I spent most of yesterday taking in my first game of the season (in person, of course). Assuming I get the feeling back in my feet, I’ll go to more this year. April baseball in the Midwest is why they invented the dome, and seeing “33” up on the scoreboard as the temperature, not Josh Hamilton‘s number, was a bit of a shock. Gusting winds that just bit into whatever exposed skin was there made it more of an “experience.” It was still good to get the first hot dog of the year, still nice to see Lou Piniella argue with an ump, and great to see a good crowd despite the weather. As baseball heads into the first weekend of the season, the injury queue is starting to fill up, so powered by Twitter, on to the injuries:
- The very first Daisuke Matsuzaka start will be analyzed all across the baseball world today, so by law I have to kick in my two cents. I saw the game on MLB.tv since I was on the road, and I liked what I saw. Matsuzaka was very consistent mechanically, settled himself, and didn’t show any pattern that I could find. I think what you saw from him in his first start is what you’ll see over the course of the season. He mixed his pitches well, though he used that sinking changeup less than I expected, and it seemed he laid off his splitter, perhaps saving a bit to show over his next few starts. Most interestingly, he showed no signs whatsoever of the fatigue that was reported last week. Lost in the Matsuzaka mania was an equally solid start by Zack Greinke, who matched Matsuzaka pitch for pitch over the course of the start. It was one of those games where it’s a shame someone had to lose, and a matchup I think we’ll look back on at the end of the season and say “wow, those two had it going from the beginning of the season, didn’t they?” My mechanical analysis of Matsuzaka is still available on MLB.com (dated 4/4, in the right-hand column), so be sure to check that out.
- The panic seems to have passed in St. Louis, as Chris Carpenter was cleared to begin working towards his next start. The Cardinals have juggled their rotation to cover the start he’ll miss this weekend, with the plan being to slot him back in on Tuesday. Most of the descriptions of what’s going on with Carpenter, including this one from Matthew Leach, have the anti-inflammatories getting the range of motion back in Carpenter’s arm. The symptoms match up well with bone chips, so the worst-case scenario is a recurrence of this type of situation that necessitates surgery. Carpenter has had bone chips removed from this elbow before, so a recurrence is almost expected. The team is doing a bit of ostriching on this in not taking an MRI, but in part that could be because they have a solid diagnosis and plan. Other pitchers, such as Kelvim Escobar and Johan Santana, have come back from this type of problem quickly, and Escobar is probably the best comp here.
- Kids down in Single-A Lake Elsinore got to start the season a bit differently, facing Bartolo Colon on Opening Night in Cucamonga. (I’m sorry, every time I say Cucamonga, I want to make a Bugs Bunny joke.) Colon showed no difficulty during his four innings, either from a lineup that included former #1 pick Matt Bush or from his own balky shoulder. While I didn’t get reports on his velocity, the effectiveness, even against a High-A lineup, is still impressive. Colon is definitely on track, even ahead of schedule, for his return to the Angels‘ rotation. He’s scheduled to make one more start for the Quakes, then one at Triple-A before coming off of the DL. Jered Weaver is scheduled to start Friday night for the Quakes and is on a more accelerated schedule to get back to Anaheim.
- When he was being shopped as a free agent, Johnny Damon was touted for having never gone on the DL. It was one of those bullet points that got brought up more by the media than by teams, who realized that Damon was one of those players who could play through the inevitable dings. Damon also learned to pull back a little, never becoming injury-prone because of dives, slides, and needless risk. Eventually, those small dings add up, and as a player ages, playing through those small things becomes less of an option without risking more of a hit to performance. Damon’s now facing his first trip to the DL after 12 years in the league; the cramps in his calves were in fact a strain, at least in the right calf. He’s resisting a move, hoping to be back quicker than 15 days, but the Yankee have nobody on the bench to provide depth in the outfield while Melky Cabrera takes Damon’s place in the lineup. A decision will be made by Saturday.
- I don’t have to do my whole speech on why we need new protective equipment for pitchers, do I? We got another reason why on Thursday when Mark Buehrle took a hard shot off of his forearm. The visual was very reminiscent of C.C. Sabathia last week. X-rays were negative, though I’m sure Buehrle still felt it. The question now is if Buehrle can come back for his next start and not show any negative effects. Again, we’ll look at Sabathia, who was able to make his next scheduled start after getting hit and was effective against the White Sox. If the White Sox got any positives out of their opening series, they probably have to do with Nick Masset, who looked great in two outings filling in for Buehrle and Jose Contreras after both veterans had to leave their starts early. In other news, the White Sox are also more positive on the chance of getting Toby Hall back. Despite a labrum tear that sources say was likely a pre-existing condition, Hall is rehabbing and has a solid shot to make it back without surgery. He’s still just a backup catcher, but in deep leagues, he might be worth stashing.
- The Diamondbacks have a very flexible roster, so despite some minor and major injuries, they’ve been able to adjust on the fly without much problem. Of course, there’s a breaking point for even the best-planned squad, one that usually occurs with injuries to places where a club was already relying on its depth. Scott Hairston will miss a couple games after fouling a ball off his knee; with Carlos Quentin out, Hairston was being counted on in the outfield. This isn’t significant as injuries go, but it will cost him some at-bats and force the team down another rung on the depth chart. It’s a similar situation with Stephen Drew, who has a mild strain of his quad that the team is being cautious with. Alberto Callaspo filled in for Drew last night; filling in here and there is something you’ll see a lot of as Bob Melvin tries to find at-bats for Callaspo.
Quick Cuts: Mike Timlin had no problems throwing an innning at Triple-A Pawtucket. He’ll “start” one game this weekend, and be back in Boston in time for next week’s home opener … Anibal Sanchez really seemed to tire in the sixth inning. Watch for this to keep happening, given some of his spring shoulder problems … Jon Lester made his first start for Gabe Kapler‘s Single-A Greensville squad. He had a nice performance to begin his comeback with, but he’ll have to make a couple more before moving up. There’s no timetable to get him to Boston yet … Wow, this sounds familiar … J.C. Bradbury wrote something I agree with … Andy Pettitte was on a pitch count due to the cold temperature in Yankee Stadium, which is why he came out so early in last night’s loss … Freddy Sanchez will have at least one more game at Triple-A. I’m hoping to talk to him tonight … Ramon Hernandez is doubtful for the Yankees series beginning tonight; it looks like he’s headed for the DL … Rocco Baldelli was held out of Thursday’s game due to the temperature. Look for a lot of that as we have some chilly games around the league this weekend.