There’s just enough in the way of injuries to drop in a special Saturday UTK, so let’s get right to the injuries, powered by nothing more than enthusiasm for this weekend’s action-who could possibly need anything more than that?:
About three-quarters of my email volume yesterday had to do with Clay Buchholz, and that was just the internal BP emails. The decision to shut down Buchholz isn’t one based on innings, PAP, increases, or a Magic 8-ball. It was the product of physical fact. Paul Lessard and Mike Reinold, the Sox trainers, do a series of baseline tests on each pitcher. While I’m not privy to the full extent of these tests, knowing that Reinold was one of Kevin Wilk’s top assistants at Champion Sports Medicine in Birmingham gives me some ideas. If you’ve seen Cybex testing at the NFL Combine, you probably have some idea. The fact is that Buchholz is being shut down not on a theory or on hunch, but on the comparison of his current measured function versus that of previously measured function. That functionality combined with both medical knowledge and with the teams current needs led to this move. Kudos to the Red Sox for making an informed decision.
The Red Sox also got a nice first outing back from Hideki Okajima. Okajima has been tested the same way that Buchholz was, and he appears to be back in the safety zone. Both he and fellow Japanese pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka hit a wall in August. It’s interesting and perhaps meaningful that both pitchers, one a starter and one a reliever, both wore down at about the same time despite vastly different workloads and vastly differing workouts. If there is in fact a multiplier for leveraged relief innings, the comparability between Okajima and Matsuzaka might act as something of a key to understanding the similarities, instead of merely seeing the statistical differences. It’s also something to watch out for in next year’s crop of Japanese imports, a group that could be much more valuable given the weak free agent class.
Cole Hamels looked great while pitching the Phillies into first place. This is a very positive sign, showing that his last (first) outing coming back from his elbow problem was more a matter of finding his release point than any lingering issue with the joint’s health. The ligament’s durability is certainly something that makes him riskier in the long term, but this performance shows that n the short term Hamels can still be the ace that the Phillies need. The best sign is the repeatability of his odd back leg follow-through. While it’s hardly ideal mechanically, that high “kick” is also one of the easiest things to visually key on when checking his delivery.
While the Phillies got their ace back, the Mets lost their captain. In what could end up his final game as a Met, Paul Lo Duca left Friday’s game with a bruised knee. He took a hard foul off the inside of his left knee off of the bat of Hanley Ramirez, and hobbled off the field. (Here’s a thought-do hitters that generate more power do so on foul balls as well?) Lo Duca was seeing almost immediate swelling, and showed some pain and lack of range of motion later, but on the other hand, he’s precisely the type of player that will attempt to play through it. He likely spent much of his Friday night in the training room or covered in ice. To make matters worse, Lo Duca and the Mets play the earliest Saturday game, giving him less time to try and recover.
The Rockies have won a lot of games while Wily Taveras has been out with a quad strain. He’ll run Saturday to try and test the leg. The Rockies now have a very long longshot at reaching the playoffs, but having Taveras and his defense/speed combo would help if they do. While he’s extremely unlikely to play over the weekend, the medical staff will continue working on him to try and get him ready for the playoffs.
Quick Cuts: Gary Sheffield has been shut down, and faces offseason shoulder surgery. … Kameron Loe will have chips cleaned out of his elbow this offseason. … Corey Patterson has finally been shut down, as has Chuck James to complete the season’s run of the shutdown list.