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Big League Stew

Spring Headlines: Javier Vazquez’s comeback cut short by knee injury, Cubs get scare from Starlin

Mark Townsend
Big League Stew

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(AP)

Even the best laid plans are one misstep away from falling apart.

For Javier Vazquez, those plans were to impress while pitching for Puerto Rico in the World Baseball Classic, and then hopefully latch on with a major league team as a result. Unfortunately, all it took was one twist of his surgically repaired knee to end those hopes, According to several media reports, including this detailed one from MLB.com's Zack Meisel, the tweak has forced him to withdraw from the WBC.

Vazquez underwent right knee surgery to repair an injured meniscus over the offseason, and he informed El Nuevo Dia, a newspaper in San Juan, P.R., that discomfort in that knee will prevent him from participating in the Classic. Vazquez said he felt a twinge last week while twisting his knee during rehab.

Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal adds that this setback pretty much ensures the now 36-year-old veteran won’t pitch for a major league team in 2013. Of course Vazquez sat out the entire 2012 season at his own discretion, but refused to announce his retirement. There‘s no word yet on his future plans on the heels of this disappointment, but one would assume he’ll give it one more shot if his health allows it.

Starlin Castro hobbled by hamstring: The Chicago Cubs held their collective breath on Wednesday after superstar shortstop Starlin Castro pulled up lame while running out an infield single in their 11-7 loss to the Dodgers. Castro was immediately removed from the game and examined by Cubs trainers before being diagnosed with tightness in his left hamstring. He’ll be listed as day-to-day, which is a legitimate relief based on Carrie Muskat‘s postgame report.

“Not good,” Sveum said. “It’s not a good thought because it was kind of like he pulled up quite a bit. I didn’t know if it was a knee. Most guys, they grab [the hamstring]. He was just kind of hobbling. Thank God, it doesn’t seem to be a big deal at all.”

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Castro played in all 162 games last season and that’s his goal this year.

“I don’t know what happened,” he said. “I worked too much in the Dominican, running a lot. Hopefully, it’ll be good.”

One can safely assume the Cubs will exercise extreme caution with their prized 22-year-old.

In other Cubs injury news, Comcast Sports Net's Patrick Mooney reports right-hander Matt Garza has been cleared to begin a light throwing program on Thursday. It'll be his first action since suffering a mild lat strain two weeks ago.

Another day brings another Yankees injury update: This time it’s Phil Hughes, who one week after being diagnosed with a bulging disc in his upper back says he’s pain free and ready to roll in camp.

That’s all well and good, but MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch writes that the Yankees are prepared to take things slowly, meaning Hughes may not be ready for Opening Day.

Hughes has been limited to aquatic exercises and underwater treadmill work at the Yankees' Minor League complex for the last week after a bulging disk was identified in his upper back. Hughes said that he has already missed too much of the spring for his taste.

"All I know is I'm pain free, so I'm going to try to move this thing along as quickly as possible," Hughes said. "But obviously I have to go with what the doctor says and make sure it's completely calmed down before I can do anything."

Girardi said that Hughes needs to make four Grapefruit League starts to build his stamina into the area of 75-80 pitches, which would be enough to break camp with the club.

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"Every day is worse in that I'm not throwing, but it's a double-edged sword," Hughes said. "I don't want to push this thing and have it become a recurring issue. I want to make sure that it's over and done with. At the same time, every day is a day lost, so I'm kind of in that in-between zone."

For Hughes this is a race against time. For the Yankees it’s simply a matter of making sure an important part of their starting rotation is one-hundred perfect healthy. The ball is in their court, so smart money is on Hughes missing a start or two out of the gate.

Will Middlebrooks OK after tweaking wrist: The sight of Will Middlebrooks checking his swing, wincing in pain, and then spiking his helmet in frustration had to be disconcerting for Boston Red Sox fans. His right wrist — the same one that was broken by a stray pitch in 2012, costing him the final two months of the season — clearly wasn't right.

It was actually reminiscent of a check swing that put Rockies slugger Carlos Gonzalez on the disabled list for an extended period of time in 2011. That memory coupled with Middlebrook's reaction didn't paint a pretty picture initially, but The Republican's Ron Chimelis reports the situation isn't nearly as bad as it could have been.

"It was as awkward a swing as it looked, but (the discomfort) was on the outside of where it was broken last year - not the same place,'' Middlebrooks said after the game.

"Just a precaution - nothing is broken, nothing torn. If this was a regular season game, I probably could have kept playing,'' Middlebrooks said.

Disaster averted. In fact, there's a belief he'll be cleared to take batting practice on Thursday.

Quote of the Day: Players certainly need spring training, but managers like Jim Leyland are already in mid-season form when it comes to providing a good quote.

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