Thursday was a busy day, but a great one, watching baseball come back to D.C., seeing Gary Sheffield handling things a bit better than Ron Artest did, and listening to insane amounts of XM Radio. I spent much of the day prepping for my very first Strat-O-Matic draft. I have Joe and Rany on speed dial–and if Rany thinks that “I have patients!” excuse is going to work this time, he’s wrong. I just feel like I’m forgetting something. Oh, well.

Powered by Ben Murphy’s tech genius, on to the injuries…

  • Read this. I’m not picking on Bill Chastain or any of the other writers who covered this game. Face the fact that the Alex Sanchez return got something just short of a yawn. Yes, it was Tampa and yes, it was Alex Sanchez, but I’m still stunned at the absolute lack of … anything … that this story has generated.

    The only person who seems affected is Lou Piniella. I guess Lou thought the steroids did something for Sanchez, as he batted him third in the lineup for his return. As far as I know there were no signs, no boos, no protest, and won’t be. He’ll still be Alex Sanchez, a bad player who can look really good if you squint a little bit and who will be an answer to a trivia question some day.

  • The city of Seattle is always on edge, fueled by the caffeine haze that some mistake for mist. There was a collective inhalation as Adrian Beltre, their multi-million dollar gamble, left yesterday’s game with a “tight lower back.” Beltre has never had back problems previous to this, though his lack of power in his short Safeco stay may now have a bit more explanation than the park effects. (Yes, all small sample size warnings apply.) Given Beltre’s backups, this is as serious an injury as the M’s could have and we’ll be watching it closely.
  • The Mariners will also be watching closely on Friday as Joel Pineiro makes his season debut. With the Felix Hernandez Watch in full effect (five shutout innings for Tacoma on Wednesday), any bad start is going to get the rumor motors revving. Pineiro has had no problems in his rehab, so hopes are high. Adding to the drama is the need for Pineiro to go on Friday rather than Saturday as planned. The reason is Gil Meche‘s elbow, something that’s been a problem all spring. At some point, the M’s will have to stare into the mirror and realize they’re a bad team with an exciting prospect who they’re in danger of rushing. What they do then could impact this franchise for the better part of a decade.
  • According to Tigers sources, Magglio Ordonez is getting a bit frustrated and scared about his viral infection. He’s feeling ill and weak. The team certainly would rather see him on the field, as would Tiger fans, but sickness happens and is seldom the fault of the individual player, just as an accident that leads to knee or back surgery can’t be blamed on any individual. Ordonez hopes to be back soon, but it all relies on his healthy recovery from this virus and those little bugs don’t keep strict timetables.
  • Jose Cruz Jr. has been day-to-day for a number of days with an irritated nerve in his lower back. It’s not considered serious. Then again, Cruz doesn’t seem to be making much progress. None of my best Snake watchers seemed to have any clue when Cruz was expected back but none expected him to hit the DL. For now, we’ll just watch and wait, knowing that it’s probably better to be conservative at this stage of the season, even in Arizona.
  • Of all the reasons to head to Vegas, I can’t imagine going to see a rehab start at Cashman Field. I guess it’s as good an excuse as any, if you really need an excuse. Brad Penny will head there for a start on Monday, following a successful outing at Single-A Vero Beach. His velocity has been great and he’s simply working on mechanics and stamina at this stage. Given a successful outing in Vegas, Penny’s next one is likely to be in Dodger blue, not 51’s blue.
  • For a medical staff, there’s almost nothing worse than a player coming off the DL and going right back on it. It’s worse still if the player doesn’t even hit the field. That’s what the Reds are facing as Ramon Ortiz is still very questionable for his scheduled Saturday start. Ortiz’s groin is seemingly no better than it was when he went on the DL and certainly worse than many believed when he came off. Much of this seems to be communication–a player often doesn’t want to disappoint people or stay on the DL longer than he has to, especially in a clubhouse environment that encourages being a “tough guy” or “old school.” An injured player monkeying the roster doesn’t help, no matter how tough.
  • The Twins field staff watched Carlos Silva throw off a mound on Thursday. AP reports had Ron Gardenhire very happy, and my Twins sources also said that everyone was surprised that Silva looked like, well, Silva. There was no alteration to his motion, no apparent pain or discomfort, and that if he wasn’t on the DL, they’d likely put him on the mound. Instead, they’ll send him to A ball to keep him on schedule more than any real need to work on anything. He’ll come back on April 22 with a start the same day he comes off the list. While there’s risk here, if you find someone who panicked and put him on waivers, take advantage.
  • The Twins are also still protecting Joe Mauer. Reports that he’s had no problems aren’t completely true. Mauer has had minimal pain and swelling, enough to keep him from working a full schedule or sending down one of the other three catchers on the roster. Not only are the Twins trying to buy him rest, giving him off days adjacent to travel days, but they’re also not risking his knee by using him at DH on some of those off days. If it was only catching that was a problem, he could DH without worry since the team has plenty of catchers and isn’t likely to need that emergency fourth catcher. Signs are more positive for Mauer overall, yet he’s hardly back to the “normal” he’ll eventually have.
  • The latest setback for Frank Thomas has some in the Sox organization wondering if this once-feared hitter will make it back at all. His ankle was swelling under the workload of rehab, a process described as “not overly physical” by one source. The cortisone injection will back him off for a while, giving him time to think about whether he wants to wait until the end of the season to retire, as has often been rumored.
  • If I said we’d be talking about Benson’s chest for most of April, would you think I was talking about Kris Benson? Benson is just a few days away from getting back on the mound, testing his healing pectoral muscle. Assuming he stays on the current plan, he’ll need a couple of bullpen sessions then two rehab starts. That puts him back right around May 1.

  • Quick Cuts: Vladimir Guerrero wouldn’t normally be pushed down this far on the page. The knee injury isn’t worth a full paragraph. He’ll DH for a couple days as a precaution … I’m not sure if this really rates as a UTK type thing. Calvin Pickering will be off this weekend while his wife has a baby. No truth to rumors it will be named Pecota, Nate or Atkins … Vinny Castilla played okay with the pinch in his shoulder. Frank Robinson has instructed his trainers to pinch everyone’s shoulder … Rotowire is reporting that Dallas McPherson will be called up next week. The Angels are refusing comment on player moves … Kevin Brown comes back this weekend. He will not be on a pitch count. Watch his hip turn … I have to admit President Bush looked pretty sharp throwing out the first pitch in D.C. Thursday. I love that jacket … Ismael Valdez heads to the DL with a broken fibula. Given the way the Fish pitchers have gone early this season, it’s hardly a wonder that they don’t need a fifth starter quite yet. They certainly don’t seem to need relievers … No solid report on Carl Everett. The early word from the Sox is “bruised shoulder blade.” Looking at the highlights, we can chalk another win up for the wall.

I always like using UTK/BP readers when I can, so if any of you are realtors with experience in guaranteed buyouts, especially if you’re in Indiana, please get in touch. Everyone else have a great weekend, watch some baseball, play catch with a kid (and critique his form!), and listen to BP Radio.