The baseball season is often a whirlwind, though seldom in the way that we saw in St. Louis Wednesday. It seems like it was about a week ago that I was surprised the calendar had turned to June. Now, we’re almost to August and football camps are opening, the trade deadline is looming and I’ve got 150,000 words behind me. The marathon that is the baseball season marches slowly on, the end not yet in sight but closer. Teams and players are falling by the wayside slowly, casualties in this column or Chris’ or taken to task in Joe’s. Some look to Kevin’s for the future or Dan’s for the reasons or Maury’s to count the profits. There’s nothing better than watching the baseball tornado course across the American landscape from our outsider perch with our inside sources. I hope you’ve enjoyed the ride so far and have strapped in for the exciting finish.

Powered by Ulysse-Nardin, on to the injuries:

  • The Yankees know that in this year’s trade market, there are few players available who are on par with the ones they have on the shelf. If the Yankees were to have played a full season with the planned roster, who knows where they’d be now? Granted, any team could make a similar statement, though the Yankees may have lost more value–and certainly more salary–than any other team. Getting those players back on the field is as important as any acquisition they could make.

    Hideki Matsui and Robinson Cano are in a race back to the diamond. Matsui was cleared to begin baseball activities after tests showed his wrist has healed “perfectly” according to doctors. He’s stayed in condition during his layoff, so he’ll only need to tune up his swing. Wrist injuries famously have lingering effects, so don’t expect Matsui to pick up where he left off. In injuries, you don’t have to outrun the bear, as the joke goes, you just have to outrun your replacement. Matsui at a reduced level is likely better than the Yankees’ fifth or sixth outfielder, making the equation work well before Matsui is back to full stength. Seeing Matsui in pinstripes by mid-August is not only feasible, but likely. Cano has had a tougher go with his hamstring. Expected back after the Break, Cano has had a couple setbacks in the healing of his strained hamstring. His most recent attempt to run the bases pushed him back another ten days. It’s definitely a blow to the Yankees offense, making some openly wonder if Alfonso Soriano could still play an adequate second base while Cano heals up.

  • Ben Sheets is ready to go for the Brewers despite a small blister that appeared during his final rehab start. Sheets had no problems, something the Brewers were hoping for by taking the extremely conservative course they have during his rehab. The team coaching and medical staff, especially Dr. Bill Raasch, have done great work at managing the rehab process. The needs of the team now were balanced with the long-term commitment and relative youth of the team. Once Sheets gets the ball on Monday, the pressure will be back on him and he’ll have to keep all the things he’s worked on in mind if he wants to get back to his ace status and stay healthy with an altered shoulder musculature. The Brewers are at the forefront of both technology and simple mechanical changes, led by Mike Maddux and Jim Rooney (who’s worked miracles with Mark Rogers and Yo Gallardo this season.)
  • “Touch session.” It sounds like something you’d have after a particularly good date, but no, it’s actually an invention of Leo Mazzone, who I like, but don’t want to see after a particularly good date. A touch session is a side session for pitchers where instead of dialing it up, the hurler actually dials it back, throwing lightly and focusing on the feel of his pitches and the location of his throws. Some pitchers have a difficult time with control and command at less than full-go, so it’s a great teaching tool and one of the hallmarks of the Mazzone system. Not many pitching coaches in the bigs use this, so color me surprised after Bud Black talked about having a touch session with Jered Weaver. Weaver is still working back from a case of bicipital tendonitis, so throwing for feel is a smarter play than throwing for power and velocity. He’s on track for a weekend start and shouldn’t have much problem.
  • The Red Sox finally got a solid diagnosis on Tim Wakefield and it’s an odd one. Wakefield was diagnosed with a stress fracture in one of his ribs. It doesn’t really match up with what was described, but in some cases, there’s “referred pain,” where the pain felt by the person is in a different area than the actual injury. Rib stress fractures happen in golf and rowing, though infrequently. The good news is that Wakefield’s bone scan shows that it is healing, meaning that the fracture occurred up to a month ago when Wakefield first felt pain. That will limit his stay on the DL to something just under a month. That’s still going to put pressure on the Sox pitching in the meantime and no one I spoke to with knowledge of the injury seemed overly confident in the unusual diagnosis. There’s a bit of mystery still here.

    The Sox are downplaying the soreness that was reported by David Ortiz. “Papi’s a big boy,” my team source told me. “He swings hard. I’m surprised his back doesn’t get torqued up even more.” As opposed to Wakefield, absolutely no one seems concerned about Ortiz’s back.

  • Saying that Milton Bradley is injury-prone is akin to calling him moody. There’s evidence to support both tags though neither really tells you more than the stat line already shows. Bradley had a game that typified his upside and downside, hitting a home run and then cranking his ankle. He stayed in the game, but the ankle swelled up after Wednesday’s game, meaning he’ll likely need a game or two to get the ankle back to a useable state. The A’s outfield is looking like a bad-luck zone with Bobby Kielty out as well. Kielty may have had an oblique strain, something he’s fought with several times over the past couple years. I say “may have” because the Contra Costa Times hinted that Kielty leaving the game may have had more to do with not embarrassing Mark Kotsay than it did with Kielty’s side. Keep an eye on this one.

  • Quick Cuts: Ervin Santana had a wild night on Thursday. Only 46 of 103 pitches went for strikes. One scout watching the game from home called to ask if I thought there was an elbow problem. I’m waiting on video and Santana’s next start before answering … Mark Prior is expected to start today against the Nationals. Watch for any sign of discomfort early. He will not be on a pitch count … Craig Monroe left Thursday’s game with an apparent hamstring injury. More details as available … The Nationals were very tight with details on John Patterson after a “successful” surgery on Thursday … Jose Guillen is headed to Birmingham to get Jim Andrews’ opinion on his elbow … Pedro Martinez continues to make progress in side sessions. A decision on his return date will be made over the weekend … Dmitri Young will be activated over the weekend, slotting back in at DH for the Tigers … Sounds like Scott Elarton is done for the season.

Be sure to check out this weekend’s BP Radio. We’ll talk some trades, some injuries, and some Black Sox as we take our typical unique look at the world of baseball, BP style.

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