Thanks to everyone who was part of this afternoon’s chats. If you missed me yesterday, I’m doing chats at the Newberg Report Wednesday and Sons of Sam Horn on Sunday.

Chats, radio call-in shows and Pizza Feeds are among my favorite things to do because I get such immediate feedback. E-mail is great, and I’m glad so many people write in, but there’s something to being “live” that really is awesome. I’ll have some Pizza Feed announcements soon, as soon as I find out how much I’ll be on the road for The Juice.

Anyway, you’re here for the injuries, so let’s get to them.

  • If it wasn’t enough that Magglio Ordonez has found himself under a black cloud, any back injury to Ivan Rodriguez figures to be more devastating. It’s not yet time to look for ledges in Detroit, however. Rodriguez may miss a couple of games, but he knows how to deal with the minor aches and pains that come with catching and with managing a sore back. He’s going to adjust his core workouts and focus on staying healthy. There’s been some concern that his reduced weight also had a reduced strength component and perhaps there’s something there. Baseball players are creatures of habit and rote; any alteration often has unintended consequences.
  • Jeff Francis fixed his own flaw this week and used an outing against the D’backs to remind us of his vast potential, even in Colorado. Francis adjusted his knee lift while pitching from the stretch. Previously, the motion was off-beat, forcing his shoulder to lag back and leave the ball off the target. Francis has so much movement on his pitches that control will, at times, be a problem, much as A.J. Burnett has dealt with in the past.
  • Coming back against the Pirates didn’t appear to be much of a challenge for Matt Morris. He didn’t come near his pitch limit, needing just 71 tosses to tear through the Bucs. His velocity seemed a bit off, but seven strikeouts tell us all we need to know about his effectiveness. He’s had no trouble recovering from starts and as long as he’s extended smartly–something the Cards certainly know how to do–he’s likely to be as effective as ever. Those of you who used his injury as a way to pick him up cheaply, congrats.
  • Vicente Padilla didn’t have nearly as much ease in his return, giving up eight runs and five homers to the Mets. He simply didn’t have anything in his first start back from the DL and looked not only lost, but still troubled. Unfortunately, the Phils didn’t get much help from Gavin Floyd, the man they would put in front of Padilla if he needs more time. Floyd gave up eight runs as well, although on “just” two homers. It’s not Planet Coors, but the Phillies’ front office is going to have to consider park effects more or start playing with the fences.
  • Brad Penny hopes to have results more like Morris and less like Padilla when he gets back onto a Dodger mound. While his schedule looks to put him back on Saturday, the Dodgers are still contemplating whether having him pitch in Colorado is the best welcome they can find. Penny was clocked as high as 97 according to game reports and has had no further problems with his shoulder. In the short term, Penny looks to be back. The long term, on the other hand, remains a risk.

    The Dodgers also have the return of Wilson Alvarez on the horizon. His Tuesday rehab outing (details unavailable at this writing) puts him close to a return.

  • Ben Sheets will miss his next start, or at least have it pushed back, due to flu. While this isn’t serious, Sheets was expected to stop the Brewers latest run of losing. Instead, the Brue Crue will send out Wes Obermueller. Obermueller instead of Sheets is roughly akin to showing up for a date with Jennifer Connelly and when the door opens, it’s Billy Connelly. Expect Sheets to step back into the rotation in a few days.
  • The Rangers have a couple of injury situations that are key to their contention. First, Alfonso Soriano isn’t happy that he wasn’t on the field, despite a minor knee injury. With an upcoming trip to Tampa, he was held out as a precaution. This might be a sign that his time in Texas is ticking down to the near inevitable trade for pitching. The Rangers are very happy with the results from Pedro Astacio so far. Astacio essentially had two lost seasons from shoulder problems, the same amount of time it took Chris Carpenter and Gil Meche to come back. Both had problems in the longer term, but riding Astacio for a while certainly makes the Rangers a better team. Astacio is another datapoint in Orel Hershiser’s favor. (Is Hershiser or Mike Maddux the best young pitching coach in the game?) They’ll also get some bullpen help as Frank Francisco, who had no problems in his rehab appearances, returns. Francisco figures to slot right in front of Francisco Cordero.
  • Benito Santiago conveniently goes on the DL with an infection, allowing the punchless Bucs to get punchlessier. Humberto Cota will take over duties, though David Ross will probably get more at-bats paired with Cota than he will with Santiago. The Pirates dodge a bullet since reports were that Ross was going to be sent to Triple-A where he’d get the at-bats that a rehabbing Cota was stealing from Ryan Doumit. Doumit has barely played since being named International League player of the week.
  • The Mariners were encouraged that Gil Meche had no issues after his last start. Coming out at 100 pitches, Meche reported no problems with his throwing elbow. His control wasn’t perfect, which is to be expected with elbow discomfort. If he makes his next start on Friday and again has no problems, we’ll consider this latest scare behind him.

  • Quick Cuts: A car outside Wrigley hit Ronnie “Woo Woo” Wickers on Monday. He’s in good condition. Any Cubs fan knows Ronnie and I’m sure they all pass along their good wishes … Even if Mr. Bad Attitude, Frank Thomas, thinks he’s close to returning, the White Sox insist he’ll have “more than 100 Triple-A at bats.” Whatever you say, Ozzie … Kelvim Escobar starts on Sunday for the Angels, his first of the year … Garrett Atkins and Dustan Mohr should both be back in the Rockies lineup by early next week. Mohr is a couple of days ahead … One of my favorite minor-league guys, Rob Stratton, is out for the season with an Achilles tear. So much for a callup after a Reds OF trade … We ranked J.J. Hardy how high?Felix Heredia heads to the DL with an injured thumb and ineffectiveness … If there’s a better show on TV than “The Shield,” I haven’t seen it … Kiko Calero has been unavailable in the A’s pen, pushing more responsibility to Huston Street, who continues to impress everyone that’s had a chance to see him. Calero’s elbow isn’t considered serious though the A’s won’t take any chances.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the report that baseball is considering a John Dowd-like special investigator to look into the steroid issue. Assuming this is a quid pro quo to keep Congress from doing this or worse, I don’t really have a problem with it. It’s not quite the “drug czar” I’d like to see handling all doping issues for baseball, but it could go a long way in restoring public perception.

What I hope it won’t do is point fingers at players who can only defend themselves with hearsay. There are no tests extant from 1998, 1988, or any year prior to 2003. Let’s not talk about the past, to recast a phrase. Let’s work on a better baseball future.

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