Game 14

Game 14

Wednesday, January 18, 2012
Game 14: Wells Fargo Center
Nuggets 108, Sixers 104 OT

PHILADELPHIA — It’s not unreasonable to believe that David Stern is the greatest commissioner in the history of American major league sports. A lawyer by trade with a background in marketing, Stern took over the NBA from Larry O’Brien—the James Buchanan of commissioners—and ushered the game into a new era.

Actually, Stern had plenty of help. It just so happened that Stern became the commissioner just when Larry Bird and Magic Johnson were coming into their primes, plus, Michael Jordan, Charles Barkley, Hakeem Olajuwon and John Stockton entered the NBA during Stern’s first year as commissioner.

But give the guy credit for not sitting idly by. Under Stern’s watch, the NBA went from being a league that only serious basketball fans followed to an American-based Premier league of sorts. Internationally, the two most popular team sports are soccer and basketball and that comes in no small part from Stern’s ability to market his league.

That doesn’t mean the league is not without its flaws. After all, since Stern took over the NBA, labor peace has been virtually non-existent. In fact, there have been four player lockouts, including one in 1999 that left the league with a 50-game regular season and this year’s lockout that has teams playing 66 games in four months.

So when Stern turned up in Philly for a media session before the game against the Nuggets, one of the biggest topics was the condensed season and players’ health.

“I can tell you that we had the same short training camps in the last lockout, so I don’t think that’s the problem,” Stern said during the press conference. “As for the injuries, I reserve the right to see how things play out over the next few weeks before I draw any conclusions. I will take a look at the data and then I’ll call you.”

The idea when creating the condensed schedule was to come as close to representing a full, 82-game season without playing 82 games. When the league had its 50-game season, it was too short.

“When we got together with the player representatives and made the deal, I knew that if we got it done that (Thanksgiving) weekend, we could start on Christmas and we could play 16 games every 28 days, rather than 14 games every 28 days,” Stern said. “To us, the two extra games, to get in as much as we could of the season was important, so people wouldn’t say, ‘Oh, it isn’t a representative season.’”

Stern says fans love the condensed schedule. Coaches must hate it because of all the injuries and beat up players left in the wake, but this NBA season feels like a baseball season in that there is a decent game on every night. In fact, Sixers’ coach Doug Collins told us before the game in New York that he felt like a baseball manager with all the travel and games, but so little practice time.

“You win and you lose,. People say, ‘You have too many games,’ or, if you go to 50 games, as we did before, then you get told that you are not having enough,” Stern said. “We thought the 66 games were do-able. It seems to be doing OK. We’re pretty pleased with it. From the fans’ perspective, I’ve had people telling me, it’s great, you go home and there are all these games on League Pass, and so our fans are loving it.”

From a journalists’ perspective, the season is a blast. There is tons of action and when we get home from the arena, the west coast games are burning up the TV.

However, it’s no fun writing about injuries and it’s also not much fun to see ballplayers gimp around in the locker room before and after games. Sometimes, a players’ health dominates the news end of things and we get stuck writing speculative stories about when someone will return.

Injuries are also a drag on the quality of play, too. At its best, basketball is unlike any other sport. Sometimes a basketball game is a prize fight, a ballet and a chess match all rolled into one and when players are injured, it takes some of the fun out of it. 

Don’t expect Jamie Moyer to give up so easily

Moyer We all remember how it was when Mike Schmidt announced his retirement from playing baseball. Better yet, when Schmidty told everyone he was done that day in San Diego in 1989, there was no mistaking the intent. Sure, the blubbering, the emotion and the cracking voice were dead giveaways that he meant business. Oh, but there were better indicators than just the crying and carrying on.

Think about it… who wakes up in the morning and puts on a late-‘80s styled suit straight from a Tom Cruise movie, and then arranges his hair in a supremely coiffed feathered ‘do if they didn’t mean business. If I remember correctly, the theme from Miami Vice played Schmidt out of the room when the presser was over.

However, neither the walk-off song nor the fat lady has begun to sprinkle out those first notes for Jamie Moyer’s exit. No way. Baseball’s most elderly statesman isn’t going to give up the ghost of his career without a fight. That wouldn’t be his style.

So noting that Moyer reportedly suffered an injury last weekend while pitching in his third winter league game in the Dominican Republic last weekend with his 48th birthday next Friday, it’s reasonable to think that the old man is done. Add in the fact that Moyer jetted off to California to visit with renowned orthopedist Dr. Lewis Yocum because of an injured elbow that reportedly swelled up to the size of a golf ball, and maybe this is how it finally all goes down.

Then again, that’s way too easy.

While the results of an MRI on his elbow are still unknown, those simply writing off the cagey, 24-year veteran lefty should think for a second. Hell, the easy thing to do would be to retire and that was something Moyer has had plenty of chances to contemplate. Considering that he’s been flat-out released three times, allowed to take free agency three more times, and then sent back to minors three more times on top of that. Even his father-in-law, former basketball coach Digger Phelps, told him to retire and go back to school. In other words, Moyer has had his chances to take the easy way out—there has been no shortage of easy exits.

In fact, there was the time he sat in his hotel room in Anaheim waiting to go to the ballpark to pitch in a meaningless game for the Mariners in mid-August, that Moyer says he and his wife had a 90-minute conversation over the phone about whether or not it was time to pack it in. The idea of playing another season with a mediocre team with no shot to realistically compete for a World Series was just too much for him to bear.

Enough was enough, he thought, until he was offered an interesting proposition…

“A couple of days later they came to me and said, ‘Hey, want to be traded?’” Moyer recounted earlier this year.

Five days after that phone conversation with his wife, Moyer was pitching for a Phillies team that was preparing to make the greatest post-season run in their history. Better yet, he was the pitcher who got the most wins during the past four years.

Still, Moyer has never been through the things he’s been faced with over the past 12 months. Last November he had three different surgeries to repair a torn groin and abdominal issues and even ended up in the hospital last Thanksgiving to clean up an infected blood clot. But even that wasn’t enough to keep him from reporting to spring training on time.

Then shortly after the All-Star Break, Moyer hurt his elbow in the first inning of a game in St. Louis, where the diagnosis was a sprained ulnar collateral ligament and a strained flexor pronator tendon. Typically the course of action for that type of injury is Tommy John surgery. However, because Moyer and John had careers that overlapped by four years, such an invasive surgery would have ended it all.

Instead, Yocum prescribed rest and Moyer followed it to the letter before he was given the go-ahead to begin throwing again. During the NLCS it wasn’t uncommon to see the old lefty in the bullpen throwing pitch after pitch in attempt to rebuild his strength and to prepare for the winter league season.

So to think that Moyer would give up so easily after heading to the Dominican Republic to pitch against up-and-comers and players looking to get more at-bats or innings says something about the man. Better yet, it’s about time people accept the fact that Moyer isn’t pitching for stats, money or fame. Sure, he has an ego like anyone else and chances are that if Moyer was digging ditches for a living and could retire whenever he wanted and remain independently wealthy, he’d do it. But Moyer loves the game. He loves pitching and he loves to compete. Still defiant and engaged in a fight with those who are resigned to accept outcomes and convention wisdom, it’s clear that Moyer’s goal was to keep pitching until it was no longer physically possible. He wasn’t slowing down and he wasn’t taking shortcuts, either.

He never lost it.

But he’s not blind, either. He’s not wishing for a perfect, lucky outcome in order to take one more spin around to celebrate some type of victory. Why should he? Moyer has faced his every day in baseball with a cold, hard shot of reality and that defiance. He’s celebrated the mundane and taken joy in the unbelievable fortune that comes to those who are lucky enough to throw a baseball for a living.

He wasn’t granted any shortcut when the Cubs, Rangers and Cardinals placed him on waivers, and he’ll be damned if he’s going to accept one now.

“Because once it’s over it’s over whether I just plain retire or if it’s due to an injury,” Moyer said after his injury in St. Louis. “I’ve always said that when that last day comes, I’m done.”

The truth is that for the better part of the past four decades, Moyer has played baseball, so why stop now?

“Some players get injured and others just lose the desire,” Moyer told me during a conversation in Washington two years ago. “Then some, for one reason or other, are told to quit because they reach a certain age or time spent in the game. Some just accept it without asking why.”

Moyer never accepted it. That’s why he won’t accept it this time unless Dr. Yocum tells him otherwise. No tears, no speeches, no nothing. Just baseball.

Does Charlie have Phillies on the right pace?

Big_chuck From the way Charlie Manuel explains it, he’s an organic kind of guy. In baseball there is a natural ebb and flow of things that Charlie doesn’t like to mess with. With its rhythms and whatnot, a baseball season unfolds a certain way for a reason so when there is anomaly that pops up, Charlie rarely bats an eye.

For instance, if a player comes out of the gate hitting everything in sight and posting huge numbers, Charlie doesn’t get too excited. Just wait, he says, everything will even out as long as nature is allowed to work its course. After all, it would be silly to sprint the first mile of a marathon with 25 miles left.

Pace yourself.

So with Shane Victorino back with the team after going 6-for-8 with a homer, triple and four RBIs in two Triple-A rehab games, and Chase Utley cleared to resume his hitting drills while Ryan Howard was back to taking grounders, don’t get too crazy with excitement yet. Charlie says there will be a period where the players will have to knock off some rust.

It won’t be the players’ fitness or skills that will be the issue, the skipper says. It will be the hitters’ timing. As Charlie explains, it often takes a player more time to recover his timing at the plate and his in-game conditioning. Sometimes just gripping a bat feels a bit weird even though the hits could be dropping in. As a result, a late-season injury to guys like Howard, Utley or Victorino might not be the boon logic would dictate.

On the plus side, the Phillies will have some depth.

“I feel like when we get everybody healthy our bench definitely should be as strong as it’s been all year,” Charlie said. “Without a doubt.”

That’s the only doubt Manuel doesn’t have. Otherwise he’s full of them. Baseball managers always are—even successful ones like Big Chuck. Truth is, calling them “managers” is a misnomer this time of year considering there is very little they get to manage at all. With the Phillies it has been about the injuries as well as some inexplicable ineffectiveness with the bullpen. Sure, Brad Lidge appears to have it together despite a bit of a dip in the velocity of his fastball, but the club’s lone lefty, J.C. Romero, is dealing with some strange “slow hand” phenomenon.

“My hand was slow,” Romero explained after a rough outing on Tuesday night against the Dodgers. “Not my arm. My arm got there. My hand was slow.”

Wait… aren’t they connected?

“I still, to a certain extent, don't understand what the problem is,” Charlie said about his lonely lefty. “We have to find out about it.”

See what were saying about “managing?” How can anyone have a say over a guy whose arm is moving faster than his hand? Perhaps it could be Romero’s mouth is working faster than his brain in this instance?

But don’t think for a minute Charlie would trade his injuries for the one Braves’ skipper Bobby Cox is dealing with, or for the craziness Mets’ manager Jerry Manuel has going on with his closer. After all, Victorino can go out there and play tonight while Utley and Howard should be back before the end of the month. Actually, the toughest decision Manuel has looming is whether or not to keep top hitting prospect Dom Brown in the majors or send him back to Triple-A for the final week(s) of the International League season.

Certainly there are some big issues concerning the Phillies, like what they are going to be able to do about the left-handed reliever problem. For now, we’ll just have to pretend that Ryan Madson is a lefty and hope he continues to strikeout left-handed hitters at a rate of 25 percent per at-bat. The righty handled two of the Dodgers’ toughest lefties in the eighth inning of a close game on Wednesday night and might find himself pushed into more righty-on-lefty action as long as Romero’s left hand continues to belabor the pace.

Still, no one with the Phillies was called down to the precinct house in order to post bail for the closer early Thursday morning. According to published reports, the Mets’ All-Star closer Francisco Rodriguez cursed at reporters before allegedly walking to another portion of the clubhouse where he was accused of committing third-degree assault on his 53-year-old father-in-law. The 53-year old went off to the hospital, while K-Rod was arraigned and released on $5,000 bail on Thursday.

With the rival Phillies headed for Queens this weekend, K-Rod likely will be serving a team-issued suspension. Meanwhile, ace lefty Johan Santana has been sued for rape by a Florida woman after authorities declined to prosecute.

ChuckIn comparison, Charlie will take those injuries.

But certainly not the one that appears to cost Braves’ future Hall-of-Famer Chipper Jones the rest of the season. It came out Thursday that Jones tore the ACL in his left knee and likely will have season-ending surgery. If that’s the case, the first-place Braves will go into the final month of the season without their best hitter, who just so happens to be a Phillie killer, while hoping the aches and pains suffered by All-Stars Jason Heyward and Martin Prado relent enough so they can carry the load.

“When you think of the Atlanta Braves, the first guy you think of is Chipper Jones,” Braves’ GM Frank Wren told the Associated Press. “His presence in our lineup has been increasing based on his performance the last couple of months. He was a force. So, yeah, we're losing a lot.”

So put this way, the Phillies might be coming together just in time. Considering spring training lasts approximately six weeks, Charlie’s boys ought to be running at full steam in time for the last week of the season.

Talk about perfect timing.

How bad does the (injury) bug bite?

Rollins When the Phillies showed up for spring training two months ago, it was difficult to imagine the team not winning the NL East for a fourth season in a row. With the core group heading into its athletic and physiological prime and the addition of Roy Halladay to the top of the rotation, the over/under on wins was placed at 95 by the swells in Vegas.

The Phillies will hit unlike no other Phillies team ever and they have a horse that has piled up at least 220 innings the past four years.

Truth is, things are so rosy with the Phillies as its hitters have bludgeoned the Nationals and Astros in the first seven games, that no one wants to jinx anything. Come on… why bring up something like the potential for injuries and be a mush? Why do that when the Phillies have used the schedule to their advantage in order to rush out to the best record in baseball?

Injuries are a tricky thing because no one in sports ever knows how the body is going to respond. Your calf injury recovers at a different rate than someone like Jimmy Rollins. See, as a shortstop whose speed and quickness is what helped get him to the big leagues in the first place, the calf muscle is that much more important. That’s the muscle that is the engine for Rollins. A balky calf means Rollins doesn’t go from first to third when Placido Polanco laces one to right field or goes from first to home when Chase Utley bangs one into the gap.

And without Rollins at the top of the batting order the entire dynamic of the offense gets knocked off kilter a bit.

Oh sure, even if it turns out that Rollins has a Grade 2 sprain of his calf like a source told CSNPhilly.com’s Jim Salisbury on Monday and has to serve some time on the disabled list, the Phillies still will win the NL East. The same goes for Jayson Werth, who likely will miss a game or two with a sore hip that “grabbed” him during Monday’s victory over lowly Washington.

Thanks to some wise off-season acquisitions, the Phillies have Juan Castro to play short if Rollins goes out for a bit instead of Eric Bruntlett. The Phils also have Ben Francisco, Greg Dobbs or Ross Gload to play the outfield for Werth if he needs a few games off.

Sure, losing those players will sting a bit, but they only mask the real concern that could cause the 2010 season to blow up like one of those trick cigars in the cartoons.

The concern: what if Brad Lidge doesn’t get it back this year?

No, I’m no doctor and chances are I would have flunked out of medical school within a week of attending a single class. However, a late March cortisone shot into his sore right arm mixed with two rehab outings at Single-A in which he has allowed five runs, five hits, a walk and no strikeouts in 1 2/3 innings is attention grabbing.

Yes, Lidge is coming off yet another surgery—his third since joining the Phillies before the 2008 season—and it probably will take a bit for him to get back his strength. But what happens if he doesn’t get it back? Or let’s say he gets it back and turns in another year like he did in ’09 when he saved 31 games, but allowed 51 runs in 58 2/3 innings?

Then what?

Ryan Madson, the Phillies’ acting closer, says there are no worries on his end. In fact, he pointed out after getting his second save of the year on Monday, talk of a thin bullpen is an annual rite of spring around these parts.

If there is ever one thing guys like me like to pick at as if it’s a mealy old scab, it’s the Phils’ bullpen depth. Madson has noticed.

“Every year I've been here, it’s about the bullpen,” he said. “It’s our weakest link. You're going to have something that’s not like the lineup we've got.”

The thing about injuries is they give guys like Madson a chance. When they hear the chatter or the put-on panic about the team’s chances when a key player goes down it only serves to motivate. Besides, Madson says, the bullpen was another one of those areas where a couple of off-season acquisitions just might pan out. Veteran Jose Contreras is making the transition from starter to reliever and just might have the stuff to close out games if needed. Rule 5 guy Dave Herndon has been impressive in limited action.

So far this season the Phils’ relievers have allowed just three runs with 18 strikeouts in 20 1/3 innings. That comes to a 1.33 ERA, which is second-best in the Majors.

“We’ve got plenty of arms out there that have been throwing the ball really well,” Madson said. “It will be nice when they get back, but for now, we've got good arms out there. We’re happy.”

There’s no reason not to be. Not yet, anyway. The Phillies have worked over the lowly Nats and Astros, but that will change soon when they get deeper into the schedule.

That’s when we find out just how costly those aches and pains really are.

Ibanez hurt? Who knew… aside from everyone

image from fingerfood.files.wordpress.com One of my favorite things about writing about sports is knowing something but still not being able to write about it. Call that a quirk or just an example of an off-kilter sense of humor because there are a lot of guys who get all bent about things like that.

Take the case of Raul Ibanez, for instance. A whole bunch of us knew that he was hurt/injured and that he was playing even though he was in obvious pain.

Just watch the guy run, for goshsakes. His form is all over the place like he’s compensating for the pounding one takes with each painful footfall. Swinging a bat couldn’t be easy, either. Just look at the difference between those first and second-half numbers for that proof.

Or better yet, when Raul first arrived in town he was always a fixture in the clubhouse before and after games, but during the second half of the season those clubhouse sightings were rare. It was deduced that he was getting treatment or going through a series of stretches, twists, shots or potions in order to get out on the field.

We didn’t know any of this because no one was saying anything. Even when Raul or Charlie Manuel were asked—point blank—if the left fielder was hurt, injured or needed surgery, the answer was always elusive and ambiguous. The best answer was always something about not being on the list of players getting treatment from athletic trainer Scott Sheridan.

The truth was Ibanez was beyond such mundane things as basic treatment.

So when the most recent issue of Sports Illustrated arrived in mailboxes, it was all there for all to read—Ibanez was hurt just like we knew, only more dramatically so.

According to the story, rather than have surgery and potentially miss a large portion of the season he toughed it out as we all saw.

He batted .312 with 22 home runs in his first 2½ months, a welcome splash of cold water for a team still groggy from a World Series hangover. But by the third week in June, Ibañez was suffering from a sore left groin and, unbeknownst to the public, a small but serious muscle tear near his abdomen. On a trip to Toronto he was confronted with an excruciating decision: He could have surgery to repair the tear and miss a large chunk of time, or he could return after a short stint on the disabled list and play his dream season hurt. “We all asked him if he would have the surgery,” Phillies first base coach Davey Lopes says, “and he told everyone, ‘I won’t do that. I’ll do anything but that.'”

After consulting with a neuromuscular specialist in Toronto and a surgeon in Philadelphia, Ibañez chose the DL, followed by aggressive rehabilitation. Every day he drops onto a mat in the Phillies’ clubhouse, performs core and hip exercises with trainer Scott Sheridan and then heads for the field. Lopes believes that Ibañez’s swing, speed and statistics have suffered because of the injury—he batted just .232 with 12 homers in 72 games after coming off the DL—but his clubhouse cred clearly spiked. “A lot of guys in his position would have said, ‘Oh, my God, I’ll just have the surgery,'” says Phillies utilityman Greg Dobbs, who played with Ibañez in Seattle. “But he’s the type who says, ‘You tell me I can’t, then I will.’”

So there are a couple ways to look at this, such as we can laud Ibanez for his toughness and his pain management. These are admirable traits for athletes—especially Philadelphia athletes—as long as the team doesn’t suffer because of it. Though Ibanez hasn’t been himself during the second half of the season, he hasn’t been a drain on the team.

Give the guy credit for going out there as often as possible. Charlie Manuel is the type of manager who rides his regulars and Ibanez got no special treatment despite the injury. He said he was OK, so he played… no complaints.

image from fingerfood.files.wordpress.com Surely there are second half VORP numbers out there to confirm or deny this claim.

Conversely, it kind of stinks that Ibanez and the Phillies held back a story that the local guys had already sniffed out only to confirm it for Sports Illustrated. In the meantime all some of us could do was drop some not-so subtle hints and force readers to do some between-the-lines reading about the assumed injury. There are other examples aside from this one, but this is what stands out for the moment.

So yeah, we knew something was up. We knew there was something more than what was being trotted out there. But apparently it pays to be a part of the national media as opposed to li’l ol’ Philadelphia.

You want the truth? Can you handle it?

Junge Gun

image from fingerfood.typepad.com Nearly seven years ago, Eric Junge pitched five innings of a 4-1 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates in a meaningless September game. In fact, September of 2002 was one of the last few final months that were meaningless for the Phillies. In 2004 all that was left to decide in September was when they would mercifully pull the plug on the managerial career of Larry Bowa.

Those were the days when the pitching coach got punched in the face by a player, and some wondered if it was simply a matter of time until the manager suffered the same fate. Nope, those definitely weren’t the golden days of Phillies baseball.

More like Blood Sport.

Anyway, Eric Junge started and won his first Major League outing over the Pirates in rather dramatic fashion. See, Junge was finished pitching for the year after going 12-6 with a 3.54 in Triple-A in 29 starts, until then-GM Ed Wade called him at home in Rye, N.Y. in the middle of a pizza feast. The Phillies needed some fresh arms to get through the year and since the roster had expanded, Junge got a phone call inquiring whether he wanted to pitch in the big leagues.

Sure, Junge said, but first he had to cancel some plans.

Junge joined the Phillies on Sept. 11, 2002, exactly one year after that day. So instead of going down to Ground Zero with his trumpet to play a tribute to the three friends from childhood that died on 9/11, Junge was the Vet waiting to make his big league debut instead of “preparing to mourn and remember.”

“I would have been playing my trumpet, playing Taps. It's something I used to do on Veterans Day and Memorial Day. I would go down to the town square and all the veterans would be there,” he told us. “It would be my little way of saying thanks for our freedoms. Taps for me is emotional. I'd rather be pitching in the big leagues, obviously.

“I didn't think I would get called up," he said nearly seven years ago. “It's all kind of surreal. I was getting ready to mourn and now I feel alive.”

I remember that day for a lot of reasons. First, there weren’t too many games in the 2002 baseball season that were too memorable. Brett Myers made his debut at Wrigley Field, pitcher Robert Person hit a pair of homers and got seven RBIs in about two innings of a rout over the Expos, and Scott Rolen was traded.

Secondly, only two seasons into Bowa’s reign of terror, it was clear things had already come unhinged. Little did we know at the time that the franchise would have to take some decisive actions after some growing pains and old-fashioned time biding.

Otherwise, it was an underwhelming season.

But Junge was interesting. After he threw those five innings in which he gave up four hits and one run in his only big league start, I was all set to write about how he was the first Bucknell University alum to pitch in the big leagues since Christy Mathewson. Acquired in the Omar Daal trade with Los Angeles, Junge was the minor league surprise of ’02.

Instead of writing about the surprise start, the Mathewson angle and a promising future, someone saw three names scribbled on Junge’s cap while talking to him in the clubhouse after the game. The names “Fetchet,” “Mello” and “McGinley” were hard to miss there in black Sharpie just to the left of the Phillies “P” on Junge's cap.

What was the deal with those words, Junge was asked.

Those three guys were Brad Fetchet, Chris Mello and Mark McGinley, Junge told us. All three died on 9/11 at the World Trade Center during the attacks. Mello grew up with the pitcher and the two played baseball and football all the way from little league to high school. He died when his plane struck the north tower.

Fetchet and McGinley were Bucknell classmates of Junge who were working in the Trade Center that fateful day and didn't make it out.

Then there was Junge's dad Peter, who was standing on the street corner adjacent to the buildings when the first plane hit, which was carrying Mello. A maritime attorney with offices a block away from Wall St., Peter Junge was on his way to court when the unthinkable happened. Junge was eating breakfast in a waffle house in Huntsville, Ala., preparing to pitch for the Dodgers' Double-A club, Jacksonville.

“That was a hectic day,” Junge told us after his first Major League start.

It was a helluva story and forced a lot of us to re-do those Mathewson/Bucknell angles we were knee-deep in by the time we met with Junge. But aside from the emotional side of the story, there also was the work on the field. After all, it’s not every day a pitcher in his first big league start walks off with swagger. Junge might have been a surprise call up, but he was acting as if he belonged.

“Some guys might be apprehensive but he acts like he's been here for 20 years,” Bowa said after that game. “With his makeup, he wanted the opportunity and he opened some eyes. He was walking around the dugout yelling, ‘Let’s go!’ and getting everyone fired up.”

Junge’s big league career lasted just 10 games. In 2002 he got another win when Vicente Padilla exited a game after just 13 pitches and Junge came on in the first inning and went into the sixth.

But injuries derailed whatever future he might have had with the Phillies or a chance to return to the Majors with another club. In 2003 he was shut down after 16 games between the Phillies and Triple-A. When he came back from  shoulder surgery, he pitched at three different levels in the Phillies’ organization before he was granted free agency at the end of the year.

Then came the life of the baseball nomad. In 2005 he pitched in Triple-A for the Mets and then released. In ’06 it was Triple-A with the Padres and then another release. For 2007 it was a handful of games in the independent Atlantic League until he wound up back at Scranton/Wilkes-Barre with the Yankees.

And then, of course, another release.

Junge spent 2008 in Japan pitching for the Orix Buffaloes, which was the former team of So Taguchi and Ichiro, as well as the organization that featured an American cleanup hitter named Chuck Manuel. They called Chuck, “The Red Devil.”

Now 32, the same age as former teammates, Marlon Byrd, Johnny Estrada, Geoff Geary, Nick Punto as well as a year older than his ex-third baseman, Chase Utley, Junge is still out there playing. As fate would have it, the lean, 6-foot-5 righty signed to play for a team with a stadium less than one-mile from my home as the crow flies.

Yeah that’s right, Junge was pitching for the Lancaster Barnstormers in the Atlantic League. The Atlantic League is baseball purgatory… or maybe worse. No matter, in his first month with the team the baseball lifer (think Chris Coste had he been a prospect) was the league’s pitcher of the month with a 4-1 with a 1.73 ERA and twice broke the franchise record with 12 strikeouts in a game. In 26 innings, Junge had 34 whiffs.

And then he was gone.

That’s what I learned this evening when I moseyed down to the ballpark with the kids to check out a game. I had hoped to see Junge, relive those days in Philly and see what’s shaking with Antonio Alfonseca, who is closing out
games for the Barnstormers. However, Junge’s name was strangely omitted from the roster. A quick Google search later revealed he had left Lancaster to pitch for a team in South Korea.

How’s that for an indictment of the team, league and town? Junge would rather travel halfway around the globe to pitch in South Korea rather than for Tom Herr and Von Hayes in Lancaster, Pa.

You know, some days I know how he feels.

Nevertheless, good luck to Mr. Junge. Undoubtedly he could trade in the uniform for a career as a good baseball exec, but let’s hope his baseball journeys pay off with a trip back to the big leagues or at least some pretty kick-ass stories. He certainly gave us one seven years ago, and, as readers of the site know, it’s the stories that make the word go ‘round.

Shot from the hip

ans7_labrumBrett Myers joins teammate Chase Utley, Alex Rodriguez, Mike Lowell, Alex Gordon and Carlos Delgado (amongst others) who have (or will) undergo surgery for a torn hip labrum. And that’s just in baseball. Kurt Warner of the Arizona Cardinals and Floyd Landis are two more notable athletes who had hip surgery recently.

That’s not all, either. Hip pain and injuries are the bane of distance runners and soccer players and it appears to have replaced the knee as the injury in baseball.

Of course shoulder injuries in pitchers are the biggest of the big, so the hip has a ways to go to catch up.

Nevertheless, with Myers acknowledging that he has to have hip surgery – whether it’s now or later is to be determined – the question has arisen about all the labral tears and hip surgeries.

What’s the deal with that? Is it something sinister or related to nefarious acts? Are these ballplayers built differently or doing something their predecessors did not?

Well, no.

Ballplayers in the old days had hip injuries and labral tears, too, only back then they called it a groin injury or some other catchall phrase. But with sports medicine and athletic training reaching new heights of insight and with technological advancements of the diagnostics, things like labrum tears and spurs are found much more easily.

Think about how many careers could have been saved if certain players were simply born in a different era. Or think about how much pain some players went through just to play their game. We know that tons of pitchers would have been able to have longer careers if Tommy John surgery had existed before 1975. That’s just one example – what was it like before arthroscopic procedures?

What if Mickey Mantle (for example) would have been able to have modern medical procedures instead of the slicing and dicing he underwent?

Anyway, Myers will need surgery and the consensus from a few medical folks who I described his situation to seem to think he will be best served to have the surgery now instead of later. Of course Myers is going to see Dr. Bryan Kelly, who just might be the Michael Jordan of hip ailments.[1] Clearly Dr. Kelly will steer Myers to the right path.

myersNevertheless, a few medical folks seem to think that Myers’ shoulder injury from 2007 might have led to his hip problems. The reason they think this is because of the significant drop in the velocity of his fastball seems to point to Myers pushing off harder with his right leg in order to throw pitches as hard as he did before the shoulder injury. By having the surgery as soon as possible – and hoping that the damage isn’t too bad – Myers could be recovered in time for the stretch run and should be throwing as hard as he once did.

Of course Myers wants to pitch now. The best season of his career came when he pitched out of the bullpen when he pitched nearly every day in September of 2007. His durability was his strength and would have been attractive on the free-agent market this off-season.

The guy likes to pitch and even when he was in pain on Wednesday night, he didn’t want to come out of the game.

Certainly it makes the decision for Myers that much more difficult.

**

I watched Randy Wolf pitch for the Dodgers against the Cubs at Wrigley Field last night and it appears as if the ex-Phillie is finally 100 percent healthy. It was easy to think about Myers and the medical issues he faces when watching Wolf pitch. Several surgeries and lots of perseverance has Wolf looking like the strongest cog in the Dodgers’ rotation.

That 3-1 record and 2.84 ERA and .221 batting-average-against would look sharp for the Phillies these days.

Still, count on the Phillies being active on the rumor mill from here on out.

**

I missed this the other day, but last Tuesday was the 50th anniversary of the greatest baseball game ever pitched. That’s when Pittsburgh’s Harvey Haddix, a Phillie for two seasons, threw 12 perfect innings in Milwaukee, gave up a hit in the 13th inning and lost, 1-0.

Boggles the mind.

Anyway, check out Albert Chen’s story on Haddix’s game in the recent SI. The amazing part was the Milwaukee Braves were stealing Pittsburgh’s signs with binoculars and still couldn’t get a hit.


[1] Hey Doctor Kelly… I’m a distance runner who can’t shake the hip tightness and pain. Am I ever going to be fast again? Damn hip!

Shot from the hip

image from fingerfood.typepad.com Brett Myers joins teammate Chase Utley, Alex Rodriguez, Mike Lowell, Alex Gordon and Carlos Delgado (amongst others) who have (or will) undergo surgery for a torn hip labrum. And that’s just in baseball. Kurt Warner of the Arizona Cardinals and Floyd Landis are two more notable athletes who had hip surgery recently.

That’s not all, either. Hip pain and injuries are the bane of distance runners and soccer players and it appears to have replaced the knee as the injury in baseball.

Of course shoulder injuries in pitchers are the biggest of the big, so the hip has a ways to go to catch up.

Nevertheless, with Myers acknowledging that he has to have hip surgery – whether it’s now or later is to be determined – the question has arisen about all the labral tears and hip surgeries.

What’s the deal with that? Is it something sinister or related to nefarious acts? Are these ballplayers built differently or doing something their predecessors did not?

Well, no.

Ballplayers in the old days had hip injuries and labral tears, too, only back then they called it a groin injury or some other catchall phrase. But with sports medicine and athletic training reaching new heights of insight and with technological advancements of the diagnostics, things like labrum tears and spurs are found much more easily.

Think about how many careers could have been saved if certain players were simply born in a different era. Or think about how much pain some players went through just to play their game. We know that tons of pitchers would have been able to have longer careers if Tommy John surgery had existed before 1975. That’s just one example – what was it like before arthroscopic procedures?

What if Mickey Mantle (for example) would have been able to have modern medical procedures instead of the slicing and dicing he underwent?

Anyway, Myers will need surgery and the consensus from a few medical folks who I described his situation to seem to think he will be best served to have the surgery now instead of later. Of course Myers is going to see Dr. Bryan Kelly, who just might be the Michael Jordan of hip ailments.[1] Clearly Dr. Kelly will steer Myers to the right path.

image from fingerfood.typepad.com Nevertheless, a few medical folks seem to think that Myers’ shoulder injury from 2007 might have led to his hip problems. The reason they think this is because of the significant drop in the velocity of his fastball seems to point to Myers pushing off harder with his right leg in order to throw pitches as hard as he did before the shoulder injury. By having the surgery as soon as possible – and hoping that the damage isn’t too bad – Myers could be recovered in time for the stretch run and should be throwing as hard as he once did.

Of course Myers wants to pitch now. The best season of his career came when he pitched out of the bullpen when he pitched nearly every day in September of 2007. His durability was his strength and would have been attractive on the free-agent market this off-season.

The guy likes to pitch and even when he was in pain on Wednesday night, he didn’t want to come out of the game.

Certainly it makes the decision for Myers that much more difficult.

*
I watched Randy Wolf pitch for the Dodgers against the Cubs at Wrigley Field last night and it appears as if the ex-Phillie is finally 100 percent healthy. It was easy to think about Myers and the medical issues he faces when watching Wolf pitch. Several surgeries and lots of perseverance has Wolf looking like the strongest cog in the Dodgers’ rotation.

That 3-1 record and 2.84 ERA and .221 batting-average-against would look sharp for the Phillies these days.

Still, count on the Phillies being active on the rumor mill from here on out.

*
I missed this the other day, but last Tuesday was the 50th anniversary of the greatest baseball game ever pitched. That’s when Pittsburgh’s Harvey Haddix, a Phillie for two seasons, threw 12 perfect innings in Milwaukee, gave up a hit in the 13th inning and lost, 1-0.

Boggles the mind.

Anyway, check out Albert Chen’s story on Haddix’s game in the recent SI. The amazing part was the Milwaukee Braves were stealing Pittsburgh’s signs with binoculars and still couldn’t get a hit.


[1] Hey Doctor Kelly… I’m a distance runner who can’t shake the hip tightness and pain. Am I ever going to be fast again? Damn hip!

The Bird was The Word

image from fingerfood.typepad.com It’s an odd coincidence that two of baseball’s greatest characters – Harry Kalas and Mark Fidrych – died on the same day. Maybe that’s the way it’s supposed to be in some sense… who knows. Maybe people better versed in spirituality, religion, science or whatever else can explain it.

Needless to say, Mark Fidrych’s death kind of got lost in the shuffle here. When an icon dies – the pope of Philadelphia for a lack of better description – everything else kind of takes a backseat.

Besides, Mark Fidrych was a shooting star in the night in baseball. He was here for a moment – bright, shiny, beautiful and majestic – and gone. Snap… just like that. Fidrych owned baseball in 1976. He was the best pitcher in the game, started the All-Star Game for the American League at The Vet, won 19 games and then tore up his rotator cuff in 1977.

The thing about that was Fidrych had the gall to rip up his shoulder before the proliferation of arthroscopic surgeries. Undoubtedly the injuries that ended careers like Fidrych’s are nothing more than out-patient procedures these days. High school kids have Tommy John surgery the way they used to rub their faces in Clearasil in the good old days.

If Fidrych only would have waited a few years to rip up his shoulder he might have had a longer career. He might have been around long enough to make enough money throwing a baseball so that he would not have had to return to Massachusetts and go to work as a contractor or help out at Chet’s Dinner, owned by his mother-in-law.

But from all the stories, Fidrych probably would have done it the same way.

By now most people know all the stories about “The Bird.” He was on the cover of Sports Illustrated AND Rolling Stone (back when that meant something) with that floppy Tigers’ cap pulled over that crazy mop of curly hair with Big Bird. He talked to the ball, smoothed the dirt on the mound with his bare hands while on his hands and knees. He waved to the fans in the middle of the game and ran over to teammates to shake their hands after good plays.

Hell, he even told hitters where he was going to throw the ball and they still couldn’t hit it. Charlie Manuel’s old pal, Graig Nettles, tells a story about watching The Bird talk to the ball before delivering a pitch. As soon as he saw it, Nettles says he called time, hopped out of the batters’ box and began talking to his bat.

“Never mind what he says to the ball,” Nettles said he told his bat. “You just hit it over the outfield fence!”

But when Nettles struck out, he blamed the bat.

“Japanese bat,” the story goes. “It doesn’t understand a word of English.”

I missed Fidrych’s act. I was too young, but I caught bits and pieces of it at the very end when he staged one of his many comebacks with the Tigers. I also caught enough of the hype to understand what everyone was talking about, though how does one explain Mark Fidrych to people who missed it? How do you properly explain a pitcher who talked to the ball, told hitters where it was coming, yet still racked up 24 complete games and 19 wins?

Anyway, one part I remember was a game on TV at the end. It must have been in ’79 back before cable TV when the Game of the Week was the only chance us D.C. kids had to see teams other than the Orioles, and Fidrych was talking to Tony Kubek before a game about his return. Needless to say, it was so much different than any other ballplayer interview.

Fidrych looked like he was actually having fun. He looked like he liked to play baseball. He smiled when he played and bounced when he ran. It was a game, right? It was supposed to be fun.

image from fingerfood.typepad.com To this day there was never anyone like Mark Fidrych. If there was someone like him, that personality would be stamped out and pulverized before he reached the big leagues. But thankfully there was The Bird. When they showed him on TV, even all those years after that summer of ’76, personality beamed from the set like trippy, psychedelic colors. It just oozed out there like dripping honey. Years later, any time there was a Fidrych sighting or even a story in a magazine, I stopped in my tracks and took notice as if in a trance.

Still, it was impossible to watch those old tapes and wonder about the “what if.” What if he never got hurt? Would the game be different now? Would it be more fun?

Fortunately, the “what if” never got to The Bird. Years after his comet had streaked out of view, they found him in Massachusetts on his farm with that crazy curly hair and that big goofy smile. He was still having fun, only without the sellout crowds and the baseball in his right hand. When asked who he would have over for dinner if he could invite anyone in the world, Fidrych was as goofy as ever.

“My buddy and former Tigers teammate Mickey Stanley, because he’s never been to my house,” he said.

Fidrych reportedly died approximately an hour after Harry Kalas. But unlike Philadelphia’s Voice, Fidrych was far away from the ballpark when his dump truck apparently fell on top of him. He was apparently working on his truck when it came loose and crushed him…

A strange ending for one of the neatest and pleasantly strange ballplayers ever.

On second thought…

Jimmy RollinsThe Phillies decided Jimmy Rollins might need more than a day or two to recover from his ankle injury… nearly two weeks after the injury occurred.

Hey, who wants to rush into things?

Nevertheless, the Phillies finally decided that Jimmy Rollins’ ankle wasn’t getting better any time soon so they placed him on the 15-day disabled list. But because Rollins was used as a pinch hitter three times since the injury occurred on April 8, the Phillies won’t be able to backdate the DL stint. That also means Rollins isn’t eligible to come off the disabled list until May 5.

It’s an odd situation. Rollins’ injury isn’t getting any worse, but it’s also not getting much better. The reigning NL MVP said he was “75 percent” before the series against the Mets began, but that might only be about 76 or 77 percent today.

Plus, Rollins had been testing the ankle in batting and fielding practice daily. The ankle, as we all know, is an enigma wrapped in a riddle – then there’s the bone and ligament throwing a monkey wrench into the deal. Ankle injuries can linger and reappear out of the blue like a bad bowl of chili. That’s especially true even if a ballplayer believes he’s 75 percent.

So a break just might be the ticket for Rollins, who will head to the DL for the first time of his career.

Yes, injuries stink.

12 weeks to go…

… and I have no idea how I’m going to make it. Oh sure, I’m strong and I’m putting in the work, but this damn hip strain/inflammation is driving me crazy. Yeah, I can and have been running through it, but runners are compulsive, obsessive and whatever the hell else –ive there is. As a result, it’s no fun doing the work and then hoping that all the recovery and rest stuff sticks in order to do it all over again tomorrow.

That’s the thing – tomorrow’s run is always in the back of my mind. Of course most of the time I take the tact of, “I’ll worry about tomorrow when it gets here,” as far as running goes, which is good and bad. It’s good because it makes that day’s workout that much more satisfying when completed. However, I guess it’s not always the best for long-term health.

Anyway, my hip hurts, I need to lose 10-to-15 pounds and I need to add a little bit more intensity to the miles I rack up. Hills are fine, and the fartlek/surges work, too. But for some reason it seems as if something is missing in terms of quality.

So that’s what’s going on as far as running goes. Meanwhile, it appears as if there will be slightly less volume coming at the end of next week. That’s when my wife will be induced into labor to deliver our second son since it seems as if her cervix and the boy are quite content just where they are.

Either way, it’s going to be an interesting week to be sure.

Here’s what happened last week (Aug. 13 – 19):

Monday – 20 miles in 2:14:55
I nearly didn’t go out at all and spent some time figuring out where and when to pack it in and head home. But, as it always happens, I settled in around 5 miles and kept a fairly steady pace the entire time. I even ran some hills.

The trouble was with my left groin or abdominal muscles, which nagged me the entire run. It didn’t hurt or hinder me, but I definitely felt it. I think it’s time to get in for some ART.

Anyway, I did the first 5 in 33:10 and got the work in. Crazy, huh?

Tuesday – 15 miles in 1:42:58
I don’t know what the hell happened here. I put the pedal to the metal and was barely able to run 6:50s. I hope this has more to do with me running 20 miles yesterday than it has to do with my achy hip — yes, today it was my hip and not abs/groin, though they were tender, too.

Anyway, I feel very strong. Actually, the distance is extremely easy. It’s just that I have no speed at all right now and I’m afraid to jump into too many uptempo workouts with my hips/abs/groin in the shape they’re in.

splits:
1st 5: 34:19
2nd 5: 34:27
3rd 5: 34:11

Wednesday – 16 miles in 1:46:26
Felt a little better in my left hip/groin/abs than the past two days, but it’s still not 100 percent. Moreover, I lost some speed/concentration toward the end of the run.

Either way, I’m pleased that I got the work in with a minimal amount of discomfort. Hopefully this little muscle flare up will work itself out soon.

splits;
1st 3: 19:42
next 2.2: 14:05
middle 5: 33:18
last 5: 33:45

Thursday – GOOSE EGG
Took a big fat ZERO today. I went out for 4-minutes and 5 seconds before stopping my watch and walking home. With the cold, my tight hip and some old-fashioned tiredness, I decided I was running myself into the ground and took the day off.

Instead, I ended up eating and making an appointment with my man Siegenthaler for some ART.

Friday – 15.3 miles in 1:45:30
My hip is driving me crazy. It’s tight as hell and takes a long time to warm up. However, despite the bum hip, a nagging head cold, oppressive humidity, a baby on the way and some standard malaise, I still pounded out a few miles today.

Hopefully I can go longer tomorrow.

Saturday – 16 miles in 1:49:40
More of the same, though I’m not sure if my slowness is coming from my cold, my sore hip or both of them put together. Either way, it wasn’t what I would call a grind, but when I got around for my last loop I was finished mentally. Sure, I could have cranked out 20, but there was no point to that today.

splits:
1st 5: 33:53
2nd 5: 34:16
3rd 5: 34:16

Sunday – 18 miles in 2:01:56
I started out a little tight, but once I loosened up I felt pretty good, or at least much better than the last two days. I’m still very strong when it comes to running pure mileage, but I definitely have some work to do… namely with my core and with eating too much. If I can get under 160 I’ll be hard to beat.

Somehow and some way I hit 100.3 miles for the week. Freak, machine, or stupid?

‘I think of Dean Moriarty…’

Ain’t nothing changed here but the prefix ahead of the day. We’re still settled in our constant state of alert, which, interestingly, kind of spices things up around here. We are nothing more than rank-and-file members of the leisure class that Plato wrote about so any type of adventure is welcomed.

Anyway, things are taking shape.

In that regard there will be no baseball or sports viewing around here for a minimum of two days. I’m taking a time out in order to waste my time on something else. Besides, all of the injuries ripping through the Phillies’ clubhouse kind of make me anxious since I’m fighting some aches and pains, too. Apparently I have some sort of inflammation of the Psoas major (or minor) muscle that makes me warm up extra long before runs and then zaps my speed after 90-minutes of running. It also hurts when I sneeze.

This, as they say, is no good.

No, I don’t need the disabled list and I seem to be responding to treatment, but it’s easy to understand why someone wouldn’t want to look at the walking wounding in red-and-white pinstripes if at all possible.

Speaking of the Psoas major, the hip flexor and the Iliotibial band, there was an fantastic story about our boy Floyd that will be out in this Sunday’s The New York Times. It’s longer than the one I wrote, and constructed how I wish I could put mine together as well.

Plus, the USADA called the Times back and not me? That’s so lame.

Oh well, you do what you can… when you are 50 percent of a staff there isn’t much time to go jetting off to places in order to write a better story. Besides, how interested are the folks in Philadelphia in anything not relating to the Eagles or Phillies?

Sigh.

Speaking of jetting off to places, the Times also had a few interesting stories about the 50th anniversary of the publication of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road.

For as much as I enjoyed On the Road when I was in my late teens and early 20s, I thought (and think) Dharma Bums was much better.

Still, 50 years for On the Road gives me an idea for a road epic… how about a bike race from Floyd’s old house in Farmersville to his new one in Murrieta, Calif.? By my estimate it is probably a little more than 2,600 miles from Lancaster County to Southern California, which is slightly longer than the Tour de France, but it would probably be just as good a race.

All we need are a few sponsors, some prize money and a couple of the best bike riders in the world and we’re set.

***
Finally, there was a story in the Inquirer today about former Phillies GM Ed Wade. It seems as if Ed got himself snagged in a tree on the way back to earth after a sky-diving excursion… or so they say.

If I didn’t know any better I’d say that Wade, now an advance scout for the San Diego Padres, was pushed out of the plane or tried to pull off a D.B. Cooper type stunt.

That’s OK, we’ll take him

The trading deadline came and went without too much fanfare for the Phillies, but that doesn’t mean they didn’t make a little bit of noise. Aside from adding Tadahito Iguchi last weekend to replace Chase Utley, as well as starting pitcher Kyle Lohse to bolster the starting rotation, general manager Pat Gillick traded with Seattle for reliever Julio Mateo for minor leaguer Jesus Merchan.

For the interim the Phillies have sent Mateo to Double-A Reading until he’s needed with the Phillies. So how come the Phillies just don’t send Mateo to Triple-A Ottawa to face more capable hitters before returning to the Majors?

Besides, Mateo can’t go to Canada because he is waiting to go to court on Sept. 4 for his third-degree domestic assault charge in which the story in The Associated Press describing the arrest noted that Mateo’s wife needed five stitches on her mouth. In other words, the law is keeping close tabs on the new Phillie.

Needless to say some web sites and others in the media had a little fun at the Phillies’ expense in discussing the move for Mateo. On Deadspin, the crème de la crème of sports blogs, the headline was, “The Phillies got another wife beater to hang out with Brett Myers.” Sure, it’s a little inaccurate, but the point is duly noted. The Phillies didn’t exactly go out and get a model citizen.

It’s doubtful that Mateo will have any influence at all with the current Phillies, though. After all, the strongest personalities in the clubhouse are also solid guys. Chase Utley, Aaron Rowand, Ryan Howard and Jimmy Rollins are names one will never see in the police blotter. Meanwhile, Cole Hamels has grown up a lot since his brawl outside of a bar in Florida before the 2005 season.

Here’s the interesting part about Mateo and perhaps shows a difference between the Mariners and the Phillies. Though the reliever was 1-0 with a 3.75 ERA in nine appearances this season for Seattle, team general manager Bill Bavasi suspended Mateo for 10 days without pay following his arrest in Manhattan in May. Moreover, Bavasi said there was no way that Mateo would ever pitch for the Mariners again following that incident aggressively looked to trade him.

Even though Mateo pitched well in Triple-A, Bavasi stuck to his guns.

“Our approach with him was that it would be better for us and for him if he broke back in elsewhere. And he didn’t fight that idea,” Bavasi said, while declining to detail what led the Mariners to conclude that. “It was collaborative effort to get him a new home.”

Meanwhile, Brett Myers was allowed to pitch for the Phillies only hours after being let out of the lockup following his arrest for a domestic incident in Boston in June of 2006. It was only after a loud public outcry that Myers was allowed to take a “leave of absence” from the Phillies.

Mateo, who turns 30 on Thursday, is 18-12 with two saves and a 3.68 ERA in 219 games over six seasons in Seattle. He had a 0.79 ERA in 24 games at Triple-A Tacoma, allowing just three earned runs in 34 1-3 innings. Opponents batted just .200 against him. Those numbers indicate that he is a pretty good pitcher – perhaps even just as good or better than Myers.

Nevertheless, the Mariners weren’t interested in having a player heading back to court for a domestic abuse charge on their roster… regardless of how good his numbers were.

“We treat it seriously,” Gillick said, according to AP. “We’re very aware of the situation.”

But apparently it isn’t a serious enough issue to pass on the trade. After all, the Phillies don’t have to go to Canada at all this season.

***
The injuries continue to mount for the Phillies. Along with Utley’s hand and Ryan Madson’s case of Brett Myers 2 1/2 –month-shoulder-strainitis, Michael Bourn is out after injuring his ankle tripping over the bullpen mound that is on the field along the first-base side at Wrigley, while Shane Victorino had a slight tear of his calf muscle.

According to the Phillies, Victorino’s injury is less severe than Bourn’s sprained left ankle, but as someone who deals with chronic calf problems let me tell you that I don’t necessarily agree. For one thing the calf muscle is the engine that serves as the anchor of the leg muscles. It is from the calf that the hamstring and the Achilles get their power. Any athlete who runs knows that all calf injuries are serious. I’m certainly no doctor but I’ll be very surprised if Madson and Victorino make it back before the end of August.

***
Jemele Hill of ESPN.com wrote a story in which she wondered what American professional sports would look like if they had a drug testing policy like cycling. Hill writes:

Had the NFL had the same rigorous testing as cycling, the Carolina Panthers might have showed up for Super Bowl XXXVIII a little shorthanded. As it turned out, several Panthers reportedly used performance-enhancing drugs during the 2003 season, and two of them allegedly had prescriptions for steroids filled right before they appeared in the Super Bowl. And while we can make all the jokes we want about Floyd Landis, last year’s Tour champion, the most glorified record in American sports is on the verge of being shattered by a man with numerous ties to performance-enhancing drugs. Tour officials already don’t recognize Landis as the champion and are pushing the United States Anti-Doping Agency to strip Landis of the title. Bud Selig wishes he had such an option with Barry Bonds.

And:

What Americans would never, ever want to do is what cycling officials did. We would never want to let a band of doping experts loose on American athletes. We are far too comfortable being entertained by dirty athletes to want to see any real cleansing take place.

Just imagine if the same vigilant testers used in cycling set up shop in American pro sports leagues. How many times would we read about American athletes being busted for performance-enhancing drugs on the ESPN crawl?

That’s an uncomfortable discussion. That’s why despite the blustering and grandstanding with all the major sports leagues on Capitol Hill, they would be unlikely to sanction a universal system that would require random testing of pro athlete.

Amen.

Meanwhile, two more riders are implicated in doping scandals. Basque Iban Mayo failed a test for EPO (there’s a test for EPO?!) and Tour de France champ Alberto Contador as been linked to doping by a German doctor.

The best would-be cycling writer in the U.S., Bob Ford, offered this one in today’s Inquirer.

The Philadelphia MASH Unit

Aaron Rowand is out of the lineup for Friday night’s game against the Pittsburgh Pirates because he hurt his shoulder playing tag with the kids from his neighborhood last night after the loss to the Nationals at the Bank.

There are a lot ways to go with this one, such as was the kid wearing a suit of armor? Good thing he wasn’t playing kick the can or else he could have ended up like Jon Lieber…

You see, the possibilities are endless.

Either way it’s good to know that when Aaron Rowand plays tag with the kids from the neighborhood, he leaves it all out there. Frankly the Phillies are lucky he didn’t run into a fence when chasing down some kid.

“I guess it’s be careful when you play with your kids,” manager Charlie Manuel said.

Nevertheless, when it rains it pours with the Phillies. Earlier today Chase Utley had surgery to repair the broken fourth metacarpal in his right hand in which a pin was inserted to the damaged area. The entire procedure took 20 minutes at Methodist Hospital by Dr. Randall Culp and the MVP candidate is expected recovery time is four weeks.

Joe Thurston’s contract has been purchased to replace Utley on the roster, though it appears as if the Phillies will have to make another move soon since the team announced that they had acquired Tadahito Iguchi from the Chicago White Sox this afternoon.

Along with a full cadre of Japanese media, Iguchi brings a .251 batting average, six homers and 31 RBIs in 90 games with him from Chicago. He also brings along a World Series ring from the 2005 season where he and Rowand helped the ChiSox to their first title in a long, long time.

Interestingly, Iguchi and Manuel are both veterans of Japan’s Pacific League. Manuel played for Kinetsu while Iguchi played for Fukuoka and Daiei.

To get Iguchi, the Phillies sent Single-A right-hander Michael Dubee – pitching coach Rich Dubee’s son – to the White Sox.

Iguchi is expected to arrive in Philadelphia tomorrow.

Anyway, with Rowand out, Michael Bourn will lead off and play center against the Pirates tonight. Abraham Nunez is at second for Utley, Pat Burrell was bumped up a spot from sixth to fifth, while Jimmy Rollins moved from leadoff to third. When Rowand returns – he’s day-to-day – Manuel says Shane Victorino will leadoff, Greg Dobbs will hit second and Rollins will remain in the No. 3 hole.

Just waking up and everything has still gone crazy

After getting home at 3 a.m. after being at a baseball game that lasted 14 innings and nearly five hours, it’s safe to say that I’m a bit fried today. But rest is for the week, right…

Man, do I ever need a nap.

Anyway, because I’m struggling to string together cohesive sentences this afternoon, I’ll just ramble on with a few observations about the Phillies and the latest from the sports world.

• After last night’s win over the Nationals the Phillies have a 24.5 percent chance to make the playoffs. Really? Yes, really. At least that’s math according to Ken Roberts, who created an “Odds of making the playoffs” web site.

Here’s what Ken does: after every game – and we mean every game – the odds of a teams’ chances to make the playoffs are calculated and posted on his site. Then, a glimpse into the future is proffered showing not only how the odds change if the Phillies win or lose their next game, but how the odds change pending every result on the full schedule of games.

Yes, it’s good stuff and you should check it out by clicking here.

• To start it off, I had never seen a game go from a sure end to tied up and headed for extra innings like the way last night’s ninth inning played out. For those who didn’t see it, speedy shortstop Jimmy Rollins raced around the bases when his relatively routine fly ball just short of the warning track in left-center field was jarred loose when outfielders Ryan Church and Ryan Langerhans bumped in to each other. Standing at third, Rollins raced home when Church’s relay throw skipped away from shortstop Felipe Lopez to force extra innings.

The most surprising thing about Rollins’ dash around the bases? That it wasn’t ruled an inside-the-park home run by the hometown official scorer.

• Meanwhile, when Ryan Howard hits a home run, he really wallops it. Not only do his homers sound different than other players’, there really is no doubt that they are going out – he doesn’t hit too many that scrape into the first row.

• No one with the Phillies will say it — though Charlie Manuel’s body language was downright funereal — but Chase Utley’s broken hand is just about the worst thing that could happen to the team right now. Forget about his statistics and the fact that Utley is an MVP candidate, and his hard-nosed style of play… it was because of Utley that the Phillies were able to stay in the playoff race despite injuries to Freddy Garcia, Tom Gordon, Brett Myers, Jon Lieber and Ryan Howard.

Yes, losing Utley is very significant. And that just might be the understatement of the year.

• The Phillies gave out a Cole Hamels bobblehead figurine last night and had a sold-out crowd. Here’s my question: What is the allure of that stuff? I can understand baseball cards and other memorabilia-type collectibles (kind of), but why are bobbleheads still popular? Just chalk it up to the every growing pile of things I don’t get.

On another note, last year (or maybe the year before, I forget) the Nationals gave out a Chad Cordero bobblehead figurine at a game at RFK. Within hours of bringing it home my son ripped the head clean off the body and for the past year or so there has been the head of Chad Cordero, complete with that geeky unbent brim of his cap, staring up from the bottom of the toy box in our living room. Perhaps that’s the appeal of the bobblehead doll… ripping the heads clean off.

• Speaking of ripping the head clean off and one man’s inability to understand events occurring in the world, I’m still attempting to grasp just what the hell happened at this year’s Tour de France. Frankly, I haven’t been able to come up with anything other than some non-sequitors and random ideas.

For instance:

— Perhaps it’s because I am an American and believe in a persons’ right to due process, but I just don’t understand how a man who never failed a drug test or violated any laws or rules of the sport could be bounced from an event he was about to win. Look, I know never failing a drugs test isn’t the best argument and I know all about Michael Rasmussen’s reputation, but if the Tour, the UCI and whatever other governing body is attempting to destroy cycling really disliked the dude and had valid reasons to boot him from the race, they should have never allowed him to start.

Now look what they have on their hands. It’s nothing more than a race that no one views as legitimate.

— I always am amused by American sportswriters whose idea of exercise is actually getting up to manually turn the channels on the television opining about cycling. I also do not understand how one can legitimately write about sports without a basic understand of training and performance-enhancing drugs. Get these people out of the press box now, because writing intelligently about sports doesn’t really have much to do with the games any more.

Alexandre Vinokourov? Wow. Who would have thought the Tour could have sunk lower than that fiasco?

— Along those lines everyone is quick to point out how “dirty” cycling is. But here is a fact: if MLB and the NFL acted like the UCI and the Tour de France, there would be more than 1,000 new players in those leagues tomorrow. It seems as if all cycling officials have to do is point at a guy and he’s out. Forget facts and protocol. The players in MLB and the NFL should be thankful every day that they have a union that supports them.

Ivan Basso, Jan Ullrich, Michael Rasmussen were all booted from the Tour de France this year despite never failing a drug test. Barry Bonds, Jason Giambi, Gary Sheffield and Mark McGwire have admitted to using performance-enhancing substances and got new contracts.

Which sport is “dirty” again?

— I’ve been asked if the current scandal in France will affect Floyd Landis’ case at all. My knee-jerk reaction is, “No, because they are mutually exclusive. Floyd’s case has to do with one specific test from one stage of last year’s race. This year’s scandal, they say, is about the ‘culture of doping.’”

Since I don’t believe Floyd is a part of that culture, nor do I believe he is a doper, I didn’t think it has anything to do with him.

But upon retrospect, maybe it does in the always fickle court of public opinion. Maybe Floyd suddenly becomes guilty because he rides a bike and won the Tour de France?

Either way it makes me happy to be a runner instead of a baseball player or cyclist.

— Meanwhile, other folks have asked me why they just don’t cancel the rest of the Tour. What’s the point anymore? It’s a valid question, but the answer comes down to the bottom line. The rest of the ride to Paris is economical, complete with all of the pomp, circumstance and corporate sponsorships.

They don’t put those corporate logos on their uniforms because they look nice.

The reason the Tour continues is the same reason why Bud Selig doesn’t go all French on Barry Bonds and pull the cheater from the field. It’s why the Giants re-signed Bonds – he makes a lot of people money…

Especially people like WADA president Dick Pound.

Integrity? Ha!

End of The Lieber Era?

When Jon Lieber walked off the mound in Cleveland last week with what was called with italics and smart-alecky finger quote marks as a “strained” ankle, no one thought it was too serious. Some even suggested that the ”strain” occurred when it appeared that Lieber wouldn’t escape the inning without his ERA inching closer to 5.

He is in a free-agent year, after all.

But when the news hit that an MRI revealed that Lieber had ruptured his peroneus longus tendon. This is the tendon that helps one go up on their toes and also pulls the outside of the foot upwards. The peroneals help to stabilize the foot on uneven, rough surfaces. According to medical journals, the rupturing the tendon isn’t too common, though it is often overlooked when treating an ankle sprain.

According to a podiatrical site,symptoms include pain behind the lateral ankle bone (fibula). Pain also increases with the duration of time on your feet and there is often swelling behind the fibula.

The problem for Lieber and the Phillies is that peroneal tendon tears do not tend to heal with conservative care and will require surgical repair. That pretty much means that Lieber’s time as a Phillie is probably over.

All told, Lieber went 29-30 with a 4.55 ERA. Seventeen of those 29 wins came during the 2005 season, where it was fair to say that Lieber was good. But then his fitness became an issue (an undoubtedly contributed to his injuries over the past two seasons) along with his attitude that headed south when the Phillies talked about trading him, when they didn’t trade him, when they moved him out of the starting rotation and then back to the rotation.

Either way, Lieber’s injury has put the Phillies in a lurch. With Freddy Garcia out indefinitely, Brett Myers heading back to the bullpen when he returns from the disabled list and unseasoned rookie Kyle Kendrick holding down one of the spots in the rotation with Cole Hamels, Adam Eaton and Jamie Moyer, the Phillies need an arm… now.

For the short term, assistant general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said the team will fill a rotation spot from within the organization, but a trade is possible.

“You can’t predict when someone is going to blow out a foot, a tendon,” Amaro told the Associated Press. “It is possible someone else will become available in the near future.

“Then again, I know how hard it is to make trades in this day and age.”

In the interim, Lieber will get a second opinion in Philadelphia on Monday. It’s hard to expect the news to be positive.

***
Writer Jeff Pearlman wrote a story about all of the former Major Leaguers playing for the Long Island Ducks of the independent Atlantic League for ESPN.com that is worth the read. Having had the chance to see the Ducks play in Lancaster earlier this season, it was fascinating to learn why so many former All-Stars are still toiling away far from bright lights of organized ball.

Pearlman is also the author of a book about Barry Bonds. It has to be hard to sell a book about someone as obscure and ignored by the mass media as Barry Bonds.

At least the ESPN.com story is good.

***
Speaking of Barry Bonds, according to a story in the L.A. Times, Marion Jones is broke. Flat broke.

Just take it steady, Freddy

How about this one… Freddy Garcia got his second opinion on his “frayed” rotator cuff and “some pathology” to his labrum from noted orthopedist Dr. James Andrews, and guess what? It looks like “frayed” and “pathology” isn’t as bad as it sounds.

The Phillies issued a statement on Thursday afternoon stating that Andrews agreed with team physician Dr. Michael Ciccotti in that Garcia might just need a few weeks rest and then could be able to get back out there.

Here’s the Phillies release:

Phillies Assistant General Manager Ruben Amaro Jr. issued the following statement today on righthander Freddy Garcia, who met with orthopedic surgeon Dr. James Andrews yesterday in Birmingham, Ala.

“Both the Phillies’ medical staff and Dr. Andrews are in complete agreement that a conservative approach should be taken in regards to Garcia’s injury.”

“Garcia will be shut down from throwing for several weeks. At some point, he will begin a tossing program. Both doctors agree that there is some damage to the shoulder, but it’s more a product of being a starting pitcher who has logged as many innings as Freddy has over the last several seasons.

“At this point, there is no time frame for when Garcia will be pitching competitively at the major league level for the Phillies.”

It will be interesting to hear Garcia’s reaction to the diagnosis, especially since he appears to be a bit peeved at certain segments of the local sporting press. According to a story in the local press, Garcia told the scribes from Chicago that he thinks he’s being treated unfairly by the Philadelphia-area media.

“I want to show them, especially in this town,” Garcia told the Chicago Tribune. “They’ve been really rough. ‘What did he do? Why did they bring him here?’ I feel like they rip me because I cannot pitch.”

Sorry Freddy. It’s not you, it’s us.

A second opinion

The Phillies didn’t announce the MRI results for Freddy Garcia’s right shoulder until the top of the ninth last night, so that left more than a few of the scribes and Phillies’ personnel scrambling for answers over what “pathology in the labrum” and a frayed rotator cuff really means.

I sat next to a former Major League manager at last night’s game and when the news was announced, I just looked at him:

“That’s not good,” he understated.

Garcia wants to investigate all of his options before deciding on a course of action, but more than likely seeking a second opinion upon hearing Dr. Michael Ciccotti’s prognosis simply delays the inevitable…

Freddy can either get cut now or he can get cut later.

Nevertheless, Garcia has the option of the second opinion. The Phillies do not. Instead, Pat Gillick and Ruben Amaro Jr. will be scrambling to find a long-term fix for the rotation with some pathology. Certainly Brett Myers doesn’t seem to be headed back to the rotation when his stint on the disabled list ends, and asking Kyle Kendrick – the pitcher called up from Double-A to make his Major League debut in Garcia’s stead tomorrow – to fill the veteran’s spot is a tall task. In four-plus professional seasons, Kendrick has just 12 appearances above Single-A.

Who is he, Mike Zagurski?

While we ponder that, the debate over whether or not Garcia is the biggest flop in recent Phillies’ history will persist as the names Andy Ashby, Lance Parrish, Floyd Youmans and Mike Jackson are conjured again.

Frankly, I say the biggest flop is Danny Tartabull, but that’s me. I’d like to say Ashby just because he was so miserable when he was here, but that deal seems to have worked out in the end. The Phillies got Bruce Chen in the short term and Adam Eaton found his way back to Philadelphia.

Perhaps Gavin Floyd and Gio Gonzalez will too?

***
When I was a teenager I had the pleasure of sitting near the visitors’ on-deck circle for a doubleheader between the Orioles and White Sox at Memorial Stadium. The games were fairly uneventful except for the ChiSox shortstop, Ozzie Guillen, chattering away with me as he waited to come to bat.

What I appreciated the most was that Guillen didn’t talk down to me (or anyone else) and left me wondering where he learned some of the creative ways in which to curse. It was then as it is now, spellbinding.

That’s the way it was yesterday, too, when I had the pleasure of listening to Guillen’s pre-game meeting with the writers where he discussed Garcia’s predicament… let’s just say it was fascinating and refreshing.

These days everyone is so concerned over their image and what everyone else thinks. Guillen is as real as it gets.

***
In Philadelphia we already knew that the Phillies were the losingest franchise in the history of all professional sports. Even teams that are older than the Phillies – like the Cincinnati Reds, for instance – have not lost as many games.

But the Phillies phutility has gone national as the team inches ever closer to the 10,000 loss plateau. Jere Longman of The New York Times wrote about the consistent losing of the Phillies in today’s paper.

Sigh!

***
And Tony Soprano? Yeah, it didn’t end the way you thought…

“I guess you never hear it coming when it’s your turn…”

Pay attention, people!

Jose Mesa to the rescue!

Wait… didn’t the Phillies just sweep the Mets at Shea?

It didn’t take Johnny Sain or Kreskin to figure out something was wrong with Freddy Garcia last night in Kansas City. From the first pitch it appeared as if Garcia, the Phillies’ big off-season acquisition, was even more out of sorts than usual. His pacing around the mound looked much more deliberate and his pace slowed from its normal pedestrian rate to a crawl.

Instead of using an hour glass to time Garcia’s sauntering between pitches, the league shifted to a sundial.

But more than Garcia’s unhurried work, the most telling part of the short, five outs outing against the lowly Kansas City Royals was the big pitcher’s velocity. Instead of topping the 90-mph mark, Garcia struggled to throw his fastball in the mid-80s. He would have had difficulty breaking a pane of glass with his heater.

Jamie Moyer could have thrown a fastball with more alacrity.

“When I took him out of the game, I walked him downstairs and started talking to him,” manager Charlie Manuel said. “I asked him his shoulder. I told him if he’s hurt, I don’t want him pitching. I told him, ‘The way you’re throwing, it definitely looks like to me that you’re hurt.’ He’s a mentally tough guy and wants to pitch, but at the same time — then he told me his shoulder was sore.”

So here we go again. Suddenly the team’s big off-season pick-up appears to be injured again. Though Garcia won’t be examined until Monday in Philadelphia — coincidentally when his former team the Chicago White Sox turn up at the Bank — another trip to the disabled list appears inevitable.

“I told him, basically, I do not want somebody who is hurt pitching,” Manuel said. “I want you pitching 100 percent. If there is anything wrong with you, I have to know it. He wanted to talk about it. He was upset because his performance wasn’t good. We’ll check him out and see what’s wrong with him.”

Said Garcia: “Monday I’ll check it out and see what’s going on with my shoulder. I’ve got to stop pitching. I don’t want to pitch the way I’ve been pitching. If it is not 100 percent in my shoulder, there’s nothing I can do.”

If you are scoring at home, that’s pitchers Garcia, Brett Myers and Tom Gordon out with shoulder ailments. In the minors, pitchers Kyle Drabek, Joe Bisenius and J.A. Happ are all on the disabled list.

What the… ?

With Garcia likely headed to the disabled list for the second time before the season has come close to reaching the halfway point, the question seems to be when was the pitcher hurt and didn’t he have a physical before the trade with the White Sox?

Whatever the answers are, it appears as if Andy Ashby’s short time with the Phillies in 2000 will be better than Garcia’s in 2007.

***
So with Garcia headed out what do the Phillies do? Why sign Jose Mesa to a minor league deal, of course.

The Phillies won’t confirm it, but everyone seems to know that the club’s all-time saves leader is making his big comeback to Philadelphia and should join the club in Kansas City.

Needless to say, most fans aren’t too pleased about Mesa’s prodigal return to one of his old teams, but whatever. If he can pitch a little bit, and he was decent in 79 games for the Rockies last year, it’s a good move. If he continues to pitch like he did for the Tigers in 16 appearances this season (12.34 ERA), release him.

No big whoop.

***
Speaking of no big whoop, general manager Pat Gillick reiterated that he is not leaving the Phillies to become the president of the Seattle Mariners.

***
Remember how we wrote yesterday that it seems as if the Mets’ Paul Lo Duca is a jerk? Well, apparently Cole Hamels thinks so, too. Hamels, according to the story in the Wilmington News Journal says Lo Duca acted like an amateur after his sixth-inning home run on Thursday night.

“You need to act like you’ve done it before,” Hamels told bulldog scribe Scott Lauber. “He’s a veteran. He should know better. It’s the old sacred game thing. There are little kids out there that are looking up to you. They look at what happens. That’s not the right way to do things.”

Then again, Lo Duca appears to have a history of doing things the wrong way.

One coming in and one going out?

With a report out there that the Phillies are bringing back their all-time saves leader, Jose Mesa, it only figures that another pitcher is on the way out… perhaps. Reports from the Phillies’ clubhouse are that Freddy Garcia has soreness in his right shoulder and will see team physician Dr. Michael Ciccotti on Monday.

Whispers are that Garcia has been hurt all season long and is just now up to admitting it. Does it have anything to do with six-run second inning the Kansas City Royals posted on him Friday night? Who knows. Either way, Garcia was torched for six runs and seven hits while getting just five outs against the Royals.

What in the name of Mike Jackson…

You have to give credit where credit is due, and in this case kudos go out to the Phillies. Big kudos.

The Phillies, finally, have figured out how to misdirect (read: lie) everyone without tipping their hand. Oh sure, in this particular instance there were plenty of clues as well as the proverbial writing on the wall, but when pushed and shoved and asked all the probing questions, the Phillies stayed on message, stuck to the story and never wavered.

Boy how things have changed. How so? Well, there was a time – back in 2004, I suppose – where Jim Thome was held out of a game and then not used in a late-inning, pinch-hitting situation against a right-handed pitcher even though the tying runs were on base and a home run could have won it for the Phillies. When pressed on why he didn’t use Thome in that particular situation, manager Larry Bowa tersely answered that his slugger was “unavailable.” Time and time again Bowa repeated those words… “He was unavailable.” Or, “I told you he was unavailable.”

Over and over again, like a broken record, he spoke.

But upon some reflection, Bowa slowly and thoughtfully sauntered back into the clubhouse, called over the writers as he propped himself up on the table in the middle of the room and waited for a few stragglers to gather around.

Then he confessed.

I know, Larry Bowa.

Bowa just didn’t feel right about hiding Thome’s injury and used the notion that the opposition would read the stories and use that knowledge in an attempt to expose the slugger’s weakness. After all, ballplayers do not talk amongst themselves and rely on the daily coverage from the press for their information for all of the happenings around Major League Baseball. Nevertheless, Bowa couldn’t keep the secret, though, like any self-respecting baseball manager, he blamed the press the same way Ol’ Man Johnson did with “those meddling kids” in the Scooby Doo cartoons.

“I would have gotten away with keeping Thome on the bench if it wasn’t for you muckracking little newshounds… drat!”

In the caper of Tom “Flash” Gordon and his meddlesome shoulder, however, Charlie Manuel never charted off message. When his closer was spotted at the Tampa International Airport waiting to board a plane back to Philadelphia, Manuel and the rest of the Phillies’ brass stuck to the script.

“He’s just going back for a routine check-up,” they said. “Nothing to worry about.”

Nah. Gordon had to have his arm checked out during his first spring training with the Phillies and went on to have a first half worthy of an All-Star nod. At the time the news of the check-up conjured up images of Mike Jackson and the 2000 Phillies. Remember that? Think of where the Phillies would have ended up that season if they didn’t have Jeff Brantley… wait, 2000? Never mind.

But, when Gordon stumbled out of the gates, blowing three save chances in April and complaining about his strength and inability to through his curve with his normal panache, the Phillies followed the lines.

“Gordon still has good stuff,” they said. “The fact he’s gotten hit is the location of the pitches he’s thrown.”

When Brett Myers, the Opening Day starter, was bumped out of the rotation and into the role of set-up man for Gordon, the answers remained the same. Myers to the ‘pen? It was just a way of shoring up the team’s weakness. Why would anyone think anything different?

“Gordon is our closer and we’re committed to him until Brett becomes better,” they said.

So wouldn’t you know it that after Gordon’s first perfect inning of the season for a save in Tuesday’s victory in Atlanta that everything would come unhinged? The day after that outing, where he got a pop out and a pair of strikeouts for his fifth save, Gordon told leading bulldog and Delawarean, Scott Lauber, that his shoulder wasn’t feeling so good and that probably wouldn’t be able to pitch regularly until it starts to feel better.

After the game, and nearly past the deadline for most of the newspaper writers in Atlanta, Manuel finally revealed the truth. Gordon was hurt with an injury similar to the one that sidelined him for most of last August. Gordon, 39, reportedly could miss significant time.

“Since spring training, I’ve been concerned about Flash,” Manuel told the writers late last night.

What?

“He was sore in spring training when we kind of shut him down,” Manuel told the writers last night. “He was a little stiff and sore.”

Come again?

“I don’t want to speculate,” he told the scribes. “Hell, I’m not a doctor.”

Huh?

“I’m sure Brett will get some opportunities to close,” he revealed to the writers.

Uh, yeah. Anyway, as his teammates headed for a charter flight to the coast where they open a four-game series against the Giants tonight, Gordon jetted back to Philadelphia to be examined – again – by team physician, Dr. Michael Ciccotti. When he returns is anyone’s guess.

More: Phillies lose game and Gordon
Even more: Ouch! Gordon ailing as Phils fall again
Sweeps week bonus coverage: Gordon out, Myers in

Injuries abound

This afternoon the thought crossed my mind that maybe the Phillies should give Freddy Garcia all the time he needs to recover from what was diagnosed as tendonitis of his right biceps. After all Jon Lieber was out there revving up his ample engine in the bullpen as an insurance policy. Sure, it might leave the relieving corps rice-paper thin, but at least it was something.

But then when the team announced that Lieber had strained his right oblique muscle two more thoughts zoomed through my head…

Lieber has oblique muscles? And secondly, this isn’t good.

The worst part for the Phillies is that there is no timetable for Lieber’s return.

Stay tuned…

Injuries looming for Hamels?

Certainly I have written a fair amount about Cole Hamels and his durability, how he was able to stay healthy during his first full season of professional baseball (going wire to wire, that is), and how he plans on remaining healthy during his big league career.

There is no doubt that Hamels has a smart approach in preventing his chronic injuries from resurfacing. But according to Sports Illustrated’s Tom Verducci, it might not do much good for Hamels. You see, Verducci has come up with something he calls “The Year After Effect” where he identifies young pitchers headed for arm trouble and/or stagnant performance. The flashpoint, according to Verducci, is an increase of more than 30 innings from one year to the next and he correctly targeted the Twins’ Francisco Liriano as the casualty for 2006.

Based on an increase of more than 80 innings, Hamels is looking at some trouble in 2007.

Verducci’s Year-After-Effect Candidates for 2007

Cole Hamels

Phillies

23

181.1

+80.1*

Justin Verlander

Tigers

23

207.2

+70.2

Anibal Sanchez

Marlins

22

200

+64

Jered Weaver

Angels

24

200

+56

Sean Marshall

Cubs

24

147.1

+53.1

Scott Olsen

Marlins

22

187

+50.2*

Jeremy Bonderman

Tigers

24

234.1

+45.1

Adam Loewen

Orioles

22

183.1

+41.1

Anthony Reyes

Cardinals

25

187

+39.1

Scott Mathieson

Phillies

22

164.1

+33*

Boof Bonser

Twins

25

192.2

+31.1*

*-players exceeding their previous professional high

I’ve been trying to mine the depths of my memory and for the life of me I can’t think of a Major League pitcher who has gone through a career without getting injured. Of course I’m drawing just on the past six years, but if one is into masochism and wants to spend time in examination rooms there are two choices. The first one is to become a pitcher. The second is to get a motorcycle.

Those are two surefire ways to get some type of injury.

In the meantime Hamels will continue to remain diligent in his training regime. Will that make a difference in keeping the young lefty healthy? Definitely. But that doesn’t mean he won’t get injured. Health and a long career seem to be mutually exclusive for big-league pitchers.

Nevertheless, one veteran pitcher once told me “sometimes injuries just happen.” I respectfully disagreed. Injuries happen when one becomes a pitcher. It doesn’t appear as if anyone is immune.

Rowand and Gordon on D.L. II

Of all of the players that could have suffered a season-ending injury, Aaron Rowand’s might have the most dire affect on the Phillies’ lineup. Yeah, the Phillies say Rowand is only expected to miss 4-to-6 weeks with a broken ankle, but let’s not kid ourselves… it will be very difficult for Rowand to return to his typical pinball-style of play in centerfield this season.

Sure, it’s easy enough to simply plunk Shane Victorino into Rowand’s spot in center, but what about the bench? Surely, the Phillies aren’t nearly as fearsome with Danny Sandoval, Chris Roberson, Michael Bourn and Joe Thurston on the bench.

And what happens when the Phillies face a lefty? David Dellucci, who had been sitting out against left-handers, will now be forced to play every day regardless of pitching matchup. Surely Dellucci is capable and he came through with 29 home runs in a full-time role with the Texas Rangers last season, but 28 of those homers were hit against righties.

This season, two of Dellucci’s 12 homers have come off lefties. But aside from those two bombs, Dellucci has just one other hit against left-handers.

Then there is Rowand’s defense in center. It’s hard to find too many other players who go gap-to-gap as well as Rowand. Victorino is capable, and is a fun player to watch because of his energy, but he’s still a little raw.

Either way, Rowand’s style of play has already affected the team with two stints on the disabled list for running into things. An unpadded centerfield wall is one thing, but just think if Chase Utley would have been injured during Monday night’s collision.

Meanwhile, Gordon’s injury shouldn’t be too serious, but it is clear that the 38-year-old veteran needs more rest between outings after admitting that he has pitched with some pain since the All-Star break. That’s really not that big of a deal — Gordon just has to be used more judiciously by manager Charlie Manuel.