Powered by BP Events across the country, let’s just jump right into the injuries:
The Angels have a playoff spot locked up, but not much else seems to be going right for the team. Vladimir Guerrero got into the game, only to get hit by a pitch. Kelvim Escobar made it through a side session, putting him on track for a weekend start, though one observer called the session “uninspiring.” The Angels will wait to see how Escobar pitches in game action before making a decision on where or even if he’ll slot into the LDS rotation. Anaheim has been hinting that it’ll go with a three-man rotation if needed, and then put Escobar back in the mix for the LCS should the squad advance. The Angels are also watching and waiting to see how Gary Matthews Jr. is a day after a minor knee injury. Combined with his recent ankle injury, it appears that Matthews is still a bit unstable out there. It’s affecting his defense more than his hitting, so expect him to be rested leading into the playoffs.
Nothing about Roger Clemens‘ situation is normal, except his injury. He doesn’t have a special hamstring, just the same one he’s had for years, perhaps the only part of him that’s showing his real age. Clemens has decamped to Tampa to work with the Yankees‘ best rehab specialists, and to make sure that his mechanics aren’t too far out of whack. In addition, the move keeps him a bit out of sight, making him a “weapon X” coming into the playoffs. Now that the Yankees have locked up their playoff spot and decided that Clemens will be a part of the playoff rotation in place of Ian Kennedy, they have several more days to get him ready and figure out how to deploy him. This still looks a lot like the 2005 playoffs for Clemens, at least from my vantage point.
Johnny Estrada is going to try and play through his torn meniscus as long as the Brewers are still in the race. The team will watch him closely to make sure that the tear gets no worse, though actually playing through the injury isn’t that big a deal; David Ortiz has been doing this all season.
The bigger concern for the Brewers right now is trying to decide whether Ben Sheets will be ready for his scheduled Friday start. His hamstring was still tight during a recent side session, leaving the team with a determination to make on whether Sheets at less than 100 percent is better than the other options they have. Finishing the season fighting the Padres head-to-head is a tough assignment, especially at less than full strength. Look for Sheets to get out on the mound, but don’t expect miracles.
The news on Mike Cameron is shifting as quickly as the moods of Milton Bradley. Initially, it was thought that the lack of visible damage was a positive, then he was found to have a torn ligament involving his thumb, and now there’s a chance that he’ll be able to play sometime during the playoffs, assuming that the Padres get there. The Padres could certainly use whatever Cameron could give them, though he might be most valuable to the team as a defensive replacement. I’ll admit that I have no insight as to the real condition of Cameron’s hand–sources are either clamming up, or simply don’t know any more than is public. I’ll keep an eye on the situation to try and find out the real story.
The Padres are more encouraged by the side work of Greg Maddux, who’s become a pet project of Bud Black. It’s funny to hear a Hall of Famer becoming a project, but like Chris Young, Maddux has had a hard time finding his release point after a core injury. Black noticed a small mechanical change during Maddux’s last outing and was able to suggest a correction.
The Mets bullpen is in full breakdown mode, making the el Duque sighting its first good news in a while. Orlando Hernandez made a surprise appearance last night, and showed that at least for now the foot isn’t a problem. Willie Randolph indicated that seeing Hernandez in the bullpen isn’t a one-time thing, that it might be both the only way to keep him healthy while also providing a quick fix for the weak front end of the relief corps. However, the back of the bullpen is being crushed by the injuries and ineffectiveness of Billy Wagner. Between his sore back and “dead arm,” Wagner’s been out of whack for most of September. On Wednesday, his release point was inconsistent and his velocity was off. For Mets fans, that pair of problems represents two of the four horsemen.
A source sent me a text saying “Betancourt having MRI on elbow.” My next call was to a source who knows the Indians, but the original source is on the West Coast. That was my mistake–while Rafael Betancourt is fine, Yuniesky Betancourt will have an MRI on his throwing elbow. Termed a precautionary move by the Mariners, the timing of the test–after the M’s were eliminated–jibes with that claim. Since most of Betancourt’s errors have been of the throwing variety this year, it will be interesting to find out just how long this has been affecting him.
The Pirates will finish the season without Freddy Sanchez, whose injury-filled year has been a disappointment following his amazing 2006. While dropping 30 points across his slash stats isn’t something to be embarrassed about, it hasn’t been a season that will go to the top of his resume. One of the things that held Sanchez back is a sore shoulder, which will be taken care of with a ‘scoping on Friday. The cleanup should help free up his swing a bit, and the recovery won’t hold back any offseason activities. His hitting more than makes up for his defense at second base, and he should be one of the better parts on the 2008 Buccos.
Quick Cuts: The boys over at Squawking Baseball have an ambitious idea; it’s worth checking out. … Nats starter Shawn Hill will have surgery on his throwing elbow this week, then on his non-throwing shoulder in a couple of weeks. The surgeries are separated so that he’ll always have one usable arm; he’s expected to be ready for spring training. … Edgar Gonzalez will have his start pushed back to the weekend to allow more time for a blister to heal. … Lyle Overbay had screws removed from his hand and will be ready for spring training. … The Dodgers will shut down Brad Penny rather than risk anything happening in his last, meaningless start. There’s an interesting Dodgers-Twins rumor circulating too.