I’m on the road and using antiquated computer gear, so forgive me some brevity today. Mobile is a nice town, and aside from trying to remember how Windows 98 works, I’m glad to be here. We’re celebrating my grandmother’s 90th birthday, so sneaking down on her special day makes me glad that most of the time, UTK is completely mobile. I have my cell phone, and there’s bound to be wi-fi somewhere close. I’m just thankful that she’s healthy and happy, and that one of the perks of my job is the ability to do this alongside my passion for baseball. My grandmother asked me for years why I wasted time watching the Cubs. I still don’t have a good answer, but at least now I can show her this column and prove it wasn’t all time wasted.
Powered by the inspiration she’s given me, on to the injuries:
- Jason Schmidt was a known quantity coming into Los Angeles, a pitcher on the downside of his career–not the same guy that was dominating the league a few years back. The Dodgers signed him in large part because they felt that if anyone could keep him healthy, it would be their medical staff. The early results suggest nobody can do it, but at least Schmidt’s first injury is relatively minor, as he hits the DL with bursitis in his pitching shoulder, something that only rest and treatment will help. His mechanics seem to be trending down, largely due to adjustments he’s made to compensate for both lost velocity and pain. Schmidt will need to keep making this kind of tradeoff, probably hastening a decline. I don’t doubt his ability to come back from this episode, but I strongly doubt his ability to stay both healthy and effective for more than a short period.
- Felix Pie made his major league debut, doing things that Alfonso Soriano hasn’t been doing so well lately, like hitting and throwing. Pie doesn’t have the upside of Soriano, even adjusting for age, but he could supplant or at least shift Soriano in the near future. As it turns out, Soriano probably isn’t destined for the DL, saying that he thinks he’ll only miss the next few days. A return at the start of next week is more realistic, giving Pie time to get a look at The Show without being overwhelmed by pressure and expectation. Once Soriano’s hamstring is healthy, the Cubs and Lou Piniella will go back to trying to find the right configuration for their outfield talent.
- The Phillies had wondered if the weather was going to conspire against them all season, keeping Freddy Garcia from ever making his Philly debut. The weather finally cleared up enough to get him on the mound, but the results were mixed. The line score is decent enough, but his efficiency and control left something to be desired. Even for a first start back, Garcia’s lack of control is a particular source of concern. A pitcher coming off shoulder problems will, in most cases, have trouble with stamina and velocity, but Garcia instead showed a lack of command, which is often more an indication of elbow concerns. Sources say that Garcia was simply rusty, but I’ll reserve judgement on this until we see a few more starts. Watch for continued signs that there may be the start of a shoulder-to-elbow cascade, something that would be far worse for Garcia than the shoulder tendinitis he fought initially.
- More than a few of you e-mailed to ask what the difference was between a blister and a torn callus. Actually, most of you just wanted to know which was worse. The callus is worse, because it is what forms as a body’s adjustment to a different demand, such as on the fingers of guitar players. Sergio Mitre, like most pitchers, has developed calloses on his hands and fingers. Unlike recovery from a blister, it is going to take longer for the callus to re-form, though that doesn’t preclude him pitching in the interim. The more worrisome part of Mitre’s injury is that it occurred just one batter into his outing. Mitre has enough other problems that durability might be the one that pushes him out of consideration with the Marlins.
- Jered Weaver took the loss, but everything else was positive during his first start back. Aside from the mistake to Bobby Crosby that put three runs on the board, Weaver showed stamina, control, and the same type of stuff that dazzled the league last year. While I only got a look at highlights, it appeared that Weaver has not changed his mechanics at all in response to his shoulder problem, an approach that’s a bit of a mixed bag. If the problem is just chronic but transient tendinitis, the Angels now have a known issue that they can work to prevent or at least minimize as they have with this episode. Those wonky mechanics are a large part of Weaver’s effectiveness, so seeing them in place speaks well to that.
Quick Cuts: Scott Podsednik hits the DL with a groin strain. The good news is that it is not related in any way to his offseason hernia surgery … It’s beginning to look like Daisuke Matsuzaka has something else in common with Roger Clemens–lack of run support! … Rondell White should be back at the minimum, making the roster decisions even more interesting for Mssrs. Ryan and Gardenhire … Nick Swisher has been holding down center field for the past few series. At the end of spring training, he was the starting first baseman. How many other guys in that role could be shifted out and play a credible center? [Ed. note: What, since Lee Mazzilli? Good question…] Anyone want to try Doug Mientkiewicz, Derrek Lee, or maybe Albert Pujols out there?