Marty Lurie Talks San Francisco Giants Baseball

DL Key in AL West by Rick Kaplan

Rick Kaplan
Staff Writer

OAKLAND (April 26) – I can almost hear Roy Steele on the PA at the Coliseum, “. . . and batting fourth for the Athletics, Larry Davis.”

Davis, the A’s trainer, may be the most important man in the dugout right now. More than anything else, injuries at this early juncture of the 2006 season are having a huge impact on Oakland’s success.

Already Bobby Crosby, reminding us of his 2005 routine, in which he suffered a broken rib on opening night and a broken ankle on August 28 (effectively ending the A’s season) In 2006, he already has been out of the line-up a total of five games following two separate mishaps, and hampered, even while playing, to one degree or another during the remainder of the contests.

Click below for more! Before Crosby broke that ankle last summer, the A’s seemed unstoppable on the strength of a 55-24 record since Crosby had returned from the 2005 opening night injury.

Once again, the injury report is getting more ominous.

Rich Harden has been the stopper for the A’s the previous two seasons, the go-to hurler who can put an end to a losing streak, a role that nearly every contender needs to fill and which Harden has thrived in.

When he has been healthy.

And more than clueless American League hitters, his toughest opponents have been the numerous muscle injuries which have left a gaping hole periodically in the A’s rotation during 2004 and 2005.

Hopefully for Oakland, today’s back spasms won’t set the club back like his previous injuries have. And while he recovers, can Larry Davis’ training room magic find that missing 8 MPH for Esteban Loaiza’s fastball before opposing hitters send his ERA into the upper stratosphere?

Huston Street is day-to-day, and the bullpen performed admirably in close games during his absence. Anything more prolonged, however, could be a fatal blow.

Despite all the injuries, and a mediocre offense thus far that will definitely get a lot better, this team has been in most games right up to the final out.

This is a very good sign.

Not much – some injuries and a few key hits – is separating the A’s from the mediocre start they have had and what could have been a red hot beginning to the 2006 campaign. The A’s have played 14 one or two run games (Thanks, Ken Korach and the A’s radio team!)

They are 4-6 in one run games. If the team regains the full power of the weapons it has been doing without – which involve the offense and defense (SS Cosby), the starters (Harden and Loaiza), and the bullpen (Street) – this is going to be a very, very tough team to beat.

In fairness, their rivals in the American League West have has their own share of misfortune.

Bartolo Colon’s shoulder hasn’t been right since at least September of 2006 (Don’t blame the WBC!) He is now on the DL. Fortunately for the Angels, they have a lot of starting pitching – especially now that Kelvim Escobar is healthy again, and Ervin Santana is developing into the front-of-the-rotation type that they projected. John Lackey is among the best, and most durable, righties in the AL. and there is no better 1-2 bullpen pair in baseball than Scott Shields and Frankie Rodriguez.

But it’s whether a game Tim Salmon can recover from a radical knee surgery and provide key hits from the DH slot to a fairly ordinary offense (ordinary except, that is, when they play the A’s and Garret Anderson becomes Barry Bonds) that will have a lot to do with determining how far the can go this season.

Throw in Garret Anderson’s continuing foot, knee, and back problems, and Vladie’s troubling shoulder, as well as Mark Kotsay’s intermittent lumbar discomfort and the Big Hurt’s ongoing recovery from foot surgery, and it becomes obvious why the medical staff can have as much to do with deciding the pennant as the pitching staff.

A lot has been made of Texas’ loss of Adam Eaton, their projected #2 starter – and another one of those puzzling, no credentials, multi-million dollar free agent pitchers -for half the season. However, this is a guy with a lifetime 4.3 ERA, low innings, and a previous history of arm problems (and Tommy John surgery in 2003), and that was entirely in the NL with San Diego. So, I’m just not sure if this is comparable to the losses the A’s and Angels are dealing with.

It’s true that Texas again has little pitching, either with or without Adam. Kevin Millwood can’t do it alone. For my money, and I don’t know “what is going on behind the scenes,” but this appears to be a front office with dubious judgment, having traded the very productive Alphonso Soriano for the questionable Brad Wilkerson.

As for the Mariners, their relative good health at this early stage – they have had virtually no injuries since a false alarm over Jeremy Reed’s knee during spring training – doesn’t seem to have affected their horrible play.

A staff led by Jamie Moyer, and waiting for the emergence of Felix Hernandez, the official next “next Koufax,” who is 0-3 and beginning to look a little like a human being, and a bullpen anchored by Eddie “Walk-off” Guardado, is not very promising. Even with position players like Ichiro, Richie Sexon, and Adrian Beltre, this is going to be another long, cold summer in the Northwest.


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