With the 2008 season winding down and our new comment feature working, I want to try a little experiment. Over the last two weeks of the season, my e-mail box usually fills up with desperate requests for information by fantasy owners trying to squeeze out the last little bit of a title run, of playoff-bound fans trying to figure out their chances, and from a lot of insiders that are starting to collect information before they embark on their off-season free agent and trade discussions. While I’ve never done a mailbag column (the oldest crutch in the sportswriter’s toolbox), this is going to function pretty closely to it, but instead of e-mail, we’ll use comments. Ask your questions, as specifically as you want, and throughout the day, I’ll answer them as best I can. There are limits, so don’t try playing “stump the band”; also, don’t expect me to whip out a quick study on some major topic, but I will take suggestions for things to look at this offseason. Minor league info, especially at this time of year, is exceptionally hard to come by. Kevin Goldstein‘s the one with a beret, while I prefer a ballcap and a brunette.

So today, I’m working for you. It’s like that every day, but it will be in sharper focus. Powered by whatever the heck you want to be powered by, on to the injuries:

Rich Harden (0 DXL)

Carlos Zambrano (0 DXL)

Harden was pushed back, but this isn’t an injury or even buying him extra rest. It functions as that, but the Cubs are merely setting up their playoff rotation. Harden appears to be locked in for the second game of their Division Series, but Zambrano’s status could throw everything off. There were no notes from the beatwriters about whether Zambrano did his side work in preparation for his Wednesday start, but since there’s no news, let’s assume it’s good news. There is plenty of speculation about starting Zambrano in the third game of their LDS, putting Ryan Dempster in line for the home start in the series opener, but if Zambrano pitches like he did last time out, Lou Piniella‘s going to need more Tums.

Howie Kendrick (0 DXL)

Kendrick returned as planned on Monday, but didn’t make it through the whole game. This was by design, as the Angels simply gave him a couple of at-bats and some field time without taxing the hamstring. It’s a smart play by the Angels, who will continue to do this over the next couple of days to make sure that Kendrick is ready for full-time duty when it really counts.

John Maine (30 DXL)

Maine threw a 25-pitch simulated game on Monday, and appears to have found some velocity. It’s not clear whether it was enough velocity, how he’ll recover from the throwing session, or how long he could go in a real game, but it’s something. Even in this last desperate week, Jerry Manuel doesn’t seem inclined to use Maine, not even in low-leverage situations. With the Mets just a game up on the Brewers and falling behind the Phillies, it’s harder and harder to explain why Manuel is digging in his heels on this.

Hanley Ramirez (0 DXL)

Ramirez was back in the lineup for the Marlins, as expected, but he did go oh-fer and looked uncomfortable at the plate. After four missed games, it’s tough to tell if Ramirez is just missing some timing or if his shoulder is throwing his swing off. Whichever it is, sources tell me that there’s very little chance that Ramirez will need surgery to re-repair his problematic left shoulder.

Roy Oswalt (0 DXL)

The Astros are still delusional, and one reflection of that is their planning to start Oswalt on three days’ rest Thursday. They’re 3½ games out of the wild-card race, and with less than a one percent chance of making the playoffs, the team that’s scratched and clawed its way all the way to mediocrity is going to risk it’s one good starter, tilting at windmills. While the real risk of using Oswalt is small, it’s the shortsightedness without upside that’s the real problem, both now and in the future for Astros fans. When it’s time to write it all up, Oswalt’s career path might be the defining arc for this era’s Astros.

J.D. Drew (45 DXL)

Drew had an epidural to try to relieve some of the pain and to break the pain/spasm cycle that’s been in full effect. These usually come in a series of three over the course of a week to ten days, so even if this works, Drew’s chance of playing in the first round of the playoffs is about as low as the chance of the Sox not being in the playoffs.

So now it’s on you. Put your questions in the comments and I’ll drop in all day to answer them.