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No big build-up today, let’s just get right to it. Powered by our new weekly radio gig in Las Vegas…

  • That giant sucking sound you heard in the Midwest was the collective Cardinals nation gasping at the report that Albert Pujols would miss a game with a back injury. Pujols was stiff on Tuesday, but this was something he’d evidently been playing with for nearly a week while receiving treatment. Pujols hasn’t hit one 500 feet this week, so maybe it is affecting him, but he’s not expected to miss much more time. He’ll be back in the lineup Wednesday, though don’t be surprised if he gets some extra time off here and there over the next few weeks.
  • It’s been a long week for Todd Helton, but what a difference that week makes; he’s gone from a hospital bed to Triple-A in that span of time. While Helton is still feeling some physical effects from his intestinal trouble, he was able to get back on the field. While a report from Colorado Springs didn’t come in before deadline, he did play six innings rather than the planned five while enjoying a 1-3 night at the plate. That looks normal and at this stage, normal is very good for Helton and the Rox. He’ll play one more game Wednesday and should be activated when eligible on Friday. Given the way this looked last week, his coming back is pretty amazing.
  • Despite all of his time spent on the DL, Mike Sweeney is no doctor. He said that it was the “same disc, same pain,” but he was only half right. Sweeney has a new herniated disc in his neck rather than the same one he had over the past few seasons, a definite additional negative. Sweeney has already had an injection to ease the pain and reduce the swelling, prefiguring his move to the DL. His response to the injection will determine how long he’s out, but this looks similar to the 2004 injury that kept him out for nearly half a season. The Royals are expected to replace him on the roster with prospect Justin Huber, one of many re-arranging moves to be made in Kansas City this month. Just curious, is there a curse on signings of five years for $55 million?
  • The Angels seem to have a top prospect at every position, so any injury can be cushioned by a quick flight from Salt Lake. Unfortunately, the Angels are racking up frequent flyer miles with all their early season injuries. They have two more now with Darin Erstad and Kelvim Escobar banged up. Erstad is having trouble with his right ankle due to a bone spur. He’s had this situation for nearly a year with only occasional flare-ups, so this isn’t serious. It’s similarly survivable with Escobar, who has a blister that will keep him off the mound for one start. Rumors that Jered Weaver may get the call have started, though the Angels have other options as well.
  • I’ve spent more time talking and asking about Carl Pavano‘s butt than should be allowed for even the most confident heterosexual male. Pavano’s butt is fine, not that there’s anything wrong with that, and he continues to gear up for the rehab assignment that Yankees fans have been waiting for since… well, about the time he originally signed. Pavano’s back has been problem-free recently and his throwing is described as “good, not great” by observers. Good might be good enough for the Yankees, who could use some depth and role reassignments within their staff. The Yanks are also encouraged by the work of Octavio Dotel. He’s not far off from starting a rehab assignment of his own, possibly slotting for set-up work in between Kyle Farnsworth and Mariano Rivera before June starts.
  • Although he is still a credible backup outfielder, Ricky Ledee‘s leg injuries are quickly sapping his ability to contribute. To add to his chronic hamstring problems, he’s now headed to the DL with a “severe” groin strain. I can’t remember a player ever straining a groin on a check swing before, but that’s how this one happened. Ledee is due for an MRI to see just how severe it is, but in the meantime Andre Ethier, the top prospect that the Dodgers got for Milton Bradley, will replace him.
  • Leg injuries just seem more serious when they involve Jermaine Dye, the man who nearly lost his career to a devastating fracture. Dye has a strained calf, but reports from Chicago’s clubhouse say that the injury is “nothing too bad.” Sources expect Dye to be back on the field this week, perhaps as early as Wednesday.
  • Is Doyle back? Not yet, but he’s close. The oft-injured Chris Snelling could be just days away from coming back due to the short and oft-closing window of health from his latest knee surgery and the struggles of Jeremy Reed. Snelling has always been one of those “good when healthy” guys with just enough good to make people forget that he’s almost never healthy. His off-field antics and funny accent help people root for him, and his hard-charging style works against him. There’s always the hope that he has one good season in him, but he’s the very definition of tissue issue at this stage.
  • Tomo Ohka is headed for an MRI after the injury he said was “not bad” isn’t any better a day later. Ohka’s suspected to have a strained rotator cuff, and is unlikely to make his next start. The Brewers don’t have an obvious candidate to take the start–Ben Hendrickson is out of sequence, and Rick Helling is still hurting. Dana Eveland has a Sheets-like 24/3 K/BB ratio in Triple-A and is on the 40-man, so he’s probably Option #2. The loss of Ohka would be painful but replaceable on what should be a very deep chart of Brewers starters for the next couple seasons.
  • One of the things I hate is the obvious shenanigans that surround struggling players. We see this with every team and I understand that it’s part of the game and always within the rules, yet it comes off as tawdry too many times. Instead of going quietly to the pen, Russ Ortiz is headed to the DL. Ortiz will take some time off, work on the side, and at some point, head back to the rotation. I don’t think the Diamondbacks will cut bait on Ortiz–this isn’t simply a problem from the previous administration, nor could they get much for him. There’s no way to base a return date on the listed injury, so we’ll just note that he’s gone and that he’ll be back.
  • Speaking of roster shenanigans, we see it all the time with Rule 5 guys. Again, it’s part of the game, as Fabio Castro headed to the DL with a groin strain just as the bullpen is sorting itself out. The injury to Antonio Alfonseca in Tuesday’s game is going to throw a wrench into the works. With Frankie Francisco still a couple weeks away, the Rangers now have three of their top seven relievers on the DL, and Alfonseca’s injury is up in the air at deadline. He twisted his ankle during a pitch and left shortly thereafter. The Rangers need deep starts and for Francisco Cordero to continue finding himself while outside of the closer role.

  • Quick Cuts: Coco Crisp is ready to start baseball activities; he’s at least ten days away… Why is Ken Griffey Jr. waiting on activation? Ever heard the phrase “don’t mess with a streak?” He’s expected back this week… I don’t often talk about minor league injuries, but we can learn something from Michael Aubrey. He had a stress fracture in his lower back, much like Sean Casey, though Casey’s was traumatic. It took Aubrey nearly a year to get back to the game… One rumor from the last few days is that Oliver Perez and Ryan Doumit are being dangled to the Phillies… Aubrey Huff should be back in the lineup on Friday… Wow, John Lackey must have said something good, eh?… I have got to see this… Some around the game are suggesting that Valley Fever is to blame for much of the sickness around the game right now.

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