Thank you to all for your thoughts and prayers yesterday. I hope they were of some use and I’ll ask for them again. Powered by the best readers in the world, on to the injuries:
- The details on what exactly is wrong with Travis Hafner are being held close to the vest by the Indians, but the symptoms don’t look good, especially for the short term. Hafner not only couldn’t play on Thursday, he couldn’t run on the knee and had a decided limp. He had left Wednesday’s game with what was called “tightness,” so the best guess at this stage is that he’s torn some cartilage in the knee, rather than some sort of ligament injury, which would lead to laxity rather than tightness. The injury occurred on a slide, and review of the play doesn’t give any more clue as to the specific nature of the injury. The Indians are contemplating an MRI, but much like David Ortiz, if this is a torn meniscus, it’s possible to manage the injury and delay surgery until the off-season or beyond. It will be a matter of whether the Indians medical staff can stabilize and minimize the injury and whether Hafner can be effective playing through the problem.
- The Brewers got the news they’d feared after an MRI on the knee of Tony Graffanino. It’s a torn ACL and he’s done for the season. He’ll have surgery and should be back for spring training, though there’s a surprisingly small number of players that have had this problem. Given the nature of his position, there’s no reason he shouldn’t be able to come back, though there will probably be some small erosion of his range. Whether that’s enough to push him out of his middle infield option is probably what will decide his value and career going forward. I’m positive on him, though he’s not likely on many keeper lists anyway. Rickie Weeks will have to hold the position now if the Brewers are going to hang on to their chances.
- I’ve often been accused of being both a homer for the Cubs and of always being down on them. They probably go hand in hand more than you’d know. So I’ll surprise everyone and be a bright ray of sunshine for the Wrigleyville residents today–Alfonso Soriano isn’t likely to miss much beyond the minimum. As we said just after the injury, it was probably the best possible scenario aside from Soriano not being hurt at all. The quad strain is healing nicely and while the minimum is pushing it a bit, Soriano is good at not overextending himself. I mean that in a nice way, that he’s smart enough not to push things so far as to reinjure himself. (Who was it that criticized him for not hustling earlier this year, not realizing he was under orders not to run hard?) Even at far less than full-go, Soriano can help the ballclub, though his status as leadoff man might be the bigger question.
- Bob Wickman is scheduled to have an MRI on his forearm. Sources tell me this is more of a “ruleout” MRI than one where they’re looking for a specific diagnosis. Wickman flew back to Atlanta to meet with Dr. Joe Chandler and is expected to rejoin the team on Friday. Even if nothing is found, Wickman’s lingering soreness will likely lead to the Braves spreading around the saves. While Oscar Villarreal picked up the save on Thursday, Rafael Soriano and the newly acquired Octavio Dotel will likely get opportunities as well. The Braves are also reportedly active making claims, hoping to pick up a bit more help off the waiver wire.
- Scott Spiezio stepped aside on Wednesday, telling the team he was having some problems. It’s not my place to do anything more than report that Spiezio and the team are committed to getting him the help that he needs and was man enough to ask for. Spiezio was placed–as per policy–on the restricted list, allowing the team to get roster relief by calling up Rick Ankiel. You can call it fate or irony and either would be correct, but the story gets a bit of a happy ending as Ankiel hit a home run in his debut game, at least as a hitter. Spiezio, we hope, can get the same sort of happy ending, one that will last a lifetime. Behind the scenes of baseball are a lot of people with problems, but there’s also a whole network of people in place to help them. It’s an underreported story of just how much EAP personnel do for sports teams.
- As Spiezio exits, Josh Hamilton is closer to a return. The Reds continue to keep the pace of his return slow for no apparent reason. More than one emailer asked why the Reds would want to make the typical Rule 5 move of “hiding” someone on the DL with a player as talented as Hamilton when the team really has no better option. It’s one thing to do it with Adam Stern when Boston was loaded, but do the Reds really believe that Norris Hopper is a better option than Hamilton? Reds sources tell me that the team is convinced they are doing the right thing for Hamilton, making sure that he’s absolutely ready to return and that there’s no pressure. Also, we have to remember that Hamilton is being helped by Johnny Narron, brother of the ex-manager, and that could be an awkward situation. Hamilton will be back, but no one’s in a rush.
- Nate Silver has done more work on career patterns than anyone I know, but this one thing is common sense–speed players seldom age well unless they have at least one other skill. Given that Dave Roberts is still playing at age 35, he’s made it longer than most and will always have that World Series ring. Over the past couple seasons, though, he’s grown more and more injury prone, with everything from minor leg problems to his elbow surgery to a sprained sternoclavicular joint. Yeah, when you get into the sixteen letter words, it’s not a common injury. Roberts’ latest is pretty straightforward–he banged his shin into the shin of Nats catcher Jesus Flores, who was wearing shinguards. You can imagine who won that battle. While things didn’t look that significant aside from the initial pain and likely bruising, we’ll have to see how Roberts recovers from this. The bigger worry is that he’d change his gait due to the pain and end up straining a muscle. The Giants have the OFs to cover for a few days’ absence, but with Barry Bonds needing regular days off, it could force the Giants to make a roster move.
- Remember Alejandro De Aza? He was a nice story out of spring training, winning the Marlins CF job over … umm, a couple guys who were worse than De Aza for a couple weeks. De Aza didn’t last long, spraining an ankle and missing four months. Yes, four months, which takes “slow healing” to new levels and likely throws off my database’s expected recovery times for years to come. De Aza was back in the lineup on Wednesday and, given all the time he had, I’m glad he showed no signs of continued problems. Now that he’s healthy, he’ll have to hold on to his job by producing.
Ryan Braun may have passed Hunter Pence for the Rookie of the Year a while ago, but that shouldn’t minimize Pence’s phenomenal season or his value to the Astros. Pence is making progress coming back from his broken wrist and is starting to take swings. A normal timetable for his return would put him back towards the end of the month, but there are a couple factors here. First, the team is going to be completely sure about his health before putting him back onto the field, to minimize the risk of re-injury. As we’ve seen with Rickie Weeks and others, wrist injuries can linger. Second, Pence and the Astros still believe he has a chance at Rookie of the Year and want to give him every chance to play for that. The two things are almost diametrically opposed, so it will be interesting to see how this plays out. I’d lean to the second, because Pence himself is going to be pushing to return. The Astros have to remember that Pence is a key not only now, but for the next several years.
Quick Cuts: Chris Young made his start Thursday and didn’t show any problem with his strained oblique. He was a bit off his game, showing some rust and command issues which should be easily fixed … Brian Fuentes is finally ready to start his rehab, but don’t be surprised if there are problems. This is very similar to the injury that plagued Ben Sheets for two years … Speaking of Sheets, he’s throwing, but very lightly. As of now, he’s well behind the pace necessary to get him back by Sept 1 … Adam Everett is making some progress and could be back by the end of the month. As with many players, the pace of his comeback will depend in large part on the team’s record … Rodrigo Lopez has been pushed to the 60-day DL and will need surgery to repair the flexor tendon in his pitching arm.
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