fickle finger of fate

five days ago i flew down to mexico to attend a wedding. i didn’t think about baseball much while i was down there; drank mojitos all day, laid around in the sun and collected shells w/ my kids, and ended up with refritos for brains. i still haven’t shaken off the effects and am in no great hurry to do so; my 6-year-old had to sign the customs declaration to get us back into the country . . . . . i come home to find way too much baseball news to catch up on; hope you’ll forgive me if i seem a little out of it.

the injuries to welley and wainer are, to say the least, concerning. wellemeyer’s elbow started barking at just about the same time (give or take a week) as looper’s did last season in his first full year as a starter. looper hit the dl on june 16 and missed two starts. he had thrown 80 innings / 1322 pitches at the time; wellemeyer is currently at 83 innings / 1244 pitches. probably just a coincidence. the reports are reasonably encouraging, but keep in mind that after wellemeyer became a starting pitcher last season, his elbow only held up for 8 outings before he hit the dl. it was allegedly a freak injury, caused when wellemeyer banged his elbow on his knee during the follow-through on a pitch, and was only expected to keep him out of action for a few days, but he ended up on the disabled list for 6 weeks. the current ailment sounds less ominous; let’s hope so.

as for wainwright --- many of us have been fretting about his workload and dreading an injury, but the finger ligaments were not foremost on our list of worries. they are now. a quick google search turned up a few pitchers who’ve struggled w/ injuries to a finger ligament. adam eaton missed the first 4 months of the 2006 season with that injury; dana eveland (now pitching well for oakland) and minnesota reliever pat neshek suffered this ailment in the minors. one of the guys in the johan santana trade, brant rustich, had surgery to repair a finger ligament in college. i also found one historical example, former orioles pitcher mike boddicker, who pitched through a finger injury in 1986 and saw his season implode; he was 10-1 with a 3.48 era before the injury, 4-11 with a 5.60 thereafter. i couldn’t find a whole lot of other information, and in any case the only info that really matters at this point is the report from wagonmaker’s doctors, which is due later today.

the team will start boggs tuesday and is thinking of moving mcclellan into the rotation, perhaps as early as thursday (which would normally be wainwright’s next turn). while the cards have had outstanding success with reliever-to-starter conversions, this one strikes me as the longest shot yet. mcclellan hasn’t started regularly since 2004 and has thrown more than 100 innings in a season only once as a professional; moreover, in his pro career mcclellan has thrown just 65 innings (give or take) above class A, including his innings at the big-league level this year. that’s not to say he can’t eventually become an effective big-league starter, but he doesn’t seem prepared to step into the role right now --- not nearly as well prepared as, say, jaime garcia, who is already conditioned as a starting pitcher and has thrown nearly 200 innings above class A. garcia has made a graceful transition from double A to triple A, lowering his walk rate while continuing to strike hitters out. in ideal circumstances he’d spend the rest of this season at memphis, but the circumstances aren’t ideal.

unfortunately garcia pitched yesterday, which means he’d be on just 3 days’ rest thursday; they’re not gonna start him on short rest. other options, assuming wainwright’s unable to take his turn? parisi looked shell-shocked in his two starts; i wouldn’t think he’s a candidate . . . . . the obvious (only) solution is to start anthony reyes, whose normal turn falls on tuesday. and the argument for doing so has nothing to do with the player-development rationale that i and other reyes advocates have long been making. the argument used to be: just throw reyes out there, let him learn to pitch at this level, live with his mistakes in the short run and get him established for the long run. under the present circumstances, the argument is much simpler: he’s the best available candidate in the short run. garcia might be better on the merits (although that’s hardly a given), but he can’t go thursday and he’s only 6 starts removed from double A. mcclellan isn’t conditioned to start; parisi looks overmatched. reyes, if nothing else, can be relied on to throw 5 or 6 innings and avoid trashing the bullpen; he has gone at least 5 inning in 32 of his 38 big-league starts.

dave and tony have their reasons for not wanting reyes in the rotation, or anywhere on the roster; mozeliak may think he’s more tradeable if they keep him at triple A. but let’s not make this too complicated; let's not be pathological. if wainwright can’t go thursday, then reyes should get the start; if he bombs and the rotation still has a hole in it, then garcia’s schedule can be adjusted so he’s available for the turn after that. this has nothing to do with reyes' long-term development potential; it's all about keeping the team afloat in the short term, nursing them through a (hopefully) temporary crisis without making a hash of the whole pitching staff.

i haven’t had any chance to get caught up re the draft yet, but i do want to note the florida marlins’ 45th-round selection, fred atkins jr, an outfielder from the college of marin. this player’s father is an old friend of mine from long long ago. fred atkins sr played high-school ball with rickey henderson and was taken in the 7th round by the yankees in 1976, the 160th overall selection. a right-handed pitcher, fred sr hurt his arm in class A and by 1984 was bussing tables with me at a restaurant in berkeley, california; he was still close friends with rickey, who that winter signed with fred’s old team, the yankees, for $2 million a year. a couple of years later fred sr got a certificate as a hair stylist; during his training course he absolutely butchered my roommate with the clippers, ended up having to shave him right down to the scalp. fred junior was born in 1988, a year before i left california; i have been long out of touch w/ him. but i learn now from google that fred senior got out of the hair-cutting trade and became a counselor for abused kids --- as befits this large-hearted man. he never expressed a word of bitterness about his injury nor his failure to become a pro ballplayer; it’d be a nice story if his son goes on to realize that ambition. here’s an article about fred junior, who was drafted last year in the 29th round; apparently the kid was regarded as a 15th-round talent this year, but fell in the draft because he’s committed to play next year at jackson state, alma mater of ex-cardinal curt ford and well-remembered bosox pitcher oil can boyd. if he signs w/ the marlins, i’ll be keeping an eye on him.

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