I try to read and respond to all the email I get, but due to what’s going on here, I was out of touch with what was really going on. If you sent me an email asking for an immediate answer, you probably got a quick response at best, telling you that I was out of touch. If you sent in a bigger email, with an idea or concept, I probably asked you to re-send at a later date. I know you understand. Even better, I’ve been able to stay in touch (who knew that hospitals had wi-fi?) with several sources, who were both making sure I had the info I needed for the column, as well as being both good people and friends. It’s times like these where I realize just how much I need both–the sources and the readers, so thank you to both.
Powered by Tivo, on to the injuries:
The Cubs still aren’t exactly sure what’s wrong with Aramis Ramirez. Even after he visited a hand specialist, all the Cubs know (or admit knowing) is that there’s no fracture or structural damage. Be careful with this word, because the definition of “structural” can be a bit shifty. We know that Ramirez had a cortisone injection to deal with swelling, so there’s some sort of inflammation or irritation in there. With the Cubs saying they expect Ramirez in the lineup on Tuesday, we’ll need to be watching for bat control problems initially; no one I spoke to seems terribly concerned. It’s something of a wait and see situation, for when Ramirez gets back on the field.
The comparison of Travis Hafner‘s knee injury to David Ortiz‘ is looking more and more apt. Hafner isn’t ready to play, but it looks like he’ll be able to avoid surgery for now. Just as Ortiz struggled a bit (and then got a secondary injury on top of it), Hafner is going to have an adjustment period. It’s not just the running, it’s the feeling he gets when batting. The injury doesn’t appear to be something that’s chronic, so while some feel that this might explain the “down year,” it doesn’t. The one knock on Hafner has always been that he’s slow to adjust. We’ll see if that factors into this situation.
Paul Lo Duca seems to spend a lot of time angry. Whether it’s the press, the opposition, or getting placed on the DL, Lo Duca is earning his nickname. Lo Duca has been dealing with a strained hamstring for a couple of weeks now, but he argued his way onto the field for Tom Glavine‘s 300th win, and has had limited availability before and since. Without that sort of stubbornness, he could have been put on the DL retroactively going back to the end of July, but now he’s starting pretty much from scratch. The strain hasn’t healed much, in large part due to Lo Duca’s reluctance to admit how much of a problem he had.
The Mets will also be watching for how Pedro Martinez comes out in his scheduled start on Tuesday. The key for his second rehab gig will be his velocity in the first inning. The biggest concern now is how he recovers, so the team will be looking for him to be in the upper 80s to know that he’s able to stay in a steady state on normal rest.
Let’s hear it for specificity. Dave Roberts is out with a strained popliteus muscle. I can’t remember ever hearing a specific muscle referenced like this, so I’m giving the San Francisco medical staff a gold star, Jerry Coleman-style. Roberts injured the muscle on a slide and could exacerbate the injury with too much running. The Giants showed just how careful they’re being when they lifted Roberts for a pinch-runner–Noah Lowry! Roberts doesn’t look like he’s headed for the DL, but they will hold him out until they feel it’s safe to cut him loose again.
As the Angels still comfortably lead the AL West, but injuries have sapped them a bit, and they’ve probably never had the team that Mike Scioscia pictured available to him. I think this is more an issue of the integration of young players than the transient nature of injuries. The fact is, they’re still winning despite these issues, and the team might actually be at its healthiest by September 1, as long as they can avoid adding new injuries to the ledger. Mike Napoli is ready to come back, finally at full strength after a run of leg injuries; he’ll be in the lineup by midweek, followed shortly by Howie Kendrick. Kendrick will start a rehab assignment today, and once again, we’ll be watching for his bat control–it took nearly a month to get back to “normal” after his last hand injury.
The Tigers are treading water, getting just enough to stay ahead of the Indians, but as Brad Wochomurka pointed out over a week ago on “Rundown,” the starting pitching has been the problem. Since Kenny Rogers went down, the team has struggled, taxing the bullpen. However, both injured starters–Rogers and Andrew Miller–are getting closer to a return. Both had successful side sessions and appear to be closer to rehab assignments, though there’s no solid timetable for either of them. The picture’s much clearer for Joel Zumaya–he’ll head out for a three-appearance rehab assignment this week in Toledo, and come back to the parent club next week. If he’s available on your waiver wire, it’s time to grab him. He’s throwing hard, and that was the only question.
He’s batting ninth in an NL lineup, so it’s hard to imagine that Adam Kennedy is going to be hard to replace for the Cardinals. The second baseman will miss more than a month after tearing the meniscus in his right knee. The team will shuffle things around a bit, but it’s all the red ink already on their depth chart that makes replacing Kennedy so tough. Aaron Miles is outhitting him–something not that hard to do–but isn’t as much of a defensive asset. What’s tough is that the shuffling has left the bench essentially empty (or at replacement level). The Cardinals have been lucky in that while they have a lot of injuries, they haven’t been stacked with multiple injuries at the same position at the same time.
Watching the Reds–Padres game yesterday, I wasn’t surprised when David Ross got plowed by Mike Cameron on a close play at the plate. It was not–as the Reds announcer implied–a dirty play. Cameron didn’t explode into him; he just dropped a shoulder rather than sliding, an accepted but dangerous play. Ross got the worst of it when Cameron’s shoulder caught him on the chin of his goalie mask. It was driven back into his jaw and popped up and off his head. As Ross dropped, it was clear on the replays that his eyes closed, but it was also clear on the original play that Ross did what many trainers call “locking out.” The arms seize and go rigid, often directly in front of the body at chest level. When that occurs, the player has lost consciousness and by definition is now in Grade II on the concussion scale. So after several minutes passed with Ross on the ground, then slowly sitting up, and finally coming to his feet and making a couple wobbly steps, how did the trainers decide to let him stay in the game? Ross made it through the inning, but the risk he took–being in a situation where the ball was coming at him at 90mph and the concussion could easily have been exacerbated–makes me wonder what the trainers saw there.
Data point #371 in what is sure to be one of the big Athletics fan site debates of the offseason–what caused the A’s to go from one of the healthiest teams in the league over the last five years to one trailing almost everyone this season? One-year flukes happen, but they’re seldom this big or this drastic. The flukes are more likely to bring a team from the top down to the middle or the bottom up to midpack, though occasionally due to the way DL day stats run, a couple early season-enders can skew things. Nick Swisher is the latest injury, leaving Sunday’s game with a sore hamstring. The A’s have caught injuries early like this and still not seen any benefit; it’s as if there’s a voodoo doll somewhere with someone’s face on it. The A’s are going to have to figure out how to fix the problem, but I’ll be honest: I don’t have any idea how they’ll do it.
Quick Cuts: Happy birthday to my dad, and thank you all for the continued thoughts and prayers for my mother. … Anyone notice that Kevin Gregg has 26 saves? There’s one of these every year. … Homer Bailey is in Florida at the Reds complex, rehabbing his groin strain. Word from sources is that he is extremely unlikely to come up before September roster expansion. … A.J. Burnett was activated for a Sunday start. He had a solid outing, going 7 1/3 innings before hitting his 90-pitch limit. He showed decent command and the only knock on his start was that he looked “tentative, nervous” according to an observer. … Hank Blalock is making progress, but don’t expect to see him back before September expansion. He’ll need to start a rehab assignment in the next week to make it back at the start of the month, and that doesn’t look likely. … Kosuke Fukudome had arthroscopic surgery on his elbow. While no diagnosis has been made public, the symptoms point to bone chips. That means he could be back in time to get the necessary service in to be a free agent. That’s a lot of money on the line, so he should be motivated.