While too many worry about in-game fatigue for pitchers -- look, 130 pitches absent any other information doesn't indicate abuse -- few are noting the seasonal problem. Some teams have begun looking at ways of dealing with this, while others have whispered that players are missing their greenies. Just watch the faces of the pitchers and players as they come down the home stretch of the 2008 season. Some have it and some ... don't. Let's get to the injuries:
(Note: DXL is "Days eXpected Lost", or how many days I am estimating the player will lose. The dollar figure after the slash is "Injury Cost", an estimation of how much value is lost, using the player's PECOTA-calculated value divided by 180, then multiplied by the DXL. It's calculated in millions of US dollars.):
You want to know what's up with Beckett? The best indicator might be something Terry Francona said, that Beckett slept on his arm funny. That can often lead to a tension in the ulnar nerve that can have those symptoms. On the other hand, combined with Beckett's earlier neck problem and the kinesthetic issues he's had with his wrist, it still suggests double-crush syndrome. In the short term, Beckett is going to throw on the side Friday and a determination will be made about a start, likely on Tuesday, after that. In the longer term, the worst case scenario is an ulnar transposition, which could cost Beckett around four months, though that would only be for a chronic problem, not just discomfort.
Oh, and "SXL?" That's start's expected lost. Saying that Beckett will miss nine days (1 start and the days around it) skews the Injury Cost calculation too much. This is an experiment, calculating the Injury Cost as MORP divided by 34 times SXL.
Headlines stink. "Ramirez Exits Game With Injured Thumb" really doesn't tell you anything, but I bet a lot of fantasy owners and both Marlins fans felt their heart jump when they saw it. Ramirez jammed his thumb sliding into second, but it turns out to be nothing more than a garden variety ouchie. X-rays were negative and Ramirez has a nice bruise at the base of the thumb, but nothing more. Fredi Gonzalez thinks that Ramirez could play on Thursday, though that all depends on how his thumb responds overnight. This one shouldn't be a major issue, nothing more than a day or two if the Marlins play it conservative with their star.
There's some value in a second opinion. Kinsler got one and there may be some hope that he can avoid surgery and play again this season. By playing, the idea is that the sports hernia, if it gets worse, could still be corrected in time, and therefore, the risk would be that Kinsler could be in pain. Most players, especially ones as intense as Kinsler, gladly accept that kind of risk. The team's concern is for the long term, and sports hernias tend not to be long-term problems once corrected. He'll still miss at least the next two weeks and the rest of the season is in doubt, but for Rangers fans, they're starting to get used to a new feeling: hope.
Wagner came out of Thursday's tests with ... well, not much. The Mets closer won't be throwing any time soon, but the chance is still there, which is better than most expected. Still, the flexor tendon in his elbow is inflamed and painful, which means the Mets will have to find a way to patch up the end of their bullpen before Wagner even has a chance of getting back. The team and Wagner both insist he'll be back this season, but as we've seen time and again, this type of injury seems to have a tipping point where once it's crossed, the pitcher simply can't get back without re-aggravating the injury. The other curious part of this is the fatigue factor. Wagner's injury may have been brought on by the seasonal fatigue he's always dealt with, seemingly earlier each season, but this injury could help him stay fresh further into October, much in the same way that the blister worked for Kerry Wood. We'll see. There are a lot of pixels ahead for Wagner in this column.
Dusty Baker dropped the problems of this team on Wayne Krivsky, but while this might not be "his team", I think Dusty might want to remember some of those Cubs teams that were designed for him by Jim Hendry, who served more as a butler than a GM for a time there. If it's not his team, he can sure take a look at the pitching staff and claim it. He's extolled the work of most of them, aside from the peripatetic fifth starter and put all four in the top 35 of PAP. He's taken the credit for Edinson Volquez and Johnny Cueto, extolled the virtues of Bronson Arroyo and all but took him off the market last month, so he should also take the blame for Aaron Harang. Harang was the workhorse that Baker loves, with no problems until Baker worked him more like the proverbial rented mule. Harang hasn't been the same since his relief outing and his control continues to be very problematic. Instead of being worried about his arm for next year, Baker is worried about his psyche. I'm just worried about his elbow. He should clearly not be on the mound as he continues to compensate for a lack of command. He's going to have a giant red flag on him next year, if he makes it that far.
I met up with a small group of readers to take in Price's second Triple-A start, coming in Indianapolis. We were seated next to Price's family and a crew from ESPN, who was shooting an E:60 piece on Price, so it was an interesting perspective. Remember that I'm not a scout, but to me, Price was good, not great. He is very polished, but doesn't dominate as his final line showed. His changeup is average at best, and batters lay off the slider. One surprising thing was that for a power pitcher, he missed down regularly. Good hitters like Jose Bautista and Ronnie Paulino could hit his fastball (and by good, I mean could hit at the major league level). Price was never flustered, though it appeared his pants legs were bothering him. He does have a bit of an uphill motion, but comes way over the top and the ball planes down. He'd be very solid in the rotation, but I think without a solid third pitch, he'd do better right now in the pen.
The Rays got some good news. First, Fay made a bit of a right turn and seemed to veer away from the Trop, so that's good. Then they found out that Evan Longoria and Troy Percival might be back quicker than expected. That's also good. Longoria's fracture near his wrist is healing well and he could begin taking swings early next week, putting him on track for a return in the first week of September. For Percival, he'll be able to avoid surgery for now and will work on getting back to the mound without taxing the knee enough to push him back off it. That will be a tough balancing act for Percival, pitching coach Jim Hickey and Joe Maddon. Percival has been plagued by leg problems all season, and while it's not precisely a cascade, it's acted in much the same way, working it's way down. Figuring out how to keep Percival healthy and effective while juggling a bullpen that has been effective but unpredictable is going to be one of the biggest challenges for the Rays as they head into their first meaningful September. (Yes, the IC seems low on Percival, but I don't think anyone expected him to be this good
The Astros signing of Matsui was supposed to charge up their offense. Instead, it's just provided me a lot of material. He's back on the DL with a back strain, and while when healthy he's put up similar stats to what he did in last year's Colorado campaign, I think he still has to be considered a disappointment since the major concern was his injury history coming in. The back problem isn't serious and shouldn't keep him out much longer than the minimum, with Mark Loretta getting the bulk of playing time. The team isn't going to shut Matsui down, so he should be back around Sept. 1 and should be able to put up some steals.
Here's something to know going into the next few weeks. Teams will be very reluctant to use the DL for short-term injuries at this point in the season. Roster expansion comes in less than 15 days, so putting someone on the DL has an additional cost ... When a trainer came to the mound in the fifth to check on Carlos Zambrano, the gasps were audible. Luckily, the problem is a sore tooth, not a sore arm ... Carl Crawford says he'll be back this season. We'll see if he means the regular season. I hope to be able to check with him next weekend ... If Brad Penny returns, it will be as a reliever. If ... Just me or do the A's have a ton of hip injuries? Probably coincidence, but worth mentioning ... Bartolo Colon has looked good in Triple-A, but probably won't be back with the Red Sox until roster expansion ... Just as Sean Gallagher crossed his career high for innings, he came up with a dead arm. Probably coincidence, but worth mentioning ... Tom Glavine had his flexor tendon repaired and Dr. Jim Andrews tossed in a shoulder cleanup. Maybe Glavine paid with frequent pitcher miles. He could be back next season if he so chooses.