As the injury news pours in this season, we'll take a quick-hit look at the fantasy-relevant players who are battling health issues. We'll be splitting them up into players who we're keeping a watchful eye on -- players who have sustained injuries recently but have not been placed on the disabled list -- as well as those who have been placed on the DL.
There is no shortage of players in either of those categories, so let's dive right in.
Keep a watchful eye on
Omar Infante, 2B, Kansas City Royals (jaw): It’s not just the pitchers who absorb the hits to the face; hitters are also vulnerable. Infante took a scary fastball to the jaw Monday, leaving him bloodied but fortunately not seriously hurt. Infante required stitches to repair the laceration to his chin. Scans performed later revealed no fractures to the bony structures, but rather a soft tissue injury (sprain) to the opposite side of the jaw from where the baseball landed.
The jaw is a bilateral hinge joint where movement on each side is connected through a single bone, the jawbone or mandible. Displacement from a force landing on one side can therefore stress the joint tissues on the opposite side. In Infante’s case, the blow from the baseball on the left side of his face led to a sprain of the temporomandibular joint (abbreviated TMJ, where the temporal bone of the skull and the mandible meet, just below the ear) on the right. Infante also passed all concussion tests and was equally fortunate to escape this episode without a major head injury.
According to the Kansas City Star, a team spokesman for the Royals offered the following statement: “Based on the Kansas City medical team’s initial diagnosis, it does not appear he’ll miss a significant amount of time.”
Infante will continue to be monitored closely, and it could be a few more days before a decision is made with regards to the disabled list. As unpleasant as this injury is, Infante and the Royals know this could have been much worse.
Ryan Zimmerman, 3B, Washington Nationals (right shoulder): Zimmerman is again experiencing soreness in his right shoulder, leading to errant throws. That scenario led to his early exit from Saturday’s game and a follow-up MRI. Nationals manager Matt Williams described Zimmerman’s shoulder as “arthritic,” per the Washington Post, not necessarily surprising given his history with the joint.
Zimmerman struggled with the shoulder in 2012 and underwent surgery after that season to clean up the acromioclavicular (AC) joint, the joint at the point of the shoulder. He described the difficulty in making his normal arc of throwing motion when the shoulder was problematic, which explains his intermittent lack of accuracy. The hope was that this challenge would be behind him following surgery, but that has not proven to be the case. For now, the team is approaching his status as day-to-day.
Yasiel Puig, OF, Los Angeles Dodgers (left thumb): Puig seems destined to make regular appearances here given his style of play. The question will be how serious the injury is -- or could be -- at any given time. Puig injured his thumb on a headfirst slide into first base Saturday and was out of the lineup Sunday. Initial X-rays were negative and a follow-up MRI confirmed only a minor ligament injury (Note: Manager Don Mattingly described the injury as a strain, according to the Los Angeles Times; ligament injuries are generally classified as sprains).
The key piece of information is the apparent lack of severity. Mattingly said of Puig’s situation, “It seemed more like a day-to-day thing than a DL thing.” The headfirst slide is often responsible for tears of the ulnar collateral ligament of the thumb, and in severe cases surgery is required. That does not appear to be the case for Puig at this time, but he may miss a day -- or several -- depending upon how the thumb responds.
To the DL
A.J. Ellis, C, Los Angeles Dodgers, (knees): Ellis underwent arthroscopic surgery Tuesday with team physician Dr. Neal Elattrache to address a torn meniscus in his left knee. He sustained the injury Saturday when trying to score from second base.
Given that this procedure involved removing the piece of damaged meniscus as opposed to repairing the tissue, the timetable for Ellis’ return is shorter. He is projected to miss four to six weeks, a slightly more conservative timetable than for a non-catcher. With the demands of the position (sustained crouching, repetitive motion into and out of a deep squat), there is a little slower return to action than for another position player, but his overall short-term prognosis is quite good.
Ellis did have a meniscal procedure on the same knee in 2012, and in his role as a catcher may be more susceptible to long-term knee issues, particularly cartilage wear. For now, however, the Dodgers can look forward to his return sometime in May.
Mark Teixeira, 1B, New York Yankees, (right hamstring): Teixeira left Friday’s game in the second inning with the hallmark “I hurt my hamstring” sign, pulling up his stride and reaching back instinctively to the back of his thigh as he tried to get to first base.
While the injury was described as a Grade 1 strain by the team, indicating it is minor, the Yankees are taking no chances on allowing it to get worse. Teixeira may only miss the minimum -- or slightly longer -- but the bigger concern may be his own apprehension with regards to his previous wrist injury. Teixeira appears to still be finding his swing coming off last year’s surgery to repair a torn tendon sheath in his right wrist. Maybe removing him from play for a couple of weeks will allow him to regroup on both counts.
Joe Saunders, SP, Texas Rangers (left ankle): Is it possible the Rangers have sustained yet another injury? For Saunders, the good news is that this is not an injury to his throwing arm, nor does it look to be a long-term concern. Saunders was hit by a comebacker, leaving him with a bruised and swollen ankle.
A balky ankle would throw off his pitching motion and make fielding difficult, so the DL stint (retroactive to April 5) makes sense.
David Robertson, RP, New York Yankees (groin): Robertson suffered a minor groin strain Sunday, and the Yankees have proactively placed him on the DL. While the injury does not appear serious, the groin -- part of the core musculature -- is critical for stability to pitchers who spend most of their time in a one-legged stance. An injury here, even a minor one, can lead to compensations, which can in turn lead to arm problems. It's better to rein him in now and allow this to improve, rather than take any chances at risking something bigger.