Mark Buehrle works fast enough to keep you out of rush-hour traffic. That’s a nice compliment. I got the chance to see a game at US Commiskullar yesterday with Nate Silver and a few friends, which also gave me a look at Buehrle. Fluid and efficient, he got the win.

Before the game, we stood just a few feet away as Orel Hershiser watched Kenny Rogers do his side session and then worked with Chris Young (the curve’s getting there) and Chan Ho Park. It was a nice day in a ballpark that has a bad rep. We walked up for tickets, ended up just down the first-base line a few rows back with great views. Just don’t come late if Buehrle’s pitching.

On to the injuries …

  • The reports on Barry Bonds and his infection came pretty fast and furious with the truth lying somewhere in the middle. It’s reasonable to say that the return is open-ended, but there’s certainly enough information to make a prognosis. Much depends on how quickly Bonds wants to come back. Assuming that he wants to return pretty soon and that he works at the level he has over the past decade, we’ll give him two weeks to return to activity, two weeks for cardiovascular and functional strengthening, then four weeks for a normal rehab. That puts us at the All-Star Break. (Showing my work may clear this up for some people.) The wild card is how Bonds intends to get his swing back–will that happen in the rehab or will he need a rehab stint in the minors? That’s a baseball decision, one I can’t even guess at.
  • I’ve felt a bit like I’m playing a part in “CSI: Fenway” over the past couple days. Maybe the Red Sox just like keeping me busy, but the Trot Nixon situation is a bit confusing. There’s rumor that Nixon pulled his HIPAA waiver, keeping the organization from commenting, something that has happened in the past and would be his legal right.

    As I’ve worked my normal sources, readers have dropped in their suggestions. Some of the better ones include, “I watch almost every Sox game here in Somerville, Mass, and I’m almost positive I saw Trot tweak his leg making a running catch at the wall against the M’s. He pulled up and limped around a bit, but stayed in the game.” Another said, “Regarding Nixon’s injury, it seems to have manifested itself in the sixth inning of the second game of the May 8 doubleheader against the Mariners, when Nixon made an excellent running catch on a drive by Richie Sexson. After making the catch at full extension, as he was decelerating on the warning track, Nixon appeared to grab at his left hamstring/glut/hip?” The pros at the Boston Globe also check in, giving more valuable clues. After more discussions with sources and advisors, the best current guess is Iliotibial Band Syndrome. This condition covers all the known facts, though it’s clear we probably don’t have all the facts, period. We’ll keep watching.

  • The Mets will push Pedro Martinez back a day, giving the cortisone shot he took in his hip the time it needs to get the swelling out. The situation isn’t considered serious; think of it as more preventative than precautionary. The pain was altering Martinez’s motion slightly–something that was caught on film, I’m told–and quick action was taken to make sure that this didn’t cascade into a situation like that seen with Eric Gagne. That’s smart management.
  • The good news for the Cubs finally came when Carlos Zambrano threw on the side Wednesday, pronouncing himself ready to go. The Cubs are smartly being a bit cautious, giving Big Z an extra day to rest, knowing that the Cubs/Sox series is even more of an excuse to get overemotional and get outside his normal, safe mechanics. Zambrano will be watched closely, both now and throughout the season, tennis elbow or not.
  • Jason Schmidt is making good progress, throwing off a mound and heading towards a likely return next Tuesday. Schmidt said his arm felt good after the batting practice session and then good again the next day, though he did complain that he didn’t have his “touch,” according to the San Jose Mercury News. Given the injury, I’d expect Schmidt to have a bit of trouble with stamina, though the Giants are unlikely to let him test that.
  • Rain, commence pouring. With Rich Harden looking like he will be out more than the minimum, the last thing the A’s needed was another injury. They got one and it’s a doozy. Octavio Dotel is headed to see Lewis Yocum after showing up with a swollen and painful pitching elbow. With half the bullpen on the DL and the other half ineffective, this is a massive blow. Expect Huston Street to get save opportunities in the near future. The A’s will get Nick Swisher and Bobby Crosby back soon. Both are headed out for rehab assignments this week and figure to be back as soon as Monday. That should help some.
  • The Diamondbacks unexpectedly put Brandon Lyon on the DL, after saying publicly that their closer was having only minor elbow tendonitis. Given Lyon’s history, this is concerning. You’ll remember Lyon was returned to the Red Sox after failing a Pirate physical a few seasons back then missing 2004 after elbow surgery. The diagnosis has gone from tendonitis to a strained flexor mass, this year’s hot injury. The saves go to Brian Bruney now, while those who rushed to pick up Lyon have to worry.
  • Kelvim Escobar may come back quickly from his bone-spur problem, yet if we take a closer look, the news is not good. Escobar has twice had surgery for bone chips in his pitching elbow (’97 and ’02). A bone spur is just a chip that’s attached, so it’s possible that it was on its normal five-year cycle when it began rubbing against the tendon. That swelling was more of notice than the real damage. The treatment was simply to get the swelling out, not to remove the initial osseous irritant. This is likely to recur and Escobar has not shown a great tolerance for pitching with this condition. Caveat Escobar.
  • While the torn labrum isn’t perhaps the death sentence it once was, it is still among the worst diagnoses a pitcher can hear. Chin-Hui Tsao has heard it twice now and is facing a decision on his treatment. Surgery is the most likely option, one with a poor track record. It’s another sad data point for TNSTAAPP, but best wishes to Tsao in his long road towards recovery. The best returns from this type of injury have taken two full seasons.
  • Frank Thomas is back. Back, that is, if you count Charlotte as back. Thomas played his two games of a rehab assignment and has toyed with the opposition, going 4-for-10 and displaying some power. Thomas has had no trouble reaching base; once on base, he’s had no trouble running. The Big Hurt is on record as saying he’d like to stay at Charlotte for the full run of his rehab assignment, which would put him back with Chicago for interleague play in an NL park. He’ll be back before that, given last night’s results.

  • Quick Cuts: No, it doesn’t mean anything that Jeff Bagwell is having surgery June 3. It takes time to schedule and prep for these procedures … If you want to talk about the increasing level of idiocy at the Congressional hearings yesterday, read The Juice first. If you want some suggestions on real solutions, call me as a witness, Rep. Stearns … John Patterson will miss his next scheduled start with back spasms … Coco Crisp heads to the DL with a thumb injury, allowing space for Jody Gerut to return … Jeremy Affeldt is days away from a rehab assignment. No indication if he’s still a reliever … Rocco Baldelli has begun playing games in extended spring training. That’s a very good sign. If he’s available in your league, you might think about pre-empting the competition … Don’t worry about Carlos Guillen and the knee soreness. This is normal and known; he’ll get some extra days off until it feels normal.

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