Key injuries impact playoff races
Injuries in spring training are bad, injuries in June are worse, and injuries at this time of the year -- especially to teams that fancy themselves playoff contenders -- can be absolute season killers.
Remember last season? The Padres lost Mike Cameron and Milton Bradley to freakish injuries with a week left and -- ooof! -- they missed the playoffs. By a single game. And the 163rd game at that.
The White Sox and the Diamondbacks aren't going through anything quite that dramatic. And neither are the Yankees. But all three teams are scrambling after severe injuries last week put a hurting on their playoff runs.
Here's a look at a week of ailing and wailing for those three contenders:
Joba Chamberlain, the Yankees' young pitching hope, had to leave a game last Monday with a sore shoulder and was put on the disabled list on Wednesday with rotator cuff tendinitis. Though Chamberlain vows to pitch again in '08, a lot of questions surround his ailing right shoulder. As the New York Times' Tyler Kepner points out, catcher Jorge Posada claimed tendinitis in his shoulder earlier this year and he eventually had to undergo season-ending surgery.
Chamberlain made a visit to Dr. James Andrews on Wednesday and later said he'll be back in the rotation "way before" Sept. 1. For the Yankees' sake, he'd better be. New York is 23-9 in games in which Chamberlain appears. He's 3-1 as a starter, with a 2.76 ERA, in 12 starts. (The Yankees are 8-4 in those starts.) Since he started his last game the Yankees are 2-5.
New York begins the week four games behind Boston in the American League wild-card race.
After nearly a month off because of elbow tendinitis Jose Contreras returned to the White Sox' rotation on Saturday and was throwing in the mid-90s when, 34 pitches into the game, he tried to outrun Boston's Jacoby Ellsbury to the first-base bag. He never made it.
A couple of steps from first, Contreras landed awkwardly on his left foot, rupturing his Achilles tendon. The injury is expected to knock him out of the rotation for the better part of a year. Considering he'll be 37 years old in December, Contreras may have thrown his last pitch.
The White Sox are one of the highest-scoring teams in the AL, putting up just under five runs per game. But their pitching is middle-of-the-pack, and without Contreras it threatens to fall a lot lower than that. As it is the Sox are on a terrible pitching streak. The rotation has a 6.41 ERA in its last nine games. What's worse: Starters have thrown only 46 1/3 innings. No team in the league has had fewer innings from its rotation over that span.
D.J. Carrasco, a 31-year-old right-hander who has pitched for six different franchises and in Japan, is Contreras' replacement unless the Sox can pull off a trade for someone like Seattle's Jarrod Washburn. The Sox start the week a half-game ahead of Minnesota in the AL Central.
It has taken everything that the Diamondbacks have to keep their heads above .500 this season and maintain a hold on the National League West lead. Without Orlando Hudson, their veteran second baseman, that grip is suddenly more slippery than ever.
Hudson dislocated a bone in his left wrist on Saturday night in lunging to tag Atlanta's Brian McCann at second base. Doctors performed surgery that night, but the season is over for Hudson, who was hitting .305 with a .367 on-base percentage. He'll be replaced by light-hitting Augie Ojeda, who will get the bulk of the work, and Chris Burke.
Hudson, 30, has been one of the steadiest players on one of the most unsteady teams in the majors. Once 12 games over .500, in mid-May, the Diamondbacks slipped two games under in late July. They begin the week two games over .500, and 1 1/2 games ahead of the Dodgers, in first place in the West.