Strasburg strong in return

Washington Nationals pitcher Stephen Strasburg pitches against the Los Angeles Dodgers during the first inning at Nationals Park in Washington on September 6, 2011. This is Strasburg’s first Major League game since undergoing Tommy John surgery last September. UPI/Kevin Dietsch

Stephen Strasburg pitched five shutout innings in his first Major League game since undergoing Tommy John surgery last September.

Stephen Strasburg met every reasonable expectation, and exceeded several ridiculous ones, in his nearly flawless return to the major leagues Tuesday night at Nationals Park.

Where’s the rust or the lost command? Who returns to the big leagues after 382 days away for elbow surgery with more precision and better efficiency than when he left? Who fans one Dodger on a 99 mph fastball, barely allows an audibly struck ball in five innings, but has the touch and finesse to fan both Matt Kemp and Andre Eithier on 90 mph change-ups?

It’s amazing how far we’ve come with Tommy John surgery.

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Is it time to panic in the Bronx?

New York Yankees pitcher Joba Chamberlain watches the ninth inning of MLB American League baseball action at Yankee Stadium against the Boston Red Sox in New York June 9, 2011. REUTERS/Jessica Rinaldi (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT BASEBALL)

Considering the Yankees are currently sitting six games above .500, the question in the title of this post seems rather silly. Until you take a closer look, that is.

After sweeping a hapless Oakland team and taking two of three from the Angels in L.A., the Bombers were just swept by the Red Sox, who outscored their hated rivals 25-13 in the process. Joe Girardi’s club has now lost seven in a row to Boston and is just 1-8 in the season series.

Adding insult to injury, it appears as though reliever Joba Chamberlain could need Tommy John reconstructive surgery after he was diagnosed with a torn ligament in his throwing elbow. The injury is a major blow to the club, as Chamberlain heads to the DL with a 2.83 ERA and a 1.05 WHIP. He had stabilized one of the biggest issues for the Bombers, who have struggled getting to Mariano Rivera in the ninth.

If Rafael Soriano (elbow) could ever get healthy and pull his head firmly out of his rear end, then the loss of Chamberlain could be slightly mitigated. But the $35 million offseason acquisition has been nothing shy of disastrous thus far in the Bronx, so relaying on Soriano at this point isn’t prudent.

Of course, the Yankees can pick their poison in terms of what their biggest weaknesses is right now: their bullpen or their starting rotation. For the most part, Freddy Garcia and Bartolo Colon have pitched beyond expectations. Teams with as much offensive firepower as the Yankees have will certainly take Garcia’s 3.86 ERA and Colon’s mark of 3.39.

But at some point, A.J. Burnett will have to step up. He’s 6-4 on the year but his ERA is north of 4.30 and worst of all, he remains inconsistent. One start the Yanks are getting seven innings out of him and the next he’s done in five. Assuming Colon and Garcia have at least one bad stretch coming up between them, the Bombers need a more consistent effort out of Burnett. (It would have also been nice if CC Sabathia could have stopped the bleeding with a win over Boston on Thursday night but alas, not even the big fella could save this club right now.)

The other more subtle issue that seems to be growing more problematic by the day is Girardi himself. His moves lately are baffling and just in terms of managing his pitching staff, it seems as if he either leaves his starters in too long or overuses his bullpen. It’s like there’s no middle ground with Girardi and you have to wonder when his players will start losing confidence in him – if they haven’t already, that is.

The good news for the Yankees is that the American League doesn’t look as strong as it has in recent years. The Red Sox are the class of the division and the league, but the Indians have figured out that they’re the Indians, the Tigers are inconsistent and the Rangers look a lot less scary than they did a year ago. It’s not inconceivable that an 88 or 89-win Yankees team could make the postseason as a Wild Card and hope to get hot at the right time. After all, they’re still third in runs scored, first in home runs and second in slugging percentage and OPS. In other words, their offense can certainly carry them all season.

But that doesn’t mean there isn’t a major dark cloud that is presently hovering over this club and it’ll be interesting to see what the front office has in store if things continue to get worse.

Naturally, Gomes was singing a song from the Karate Kid, not about Wainwright’s injury

The search is over for the most bizarre sports story of the month: Jonny Gomes, you win.

After word spread that Cardinals’ starting pitcher Adam Wainwright suffered a serious arm injury that could require Tommy John surgery (it does), reports surfaced that Gomes arrived to Reds’ spring training practice on Wednesday “joyously” singing, “Wainwright’s gone, Wainwright’s gone, Wainwright’s gone.”

Naturally, Cardinal nation wanted Gomes beaten to within an inch of his life but the outfielder denied the report and claims he was merely singing the song “You’re the Best Around” from the “Karate Kid” movie.

Nope, this isn’t a joke. From Mark Sheldon’s blog:

I was present in the clubhouse when Gomes walked in. He was singing — but it was a song from the original Karate Kid movie — “You’re the best around…” As for what he said about Wainwright, Gomes’ account follows:

“I was doing an interview with [Rob] Dibble and Dibble gave me the breaking news that Wainwright was flying back to St. Louis with arm problems. That’s all I heard. I came in and I said ‘is Wainwright gone, is Wainwright gone?’

Gomes went on to say that he came up with Wainwright in the minors and would never wish injury on any player. If it’s any consolation, St. Louis skipper Tony La Russa told the media that, “I happen to know Gomes. I don’t think he meant anything by it. And I haven’t even heard for sure what he said. But I like the way he competes.”

Hal McCoy, the writer who posted the original report, removed the story and said that he “didn’t sleep last night” after what he wrote caused a stir.

Whether the story is true or not, this will certainly ratchet up the rivalry between the Cards and Reds this season. And whether Gomes sang about Wainwright’s injury or not, there’s no doubt that Randy Marsh is proud that the Reds’ outfielder was signing “You’re the Best Around.”

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