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Orioles owner Peter Angelos has finally decided to let GM Andy MacPhail trade Brian Roberts to the Chicago Cubs.  In a privately held conversation, Angelos was said to give MacPhail permission to trade Roberts (who, as we darn well know, is Angelos' really, really, really all-time favorite baseball player) for  Sean Gallagher, Eric Patterson, Matt Murton, and another undisclosed prospect plus the HOF Yosh Kawano hat. MacPhail plans to call Cubs GM Jim Hendry tomorrow morning to tell him the good news--that their organizaton was FINALLY able to come to this MOMENTUS DECISION. MacPhail doesn't expect any other obstacles to affect this long anticipated transaction.

D'oh!

Oh, about a week back.

When Reed Johnson collided with Ray's 1B Willie Aybar to end the Tuesday game in Tampa, he looked like a pinball bouncing off a bumper. Given that he missed most of last year because of a lumbar disc herniation, ultimately treated by surgery in April 07, I knew this could be trouble. Playing two series on astroturf (Toronto and Tampa consecutively), worried me just because of his history of back surgery. It's being reported that he was suffering from back spasms since the collision.

Supposedly he was available for pinch hitting duty for Thursday but he hasn't been used since the collision. A tidbit in this morning's Tribune says he received an anti-inflammatory injection in his back on Thursday. So unless that information is a bit off, he might have been given the injection in Tampa. The team didn't fly back to Chicago until the wee hours of Friday morning for the day game against the Sox. If he did get an epidural cortisone injection (ESI), it's similar to how Daryle Ward's herniated disc condition was treated although I don't believe Ward has ever had surgery on his disc, so it's not quite comparable. Ward's rehabbing in Arizona and is getting a minor league rehab assignment with the Iowa Cubs this week before probably coming off the DL for the Sox series next weekend. Hence, DWard's DL stint is going to amount to just short of 6 weeks.

If Reed Johnson does go on the DL Monday (an off day before the Baltimore series), expect Sean Marshall's call up to mean that Eric Patterson (or Matt Murton) gets to stay up more than their usual 3 day stint for a change. Somehow I don't understand why they didn't fill the roster spot sooner, unless Reed Johnson truely was capable of playing. We've been playing a man short since last Tuesday, more if you consider Edmonds missed a few games. If the scrappy one (of scrappy, scrappier and scrappiest fame) was capable of pinch hitting (explaining why he's not on the DL yet) but hasn't been used, any DL stint can still be retroactive to his last game on June 17th.

After the game the Cubs announced that the MRI/Arthrogram performed on Carlos Zambrano's right pitching shoulder showed absolutely NO structural damage. Specifically there was no evidence of a labrum injury or rotator cuff tear. There was some inflammation in the back of the shoulder which probably refers to the infraspinatus muscle, hence the Tribune reporting the test showed a minor shoulder strain.

The infraspinatus is the posterior of the four muscles that make up the rotator cuff. Cuff tears are mostly synonymous for a tear in the supraspinatus tendon which is the superior muscle and tendon. The muscle in front is the subscapularis and the teres minor is posterior below the infraspinatus. A mild muscle strain implies some inflammation but no significant stretch or tear of the muscle fibers. So with no structural damage and a collective sigh from all places Cub Blue, the conservative thing is to let Zambrano's shoulder rest for two starts. Supposedly they discussed this with Z and they wanted to know if he should miss only one start (vs. Baltimore) or two starts (at US Comisk-ular). Rumor has it that when Zambrano was told he would not bat in an AL team home park he opted to miss two starts.

Thanks Transmission, you've said almost everything we need to know about Soriano's ouchie tonight (this link includes video of the injury). So I'll keep it to just a few more questions and answers and a picture.

Yes, it's broken...and yes, it's fractured. Yes, there's only minimal displacement (which means the bone doesn't need to be set or reduced by manipulation or surgery).

What can't he do? It's not his (right) throwing hand so it only afftects his glove hand for catching (which isn't his strong suit anyway) and his gripping of the bat (which is his strong suit).

Metacarpal fractures (that don't need surgery to realign the bone) heal by forming callus, which is new bone that the cells create from tissue that lines the normal bone called the periosteum. When a fracture occurs, the cells in the periosteum eventually produce new bone formation surrounding the fracture site that is called fracture callous. The earliest signs of fracture callous show up on an X-Ray at 2-3 weeks but the callous isn't solid until around 4-6 weeks. When the fracture callous is well formed, the bone at the fracture site is usually stable although the bone will continue to remodel for months.

The pain should subside in a week or two but until some callous is seen on his X-Ray and at the same time his docs find no tenderness at the fracture site, I doubt they will let him swing a bat. So 4 weeks to recovery is possible and 6 weeks is generously realistic. Fortunately the 5th week is the All-Star break, so I do believe there is a good chance he's back by July 18th in Houston (right after the ASB), unless he needs a rehab stint. I also wonder if he will have any lingering effects to his power and how long will it take to get the rust off his swing?

So to answer that I found a decent comparison. Chase Utley was hit by a pitch which fractured his right 4th metacarpal (which is his throwing hand) last July 26th. This mlb.com article predicted 4-6 weeks on the DL and even hinted at season ending possibilities. Utley did a 3 day rehab stint in the minors and returned to the Phils lineup on August 27th, virtually a month after his injury. His return included a 3-5 game with a HR and a double.

So are we broken? That's the question for our TCR readers to sort out.

I'll leave everone with a picture and no, it's not Soriano's but it's definitely a broken 4th metacarpal.

Although life is grand after a 7-0 homestand that saw sweeps over the severely injured Dodgers (Furcal, AJones, Garciaparra, LaRoche and 3/44) and the severely injured Rockies (Holiday, Hawpe, Tulowitzki and Barmes), I'm sensing strange karma that may be responsible for some weird happenings that are in the news.

To quote Ricardo Montalban, "Revenge is a Dish Best Served Cold."

Former Cub, Shawn Estes got his only win so far this season as well as the Padres only win against the Cubs. He was slated to open the upcoming series in San Diego vs the Cubs monday night until he fell going from the clubhouse to the dugout friday in San Francisco, breaking the thumb on his left pitching hand. He will be replaced by Cha Seung Baek a 28 yr old Korean and former Mariner minor leaguer.

We all know Alfonso Soriano has been dealing with leg issues for awhile. Last August, against the Mets, he pulled up lame rounding 2nd base with a hamstring pull that kept him out of the lineup for a month and prevented him from running the bases aggressively the rest of the 2007 season. During spring training this year, people were questioning why he wasn't running all out. Manager Lou Piniella said in spring training he didn't want his left fielder running much to prevent any leg injuries. Certainly there was enough time for his hamstring injury to have healed in the offseason, so the Cub braintrust knew something wasn't right this season from the beginning in Arizona. This April, he pulled a calf muscle sometime before or after making a signature hop-catch in left field, which cost 2 weeks on the disabled list.

Last night after two days of rest (he didn't play the last game in Houston), Soriano obviously wasn't running normally on what should have been an easy leadoff double to the RF corner where he gimped toward 2nd base and had to do a headfirst slide to get into 2nd safely. Two plays later, Soriano "boldly" took off early on a line drive rope by Derrek Lee which Pirate right fielder Xavier Nady just missed making a diving catch. The ball popped out of Nady's glove letting Soriano score. If the catch was made, it would have been a baserunning blunder. His play in the outfield shows that his running is causing problems there as well. A single by Jason Bay in the bottom of the 1st, which if he had normal wheels would have been his fly ball to catch. It dropped in softly for a single and was ultimately fielded by CF Reed Johnson. In the 4th inning Zambrano and Soriano singled, Theriot walked. After a fielder's choice putting Sori at 3rd base, ARam hit a medium deep fly to right. Although Nady has a strong arm in RF, if Soriano had any confidence in his legs, I am sure he would have challenged Nady's arm, instead Nady's throw was cut off since it was obvious Soriano and his leg wasn't a threat to score. In the 5th, he hit into a double play and even the Pirate TV commentators were showing replays on how funky his running looked while not even making the play at first base close. Soriano was mercifully replaced in the bottom of the 6th by Micah Hoffpauir and as it was a blowout game one wonders if it was the score or Lou's frustration with Soriano's running that lead to that move. The Chicago TV feed had their camera's on the Cub dugout showing the intereaction between Piniella and Soriano where it appeared to me that Lou was trying to get Soriano to fess up and admit that his leg is hurting, although he adamantly denied being injured.

Chad Fox is landing on the DL again, apparently re-injuring his right elbow playing catch with Scott Eyre. If you play the game of six degrees of separation, Will Ohman's ghost just played a trick on Chad Fox. Or maybe it was just being overly optimistic to expect his oft injured right pitching elbow to hold up. Fox has been on the Cubs 25 man roster for a whopping 17 days. He was activated May 2nd, so in his 2nd stint with the Cubs he's made it to the DL faster than his first. In 2005 he went on the DL April 26th, and he's spared us this time as his injury that year occurred while on the mound. I have vivid memories of his pain on that cold April night in 2005:

when he threw a slider Monday night and felt the "pop," he knew it was bad.

This time the diagnosis is ulnar neuritis or inflammation of the ulnar nerve. For a 37 year old pitcher with a history of 3 surgeries on the elbow (he didn't get surgery after the 2005 event), it's not surprising that pitching, given his surgical history, will make the nerve cranky. The ulnar nerve passes behind the medial/inside of the elbow called the cubital tunnel but this area is what most people call "the crazy bone", which gets it's name because impact to that area often dings the nerve causing sharp pain and tingling. The nerve is susceptible to inflammation leading to what is called cubital tunnel syndrome where the ulnar nerve inflammation leads to pain, numbness or even weakness in the hand, starting on the inside of the elbow and radiating down the forearm into the ring and little fingers. If the symptoms don't calm down with rest and anti-inflammatory medication then there are surgical options including transposing (moving) the nerve to a location anteriorly (further in front of the elbow) where it isn't as likely to be crimped from repetitive bending. There are alot of variations on that surgery. The fact that Chad Fox has had 3 previous surgeries, including Tommy John (Ulnar Collateral Ligament reconstruction), and he opted not to have surgery with his last "event" in 2005 indicates he will pass on any procedure this time as well. Expect the nerve symptoms to calm down but always be eager to come back with repetitive activity. The timeline to recovery? Well Cubs trainer, Mark O'Neal said:

"it could take a week, it could take two weeks, it could take two months. Who knows?"

The extra righty spot in the bullpen moves on. Kevin Hart, Chad Fox and now Jose Ascanio. My guess is if Ascanio, who has been closing for the Iowa Cubs (9 saves) can throw strikes, Lou is gonna fall in love with another hard throwing option out of the bullpen. Ascanio in Iowa has pitched 21 innings, given up 14 hits with a 2.08 era. Now if those numbers could translate to the big club, trainer Mark O'Neal's most pessimistic prognosis just might be a bit too optimistic.

UPDATE [1:00PM CST]: It will indeed be Jose Ascanio getting the call-up. 

It looks like a DL stint
is in the Wardosaurus' future. The Cubs premier bat off the bench
apparently injured his low back when he took a tumble at first base
during spring training and it just kept hurting. This makes more sense regarding his slow start as he was
0-14 as a pinch hitter until his recent run of three game changing
pinch hits.

His back pain persisted so an MRI yesterday was obtained and diagnosed a herniated disc.
He's agreed to get an epidural cortisone injection to treat this. The
treatment means a few days of rest (ie. no baseball activities) and so
expect another Iowa callup, most likely power hitting lefty 1B-OF Micah Hoffpauir.

Déjà Vu all over again, Alfonso? For the second time in two years during mid April, Cubs star left fielder Alsonso Soriano injured a leg.

Last year he missed just a week from a mild left hamstring strain on April 16th. He returned to the lineup by April 22nd but was limited in his running as well as his outfield play for a few weeks after that injury.

Here was the immediate reaction to last April's injury on cubs.com:

...his status is day-to-day. The center fielder was injured when he dove trying to catch Clay Hensley's single with one out and a runner at second in the fifth. "I don't like to be hurt," Soriano said. "I like to play every day. We'll see how I feel tomorrow."

This isn't to be confused with his more significant right quadriceps strain last August 6th. I vividly remember seeing Soriano pull up lame after rounding 2nd base against the Mets in the game Tom Glavine got his 300th win. Third base coach Mike Quade helped Alfonso off the field that evening. Soriano returned to action by August 28th.

In last night's game vs the Reds, while making the third out in the top of the 1st inning by catching a flyball from Ken Griffey Jr. and doing his signature hop to make the catch, Soriano once again came up lame. He needed to use CF Felix Pie to limp off the field. In the bottom of the inning he was replaced by Mike Fontenot with Mark DeRosa taking his spot in LF.

Again cubs.com says (Carrie Muskat must have a macro key for her Word application regarding this stuff. Ironically, when she hits the F7 key, the macro spits out something about being day-to-day):

Cubs outfielder Alfonso Soriano had to leave Tuesday's game after the top of the first inning with a strained right calf. His status was day-to-day.

This time the preliminary diagnosis is a strained right calf. To recap the anatomy, the quadriceps is the major muscle in the front of the thigh. The hamstrings are the muscles behind the thigh. The larger muscles that make up
the calf are the gastrocnemius which
is more superficial and the deeper soleus which blend together as they go toward
the lower portion of the leg until they connect with the achilles
tendon
. They are responsible for pushoff in running activity. Just like
any other muscle injury they are graded by extent of injury, rarely
need surgery and usually take from 2-6 weeks to heal.They shipped Soriano off for an MRI Tuesday night so the results will be available in the morning. Hearing Lou Piniella on the postgame interview, he didn't sound optimistic with the most recent comp injury being Phillie OF Shane Victorino who was put on the 15 day DL the day after his calf strain on Saturday. Matt Murton, Jake Fox or Eric Patterson...please check your answering machines.

It could be worse. The Ides of April ruined the 2006 Season on April 19th when Scott Eyre fielded a Raphael Furcal bunt. The sooner they get this month over with the safer I will feel.

UPDATE: It's official.  Eric Patterson gets the call-up as Fonzie goes on the 15 day DL. Stay tuned for the Patterson brothers reunion deathmatch tonight.

Time will tell if the Cubs just lucked out by not acquiring Brian Roberts. His strength wouldn't have been in the field as we already have a solid second baseman in Mark DeRosa. Roberts would have given the Cubs a leadoff switch-hitter with a track record of well above average OBP and basestealing ability. Not making the trade keeps the Cubs farm system talent pool of near MLB ready talent available for the future, whether it be a different transaction or if those prospects develop further, maybe a spot on the roster if an injury occurs. Could Sean Gallagher replace one of our 5 starters if more than one breaks down? Will Eric Patterson become a bona-fide mlb leadoff hitter? Can Jose Ceda or lefty Donald Veal become the power arm that teams drool over with just a little more seasoning? Will Roberts back spasms limit his playing time this year devaluing his baserunning skills and therefore his trade value on a team which needed to completely rebuild with young talent?

I tried to think of deals that were rumored but never happened, but ultimately worked out better than if the trade had occurred. Last year Jacques Jones was almost dealt to the Marlins while being nearly useless to the club the first half of 2007. After that "almost trade" he started hitting again and some would say that was the difference the team needed to make the playoffs.

I'm sure Cubs history is full of rumored deals that never happened giving credence to the cliche that "not making that trade was the best thing that could have happened". So here's a chance for TCR readers to chime in on trades that almost happened (but never did) and the historical hindsight that goes with it.

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