How the West was worn

CRAIG ELLINGSON, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:00 AM ET

Quarterbacks and backfields, beware: It's getting downright offensive!

The Calgary Stampeders have caught the injury bug pretty bad on the offensive line -- Jeff Pilon, Jesse Newman and Derek Armstrong all are sidelined with injuries.

The latest casualty is Armstrong, who hurt a tricep muscle in the final pre-season tuneup vs. the Saskatchewan Roughriders and now needs surgery.

Both Armstrong and Pilon are on the Stamps' injured list to start the 2009 season, but Newman is on the active roster, and coach John Hufnagel is hopeful the second-year player will be ready in time for the season-opener July 1.

But the Stamps aren't the only West Division club whose hoggies are hurtin'.

At last count, nine offensive linemen who were pegged to start the season are injured. Like the Stamps, the Riders are down three big men: Mainstay Gene Makowsky injured his MCL vs. the Stamps, left tackle Wayne Smith tore his Achilles tendon last month during an off-season workout, and Jordan Rempel is also on the shelf.

On the wet coast, Jon Hameister-Ries went down last week vs. the Stamps with a suspected torn rotator cuff. The 25-year-old was expected to be one of B.C.'s starters. He's now on the team's nine-day injured list, and his injury led the Lions to sign ex-Stamp Bobby Singh as a backup.

In Edmonton, centre John Comiskey is hurt, although the Esks aren't tipping their hand as to why he's out, as is Garrick Jones.

Lumsden does yard-work

Adding Jesse Lumsden should pay off in a West playoff spot for the Eskimos this season. That's assuming the still-young running back gets a full, injury-free season in under his belt in Green and Gold.

A healthy Lumsden ran roughshod as a Hamilton Tiger-Cat, remember -- averaging 6.3 yards per carry in the 30 games over four seasons he suited up for Steeltown.

The CFL's Mr. Consistency, the Stamps' Joffrey Reynolds, has averaged 5.8 yards per carry in the same time span (in more games, of course.)

Repeat performances by the 6-foot-2, 226-pounder would definitely free up Esk quarterback Ricky Ray to be an even-bigger threat with the pass, something Edmonton hasn't enjoyed since Mike Pringle (sorry, Troy Davis) scampered across the tundra at Commonwealth Stadium.

Star hurlers coming of age

It's a good age to be these days if you're a dominant major-league pitcher. Tim Lincecum, Zach Greinke and Ubaldo Jimenez all have been on the planet a quarter-century and all have been giants on the mound -- and at the plate, in the case of Greinke.

The Kansas City Royals ace not only went eight innings in a 2-1 win over the Houston Astros earlier this week, he batted eighth in the lineup -- a first for a Royals pitcher -- and is 3-12 (.250) at bat on the season.

San Francisco Giants fireballer Lincecum leads the majors in strikeouts, reclaiming that spot after a masterful 12-strikeout, complete-game 4-1 triumph over the Oakland A's. Of course, you'd expect that from last year's NL Cy Young Award winner.

An impressive run came to an end for Colorado Rockies hurler Jimenez at the hands of the L.A. Angels Tuesday in a 4-3 loss, but his previous four starts were magic: A 2.43 ERA, 23 strikeouts and a complete game marked the stretch.

Youth served NHL freedom

And speaking of 25-year-olds, isn't it something to think someone that age in the NHL can become an unrestricted free agent?

If you start playing at 18 and play seven seasons (assuming your contract expires at that time, too), you're as free as a bird -- just like Florida Panthers defenceman Jay Bouwmeester will probably be come next week.

It goes to show just how much pressure there is on young players to develop quickly and perform -- a la the Stanley Cup champions Pittsburgh Penguins -- in this salary-cap NHL world.


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