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Bell: Bad news for Peavy, Oswalt and Prior

If you think you're having a bad week as a fantasy owner, try imagining the week the Padres have had, or perhaps the month and a half the Braves have had, in dealing with the blows their respective pitching staffs have been dealt. Yes, the hitters have their fair share of ailments. But everyone knows that the pitching injuries seem to be the most devastating, the most debilitating, the most disastrous when it comes to the overall outlook for a team. Unless of course you're the Yankees and you've been minus Alex Rodriguez for a month, but even they appear to be getting some good news this week. So chin up fantasy owners, at least you haven't sunk millions into your team prospects. And maybe this week there will be some good news for you.

Jake Peavy, P, Padres: The Padres announced that ace Jake Peavy would miss his next scheduled start because of soreness in his elbow. It turns out that this soreness is not exactly new; Peavy has said that the last time he felt fine was back in April. According to a report on the Padres' official Web site, Peavy said that the pain has bothered him for his "last three or four starts." Peavy went on to add, "It's not normal soreness. It's sore all the time. That's the reason we are missing the start." And it's not as if Peavy hasn't already taken some steps to try to address the issue. After first experiencing soreness in the elbow three weeks ago, he opted to skip bullpens between starts in an effort to give the elbow some intermittent rest and hopefully eliminate the pain. Clearly the pain issue has not been resolved so Peavy will skip his Monday start and replace it with a visit to the MRI scanner.

Of course it is a worry when a pitcher has elbow pain that he describes as "not normal soreness" and that pain has not subsided with some attempts at activity modification. The primary concerns would be a severe muscle strain (Peavy did miss time in 2004 with a strain in his forearm flexor muscle group) or, worse yet, an injury to the ulnar collateral ligament (the Tommy John ligament), but there are other possibilities as well (spurs, tendinitis, general inflammation). Consequently, the Padres will wait to get the MRI results before panicking and Peavy fantasy owners should do the same. We will stay tuned to see what the next steps for Peavy are after the results are announced. Don't be surprised if a DL stint is in order, no matter what the findings, in order to make sure the arm gets some extended rest.

Roy Oswalt, P, Astros: Oswalt left in the seventh inning of Saturday's game due to what the team referred to as a right groin strain. Oswalt initially felt the pain in the sixth inning but by the seventh it was severe enough that he had to take himself out of the game. Oswalt is no stranger to groin injuries (he made three trips to the disabled list in 2003 as a result) but according to the Astros' official Web site, Oswalt believes this pain is different. He says the pain is deeper and doesn't feel muscular. In fact, Oswalt described it as feeling "like two bones hit together a little bit." Not exactly an encouraging description. In fact, Oswalt makes it sound as if the problem is within the hip joint itself. Given that the problem is with his plant leg, which means he has to put full weight on the hip and then rotate through it, any joint dysfunction could prevent him from executing his normal mechanics. At this point the plan is for Oswalt to rest for a few days, and then test the hip by throwing again. How he feels during that outing will determine whether Oswalt makes his next scheduled start, which is slated for Thursday against the Philadelphia Phillies.

Rick Ankiel, OF, Cardinals: Ankiel took an awkward swing Friday night that resulted in a sore left shoulder. Ankiel was out of the lineup for the remainder of the weekend but the Cardinals insist that this does not appear to be anything major and that this soreness would sideline him for only a few days. In fact, the team reports that Ankiel was receiving treatment and feeling better as the weekend progressed. Keep in mind that this is his throwing arm that is sore, the one he uses to heave balls from the warning track as he has so effectively done many times already this season.

John Smoltz, P, Braves: Everyone knows by now that Smoltz is out on the DL with an inflamed biceps tendon and rotator cuff and that he plans to return as a closer this year. The latest news out of Atlanta however is that Smoltz may not be returning quite as quickly as he had hoped. The inflammation, and therefore the pain, in Smoltz's shoulder has not completely resolved, despite a cortisone injection and a couple weeks' rest, and any attempts at throwing at this point seem to make it worse. What does that mean in terms of a timetable to return? To help narrow it down, Smoltz offered this helpful comment in Sunday's Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "It could be anywhere between the [late May] timetable I discussed and a lot longer."

To be fair, Smoltz is exactly right. The timetable is uncertain because he and the medical staff need to assess how his shoulder responds on a daily basis. As he pointed out in the Journal-Constitution article, Smoltz faces a dilemma between adequately resting the arm to help control the inflammation and maintaining adequate strength in the arm to be able to return to pitch effectively this year. In the end, it is all a delicate balance. Smoltz knows that the season is long and that his best chances of contributing to the team rely on him not returning too quickly. So they will continue one day at a time, but fantasy owners should be aware that the timetable may remain in flux.

Josh Hamilton, OF, Rangers: Hamilton left Saturday's game early after initially injuring himself Friday night while trying to make a catch. Hamilton landed roughly on the ground and banged himself up all over, as evidenced by the fact that his injury was listed as being a combination shoulder/hip/calf. Now it sounds bad to have three body parts involved after a single injury episode, but the encouraging part is that this no doubt reflects that many parts are sore, but no particular one is severe. Hamilton, who dealt with a number of injuries last year (hamstring, wrist), has played nearly every game this season so the nonstart on Sunday was well deserved and appeared to be a good chance to rest his body. No real rest for the weary though. Hamilton ultimately did make an appearance Sunday in the eighth inning to pinch hit and then spent the ninth in right field, proving that the bumps and bruises are indeed nothing to worry about.

Jason Isringhausen, P, Cardinals: Last week I wondered whether Isringhausen's hip could really justify his placement on the DL as even he reported feeling healthy. Well, he went to the DL all right, but not because of his hip. It is no secret that Isringhausen has been struggling to close effectively this season, and in a bout of frustration two Saturdays ago, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that Isringhausen used an open hand (oh yes, the one he throws with) to strike a television set in manager Tony La Russa's office, resulting in a cut on his palm. In fact, the report suggested that the Cardinals contemplated placing him on the DL because of the hand at that time, yet decided not to do so. Isringhausen was able to pitch again the following Thursday, although clearly no more effectively as he blew his sixth save. On Friday the Cardinals did decide to move him to the DL, and the reason given was the laceration on his right palm. This move came as a bit of a surprise seeing as Isringhausen did manage to pitch after the initial injury, although it is hard to know what, if any role, the cut on the hand played in the final outcome. At least he has a couple of weeks to rest his hand, rest his hip and rest his head, hopefully allowing him to return to form as the successful closer that he was in 2007.

Mark Prior, P, Padres: What sounded like bad news last week sounds like even worse news this week. The Padres' official Web site reports that Prior's agent, John Boggs, is confirming that the recent MRI on Prior's shoulder shows that he has a tear in the capsule of his throwing shoulder. Prior, who had been rehabilitating very nicely from a surgery to address a torn labrum and a problematic rotator cuff, recently felt a sharp pain in his shoulder while throwing, leading to this latest series of tests. Just to review what the capsule means to the shoulder: The capsule is fibrous tissue that wraps around the joint and helps provide stability to the joint by supporting the humerus (arm bone) in the glenoid (the shallow socket in which it rests). Even if the anatomical terms are unfamiliar, it is not difficult to see that if something that is intended to provide stability is torn, the consequences cannot be good. Boggs attempted to remain optimistic, saying "We just hope it's not a major setback." The plan is to keep Prior from throwing for at least two weeks to let the pain in the shoulder settle down and beyond that, no plan has been formally specified. Suffice it to say that this should really be viewed as a new injury on top of what was already a shoulder in a state of healing and repair, and that capsular injuries often require surgery, depending on the extent of damage and the exact location. Translation: not good. I was very hopeful for Prior at the outset of the season, and he looked to be right on track with his progression, but as we have come to find, some athletes seem to have tissue that does not cooperate with their chosen profession, and Prior appears to fall into that category. We will of course update his situation as information is available, but if you were keeping a spot for him on your fantasy bench, it's time to give that to someone else whose return outlook is more positive at this point (i.e. Chris Carpenter of the Cardinals).

And in the good news department ...

Alex Rodriguez, 3B, Yankees: Out since late April with a Grade 2 right quadriceps strain, Rodriguez has continued to fare well in his rehab outings (including his delivery of a grand slam during a simulated game) and he says he feels as good as he's felt since the injury. The Yankees' plan over the past week has been to bring him back this Tuesday if he remained on track, and that is where all signs are pointing now. Newsday reports that he will play in an extended spring training game today and if that goes well, he will be in the lineup Tuesday. Of course there is no way to exactly replicate the major league game situation, but the steady progression of A-Rod's running program, his increased intensity of fielding drills and situational at-bats have given him many opportunities to test the leg. He has passed every test so far with flying colors so there is no real reason for the medical staff to hold him back. The ultimate test will come in his first major league game situation, but he appears ready to handle it. Fantasy owners who have been patiently waiting this out need to be sure to put A-Rod back in their lineups, where he belongs.

Rafael Furcal, SS, Dodgers: Furcal, who has been sidelined with a bad back, gave a good signal last week when he said the cortisone shot he received "hit the spot." The good news continues as manager Joe Torre said on the Dodgers' official Web site that he is hopeful that Furcal, who has been making steady progress in his recovery and who is eligible to come off the DL Wednesday, will be back in the lineup Friday.