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Big East in the Big Leagues: Don't Panik

Injuries and demotions were rampant in the last two weeks for the alums of the Big East playing at the MLB level. But, there is still some hope shining through the squall.

Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

When Jason Grilli tore his Achilles tendon in July, it served as a sobering reminder that even in the midst of a great season, an injury can come out of the woodwork and devastate a player. This week, an injury and several demotions brought mostly storm clouds to the Big East in the Big Leagues crew.

Joe Panik (St. John's)

It really is a godsend that the best player in Major League Baseball that happens to have attended a Big East institution has a name that lends itself so easily to headlines. Panik's last name just opens up an ocean of possibilities each and every week. Unfortunately, this week, his name is being used in a headline in a more negative light.

Oh, it's not like Panik punched the starting quarterback of his team *cough* Jets *cough*. Instead, the former St. John's superstar has been injured and is currently on the DL. He has not played since Aug. 1 due to issues with his back. The good news is that an MRI revealed that there was no structural damage, but the Giants are looking into some other options in the infield, reportedly testing the Chase Utley waters, which were thought to be laced with poison and 100-foot long piranhas this season. (Utley is hitting .190).

Hopefully, and there is no reason to believe otherwise, Panik will be back on the diamond soon so he can keep his impressive sophomore campaign going.

Matt Szczur (Villanova)

Figuring out whether or not Sczcur will be playing in Chicago or Iowa any given week is what the great philosopher Plato would call a "crapshoot." (Don't quote me on that). Last week, the Villanova alum was recalled to the Cubs for the sixth time this season. He played in three games, serving as a pinch hitter in each contest and going 1-for-3 with a double. He is now batting .217 in his sporadic season in the majors, but he won't get a chance to help himself again for a bit, as he was sent back down to the minors earlier today. There is no reason to worry, however, as he will definitely be with the Cubs when the rosters expand in September and he may even get called back up again before then.

Pat Neshek (Butler)

Before you continue reading, you may want to take a few cleansing breaths. Take a drink of water. Do some yoga. Alright, I'll stop stalling. In the two weeks since our last check-in, Neshek's era crept to 3.00! Calm down. It will be alright. Everything will be just fine. The right-hander had a rough outing on July 31 against Arizona when he allowed two runs in just 1/3 innings of work to suffer his second loss of the season. After the game, his ERA sat at an even 3.00.

Since that catastrophe, Neshek has thrown 2 1/3 shutout innings, striking out four batters. His ERA has fallen back down to 2.83. See? Everything worked out. You can step off the ledge now.

Darin Ruf (Creighton)

Since the All-Star break, the Philadelphia Phillies are an incredible 16-6. That's the best record in baseball during that stretch. Is it sustainable? Absolutely not. Can Ruf be credited with doing the heavy lifting of the recent hot streak? Same answer. In August, he is 3-for-10 with no extra base hits or RBI, although he did have his eighth multi-hit game last week, going 2-for-3 against the Dodgers. His slash line for the season (.247/.302/.377) remains unimpressive but could be much worse.

Pat Venditte (Creighton)

Unfortunately, Venditte has still not pitched in the majors since he burst on the scene in early June. However, there is finally actual progress to report, as the switch-pitcher has been rehabbing with Triple-A Nashville. He has pitched in five games in the last two weeks for the Sounds, allowing only two earned runs in 5 2/3 innings of relief work. While there is still no certainty that Venditte will be brought back up, seeing as Oakland is far out of the playoff race and would probably prefer to use roster spots to give younger players a shot, he is at least back to baseball and that is encouraging news.

Amir Garrett (St. John's)

There may not be a steadier force in this column than Garrett, who just goes out and pitches every week, showing impressive stuff and keeping his production consistent. He clawed his way through 5 1/3 innings against the Dunedin Blue Jays on Aug. 4, letting up two runs on five hits and three walks, but he also fanned seven batters. In his next start, on Aug. 9, he zipped through seven innings of one-run ball against the Lakeland Flying Tigers. Across 22 starts this season, he has posted a 2.68 ERA and wrung up 114 batters, while averaging 5.2 innings per start.

Danny Burawa (St. John's)

Despite a strong season in the minors (2.69 ERA), Burawa is in a difficult spot right now. He was designated for assignment last week in a flurry of moves from the Yankees that included the call up of touted starting pitching prospect Luis Severino.

That wraps up this rather somber Big East in the Big Leagues update. Tune in next week when there will hopefully be better news to share.