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Powered by The Long Tail, on to the injuries:

  • Mariano Rivera had an MRI. Yankees fans, exhale. Rivera has a small strain in a muscle near his elbow and will need some rest. The Yankees can handle this and it’s certainly nothing to be overly concerned about. The Yankees wish they had more depth in the pen, or that Kyle Farnsworth was more reliable when he was needed. The Yankees know that Rivera has one episode like this each year. This one’s a bit later, but the Yankees have enough of a cushion in the division race to make this less of a factor than it could have been. Rivera knows that the time he’s needed is October. He’ll be ready. Again.

  • There’s a lot of what ifs when it comes to Tom Gordon. Yankees fans wonder if Mariano Rivera might be healthier if Gordon were setting him up and taking the load that Farnsworth isn’t. Gordon is hurt too, his shoulder just now coming around from a dead period. He looked solid in a rehab start at Single-A. Gordon’s absence hasn’t hurt the Phillies, with Ryan Howard packing the team on his back and making the closer superfluous. Gordon’s return can’t be anything but a positive in what is a very close race for the mediocre award–I mean, Wild Card.

  • David Ortiz left the hospital after tests showed no significant cardiac problems. The whispers continue to swirl about Ortiz’ condition; I think I’ve heard every theory from the plausible (coffee toxicity) to the ridiculous (bubonic plague). The important thing is that Ortiz has been cleared to return. Yes, Ortiz could be back on the field–or whatever it is a DH returns to–by the weekend. That seems a bit ambitious to me, but I’m no doctor. It’s important to remember that Terry Francona has a special understanding of this situation, having been hospitalized with heart problems of his own a few years back. Our thoughts continue to be with Jon Lester and his family.

  • The Cardinals continue to try to figure out what they’ll do as they stumble towards another division title. They’ll do it without Mark Mulder, who is headed for surgery. Cardinals fans will recognize this pattern, which is similar to what the team saw with Darryl Kile and Matt Morris. I wouldn’t be surprised if Mulder had the surgery and then re-signed with the Cards, much the way that Morris did. Mulder should be able to come back, though he will need to change his game slightly. He’s not completely reliant on velocity, as Kerry Wood was, so his odds are better. David Eckstein is closer to a comeback, now cleared to do some baseball activities. His oblique strain is still tender and bothersome in some postures, so don’t expect him to be at full strength when he returns.

  • I should do some research on what topics generate the most e-mail. The top two would be anything to do with the Yankees or Red Sox. Music would probably be third. Fourth is when someone’s fantasy stud gets slightly hurt. Miguel Cabrera taxed my inbox today after leaving Wednesday’s game. Jason Marquis hit Cabrera near the elbow. X-rays showed nothing more than a bruise, albeit a painful one. Cabrera is not expected to miss significant time nor should he have any ill effects once the initial pain and swelling goes away.

  • You can’t fault a guy for trying to avoid surgery. Brandon Backe tried, but he ended up on Jim Andrews’ table six months after he might have, likely losing all of 2007 when he might have just lost most of it. Backe continues the tradition of converted pitchers ending up hurt, a rule I have no explanation for. Like most Tommy John pitchers, Backe should make a complete comeback, though predicting his career path is tougher than most. Backe could be non-tendered by the Astros, though it’s more likely he’ll sign a low-base deal to avoid arbitration while he’s rehabbing.

  • Reader P.M. wrote in to remind me of something: “Thanks for all of the hard work you put into your consistently excellent columns. As an Ms fan I was also horrified (for a number of reasons) to see Rafael Soriano go down, but I was curious that so many continue to dwell on this detail: ‘The ball rocketed off Vladimir Guerrero’s bat and then off Soriano’s head, ricocheting all the way to the dugout.’ Though counterintuitive, the distance the ball traveled after ricocheting off of Soriano’s head is actually a good sign: It showed that Soriano’s head had deflected the force of the blow rather than absorbing most of the energy. If the ball had made a dull impact and fallen near the mound it would have been a far more traumatic injury. It’s just one of those things where our reaction to the visible spectacle of the injury runs counter to the physics behind the impact.” Great points, P.M. It’s further proof that I have great readers–and smart ones!

  • Quick Cuts: Jim Thome did not play on Thursday after feeling his hamstring “grab” as he came out of the batter’s box. He’ll be re-evaluated daily … Ray Durham left Thursday’s game. There’s no world at deadline about the injury, so watch for more … Orlando Hernandez is expected back in the Mets rotation by the middle of next week. He’s been out with a tired arm … Placido Polanco thinks he can be back by mid-month. That’s aggressive, but possible, and would be a big help for the Tigers … Can’t wait to see some players respond to this
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