Real life has been intruding on baseball a bit much lately. We all got the shock of Jon Lester‘s diagnosis, one that hit home for me and for many in the Red Sox organization. The yellow “Livestrong” band I wear isn’t just in support of cancer research; it’s because that research is the reason I’m here. Like Lester, I had a form of non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma nearly a decade ago, so I know exactly what he and his family are going through. He has a strong family, I’m told, and a strong support system in Boston, where Curt Schilling understands the effects of cancer and where Larry Lucchino is a cancer survivor himself. Lester will get the best of care and has a great shot at overcoming this challenge, but it should remind us why things like the Jimmy Fund are so important. Baseball holds a special place in the American consciousness, one that can be used to further many things. I am sure that the Red Sox and the rest of the league will make the best of this situation. If you’re reading, Jon, I’ll give you the advice Kevin Goldstein gave me back in 1997: kick cancer’s ass.

Powered by one of my favorite charities, on to the injuries:

  • Just the term sounds painful: “Intrascrotal hematoma.” I hope I don’t need to spell this out for you, but suffice it to say that this is among the most painful injuries possible. Michael Barrett had to have surgery to keep the pressure from building up and damaging the merchandise more. Barrett is done for the season, and I can only hope that he’s fine in the long term and that a lasting memory of searing pain is the only consequence.

  • Is he or isn’t he? Huston Street wasn’t activated at the minimum as expected this weekend, but there are varying reports on how he’s actually progressing. Some reports have him still sore and tentative while others have him ready as soon as Friday. Street threw from the mound Monday and is scheduled to toss a sim game on Wednesday (remember: rehab games are pretty much over now). Street looks likely to be activated by the weekend despite the confusion. The A’s likely know exactly what to expect. The team is also thinking that Rich Harden may be back sooner than expected. Harden moved up to the mound without a problem and, assuming he can do that a few more times, he’s likely to find himself in the bullpen. One new twist is that instead of acting as a setup man, the A’s are considering Harden for the playoff rotation. If so, he’d need to be worked up to a starter’s workload.

  • Francisco Liriano passed the first big test on Monday, throwing 78 pitches during a side session. He was able to mix in his whole repertoire, though one observer said he looked “tentative” on his slider, mixing it in less than normal. Liriano is now scheduled to pitch a sim game (not batting practice, as has been reported) on Wednesday. That would put him on track for a rehab start on Saturday, a game that would be Game Four of the IL playoffs. Given that sequence, Liriano would return to the Twins rotation on the following Thursday. He’d have about four more starts on the calendar, which could be the difference maker for the Twins.

  • Carlos Beltran made a heck of a catch in Houston and nearly paid a heck of a price. I’m not sure why there’s chain link where Beltran smashed his knee, just as I’m not sure why there was chain link on the fence where Aaron Rowand smashed his face. Apart from Wrigley Field, there’s no excuse as to why there isn’t adequate padding. Beltran’s knee stiffened up quickly, but has no structural damage. Once the swelling is gone, Beltran should be able to get back out on the field. He’ll have some limitations with mobility, but no long-term consequences. The Mets also saw Pedro Martinez back on a mound this weekend. His side session looked great according to team sources, though they’ll give Martinez plenty of time to heal up. He’s not expected back in the rotation until next week, putting him on track for another three or four starts before the playoffs.

  • The legs are always the first to go on a fighter. Last year, Roger Clemens ended his season hobbling off the mound in the World Series and then off into the sunset. Or so we thought. Back again, Clemens doesn’t seem to have as much to fight for, but this is Roger Clemens. The Astros still have a shot at the playoffs, so unless the groin strain is significant, Clemens is as likely to go out there and battle as he is to let Phil Garner skip him in the rotation next time around. Clemens has proven time and again that he can adjust to maintain effectiveness while injured, but he’s also shown a marked tendency to decline rapidly while trying to play through the injuries. Clemens still wants to go out with a bang, not a whimper.

  • Who on the Red Sox isn’t hurt? That might be easier than going though the ever-lengthening line on the way into the training room. The line did get shorter on Sunday with Manny Ramirez (patellar tendonitis), Trot Nixon (strained bicep), and Jason Varitek (knee surgery) all returning to the lineup. That leaves Curt Schilling at the head of the line. His strained lat, an injury that is showing up more and more with pitchers, looks to keep him out for at least his next start. Schilling should return unless the Sox fall further out of the playoff picture. Coco Crisp is nursing a sore left shoulder, while the shoulder of Jonathan Papelbon is still awaiting an MRI. Papelbon’s scheduled test was pushed back due to the holiday and not because of continued swelling as has been whispered.

  • The Cardinals continue to stumble towards another division title without Jim Edmonds and David Eckstein. Both didn’t travel with the team. Edmonds and his people are hoping that ten days off without any baseball activities might clear his head enough to get back in the game in late September. That would be plenty for him to tune it back up, though any return from a concussion is fraught with the possibility of setback. The news on David Eckstein is clearer, if not better. He’s making no progress with his strained left oblique, only able to play catch at short distances and even then with some pain. The team has enough of a lead to give Eckstein all the time he needs. His timeframe is, ideally, about the same as Edmonds’. Tony La Russa will use the next few weeks to sort out his team, trying to find matchups to escape that first playoff series against better teams.

  • If Ken Griffey Jr. makes it through the season with just a dislocated second toe on his right foot, that’s a win for the Reds medical staff. It won’t get him a comeback player award this time around, but it has kept the Reds in the wild card chase. Griffey collided with the wall chasing down a Barry Bonds HR ball. It’s painful but treatable; Griffey should miss a game or two at most.

  • The Padres need to be healthy to compete and Khalil Greene continues to get injured. His finger injury has not gotten better and was recently diagnosed as a grade II tear of a ligament in his left middle finger. The activation from the DL this weekend was confusing; remember that the DL is irrelevant in September and taking Greene off helps with some off-field technical issues. Greene won’t even attempt to swing for another ten days, though he’ll be available for defense. Things look bleak for his healthy return in 2006.

  • This Ryan Howard kid is pretty good, huh? I’m feeling more and more stupid about trading him (though I did get Prince Fielder and Miguel Cabrera in the deal). The slugger is carrying the Phillies while Chase Utley gets overlooked again. The Phillies are a great story on many levels, from Chris Coste‘s “Invincibile II” act to the rebirth of the team after the “dump trade” of Bobby Abreu. The team is dealing with another recurrence of Mike Lieberthal‘s troublesome back, something that’s become par for the course as he fades. There’s also a growing chance that Aaron Rowand will be available for the playoffs. Rowand had pins placed in his fractured ankle just last week, but he’s a full-go style player, so I’m unsure what he could contribute at this stage. Since the early season, Shane Victorino has been his equal, something many of you pointed out to me when I overstated Rowand’s importance to the team a week ago.

  • It’s not just Jon Lester getting scary news this week. Marcus Giles was told initially that he would need minor heart surgery to repair a dysfunctional valve. Instead of surgery, it appears Giles has some form of reflux disease. That’s a far cry from having a catheter threaded up from his groin into his heart to staple a valve. Giles won’t miss any time due to the injury; he’s been cleared to play by doctors. The news isn’t so good on Chipper Jones. His chronic oblique strain is acting up again and he’s possibly done for the season. A lot depends on the Braves’ position, but in any other year, their record would have them out of it. Jones presses himself into the lineup, so anything is possible.

  • Quick Cuts: The Giants are doing a research study on foul tips. This will be interesting to see just how many hits a catcher takes in a season. With Mike Matheny still out, it’s time to get serious about this problem. It should start with MLB writing a check … Carlos Zambrano left his start with a stiff back. Early reports indicate this isn’t serious, but we’ll keep an eye on it. According to the Trib’s Paul Sullivan, Zambrano states that he could be shut down … Things look bad for Casey Fossum. The lefty has a torn labrum and faces off-season surgery … Corey Patterson will miss this week after slamming his shoulder into the wall making a catch. Wall is still way ahead in this year’s battle with players … Thanks for all the feedback on “The Fantasy Show.” I’ll answer the three FAQs: yes, a show like this for baseball is possible, as we’d love to be year-round, covering all the major fantasy sports; yes, I could do the whole thirty minutes on injuries, but there’s so much more to the game; and yes, she is that hot in person.

Thank you for reading

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