Mike Mussina returns to active duty tonight to take the ball against the Royals. Mussina has now hit the disabled list in the second half of each of the last three seasons. In 2004, Moose missed nearly a month and a half in July and early August with elbow pain. After returning, it took him three starts to get up to speed, after which he dominated in six September starts (3-1, 2.14 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, 9.00 K/9, 4.20 K/BB). Last year he missed the first three weeks of September due to more elbow issues, returning in time to make just two final regular season starts, the first good but not great, the second awful, with nearly identical results in his two ALDS starts.
This year it wasn't his elbow, but a nagging groin injury that pushed Mikey Moose to the DL, and rather than three weeks or a month and a half, he's missed just the minimum 15 days. The way the schedule pans out, Mussina, who has been stuck at 13 wins since July 30, could make as many as six more regular season starts (ain't that always the way for Moose). That should be plenty of time for him to pitch himself back into a groove for the postseason, while feeling the benefits of the two-week respite. You see, Moose had a 5.14 ERA in August that was less the result of any gaudy runs-allowed totals than his increasing inability to go deep into ballgames due to both the groin and general inefficiency.
Opposing him tonight will be lefty Jorge de la Rosa, whom the Royals acquired from Milwaukee at the deadline for Tony Graffanino. De la Rosa is a hard thrower who strikes out a fair number of batters, but also walks more than his share and is thus in his fourth organization at the tender age of 25. After being converted to starting while in the Red Sox system in 2002, the Brewers put him back in the pen last year with disastrous results (8.08 BB/9). This year they used him as a swing man, giving him three starts, until the Royals mercifully took him and his 8.60 ERA off their hands. He's since made six starts for the Royals which have been a total mixed bag, but without much upside. His first AL start--6 IP, 9 H, 2 R, 2 BB, 7 K vs. Texas--remains his best. Of course he's pitched on irregular rest almost every time out (though not tonight), which may have something to do with the fact that he was just coming off the DL due to blister problems when the Royals acquired him. Dayton Moore must have gotten one hell of a scouting report on this guy.