Well, well, well. It's spring, and all that's old is new again. The names that we've seen go on the disabled list in the past few days are not, for the most part, unfamiliar. Nor are the injuries unfamiliar. John Smoltz's shoulder is showing the effects of his years (and maybe causing him to consider transitioning to another role?); Alex Rodriguez's quad was not quite ready for prime time; and Nationals reliever Chad Cordero did not get enough relief from his first disabled-list stint.
Alex Rodriguez, 3B, New York Yankees: Rodriguez initially strained his right quadriceps muscle, the large muscle on the front of the thigh, on April 20 in Baltimore. He missed three games afterward but the timing was coincident with the birth of his second child, so the reason he was out of the lineup was unclear. Rodriguez returned for the four-game weekend series against Cleveland, and somewhat surprisingly returned to his regular position at third base, instead of starting as a designated hitter as was originally projected. ESPN reported that, Monday night, Rodriguez felt a "pull" in his quad again while running the bases, resulting in his being sent for an MRI Tuesday. The MRI revealed a Grade 2 (moderate) strain and the Yankees immediately decided to place Rodriguez on the 15-day disabled list. The challenge with a Grade 2 muscle strain is that the time to heal is highly variable depending upon how much actual tissue damage there is. Grade 3 indicates a complete rupture, which would clearly be more serious, and Grade 1 is minor, usually micro-trauma only, leaving Grade 2 to represent everything in between. Grade 2 injuries can run the gamut from two weeks to three months to heal. Rodriguez told the New York Times that he had a similar injury in high school that lingered for two months, so this may not be a 15 days and done scenario. The key for these injuries is allowing the athlete enough time for the muscle to heal before returning him to the lineup. In hindsight this seems obvious given that Rodriguez is now exiting for the second time after aggravating his initial injury. Even teammate Derek Jeter sat out six games before attempting to return from his quadriceps strain. And although no two muscle strains are created equal, especially when comparing two different athletes, the message is still clear: Athletes should not be pressing to play when they are still having symptoms, and when they do, the risk of reinjury, or perhaps more correctly, the risk of exacerbating the injury increases.
Troy Tulowitzki, SS, Colorado Rockies: In keeping with the theme of infielders and quadriceps strains, Tulowitzki left Tuesday night's game in the first inning with what was initially called a strained left quadriceps muscle. Tulowitzki, who was replacing Jeff Baker in the lineup, is having an MRI Wednesday, and the Rocky Mountain News is reporting that Tulowitzki actually injured his groin. The Rockies' Web site reports that head athletic trainer Keith Dugger said Tulowitzki was in "a lot of pain and discomfort and a lot of spasm" after the injury. Tulowitzki is expected to be placed on the 15-day disabled list, but it is unclear at this point, given the uncertainty as to the true nature and severity of his injury, how much time he will miss. Meanwhile, Jeff Baker is being evaluated for what appears to be another circulation-related issue. Baker broke a blood vessel in the middle finger of his right hand during pregame warm-ups and will undergo further diagnostic tests back in Denver, according to the Rockies' Web site.
Jorge Posada, C, New York Yankees: Posada, who has been challenged with shoulder problems since the start of the season, has now been placed on the 15-day disabled list for the first time in his career while the team tries to sort out exactly what is going on with him. Posada complained of dead-arm-type symptoms, meaning his arm felt like it was lacking the strength to throw effectively, but did not report feeling pain in the shoulder. An MRI revealed a tear in the subscapularis muscle, one of the four muscles of the rotator cuff, according to the New York Times. After resting the arm, Posada returned but did not last. He has had his shoulder examined by the one and only Dr. James Andrews, who operated on Posada's labrum in the past but did not recommend surgery at this juncture. Posada will be making the rounds to get opinions from several more specialists over the next few days. At this point it appears that rest may be the primary need for Posada in terms of getting his shoulder healthy, along with a gradual strengthening and rehab progression designed to bring him along slowly. As a thrower, and it is fair to label Posada a thrower given the frequency with which he throws 60 feet, six inches, Posada no doubt has some wear and tear in his shoulder. In the absence of a major finding, it is most likely that Posada continues to follow a conservative treatment approach, even if it is for an extended period, which gives him the best shot of returning this season. We will stay tuned to plans for one of the signature leaders in the Yankees' clubhouse as they develop.
John Smoltz, P, Atlanta Braves: Smoltz, despite being off to an excellent start, cannot shake the symptoms in his throwing shoulder and has been placed on the 15-day disabled list effective Monday. Smoltz paid a visit to Dr. James Andrews and received an injection for a severely inflamed biceps tendon and rotator cuff inflammation per an ESPN report. Andrews has recommended that Smoltz continue a plan of rest and rehabilitation until his shoulder is pain-free, which means his timeline to return is uncertain. Smoltz has been dealing with some variant symptoms in his shoulder (tightness in the back of the shoulder as well as the upper trapezius) since spring training. Recent MRI and CT scans confirmed the latest findings, and after Smoltz's struggles in his most recent outing, it became clear that he needed to pull back. Smoltz even acknowledged in an interview with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that he could make a return to the bullpen when he comes back from this injury. Smoltz is intelligent and experienced and seems to recognize that his age in baseball years, reflected in his current injury, combined with the injuries in the Braves' bullpen mean that Smoltz could return as a closer. Smoltz's shoulder will never be pristine again given the abuse it has taken after years and years of pitching, but that is not to say he will not be back and be effective. I believe he will return to be effective, and the likelihood of his lasting the remainder of the season may even increase if he switches roles.
Chad Cordero, P, Washington Nationals: After failing to make an appearance in the season opener because of problems with his shoulder, Cordero was placed on the disabled list with tendinitis. When he returned, his velocity was not quite up to snuff, and Cordero was troubled by some clicking noises in his shoulder. The concerns led to his paying a visit to Dr. James Andrews, who encouraged Cordero to continue on his strengthening program while continuing to serve as a relief pitcher. In what is just the latest setback in a difficult start to the season, Cordero strained the shoulder Tuesday (it is being called a strained lat, according to an Associated Press report). Cordero said that it hurt "really, really bad," not encouraging words by any means. The Nationals have indicated that Cordero probably was compensating for some of the weakness around his shoulder and consequently strained one of the larger back muscles that supports the throwing arm. In any case, given Cordero's challenges so far this season, it is probably best for fantasy owners to watch from a distance until he shows that he is truly beyond his arm issues.
Chipper Jones, 3B, Atlanta Braves: Despite the fact that he strained his quadriceps muscle in early April and subsequently aggravated it two more times, Jones most recently sat out two games because of his back, not his leg. Jones has been experiencing back spasms, not altogether surprising given how hard he's been swinging the bat lately, but he was able to get into the Tuesday lineup. This appears to have been nothing more than a minor setback, but it serves as a reminder that Jones may have his share of strains and sprains that can threaten his presence in the lineup at any point.
The Yankees and Braves dominated this edition of the injury blog; these two teams have been seeing more than their fair share of injuries. Check back later in the week for updates on other injuries and see if the Yankees and Braves can maintain without losing yet another player to the disabled list. Good luck to all your fantasy teams and stop by my injury chat on Friday!