Hot topics: Doug Brocail, Brandon Backe, suspended games and booing Blum (!)

Most of us already consider Doug Brocail something of a medical miracle, given the angioplasties, heart stents and multitude of DL stints and surgeries he’s endured over his 15 years in the big leagues. So it should come as no surprise that’s he’s turning to another unconventional method in an attempt to return from yet another injury.

Soon after he tore his hamstring on a play at first base in Atlanta in early May, Brocail underwent a procedure called platelet rich plasma therapy. This involved extracting a small amount of blood from the body and spinning it for approximately 15 minutes, a step that removes unwanted components of the blood that are not primarily responsible for healing.

What remains is an increased concentration of platelets, which are reinjected into the injured area. It’s not about reattaching the tendons as much as it’s a way to have the healthy areas fuse together, through the platelets.

You might remember the Steelers’ Hines Ward undergoing the procedure just before the Super Bowl earlier this year. Reportedly, Dodgers pitcher Takashi Saito also had the PRP therapy.

Whether this procedure helps Brocail get back on the mound is still to be determined, but he’s happy with the progress so far. He’s moving around well and has begun to throw bullpens again. Two months ago, he said he was shooting for a return soon after the All-Star break, but obviously, that’s not happening. Now he’s eyeing August, and while there is no guarantee he’ll make that deadline, or ever pitch again, you have to admire his determination. Stay tuned.

* Brandon Backe had his right shoulder examined by Astros medical director David Lintner, who diagnosed the right-hander with a partial thickness tear of his right rotator cuff. Backe will seek a second opinion next week in Birmingham, Ala. from well-known orthopedic surgeon Dr. James Andrews. The Astros expect Backe to undergo surgery, and even though they released him, they’ll be on the hook for the cost of the surgery.

Read Brian McTaggart’s full story here.

I’m a little curious as to why Backe refused the Minor League assignment after he was designated a couple of weeks ago. After the surgery, he could have rehabbed with the Astros and continued to accrue service time while on the DL. As it stands, he’s a free agent headed for surgery, looking for a job. Doesn’t make sense.

* The suspended game between the Astros and Nationals took a whole seven minutes to complete. I predicted this one would go 15 or 16 innings, just because. Instead, Miguel Tejada threw wildly to Puma on an inning-ending double play, Nyjer Morgan scored from second, and the game was over.

I did a quick walk-through of the clubhouse following the loss, just to see how the players were reacting. It was what I expected — they sat at their lockers, chatted, watched TV…just like any other day. Carlos Lee rallied the troops with a “Let’s be ready at 7:05” pep talk, and for the most part, the team was in fine spirits.

After the game, Puma was asked if he was disappointed when the first game ended. His response: “I wasn’t out there long enough to be disappointed. I went out there, moved some dirt around, and that was it.”

On the outcome: “That’s pretty much how you expected that game to end. It was one of the ugliest games I’ve ever seen, in the first place (referring to the May 5 portion in D.C.).”

* Geoff Blum was roundly booed in the fourth inning for seemingly not running hard on a double that he may have been able to stretch to a triple. I suspected Blum is still not 100 percent from the hamstring issues he’s had to deal with this year, and after talking with him after the game, that appears to be the case.

Blum does not like talking about injuries, nor does he use them as an excuse. But he realized he had to address this one:

“You want to boo me, boo me,” he said. “But I’m going to give you every effort that I’ve got, and right now, I don’t have that.

“I’ve never let any team I’ve played for down and never given them anything but everything I have.”

*Russ Ortiz was not happy with his manager on Thursday.

From the Ask Alyson files:

I was wondering if there’s any chance that Hunter Pence might compete in the Home Run Derby. We know he has more power than his numbers show because he’s more of a complete hitter who puts the ball in play rather than trying to pull everything. I bet he would do very well in the Derby, and it would be a great way for him to introduce himself to the rest of the country’s fans that don’t know him. Brian S.

Players have to be invited to participate and so far, Pence hasn’t been invited. He has said he would do it if asked. To be honest, I’d rather he didn’t participate…I’ve seen way too many post-Derby slumps over the years for it to be purely coincidental and I’m just as happy with Hunter sitting this one out.

Assume that the Astros finish in second place with 82 wins, and narrowly miss the division/Wild Card, would you say that they would be active in next years free agent market?  If so, who would they target?  Nils

There is no way to know what the Astros will be doing four months from now but looking at the roster right now, we can see a ton of players who will be free agents and theoretically could come off the books. That leaves four players under multi-year contracts: Berkman ($14.5 million), Oswalt ($15 million), Lee ($18.5) and Matsui ($5). Those four will take up $53 million and I would surmise the payroll is going to come down from the $100 million-plus it is now.

If Jose Valverde walks, the Astros will need a closer. And obviously, they need starting pitching as well — who doesn’t? If Mike Hampton finishes the year strong I’d like to see them bring him back. It’s way too early to see how the Astros will address their needs, but whether they make or miss the playoffs with 82 wins will be largely irrelevant. Their task is the same every year, to put a competitive team on the field. I’d like to see one or two of the young pitchers at Triple-A get a real chance next spring to crack the rotation. This team simply has to get younger. Not having a single starting pitcher under the age of 30 is not a good thing, in my opinion.

Could you give an explanation about how players run out of options and what happens if you move someone to the Major League level and add him to the 40-man roster? Does he have to clear waivers to be sent back down?  I am specifically wondering about what ifs for guys like Bud Norris and Yorman Bazardo. Jim, Highland Haven, Texas
Basically, every player has three options on his contract when he begins his professional career. He can be sent down and called up as many times as a team wants in a single season and that counts as one option. So, in layman’s terms, a player is pretty much at the mercy of the club for the first three years of his Major League career, before he enters arbitration-eligibility.

Norris and Bazardo are not on the Astros 40-man roster, so their time hasn’t yet arrived. If they were to be called up, their contracts would be purchased — as opposed to a player who is already on the 40-man roster being “recalled.” At that point, their service time officially begins. Because they have no service time, they do not have to clear waivers to be sent back down.

When a player does run out of the three options, he must pass through waivers before the club can send him down.

Please send your questions to


I am pretty disappointed in the fans for booing Geoff Blum. He has always proved to be hardworking, reliable and a solid player. However, I do wish that he would take a few games off to rest and get himself back up to his full potential. We need him at his 100% even if that means that Keppinger gets the start at third for a week or so.

Bottom line…hamstring injuries are not an injury you try and push yourself through. It could end up costing you and your team more in the long run.

Alyson’s a suck up…

Some of us love her honesty and respect her opinions, even when she doesn’t (ahem) agree with us. So if you have nothing positive to write, write nothing. Have a nice day. Keep doing what you’re doing, the way you’ve been doing it, Alyson.

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