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Late West Coast games are simultaneously one of the best and worst things about baseball. On the one hand, it’s more baseball, and that’s almost always a good thing. Mixing in three good games in a day (day game, night game, West Coast game) is a pretty good way to pass my time between phone calls. On the other hand, it’s nearly impossible to get good information until after game time. Not surprisingly, my sources often don’t take calls in-game. That means a little more Peet’s, another Monster, and some more time watching games while working on my stability ball. There are worse ways to spend a springtime Tuesday.

Powered by the fine people at American Airlines, on to the injuries:

  • Quick anatomy lesson: the external obliques are the muscle just below the rib cage, but above the hip. Lean to the right side and put your hand about belly button level on the left side of your body. Straighten up. The muscle you felt tightening up was your external oblique. The intercostals muscles are the muscles above the obliques, covering and going in between the ribs. They perform similar functions and are close, making them sometimes interchangeable terms for those not interested in the precision a medhead normally demands. With that all clear, the injury to Nomar Garciaparra is not to the oblique, as I was told and reported yesterday, but to his intercostals, which the Dodgers announced when putting him on the DL. The end result (his time missed) is about the same for both and both have recurrent tendencies. Still, it’s better to be precise and correct myself when necessary. Thanks to all that pointed out the situation.
  • Tuesday’s game against the Mashin’ Marlins notwithstanding, the Astros know that they’ll get solid pitching out of Roy Oswalt and Andy Pettitte. They know they have questions at the bottom of their rotation with Taylor Buchholz and Wandy Rodriguez, the current holders of those slots. Brandon Backe is the fulcrum of this staff; if he’s good, the team has a chance. If not, well, it could be a long, hot summer in Houston. Backe’s starting the season on a bad note, having his scheduled start potentially pushed back while dealing with back spasms. The Astros were waiting until Wednesday to make a final decision, though sources indicate that Buchholz was told to be prepared. Buchholz was due to be skipped in the rotation because of Thursday’s off day. Backe’s never had back problems before, so watch to see if he’s able to go, and how he’s able to come back from this episode.
  • Bobby Crosby wants to make it through a season healthy, pulling the “injury prone” label off with a flourish and replacing it with the “elite player” tag that many seem to think is coming. I won’t argue with those who think he could be great if healthy; I’m just not ready to say he can stay healthy. Crosby got off to an unlucky start, leaving his glove down on a tag just a bit too long and getting spiked through the leather. He’s got a nice cut on his glove hand that should keep him out for the rest of the week, though it is not a major or long-term concern. Interestingly, there’s no “blood rule” in baseball as there is in basketball; having watched the A’s game after the NCAAs, I noticed that Crosby had some blood on his hand while in the field.
  • If you’re in Mississippi, you’ll get to see Ben Sheets start a game at least once. Sheets will get in some rehab work during the opening game between the Brewers’ and Braves’ Double-A franchises on Thursday. He’ll be limited to fifty pitches, so don’t buy a hot dog in the first inning. He’ll have one more rehab start with Triple-A Nashville before heading back to Milwaukeee. Sheets has had no problems since the scare on the mound in early March.
  • If you have a shoulder problem, you go to Tim Kremchek or Neil ElAttrache. If you have an elbow problem, you go to Jim Andrews or Lewis Yocum. If you have a back problem, you go to Robert Watkins or Drew Dossett. These are names very familiar to the medheads and to far too many baseball players. They fear the time when they’ll be told to hop on a plane for Los Angeles, Cincinnati, or Birmingham. The fear is understandable, but these surgeons, among the best in the world, should inspire confidence, not fear. While you’d rather not have the need to see them, a player should appreciate that he’s getting the best care, above and beyond what his team’s medical staff provides. Carl Pavano is headed to Dr. Watkins for a check of his problematic back. There have been whispers from some in Yankee camp that Pavano will likely need surgery, almost certainly season-ending and perhaps career-ending. The team knows Philip Hughes is close to ready and that Pavano’s contract is insured for backs.
  • I said he’d miss “more than the minimum (15 days) and less than last season (six weeks.)” The Indians said yesterday that C.C. Sabathia would miss “three to five” weeks with a strained oblique. Sabathia’s hard hip rotation is the concern, not his big bulk above the hips. Sabathia’s reporting that he’s having less pain this time, able to cough and sneeze (good to know, C.C.), something that gave him problems last season. Let’s hope the rest of his bodily functions are fine and that we don’t have to hear about them. He’ll be back closer to three weeks than five.
  • I don’t often cover minor leaguers, for reasons of space, consistent information, and my own tenuous grasp on sanity. There are times, though, when it’s worth mentioning minor league injury; in the case of Justin Upton, it definitely is. Upton will miss the first couple weeks of the minor league season with a minor shoulder injury. The Diamondbacks are being conservative with this both for reasons of timing and because they intend to move Upton to the outfield. As readers of this column know, position changes have a short-term increase in injury risk, so having Upton try it at less than 100% wouldn’t be ideal. The Snakes have time to deal with Upton’s eventual placement. When ready, Upton will start in Single-A South Bend.
  • Quick Cuts: Roy Halladay showed no sign of any problem, mowing down the Twins in his first start back since the comebacker broke his leg and derailed his 2005 … Mike Jacobs took a bad hop off his nose. Wes Helms‘ low throw got him, though the damage looks minimal … Eric Gagne is going to take his suspension left over from last year while recovering from a virus and ear problem. This convenient suspension crap is something I think needs to be addressed in the next CBA. Here’s a tip: conference calls … Chris Capuano has a new cutter. Seven K’s and no walks is a good first outing for the new pitch … If I could get MLB’s Condensed Games onto my iPod, I could die happy.