Injuries are never an excuse. Yes, they’re often used that way, whether it’s a GM shrugging his shoulders and saying it’s a “part of the game,” or if it’s the guy in your fantasy league saying he would have won if it wasn’t for this injury or that injury, I say … well, I can’t say it here but it rhymes with “fullship”. Injuries are an easy excuse, but planning and design overcome them nearly every time. Rosters adjust, depth bubbles up, and teams follow the plan if they hope to win. The Yankees are doing that now, but the one thing they couldn’t plan for was the early season problem of Mariano Rivera. As with their rivals in Boston, there was no “Plan B” to their ace closer. (Sure, the Red Sox tried, but the fact was that none of them approached the efficacy of Jonathon Papelbon. That reminds me, what happened to that “special thing” they saw in Joel Pineiro?) Replacing Rivera is impossible and up until this week, unnecessary. I don’t know how many people have asked me this week if Rivera is injured. I have no evidence that he is, though he often has these types of weeks just before his annual trip to the shelf. If injuries are never an excuse, the Yankees won’t use this as one.

Powered by seeing two gyroballers pitching this weekend, on to the injuries:

  • Rangers fans cringed a bit as Eric Gagne limped off the field Sunday. Was it his back? An associated hamstring strain? No, it was none of the above. According to reports, Gagne has a mild strain of his hip flexor on his push side. The injury will only hold him out for a couple days, and it shouldn’t be the start of some cascade for the Rangers’ closer. While any injury that could affect Gagne’s mechanics is concerning, the decision to hold him out appears to be more of a precautionary move made by Gagne in concert with the medical staff. As much as anyone, Gagne realizes now that the small things are often what leads to the big things. Given his contracts incentives and his desire to cash in on a solid comeback, his being a bit cautious now is the smart play.
  • It wasn’t a very good day for the A’s. My phone pinged me Sunday afternoon, telling me that Rotowire had noted that Milton Bradley appeared to aggravate his hamstring in the game. Whoever noted that was right–Bradley appears headed to the DL with a recurrent strain, one that will mix up the outfield situation in Oakland yet again. For what it’s worth, the re-injury happened on a hustle play as Bradley legged out an infield hit. Adding to Oakland’s troubles is that Rich Harden won’t make his anticipated (but not scheduled) Tuesday start. Instead, Harden will try to get on the mound Tuesday for a side session, the final test in his rehab. Assuming that goes well, Harden should slot back in over the weekend. In his absence, lefty Brad Halsey will be called up to take the start for the A’s.
  • People seem to want to put Andy Marte somewhere next to Ryan Anderson and Jackie Rexrode on the BP prospect mistake list. However, he’s still just 23, and while his negative VORP early in the season isn’t a good thing, he’s still above guys like Joe Crede and everybody’s All-American, Alex Gordon. Marte is day-to-day with a mild hamstring strain, something that won’t help the perception of his bustitude, but shy of moving Casey Blake back to third, Marte’s locked in at third base for the Indians, something that I think they won’t regret come season’s end. Marte’s likely to miss a couple days with the muscle strain, but the DL doesn’t seem a possibility. The Indians should also get Cliff Lee back in the rotation this weekend after he makes one last rehab start.
  • Lots of catcher injuries this weekend, but generally, injuries are to be expected given the demands of the job. Jorge Posada and Wil Nieves both took shots off the hand. I cannot believe Joe Morgan didn’t note that Nieves got his thumb stuffed by the ball which forced him out–it was clear on replays. Brian McCann took a similar shot in Atlanta’s game Sunday, and will miss a couple days while his hand heals up a bit. These types of injuries are a part of the game, and you’ll notice that catchers quickly get through them, and it makes what Joe Mauer did last season, and what Mike Piazza has done in his career, that much more impressive. And people still ask me why I drafted Mauer and McCann in the first four rounds of a fantasy draft!
  • The timetable is fluid right now for Felix Hernandez. Shut down for five to seven days after straining his elbow, Hernandez is at the end of that, and is now scheduled to throw on the side by mid-week, and in the pen by the weekend. There’s speculation that the next step would be a quick trip to Tacoma, but that would be the most aggressive rehab schedule possible, and even given the minor nature of the injury in relative terms, it would surprise me to see the Mariners allowing their prized pitcher to come back that quickly. In essence, they would be saying that Hernandez’s strain was a fluke, a one-time occurrence that needed nothing more than a bit of rest and a dab of treatment, with little or no mechanical change. That might be true and it might make them feel better, but if you thought Mariners fans were in a panic last week, imagine what they’ll be like if there’s a quick recurrence.
  • The Cardinals have made do with a makeshift lineup and stayed in the mediocre mix of the NL Central despite an uncharacteristic slump from Albert Pujols. Pujols and Scott Rolen look to get some help soon with the return of Juan Encarnacion. The outfielder will head to Double-A Springfield after hitting a couple home runs in extended spring training games. Assuming he hits at Springfield, it looks as if Encarnacion could be back with the Cards sometime later this week, so it’s worth checking the waiver wires to see if you can help your fantasy team. The Cards will also be watching closely this week when Chris Carpenter starts a throwing program. Scheduled to begin Tuesday, the Cards ace is still weeks away from a return, and John Perrotto noted that some in the organization think Carpenter will still need in-season surgery for those chips.
  • Any concern that the LCL sprain was going to de-stabilize Ryan Howard and sap some power went away with one swing of the bat on Sunday. Howard showed no sign of problem when he launched a long sac fly, but really put an exclamation point on his comeback by homering in the ninth. While I only saw the highlights, there didn’t appear to be any sort of change in his swing, and Howard certainly wasn’t “arming it” in what I saw. While the problem is there and will be for a while, it didn’t look as if Howard had any sort of bracing in place to help, something that tells us that the Phillies aren’t too concerned about the knee’s stability either. I think we can go ahead and consider Howard fully back at this stage.
  • The Orioles are learning firsthand how slow-healing and frustrating an oblique strain can be. Ramon Hernandez has been close for about a week, but each time he and the team think he’s about to get back in the lineup, the catcher feels something in his side, and the return is pushed back yet again. Being able to hit is the problem for Hernandez, and the fact that they’ve been willing to go without him behind the plate for so long is interesting, in that he was supposed to be a key part of the Mazzone makeover for the rotation, having been thought to be a key part of the Oakland’s success with a relatively young rotation a few years back. Hernandez is going to have to prove he’s healthy with a couple of rehab games in the minors before he’s activated.

Quick Cuts: Dear Jon Miller. I love listening to you call a game, but you sounded like your partner when you compared a gyroball to a foshball. I’m going to send you a copy of The Neyer/James Guide to Pitchers. I think you’ll enjoy it. And the gyro? That’s what Alex Rodriguez watched go by for a strikeout in the fifth … Don’t expect Jason Schmidt to be on the DL much past the minimum … The Pirates will make a decision on Xavier Nady late Monday or Tuesday. They hope that he can avoid the DL with treatment … Brad Wilkerson should be available mid-week after recovering from knee problems. If he’s not ready then, that’s when they’ll consider the DL … Toby Hall is hitting again, and looks to start a rehab assignment in the next few weeks. He’d be a nice upgrade for the Sox … I’m still a couple hours behind on “24,” but I’m noticing that while it’s jumped the shark this season, it can still have good moments. I’m wondering if the re-set they do each season might give it a second life … Watch for news on Coco Crisp. While he played as a defensive replacement Sunday night, he wasn’t in the starting lineup due to some oblique tightness … Word from Arizona is that Kerry Wood might begin throwing next week, but that there’s no timetable for his return. The same lack of a timetable is the case for Mark Prior, who’s waiting to see Jim Andrews.