What’s the deal with all of the oblique injuries?

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That’s a question we’ve asked around here a lot lately, although we’re doing it more or less rhetorically. Michael S. Schmidt of the New York Times really wanted to know, so he asked Stan Conte, the Dodgers head trainer about it.  Conte researched such injuries and discovered that, no, this was not just a matter of us paying closer attention to such injuries: He found that four players had gone on the disabled list with what he calls “core” injuries — which include obliques — at this point a year ago. But 14 have this season. This represents the biggest spike in such injuries in the last 20 years.

Conte’s belief: the shorter time between the start of spring training and the beginning of spring training games this year, plus the earlier start to the regular season, due to the compressed schedule.  This is bolstered by data showing that oblique injuries are typically far more prevalent in the early part of the season and tail off as the year goes on.

Personally, I blame “Jersey Shore” and its message that men need six packs in order to fulfill the, um, Situational ideal. As a result, too much work on strengthening abs that in turn put too much stress on the surrounding muscles. Conte dismisses the notion, saying that working on ab muscles is a good thing. He thinks it’s a matter of not enough stretching and conditioning and not enough reps in the cage to get ready. Too many serious swings too fast.

Considering Conte’s experience and expertise, and considering that I just made up my explanation with no training or research whatsoever in order to shoe-horn in a cultural reference, I’m going to grudgingly admit that Conte may be right.

Watch: Javier Baez snares a 106-MPH ground ball

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What happens when an irresistible force meets an immovable object? Just ask Javier Baez, who tracked down a sizzling 106-MPH ground ball from Jose Bautista on Friday afternoon. The defensive gem helped preserve the Cubs’ three-run lead in the top of the ninth inning, paving the way for Wade Davis‘ 25th save of the season.

Baez also impressed at the plate, collecting an RBI single in the second inning before getting tagged out at home by Miguel Montero on a convoluted 9-6-3-6-2 putout. He returned in the eighth inning to pester Tim Mayza and cleared the left field hedge with a 409-foot, two-run blast for his 20th home run of the year. With the win, the Cubs improved to 64-57 and now hold a scant 1.5-game lead over the Brewers in the NL Central.

Dodgers activate Adrian Gonzalez

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The Dodgers have reinstated first baseman Adrian Gonzalez from the 60-day disabled list after his recovery from a herniated disc. To make room for him they have optioned Rob Segedin to Triple-A Oklahoma City.

Gonzalez last played on June 11. Since then the Dodgers have gone an astounding 46-9, with shoe-in rookie of the year candidate Cody Bellinger handling first base duties and posting a .978 OPS. When Gonzalez went down he was hitting .255/.304/.339 and only one homer in 49 games.

It’ll be interesting to see what kind of playing time he gets going forward. The Dodgers, of course, have a comfortable lead in the NL West, so they could afford to allow Gonzalez to play a good bit to see if his bat sharpens up while simultaneously giving Bellinger, who has never played more than 137 games in a season, a bit of a breather. Beyond that, though, the Dodgers ain’t broke, so it’s hard to see why anyone would want to tinker with things.