How many more days until the trade deadline? I’m stunned at the buzz that the Mill is getting but believe me, I’d fail another drug test if I took it in the next couple days. Another? That’s right … I took a minor-league drug test a couple weeks back for an upcoming article and failed. Too much caffeine. Who knew?

So, powered by Greg Maddux‘s amazing 3,000 strikeouts, on to the injuries …

  • Sometimes, athletic trainers are a bit twisted. They’ll sit around and tell stories about gruesome injuries. At games, there’s often something in the back of their heads that wants something to happen. 99% of a trainer’s brain wants nothing to happen and is appalled when it does, but I think that small part keeps them ready to do their job when needed.

    Last night, in Tampa, it was needed. The staffs of both the Red Sox and Devil Rays should be commended for their efficient and professional treatment of Matt Clement after he was brutally struck by a line drive. Not to be funny, but Clement looked like nothing less than Charlie Brown in Peanuts, his legs pulled from under him. The training staffs kept Clement down, even though he never lost consciousness, and followed all procedures to the letter, making sure he was safe at all times. Once again, we see a pitcher struck when defenseless and again, I’ll call for some smart inventor to help the game of baseball by coming up with something to help. I have some ideas if someone would like to hear them. Clement is alive, something I honestly worried about after seeing the play, and his baseball availability is secondary to that.

    Clement was not the lone Red Sox injury of the night, though it was more than enough. Over the next 24 hours, the Sox will try and figure out how serious the back injury suffered by Trot Nixon is. During his at-bat, Nixon clutched at his side, leading some to think this could be an oblique situation, but looking at the video, I think that Nixon was reaching as far as he could rather than at a specific spot. Obviously, he couldn’t reach his back. Nixon missed much of last season while rehabbing a back injury and subsequent quad strain. This one could really hurt the Sox if it’s serious.

  • Eight innings later, I saw no sign of Livan Hernandez‘s knee injury. You remember, the one so serious that he was going to have season-ending surgery just last week? It’s amazing some of the miracle cures available today. If Hernandez has another miracle bottled up, he might want to share it with Nick Johnson. Johnson returned to the lineup after finally being able to run without excruciating pain. With Johnson’s history, Nats fans will be watching every step.
  • The Tigers think they’ll get Placido Polanco back on Wednesday. His final test was a run around the bases, watched closely by the medical and field staff. Alan Trammell declared Polanco good to go, though a final decision will be made tomorrow, just in case Polanco’s leg tightens up after the workout. Polanco will slot back in to his superutility role and will lead off for the Tigers, a team few people notice are actually in the wild-card hunt.
  • While Houston has gotten itself back into the wild-card picture with unbelievable pitching from Roy Oswalt, Roger Clemens, and Andy Pettitte, it looks like Brandon Backe might force the Astros to have two rookies in the rotation. Backe is headed to the DL with an oblique strain and will likely be replaced by Ezequiel Astacio. A final decision should be made tomorrow, meaning that the strain is likely mild. If only a short-term problem, the Astros should be able to survive and showcase some of their young pitching for a possible trade.
  • Some wire reports have Nomar Garciaparra asking out of his first rehab start in Peoria. The truth of the matter is that severe weather came through the area and there was no reason to risk bad footing this early in the process. Garciaparra is expected to play tomorrow in one of the doubleheader games, then again Thursday before meeting with team officials. Assuming all goes well in those two games, Garciaparra would move up to Triple-A for the weekend, then come back to Chicago. A report in the Chicago Sun-Times said that Garciaparra was able to leap over a sliding player during a double play. That’s a pretty good sign. There’s no word yet on whether “Dukes of Hazzard Night” has been rescheduled in Peoria.
  • Precautionary limp. That’s a new one. Todd Helton is walking with a visible limp, both on the field and in the clubhouse due to his strained left calf. Helton told the AP that he limped to “protect it.” Ok, Todd, I’ll let that one slide. Helton declined an MRI according to one source, while another said that he merely delayed the procedure to see if it would heal up with rest and normal treatment. The Rockies will wait at least a few days to make any DL decision.
  • Ramon Hernandez will make a decision on wrist surgery sometime tomorrow and the decision is not just medical. Hernandez wants a long-term deal from the Pads and is using the surgery as leverage. I’m not saying he’s wrong–without security, Hernandez does need to have the surgery done to ensure he’ll be ready for spring training. In the meantime, the Padres will use prodigal trade bait Phil Nevin at catcher. Single game eligibility leagues will have one happy owner.
  • Johnny can’t swing. That’s not as bad as “can’t read” or “hates jazz,” but for an everyday player like Johnny Estrada, swinging a bat is a key part of the job description. Estrada has indicated to many that his back is not making much progress. While he’s oddly available to catch, he can’t take the twisting a swing must have. Expect a DL stint if he’s not able to go by the weekend, meaning Brian McCann will get more at-bats.
  • There are conflicting reports on Rafael Soriano. One Seattle daily had Soriano’s long-toss session a positive with the prospect on his way to Triple-A Tacoma. Another had it as a negative, his trip back to the northwest so that he could visit the team’s medical staff. No source could definitively clear the situation up for me. If Soriano is ready to start a rehab assignment, he could be back in Seattle by late August or sooner, depending on his secondary pitches. If he’s not, his season is now in jeopardy. Be ready for both possibilities while I continue to dig for info.
  • Quick Cuts: One of my favorite moments of the season might be hearing Skip Caray deadpan his way through this story. Evidently, Skip talked to John Smoltz before Tuesday’s game and asked an innocuous question about his prep work for the Nationals. Smoltz evidently fired back, “I’m waiting on the curve ball and I’m gonna pull that thing 400 feet.” (He grounded out and flew out oppo.) … Eleven strikeouts and another win. What will happen if Randy Johnson can actually get healthy? … Carl Pavano will not start this weekend as planned. More details as I find them … Ismael Valdez comes off the DL, making his first start on Wednesday … The Indians placed Travis Hafner on the DL retroactively. He’s still feeling the effects of his beaning. Maybe if he had Ben Sheets‘ helmet!

Back tomorrow and in effect all week at the Mill.

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