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 we're keeping a watchful eye on -- those who have suffered injuries recently but have not been placed on the disabled list -- as well as those who have been placed on the DL.
To the DL
Adrian Beltre, 3B, Texas Rangers (left quadriceps): The Rangers placed Beltre on the disabled list Sunday (retroactive to April 9), making April 25 the first day he would be eligible to return (Rangers are off on April 24). The move doesn’t come as a huge surprise given the Rangers had made it known they were leaning that direction.
While the injury was classified as a Grade 1 or mild strain, the bigger picture -- as in the timing of this injury relative to the scope of the entire season -- undoubtedly factors into the team’s decision. According to ESPNDallas.com, general manager Jon Daniels acknowledged as much. "That's probably the smarter thing, to err on the side of caution," Daniels said. "The last thing we want is to be without him for an extended period of time." The hope is that Beltre will be able to return when eligible.
Extended absence is a reasonable concern with a player who has a history of soft tissue injuries, particularly on that left side. While Beltre has managed his prior injuries well enough with a few days' rest to avoid the DL, the increasing number, frequency and, well, age elevate the level of concern.
Beltre has primarily experienced hamstring strains in his past, but this quad issue first appeared during spring training. The opposing dynamic of the quadriceps and hamstrings along with increased presence of scar tissue and an overall decrease in tissue flexibility pose a risk.
During spring training, manager Ron Washington had already hinted at increased DH days for Beltre, especially during day games following night games. Not only is that likely to be in place, it wouldn’t be surprising if there were increased days off for strategic rest as the season progresses. For a player who’s averaged 149 games a season over the last four years (playing 154 or more for three of those years), sitting and watching is not his style. That may be something Beltre will have to adjust to, however, to preserve his health for the long haul.
Ryan Zimmerman, 3B, Washington Nationals (right thumb): Another dive to a base, another thumb injury. When Zimmerman made the unsuccessful attempt to dive back to second base Saturday, the blood on his hand indicated something was wrong. It turned out to be a fracture in his thumb that will require four to six weeks to heal. Bone is one of the more predictable tissue types when it comes to repair, so the timetable issued by the team appears reasonable, presuming a clean break and no unusual setbacks. General manager Mike Rizzo said Zimmerman will consult with a hand specialist Monday as a precaution.
While his loss is a blow for the Nationals, there may be a silver lining. Zimmerman was already struggling with discomfort in his right shoulder, the source of an errant throw just one week prior to this injury. An MRI revealed only inflammation, but the chronic nature of Zimmerman’s shoulder issues had the team giving him practice time at first base. Now that he is sidelined by the thumb injury, his shoulder will get some well-timed rest.
Alex Cobb, SP, Tampa Bay Rays (left oblique): Cobb sure looked good in his Saturday start, but apparently, by the end of his outing, he didn’t feel so great. According to the Tampa Tribune, Cobb felt something pull in his side early in the game but was able to continue. An MRI taken later revealed a strained left oblique, and Cobb was placed on the DL Sunday.
Cobb’s injury is typical of the type of oblique injury pitchers suffer, that is to the side opposite their throwing arm. The average DL stay for pitchers suffering an oblique injury is just over a month. Timetables can vary obviously depending on the precise location and degree of injury as well as the individual’s rate of healing, but a month’s absence is a reasonable expectation. Cobb’s return date is not likely to be any sooner, but it could roll into five or six weeks before his next major league start.
Adequate down time to ensure the injury heals properly is critical for anyone, but especially a pitcher. Continued attempts to push through an oblique injury lead to compensations by other, often weaker muscle groups, which then can lead to other problems (read: arm). Depending on the time required for the oblique injury to resolve, the amount of throwing a pitcher will need to return his arm strength to normal can vary. It will be important to monitor how Cobb responds once he is allowed to resume throwing, particularly downhill.
Brett Anderson, SP, Colorado Rockies (left index finger): Anderson had some bad luck on Saturday. There are enough ways for a pitcher to get injured; during an at-bat is not the usual one. Unfortunately for Anderson, what was initially thought to be a contusion (or deep bruise) turned out to be a break of his index finger on his throwing hand. He is now expected to miss the next four to six weeks as the bone heals. The challenge for him initially will be overcoming any stiffness in the finger and restoring his normal grip after having the digit immobilized.