Sometimes, I wish I were Bill Simmons. His mailbags have become must-reads, with Simmons riffing off the great e-mails of his readers with pop culture and sports knowledge that makes you feel like you know him. My readers are just as good, but I’m no Simmons. Two e-mails in particular got to me yesterday; one asked about the dearth of good middle relief and its relationship to the new drug policy. (Answer: good question, but we’ll need a full season of data to get even incomplete answers.) The other was more personal. I wish I could use his name, but there’s a Lance Corporal somewhere in Iraq that knows who he is. I wish I could make the little time he spends on the computer during down time from patrol a bit better. He doesn’t have a family to write to, no girlfriend waiting back home, so he memorizes baseball and forgets about what he does all day by losing himself in the game he loves, even from half a world away. I’m proud that BP and UTK are one of the things he reads, but prouder still of him and the men and women just like him. I wouldn’t trade my readers for anything.

Powered by the return of football, on to the injuries…

  • There’s finally some news about Hideki Matsui. My people in Tampa finally got a good look at Matsui during his rehab. It looks like Matsui isn’t as far ahead of schedule as we once thought. Matsui is still not taking full swings, still not catching the ball on his own at full speed, and appears to still be having some discomfort during his reduced activities. Matsui is a very tough one to read; what one source calls “discomfort,” another called “intensity.” Matsui is due to be re-examined this week in hopes that he can begin full baseball activities. If cleared, that still leaves him a couple weeks out at best, depending on how much time he needs to regain his timing and assuming no setbacks.

    It’s better news for Robinson Cano. After almost six weeks off, the second baseman will be back in the lineup on Wednesday. His hamstrings should be no problem, though remember, this type of situation can recur.

  • With Jeff Kent back and hitting, the Dodgers now turn their attention to getting Nomar Garciaparra back on the field. Garciaparra, out since late July with a mild knee sprain, was seen stretching prior to Monday’s game. The Dodgers think he’ll be back on Wednesday. Given the nature of the injury, it’s safe to assume that while he’ll be back, he won’t be running much. The move to first base should work in his favor, though watch him on lateral moves–he may be a bit range-limited or even reluctant/slow during some necessary motion. Give him the benefit of the doubt here; much of his off-season work at Athlete’s Performance may give him the kinesthetic sense to overcome this.
  • Call it the WBC curse. Gary Majewski heads to the DL with shoulder soreness and blames pitching in the World Baseball Classic for his troubles. It’s interesting that Majewski never noted this in the previous four months and certainly didn’t indicate this problem to his new team, the Reds. The team was aware when they traded for him that he’d been dealing with “mild shoulder tendonitis,” but one cortisone injection back in May cleared up the problem. If this has been bothering him since the trade, it does explain his poor performance. There’s no clear indication when Majewski could return. Luckily, the Reds’ bullpen is one loaded with quantity, if not quality.
  • The Blue Jays are clinging to life in the AL East, stuck in their familiar third slot despite a significantly higher payroll than in recent seasons. Some of this lack of development can be chalked up to injuries to key players throughout the season. Even small injuries, like the neck soreness that pushed Ted Lilly from his Monday start, add up. Lilly is due to throw on Thursday now and this shouldn’t affect him, but it’s another day when the Blue Jays weren’t able to put the expected team on the field, affecting the expected result. I think when Gorman Injury Analysis–the methodology in Baseball Prospectus 2006–gets a good look at the Blue Jays, it will show a major effect on the team’s results, but not enough to have leaped the Sox and Yankees if healthy. I think that to J.P. Ricciardi, Hell is third place.
  • The Mets may have been close to getting Roy Oswalt, according to Sports Illustrated‘s Jon Heyman, but now they’re left hoping that Brian Bannister can make it back. In his first rehab start at Triple-A, Bannister was knocked around. In 90 pitches, he gave up seven runs, including three home runs. He settled down after a 31-pitch first inning. Bannister doesn’t have a solid spot in the rotation now, so expect this rehab assignment to go long. By rule, it could extend to late August. The injury takeaway here is that the hamstring looks fully healed and didn’t seem to be a factor in his poor performance.
  • The Diamondbacks brought in Livan Hernandez to shore up their rotation and take some load off their pen, not because of the injury to Brandon Webb. Webb, in fact, will be back on the field just one day after Hernandez flies into Arizona. Webb is due to throw his side session Tuesday, meaning that if it goes well, he’ll be on the mound Saturday, leaving Friday open for Hernandez. Webb showed no problems during a long toss session on Monday, so daily-league owners should feel no hesitation in starting him.

    The D’backs also got good news on Craig Counsell. Though many had counted him out for the season with a broken rib, he could be back much sooner. Manager Bob Melvin told that Counsell will start a rehab assignment sometime next week, putting him on track for a return in late August. How this will affect the roster and Stephen Drew‘s status remains unknown.

  • Quick Cuts: Jim Thome, I get. Nomar Garciaparra, sure. Would someone explain to me why Magglio Ordonez and Carlos Beltran are considered “comebacks”? … Mark Kotsay will miss the Texas series. His back is acting up … Between chronic Achilles problems and the Mets’ lead, expect Cliff Floyd to get regular time off … Lost in the Reds’ wild-card bid is the tough season of Brandon Claussen. He’s headed for shoulder surgery after a lost season.