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This little news tidbit brings some warmth to my baseball heart:

"Aramis Ramirez will begin baseball-related activities this weekend in Cincinnati."

Although there was a slight incident preceding Cub right fielder, Milton Bradley's calf MRI, it apparently showed he has a mild calf muscle strain.

The patient in the MRI tube before Cubs right fielder Milton Bradley's appointment Wednesday broke the machine in a claustrophobic fit, forcing Bradley's test into the late afternoon.

Fortunately it wasn't Mr. Bradley that had the claustrobic meltdown. It would be interesting if it was one of the mlb umpires that are targeting him for his history of histrionics.

Live Long and Prosper.

It's not a good thing for the Cubs when I'm writing all these articles. It means somebody on the team is injured, exploding or a decision on how to use (or not) the disabled list is looming. So I'll keep this maximally short (oxymoron that I am).

Today we finally get some good news and the results from the MRI on DLee shows the same old, same old. Yes, a bulging disc is causing neck and upper back spasms. No, he won't go on the DL. Yes, he'll be ready to play in the next game or so against San Diego at Wrigley Field.

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In an embarrassing conclusion to the saturday night game against the Brewers, the Cubs bullpen literally and figuratively exploded.

In a highlight on TV for Mr. Brenly, he went out on the ledge and predicted the two run HR from Micah Hoffpauir in the 5th inning as the big first baseman strode up to the plate. Brenly had given a handsignal to Hoffpauir before the game indicating his swing was just a pinch off the night before and he expected a sweet spot power shot tonight. Hoffpauir's blast to right was on the first pitch, making that a magic moment in the booth and both Len and Bob were somewhat giddy. Len Kasper couldn't recall any such prognostication from his partner in their 5 years together. It brought a game that felt like the Cubs were behind by a million runs actually back to a 3-2 defecit and made me realize that Ryan Dempster was having quite a solid outing.

Brenly the Prognosticator? Ryan Dempster deftly lasted into the 7th
inning although on TV, Len and Bob thought he was done after 6 and
they expressed their surprise to see him out on the mound beginning the 7th
after over 100 pitches. After back to back HR's to Counsell and Braun,
Dempster was done at 121 pitches. Cotts and Patton made the really ugly 7th a six spot for the Brewers.

During the disgusting 7th and 8th innings, the walkmasters paraded their stuff including walk(s) from Cotts, Patton, Fox and Heilman. I was suffering along with Ron Santo who said on the radio: "anytime you have 7 walks you don't deserve to win." Six of the nine walks the Cubs pitchers gave up came from the bullpen.

In the top of the 8th, the Cubs brought it back to  9-6 defecit with a 4 spot including back to back doubles by Fukudome and Bradley but the bullpen was yet to complete pouring kerosene on the ballgame.

The bottom of the 8th started with Chad Fox on the mound who promptly walked Braun (on 7 pitches) then blew out his right elbow on a pitch that was five feet high and wide above the strike zone. As we all know Fox's elbow has had multiple reconstructions and after his last term with the Cubs in which his usage by Dusty Baker drew criticism, he didn't get another surgery...just a miracle feeling that he could pitch on scar and duct tape. Apologies to Mr. Baker, time didn't heal that wound. In a 24 hour period the Cubs have exposed both the proximal humerus and the distal humerus. Ouch.

Chad Fox is now on the DL and the Cubs have called up Jose Ascanio from AAA Iowa as the bullpen parade continues.

Injury Delay...photo of Chad Fox after icing his elbow postgame.

Aaron Heilman replaces Chad Fox

Heilman promptly wets his pants by walking Fielder (4 pitches), Hardy (4 pitches) and Hart (6 pitches), with Hart's for the second run of the inning. Nobody to the rescue (Mets fans must be laughing their asses off). The cliche coaching visit to the mound does no good and then Duffy singles for another run and Kendall hits a sac fly for the Brewer's12th run.

As Arizona Phil has explained, Chad Fox was brought to the majors so that the Cubs will have roster flexibility if they get to the post-season. The Boy Scouts 60 day DL mastery merit badge goes to Jim Hendry.

 

Well, actually it is the humerus that sees all the action when one dislocates a shoulder.

The shoulder anatomy is based on giving the joint extreme flexibility including very close to a 360 degree arc of motion. To achieve this enhanced level of function, mother nature drew up a ball and socket joint with an extremely shallow socket (the glenoid, which is the joint component of the shoulder blade or scapula).

The comparable joint in the lower extremity is the hip which is also a ball and socket joint but with a much deeper socket. The hip doesn't need the same arc of motion for function. The trade off for less motion is much better stability.

A shoulder dislocation shouldn't be confused with a "separated shoulder" which is what is medically known as an injury to the A-C (acromio-clavicular) joint between the clavicle (collarbone) and the acromion (the shoulder blade's bony projection that connects it to the clavicle).

I'm holding my breath (and have turned a nice shade of Cub Blue at this point). Big Z tweaked his left hamstring in the 5th inning after successfully bunting for a hit. It was a key to the Cubs 6-4 win over the Marlins as DLee whacked a grand slam homerun  to break a 2-2 deadlock. The Cubs have been hit hard with pulled stuff...hamstrings, calves, groins all of which are in this grey zone of injury where they've not disabled listed anyone so far. The roster is running on empty to the point that they've had to use Koyie Hill as the backup-backup third baseman, Zambrano as the first pinch hitter off the bench and now Rich Harden gets told to put on his spikes to pinch run for Z.

We'll find out today the results of Zambrano's MRI but from the usual sources covering the Cubs, manager Lou Piniella was quoted as saying the injury was in the belly of the hamstring. This means muscle belly rather than the tendon which is where muscles attach to bone. Proximally hamstring muscles attach to the pelvis (ischium). If the MRI picks up on enough  muscle injury expect the first DL stint of the season but a grade I injury can be better in 2-4 weeks. If the MRI doesn't pick up much injury he may just miss a start.

 Carrie Muskat/mlb.com quotes:

"I tried to initially [take Zambrano out], but he told me that it
was more of a cramp than anything else," Piniella said. "After a pitch,
he realized it was more than that. I tried to get him out initially,
and he talked me out of it.

Zambrano then slowly walked back to the dugout. The problem is in the "belly" of the (left) hamstring, Piniella said.

Toni Ginnetti/Sun-Times quotes:

At first he tried to convince trainer Mark O'Neal and Piniella it was
only a cramp. After one pitch to the next batter, Alfonso Soriano, ''he
realized it was more,'' Piniella said. ''We did the right thing by
getting him out.''

Zambrano's next scheduled start is Friday in Milwaukee.

''I'd say it's in jeopardy,'' Piniella said. ''And if I had to
guess, I'd say no. We'll see. I'd guess we'd have to do something to
bring up a starter, but let him get his [MRI].''

 

A short mention about an AP story I just read. Bohemian National Cemetery in the Chicago area has built a 32 foot red brick wall  made to eventually resemble centerfield at Wrigley once the ivy starts growing. With a stained-glass scoreboard to serve as "skyboxes" for some 288 potential eternal season ticket holders. There are some original seats and some of the old Wrigley outfield in front taken from the ballpark when they rebuilt the drainage system a year ago.

Here's the LINK if you want to sign up. The grand slam package goes for $4700, cremation is extra.

One more thing...The urns and plaques are already licensed by Major League Baseball, so they are still working it to be getting their "piece of flesh" from those who cheer for the Cubs in the life hereafter.

This was the first home opener I've missed in 30 years.

I'm way too baseball crazy. My wife loves to travel to exotic places so when she came up with plans for a trip to China for 3 weeks the only question was when. It was either September/October or April. There went my opening day streak. Opening day is for me a religious holiday. You know, opening day is guaranteed to freeze your butt off but it's the annual reintroduction to Wrigley Field. Brown vines withstanding, the scoreboard is such a beautiful sight after a long off-season. So when I decided to sacrifice the beginning of the 2009 season (at the expense of not sacrificing the end of the season) I knew I'd be able to follow the Cubs via all the mlb and internet technology options out there. 

Not so fast, grasshopper.

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Gordon Wittenmyer in his Sunday Sun-Times article extolled the virtues of Cubs trainer, Mark O'Neal. It's a really nice piece explaining how valuable an athletic trainer can be to the ballclub. Beyond the obvious treating of injured athletes, the job involves organizing effective treatment protocols, reviewing medical histories and records and something as simple as honest communication of his medical opinions to both the athlete and management after assessing all this medical input. It took some time but he's created a sense of trust of his judgement from athletes and management.

The line between keeping the manager and GM fully informed and not betraying a player's confidence is not a tough one to walk, O'Neal said, as long as it comes with honesty, straight talk and the confidence he and his staff know what they're doing.

Rich Harden was all the news yesterday even though there was nothing new going on. Harden was newsworthy because he's starting the spring camp with long toss rather than work off the mound like the other pitchers. He's been on an off-season strengthening program for an achy-breaky shoulder that everyone in Cubs camp is still struggling to label. It's kind of like having a family member with a psychiatric diagnosis in the 1950's. Nobody wants to label the poor fella because of the stigma and gossip. Sun-Times beat reporter Gordon Wittenmyer, in his blog, was irked that once again there was misinformation delivered this off-season regarding what the diagnosis of Harden's shoulder issues are.

Can anybody tell me what the advantage is in omitting those details and being vague about these things? It's not like the Cubs have to protect the information for the purposes of shopping Harden or for any on-the-field competitive reasons (scouts have eyes).

I've covered three other teams in my career, and the ones that were most up front about these kinds of things had the fewest headaches with the way the information got out. And the fans stayed well informed, without the yo-yo effect.

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