I’d just like to make a quick followup to Monday’s discussion of the ongoing steroid story. Just after deadline, MLB responded to our calls on the subject. MLB spokesman Richard Levin said that it was “false” and “just a rumor” that there are players currently appealing their positive tests. Bud Selig also insisted to PTI that there was no delay in the announcement of Rafael Palmeiro‘s suspension.
The story continues, however, with Congress jumping in again. As Palmeiro waits to see what one committee does with the information released to them, another is sending letters to MLB. The letter includes eight questions that would clear things up–for someone not paying attention. The answers are pretty well known for six of the eight questions, if not specifically then generally. The interesting stuff will come if, as some rumors are now saying, that Palmeiro is ready to play the part of Joe Valachi. Yes, there are rampant rumors going through clubhouses and press boxes across baseball, and yes, there’s another name coming soon. Names don’t solve problems.
Powered by the Sons of Otto Berman, on to the injuries:
- I had a debate with a pal of mine about the Braves. He thought that Chipper Jones would still be perceived as the team’s most important player. I disagreed and so I emailed 20 front office personnel, scouts, and one national writer, asking them two questions–who was the Braves best player and who would they want off Atlanta’s roster going forward. The answers were very different. Most said Andruw Jones was the best player (Chipper got three votes), but eighteen of the twenty said they’d want Jeff Francoeur on their squad if they had their pick of the Braves. That says a lot for a small sample size and a scouting report. Chipper Jones may not be the best Brave any more, but the team would be better with him playing third. The team is now calling it a sprained rotator cuff (I think they meant strained) and he’ll be out until at least the weekend for anything other than pinch-hitting. A DL stint would make sense, but there’s no indication that the team is planning it. Also, watch for the Braves to juggle their roster over the next week or so, prepping for the return of John Thomson and Mike Hampton. Thomson is expected to return on Saturday, pitching with a limit.
- This is just crap. Kyle Farnsworth will serve a suspension while resting his sore back. I don’t mean to single out Farnsworth here because this is common practice. Suspensions are served at convenient times, reducing them from penalty to annoyance. This is another issue that is collectively bargained and I respect that, but one that the fan in me hates. Break a rule, take the punishment like a man. Part of the punishment is hurting the team, something that no player wants to do. Farnsworth’s back isn’t serious–which is exactly the attitude players take toward suspensions.
- Wade Miller gave the Red Sox about all he could this season. Coming off a rotator cuff problem and a red light Miller lasted about 90 major league innings, filling the gap left by Curt Schilling ably. As expected, Miller’s running into a wall and was placed on the DL with shoulder soreness. Some of this is roster shenanigans to get Mike Remlinger on the 40-man, but this is also a nice way of getting Miller a bit of rest in case he’s needed back in the rotation later this month. The Sox are hoping they’ll need a bit more roster room for Keith Foulke and Trot Nixon. Foulke is doing well in his rehab, looking good in a short session off the mound. An observer told me he was just spotting his pitches, getting a feel for where the knee is and how his mechanics look. Foulke is still resisting the idea of a minor league stint, so his time frame is a bit unclear. He’ll be throwing more from the mound later this week. Nixon was scheduled to take some swings off a tee on Tuesday and while my sources didn’t get back to me on this, the Boston Globe is reporting he had no problems. He’ll take batting practice later this week.
- The Yankees got the waiver claim on Jamie Moyer, but the Yankees were left clutching air after the veteran lefty declined a deal for the third time this year. This leaves the Yankees in the same position they were on Tuesday–hoping that Randy Johnson is healthy and that Jaret Wright comes back soon. The Yankees rotation is all about health right now, needing just a burst to keep them in the playoff race, then trying to figure out if they could make it through a short series with just three pitchers. Of course, they’d have to have three pitchers healthy enough to win and to come back on short rest. Johnson’s back will force him to push one start though Johnson is trying to convince Joe Torre to slot him back in later this week. Jaret Wright had another successful start at Single-A Tampa, throwing 103 pitches. The plan is still for him to make one more start, but the situation in the Bronx may force the team’s hand a bit.
- It’s not just the hamstring that’s holding Chris Duffy back. The scrappy little CF not only has a tight hammy, he’s also having some problems with dehydration. Duffy took a blazing liner off the bat of big Brad Eldred, impacting near his kidney. He spent some time in the hospital afterwards on an IV drip. The Pirates aren’t going anywhere, so they won’t risk much with Duffy. If he heads to the DL, they’ll bring up another young prospect you should watch for, Nate McLouth.
- The Padres know that having Adam Eaton in their rotation is one of the few things they have left to do that could improve the team. In hopes of this, they’ll be sending their expert pitcher down to Single-A to start. Even though Eaton’s first relief outing didn’t go well, the Pads think that giving him the chance to try things over a three-start rehab might make a difference. Color me unconvinced, but watch his first outing, scheduled for fifty pitches or three innings. He’ll not only be allowed to throw breaking balls, he actually figures to overuse them, as compared to his normal pitch selection, in order to “build strength.”
- This is the time of the year when teams begin shutting guys down. There have been some rumors about players like Kerry Wood, though the Royals get credit for the first official move of the year. Denny Bautista likely will not return in September since there’s little to be gained by a late-season cameo. Bautista will instead start his off-season program a little early in hopes that strengthening his shoulder will avoid problems like he’s had this season in the future. Bautista has the stuff of an ace, but like all too many young guys with great stuff, he has to be healthy to make anything of it.
- Russ Ortiz got crushed in what was expected to be his final minor league rehab start. “He managed to look worse,” said one scout who was at both of his two horrendous Tucson starts. He gave up seven runs in six innings, showing poor velocity and command on Monday. Despite this, Ortiz will be activated for a start on Saturday in his former home of Atlanta because he reported that his broken rib is now fully healed and pain free. Facing the NL’s home run leader will likely not help.
- Todd Helton showed no problems in Triple-A. Hardly a surprise, but coming off his DL stint, Helton actually showed more pop than he has in a while. This begs the question if his leg has been a problem all season. Some Colorado sources insist that Helton’s been dealing with a bad knee since Spring Training. Helton’s season certainly doesn’t measure up, but there’s no official word yet. Expect Helton to be activated this week, if not for Wednesday.
- Quick Cuts: Matt Stairs left Tuesday’s game with a strained calf. Really? Matt Stairs has muscles? … Jim Mecir is one of only a few effective Marlin relievers. He’s headed to the DL, hurting what’s left of the Marlins’ chances at the Wild Card … Kirk Saarloos is dealing with a blister on his pitching thumb. He’ll be pushed back a day, out of the Angels series … Ted Lilly is behind schedule with his rehab. He may not be back next week, especially if a rehab assignment is necessary … Bill Chuck points out the odd coincidence that Mark McGwire, Rafael Palmeiro, Jason Giambi, and Barry Bonds all share the same uniform number, 25 … There was a lot of speculation going around about why Jose Cruz Jr. was DFA’d just days after his acquisition. Turns out it was a waiver deal, not the steroid talk that was going around. Listen, I’m as guilty of rumor mongering as anyone, but when it comes to serious charges like steroid offenses, we can’t just baselessly guess. We have to wait for a positive test. Period.