I feel a bit like Keith Olbermann, constantly counting down towards Opening Day. Look at that–it’s so important, feels so much like a real holiday, that we capitalize it. It should be a holiday, where everyone leaves work and spends a day at the local ballpark, out in the sun remembering what it’s like. Leave the computer behind and head to the best baseball you can find, whether that’s in the big fancy mallparks of the big leagues or in a shaved dirt patch where the teenagers play. It might not be a national holiday yet, but I’ll treat it like one. I just hope, for one day, no one gets injured and that baseball can be perfect and magical. We all need that.
Powered by my new Capresso Team Luxe that will power me all season, let’s get on to the injuries …
- Eric Gagne starts the season on the DL, not for his knee as expected, but due to elbow pain. This is likely related to the knee, in that Gagne significantly altered his mechanics to protect the knee. The stress gets transferred somewhere and it may be that it was Gagne’s elbow. The pain is described as “over the drill holes” by Paul DePodesta, pointing to the points where Gagne had a new ligament installed almost a decade ago during Tommy John. Gagne is well past the “honeymoon” period on that ligament, so watch his response closely. Gagne is not only going to have to heal, he’s going to have to figure out the mechanics again. Now’s the time to grab Yhency Brazoban in your fantasy league. (Dodger fans should get themselves up from the Gagne-induced depression by reading this great interview with Paul DePodesta.)
- Kevin Brown hasn’t hit a wall, literally or figuratively. Instead, he’s having a relapse of his chronic back pain. It’s not clear yet what the casuse is. The Yankees’ depth will be tested if Brown is forced to miss more than a start. Seriously, who’s the next starter–Tanyon Sturtze? Brown’s long history of back problems and surgery sounds pessimistic, though I’ll wait for more information before depressing Yankees fans further.
- Expect a lot of Curt Schilling news this week. Not because anything is happening, really. He’s the same, progressing towards an easy mid-April return by making a couple minor league starts. No, it’s because the first of those minor-league starts will be in my backyard on Thursday. I’ll be back from the Atlanta book signing just in time to see Schilling in a PawSox uniform. It’s fun to see baseball as one of the big stories in Indianapolis, at least until Panther Racing and Danica Patrick take over the local media.
- What is it with young pitchers and blisters? Some of the best young hurlers of the last few years–Josh Beckett and Jeremy Affeldt come to mind immediately–have had their careers derailed, at least slightly, by blisters. The latest victim is Rich Harden. While this doesn’t appear to be a problem that will force him to miss more than one start, if that, it is something to watch until there’s more assurances that the problem doesn’t recur. Harden can at least rest assured that the blisters won’t affect his bottom line; he signed a four-year contract earlier today.
- The Rockies and Preston Wilson have both been happy with the way his knee has held up through spring training. Two knee surgeries last year completely killed his season, and there were serious concerns that he might never get all his skills back after the cuts. Instead, Wilson seems ready, is running freely, and has had nothing resembling a setback. That said, Wilson will be handled conservatively early, meaning he could miss the entire first four-game series. Don’t overreact to this or any other missed starts in April. He’s likely to factor into a pennant race somewhere (Chicago?) by the summer.
- I know I picked the Braves in BP’s annual predictions, and I won’t change that. Still, I was on radio last night in Albuquerque with Erik Gee and the more I looked at the Mets lineup, the more I like it. Of course, injuries to Mike Cameron and Kris Benson could make me like it less. Cameron is feeling more wrist pain and will have tests this weekend. He could end up on the DL as a precautionary move to protect the surgically repaired wrist. Benson’s problem isn’t serious–a strained muscle in his chest–yet it will push his first start back a couple days, swapping Kaz Ishii into his slot. It’s what one of my favorite trainers calls an “April injury”: in April, it’s an injury; in September, it’s not.
- Cubs pitching is always a hot topic around UTK HQ, so it shouldn’t surprise me that the other half of questions this week seems to surround the DMPU. Mark Prior is pitching well, though the Cubs have held him to minor-league games. This would allow them to put him on the DL in a retro move and delay choosing between David Kelton and Jason Dubois. Prior is expected back on April 12; hasn’t had any problems since the initial nerve issue. Kerry Wood is also pitching well and is expected to start the home opener against Milwaukee. In the bullpen, things are also looking up. Joe Borowski is healing quickly, pushing the time frame for his return up a couple weeks from the prior expectation of May 1. (Yes, this is another data point in my attempt to recalibrate bone healing times.) In the meantime, Chad Fox has looked both effective and healthy, and should help the bullpen.
- This is good news and bad news. The Devil Rays have stated that they want to keep Scott Kazmir and several other of their young pitchers in the 160-175 inning range this season. It’s a good move towards keeping Kazmir healthy, while limiting his short-term potential. It also doesn’t address in-game and in-inning pitch counts or fatigue, though having Ken Crenshaw handling that certainly should make Rays fans feel a bit better.
- In a stunner, Juan Gonzalez is on the DL and the sun rose in the east. Gonzalez strained a hamstring less than 24 hours after being named to the team. He’s a notoriously slow healer, so he’ll give Grady Sizemore a chance to Pipp him. You’ll hear that Gonzalez will be back around April 15, but I’d guess that he’ll go at least a week beyond that.
- Quick Cuts: Eric Chavez was on BPR Saturday morning. He was great but, unfortunately, much of his best stuff was off the air … Alex Sanchez left the field after pulling up. It looks like the speedy Cuban has a hamstring problem, but no word yet from the Rays … Bill Pulsipher may have a slot in the Cards pen if a broken little toe doesn’t derail his comeback … As expected, Ted Lilly will start the season on the DL. He’ll be back mid-April … The Rangers are excited about the progress made by Frank Francisco. He should be back blazing fastballs by mid-April … Dave Roberts will start the year on the DL with a slow-healing groin injury. Xavier Nady will take his spot in CF. Watch this slowly if you’re one of the many counting on Roberts for steals.