Powered by a furious Game Seven from one of the most evenly matched Stanley Cups in history, on to Game Six of the NBA Finals … oh, and on to the injuries:

  • Call it a cascade if you want. There hasn’t been much discussion of Pedro Martinez and his problematic toe since the World Baseball Classic went into the history books. Martinez has been good–better than his record shows–despite the toe and a cascading hip problem. Martinez has been working with bullpen coach Guy Conti on changes to his delivery, trying to both take stress off the right (push) hip and make sure that he’s not adding stress to his shoulder. Some might be surprised that Martinez is noted to be working with Conti rather than pitching coach Rick Peterson, but team sources tell me there’s nothing unusual about this. Martinez is struggling a bit with his control lately, though it’s unclear if the adjustments are a response to that or if the control is shaky while he’s learning to integrate the adjustments. It’s worth keeping an eye on, though things look positive for both Martinez and the Mets.

  • Jason Isringhausen is whispering–heck, telling the press–that Albert Pujols will be back by the weekend. This is an especially ambitious timeframe given Pujols’ injury and the tendency of oblique injuries to recur if pushed. Pujols has taken swings and grounders without incident, but is a week’s extra rest the smart thing to do here? Sources with the team indicate that most of the impetus comes from Pujols himself. Always a driven worker, Pujols has put that same energy into his rehab. Given his ability to play through pain, adding on some quick healing abilities makes sense and is a pattern we’ve seen before with other players. (Don’t start with the PEDs talk here, please.) The Cardinals have all the information and understand that Pujols knows how to play with injuries; they’re in firm control of the situation. For fans, having Pujols back early is like opening your presents on Christmas Eve. Happening in concert with Roger Clemens return to the division? Just coincidence, I’m sure.

  • Moises Alou is dealing with back spasms. For him, this is nothing. The aging player’s body looks like it’s been at war, covered in scars and twisted in ways it simply shouldn’t have twisted. Back spasms? Those are nothing to Alou, though the pain is going to keep him out a couple games while he spends another few days with the trainers. There’s likely some connection to his still healing ankle–with the limp he experienced taxing his back a bit–though the Giants remain among the best at controlling cascades and recurrences. The DL isn’t in the future for Alou, at least from this injury.

  • A pair of pitchers should return to their respective rotations later this week, both hoping to effectively become mid-season acquisitions. A.J. Burnett will be back on Thursday for the Jays after a successful rehab. He’s shown no pain; more importantly, he showed confidence in his pitches during his rehab starts. John Patterson will come back on Friday, and there’s a bit more concern about his forearm strain. He’s shown some reluctance to really let go of his pitches, signaling either a lack of confidence (something he’s never shown) or a bit of lingering soreness near his elbow. Both pitchers are key to the post-season hopes of their teams, so their starts will be critical. Keeping them from returning to the DL this season is even more important.

  • It’s hard to take a comeback seriously when a guy has a biscuit on his hat. Jeff Niemann did have a nice outing for Double-A Montgomery as he begins his return from a common shoulder surgery known as a Mumford. The surgery shaves some of the collarbone off to open space in the AC joint. Impingement syndrome is the result of long-term overuse and bad mechanics, so coming back from this surgery is just the first step. Pitchers such as Jaret Wright show both the positives and negatives of the surgery; it’s not nearly as serious as something like a cuff or labrum problem, but it’s usually the effect rather than the cause, something the surgery won’t fix.

  • The R word is coming up with Darin Erstad. Erstad’s chronic ankle and back problems have led some to speculate that if the problems continue to keep him off the field–and prevent him from playing at the level which he thinks he should be playing at–that he’ll walk away from the game. This would surprise me, given what Erstad has said about not only his own comeback, but the comeback of teammate Tim Salmon. Erstad’s injuries are problematic and only Erstad knows just how bad they are, but surgery would fix at least one of the problems.

  • The Phillies got a bit of a scare when a comebacker went off the pitching hand of Randy Wolf during a rehab start. Coming back from Tommy John surgery, Wolf threw from a mound on Sunday and Monday, putting him back into the rehab rotation for Wednesday. He’s making normal progress, working on both command and velocity. The velocity is more of a concern; after elbow surgery, lost velocity is normally a problem of conditioning. Wolf’s rehab won’t be extended–there’s no provision in the rules for an intervening injury without stopping and restarting the rehab, something that requires some procedural steps–meaning he’s still expected back near the ASB.

  • As the Indians face an increasing slope up to the Sox and Tigers, injuries are starting to sap them. Casey Blake is out a month with a strained oblique and Jason Michaels will miss at least a couple games with a sprained ankle. The team’s depth in the OF was always a question after the Coco Crisp deal, though that’s actually worked out for them with Blake’s hot start. The questions the Indians face are much more about the longer term makeup of the ballclub than the next month’s injuries.

  • Quick Cuts: When I interviewed Brandon Duckworth less than a month ago, I said that he could be a fourth or fifth starter on five or six teams or the ace of the Royals. I was joking, I thought … Ryan Doumit is out for the foreseeable future. The torn hamstring is bad enough that he could miss the better portion of the season … Octavio Dotel should be in the Yankees bullpen no later than Monday of next week; the setback he’s experienced is minor … Wily Mo Pena is getting closer to a return after wrist surgery. He’s expected back at the ASB … J.J. Hardy should head out for a rehab assignment by the weekend. He’ll need about a week before returning to the Brewers … Shannon Stewart will start a rehab assignment in the next week, though his plantar fascitis will affect him the rest of the season.
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