet to be decided. If Santana comes back for Game Four he wouldn’t be available until Game Two of the ALCS, at which point he would be making his second straight start on three days’ rest.
- There are also major questions about when Joe Nathan will be available again. My best source says that he will be available for Game Three and Four, but only for one inning in each.
- Luis Rivas may be back in the lineup for Game Three. The turf in the dome makes his defensive advantage over Michael Cuddyer even greater.
- The Twins use their speed against everyone, yet they seem unusually focused on testing Gary Sheffield. Sheffield does have shoulder issues, but it’s his non-throwing left shoulder that’s injured.
I had a lot of questions regarding the use of a topical steroid by Sheffield in 2002. It’s an important question, but not one I’m ready to address until there’s more details. I don’t, however, believe that it was an anabolic steroid in the cream.
- The Yanks also have some pen availability issues. Mariano Rivera is used to going a couple innings in the late season and playoffs, so he’s considered available. Joe Torre is mindful that more usage in the Division Series may wear down Rivera for later series.
I’ll be back, as necessary, and covering all the action on BP Radio this weekend. You can also hear my daily updates at 4:25 Eastern on ESPN950.com.