As baseball rolls into the second half of the season, the New York Mets are looking to get two big stars back into the lineup, including one Tuesday night. Jose Reyes, the speedy shortstop who has been nursing a minor left hamstring injury, is in the lineup after a successful rehab outing Monday. As recently as last Friday it appeared the Mets would slow the return of Reyes as a measure of caution, but it appears there is enough confidence in his health to bring him back now. As is always the case with these types of injuries, the only way to determine whether Reyes is truly past the hamstring issue will be to see if he is able to play without a setback. At some point, there is nothing further to test in rehab when a player has performed all drills, played in a game situation and has no lingering symptoms. Duplicating the exact scenario of a major league game is nearly impossible, making return to play at the big league level the final test. The Mets will be hoping that Reyes passes with flying colors.
• Reyes' teammate David Wright has been on a rehab assignment as he approaches a return to the majors following a stress fracture in his lower back, which has sidelined him since mid-May. On Monday, Wright played a full nine innings after only being expected to go seven, surely a good sign. According to ESPN New York, Mets manager Terry Collins anticipates Wright will rejoin his teammates this weekend after playing a full slate of rehab games through the remainder of the week. Given the type of rehab program Wright has been through over the last couple months that emphasized training deep core muscles to protect the spine, his improved strength could certainly have him on track for a stellar second half.
• Pitcher Roy Halladay, normally unflappable, was challenged by the heat in Monday's game and left in the fifth inning, a rare occurrence. Halladay appeared flushed and looked to be struggling -- at times taking long walks off the mound or bending over to rest his hands on his knees -- but resisted valiantly for as long as he could. In the end, the heat won the battle and Halladay's streak of consecutive road starts pitching at least six innings came to a close. Better an early departure than a more serious heat-related consequence (credit Philadelphia Phillies head athletic trainer Scott Sheridan, who visited Halladay on the mound in the fifth and likely helped in the decision for him to exit). The Phillies sound confident that Halladay will make his next scheduled start.
• The Phillies have certainly had their share of injury woes but will be getting one of their injured players back Tuesday, although admittedly at slightly less than 100 percent health. Outfielder Shane Victorino has been sidelined with a sprained right thumb, the result of an awkward fall in the outfield on July 3. Victorino acknowledges that he still has some discomfort in the thumb and, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer, will wear a thumb guard while on base. The protective device no doubt is intended to help protect his thumb from getting bent awkwardly during a headfirst slide. As for hitting, Victorino has demonstrated during his rehab outings that he can effectively swing the bat, so barring a setback in the course of play, he should be able to contribute at the plate immediately.
• To DL or not to DL? That seems to be the recurring question for Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun, who has been up and down with a left calf strain for several weeks. Braun originally sustained the injury July 2, and when the symptoms persisted for several days, he underwent an MRI. Following the MRI, Braun pointed out that the injury appeared to be localized to a tendon behind the knee (tendon bridges muscle to bone and helps transfer the contractile force of the muscle to the bone, resulting in movement; however, it has a poorer blood supply than muscle, which can make it slower to heal). This slower-to-heal tendon appears to be behaving the way these things often do; after a rest period, the injured area feels better and the athlete increases his activity only to experience a recurrence of discomfort when the area is maximally stressed.
Braun sat out the All-Star Game to rest his leg, returned to the lineup July 14 and just two days later was forced to leave early with tightness in the leg. According to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, Braun acknowledged that despite being in the lineup, he still was not able to run full-speed, leading to a situation where he is attempting to avoid placing undue stress on his leg. Braun said, "I jog as quickly as I can, whenever the situation warrants it. But obviously whenever I can avoid running or putting any extra stress on it, I think that's probably in my best interest and the team's best interest."
Despite the setbacks, the Brewers still do not appear to be thinking a DL stint is required. Manager Ron Roenicke told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel on Monday, "We're going day by day. I'm hoping he can play tomorrow." There has to be some concern when an athlete is deliberately trying to hold back while playing for fear of aggravating an injury, particularly one that impacts his ability to play both offense and defense. It's hard to envision this completely resolving while Braun continues to play, or, at the very least, that Braun can play at top level while trying to guard against further injury.
• Is the third time the unlucky charm for Grady Sizemore? He finds himself on the DL for the third time this season (he started the season on the DL following left knee microfracture surgery, then suffered a bone bruise in his right knee in early May during a slide into second base which led to DL stint No. 2), again with a right knee contusion. More concerning than what the injury is being called, however, are the words Sizemore used to describe his fears about this latest setback. According to the Cleveland Indians website, the sharp pain Sizemore experienced in his right knee Sunday as he rounded first base harkened to what he felt in his left knee last summer. "It's similar," Sizemore said. "It's hard to say whether it's the same. I think it's definitely a concern based on what I went through last year. It's the same area and similar symptoms. It does feel a lot like it, but I can't say for sure."
An athlete's instincts are to be taken seriously when it comes to a second occurrence of an injury; for instance when an athlete has experienced a torn ACL, he knows intuitively the moment the same injury occurs on the opposite leg. While there has been no official word yet as to the specifics of the injury to Sizemore's right knee, his concerns and his gut response certainly raise red flags. It's hard not to feel for a young player who has been through the serious injuries and lengthy recoveries that Sizemore has already endured. Here's hoping that his intuition was not correct this time around and that the injury is not severe enough to warrant surgery. In the meantime, it's wait and see.
• Finally, best wishes go out to Texas Rangers CEO and president Nolan Ryan, released from a Houston hospital Tuesday after experiencing discomfort Sunday morning. Ryan has a cardiac history, including double-bypass surgery in 2000, but according to the Rangers, no new developments were discovered during this latest episode. Good news for Ryan and the Rangers, who have no doubt been under particular duress this July. On Tuesday, the team also announced new safety measures for Rangers Ballpark, including raising the height of the railing, following the death of a fan who fell trying to catch a ball earlier this month.