Stephania Bell: Adam Lind



As is usually the case following a series of weekend games, there are some comings and goings in the world of baseball. Some players are coming back from injury while others are exiting, or appear on the brink of exiting, due to injury. If only the return list was greater than the departure list, fantasy owners would be looking forward to adjusting their Monday rosters. While sadly this does not appear to be the case, there are still some nuggets of good news to be found in the injury reports. You just may have to scroll down a ways to find them.

Going

[+] EnlargeHanley Ramirez
Steve Mitchell/US PresswireHanley Ramirez has not played since May 30 but could be activated as soon as next week.
Hanley Ramirez, SS, Florida Marlins: It's official. The Marlins have placed Ramirez on the DL, retroactive to May 30. Ramirez led the Friday blog amidst hints the Marlins would make the decision to place him on the DL at some point that day. Friday came and went without any movement for Ramirez, but it wasn't because he was making a sudden return to the lineup. In fact, Ramirez continued to sit out because of a lower back injury, which had been causing him problems for well over a week. It seems the delayed announcement was linked to the Marlins' decision as to which pitcher would be called up to fill his roster spot. According to the Marlins' official website, with Josh Johnson still out with shoulder inflammation (and no set timetable for his return), it was unclear who would take his Tuesday spot in the rotation. That question now appears to have been answered. According to Joe Capozzi of The Palm Beach Post, the Marlins called up lefty Brad Hand from Double-A Jacksonville. As far as Ramirez goes, it was clear he was hoping to avoid going to the DL for the first time in his career, but the pain was such that he couldn't pinch hit or run. Better for him to step away completely and try to resolve this episode than to press through it. After all, he had not been producing well at the plate. Turns out his back had been bothering him for a month but he kept it quiet until the pain got bad enough he simply couldn't function.

Jake Peavy, SP, Chicago White Sox: The good news is Peavy's surgical repair to his lat tendon has held up brilliantly and his throwing arm is fine. The bad news is a right groin injury sustained during only his fifth start of the season likely will land him on the disabled list. According to the Chicago Sun-Times, Peavy said of his injury, "I'll probably miss more time now. ... the way I feel when I walk, [the disabled list] is a pretty safe bet." At this point Peavy is acutely aware of how an injury in his lower half can affect his upper half. When I talked with him during spring training, he acknowledged that the ankle injury he sustained while with the San Diego Padres had not fully resolved when he went to the White Sox. He said he suspects compensations he made for the leg contributed to abnormal mechanics and ultimately the failure of his latissimus dorsi tendon.



After that experience and the lengthy rehabilitation process he has just undergone, it is highly unlikely he would run the risk of returning to play while compromised. A groin strain is no small issue for a pitcher, no matter which leg is involved. In this case, it's Peavy's right leg, or his stance leg, and he needs strength in the musculature for balance during the wind-up. He needs power and flexibility as he moves further into his delivery and transfers his body weight forward to his left (landing) leg. He also needs to be able to move off the mound quickly for defensive plays. In the fourth inning of Sunday's game it was during a defensive move to cover first that Peavy first felt a "grabbing" pain, according to the Sun-Times. Peavy expected to undergo further evaluation Monday, but it appears fantasy owners should plan on a two-week absence, minimum.

Rafael Furcal, SS and Jon Garland, P, Los Angeles Dodgers: Furcal has to be asking himself what he did exactly to deserve yet another injury to yet another body part. On the DL for the second time this season, Furcal is now dealing with a left-sided oblique strain suffered during Friday's game. Oblique injuries typically require a few weeks of recovery, depending on severity, and given Furcal's history of low back problems, it is critical that he not return too soon. In other words, it's hard to imagine him returning before the end of the month, perhaps even the All-Star break. Sigh. The Dodgers also lost Garland to his second DL stint of the season (he started the season on the DL with, yes, you guessed it, an oblique injury). This time it's his throwing shoulder that's the culprit, and no one ever likes to see that in a veteran pitcher. Garland has been remarkably durable, but now that he is 31 years old, this could be a sign of things to come.

Brandon Belt, 1B, San Francisco Giants: Belt was placed on the DL when it was discovered he had a hairline fracture in his left wrist after being hit by a pitch last week. Consider this another blow to the Giants, who had brought Belt back into the lineup following the season-ending injury to Buster Posey. Although Belt's fracture likely will take another month to heal, he could resume baseball activities before then if he's progressing well.



Coming

Matt Garza, P, Chicago Cubs: Garza has been activated and will start Monday against the Cincinnati Reds. He has been sidelined with an elbow contusion but has felt no pain when throwing recently, including a solid bullpen outing late last week. Pitching in a game situation is always a little more strenuous, though, so it remains to be seen how he will fare.

Derrek Lee, 1B, Baltimore Orioles: The Orioles got Lee back this weekend after he spent time on the DL with an oblique injury. Lee sustained the injury in mid-May and has returned fairly swiftly. It's worth pointing out that although Lee started the season on time, he missed a good portion of spring training because of his thumb, forearm and foot. The missed time may explain, in part, his unspectacular start to the season. If he is fully healthy now, it will be interesting to see what he has in the tank.



Adam Lind, 1B, Toronto Blue Jays: In case you missed it, Lind snuck back into the starting first-base role for the Blue Jays on Sunday, and all he did was go 4-for-4 with two home runs. It appears his back is much better. Lind had been out for nearly a month with intermittent back spasms. Early on, the team hoped Lind could avoid the DL altogether, but after several setbacks the extended time off became the wise choice. In retrospect it certainly seems as if Lind benefited from that decision, and while back pain is always at risk for recurrence, the hope is that the longer reprieve will help him avoid just that.

Somewhere in between

[+] EnlargeRyan Zimmerman
Al Bello/Getty ImagesRyan Zimmerman has not played in the majors since April 9 but is making progress in the minors.
Washington Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman is working his way up the ladder following abdominal surgery in early May. On Sunday, Zimmerman appeared in a rehab game with Class A Hagerstown. After delivering a double, a triple and an RBI, Zimmerman is being moved to Class A Potomac. According to the Washington Post, Zimmerman referred to himself as winded and "sore" after the outing, noting he "was out of breath for a while after that triple." These are all normal responses to returning to game action following the type of surgery Zimmerman underwent, and he will continue to build his endurance and his strength by increasing the level of play. While there is no definitive date for his return, Zimmerman is certainly within the standard timeframe of recovery of six to eight weeks.

Philadelphia Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins was seen limping in the clubhouse Sunday after fouling a ball off his right kneecap Saturday. On Sunday, Rollins told the Philadelphia Inquirer, "It'll be a couple of days, but I don't think a DL thing, not at this moment," explaining that the response of the swelling would determine what he was able to do. On Monday, Rollins was not in the lineup and is considered day-to-day.

The New York Mets won't be getting third baseman David Wright back in the lineup this month. After a re-evaluation, Wright says he will have to wait at least another three weeks before resuming baseball activities. Teammate Ike Davis, who incidentally was injured in a collision with Wright in early May, also remains out with a bone bruise in his left ankle. When Davis tried to progress to running, it became so painful that he was forced back into a walking boot. As Davis told ESPN New York, if he does any running right now it's on an underwater treadmill. The good news is that he is hitting and working on other conditioning activities. But the impact of running is something the joint cannot tolerate yet.



Tampa Bay Rays third baseman Evan Longoria gave everyone a scare when he left Saturday's game early with "tightness" in his left side. Yes, it's the same side in which he suffered the oblique injury earlier this year. But Longoria was able to pinch hit Sunday and is expected back in the lineup Monday. Maybe he just wanted to see if anyone would notice. Judging from the collective anxiety of fantasy owners everywhere, the answer is yes, we noticed.



Resume normal breathing everyone, at least until tomorrow.

Check out Fantasy Focus for injury updates on Joe Mauer, Jason Heyward, Adam Lind, Adam LaRoche, Matt Garza and Jorge De La Rosa.

And for more on Buster Posey's injury, check out this analysis from Baseball Tonight.


The pitching ranks seem to be thinning around the league as more and more hurlers are forced onto the disabled list. For some, the rest of the season -- and part of the next one -- is lost. For others, there is every expectation they will return. But when? And with what level of confidence that the injury is behind them? As usual, it is very disappointing to not have a crystal ball handy to avoid laboring over the what-if and what-could-be scenarios. But in the absence of that crystal ball, labor we must.

De La Rosa
AP Photo/Barry GutierrezJorge De La Rosa finishes the season 5-2 with a 3.51 ERA and 52 strikeouts in 59 innings.
Jorge De La Rosa, P, Colorado Rockies: He suffered a complete tear of his ulnar collateral ligament Tuesday, and now the southpaw's season is over, the Denver Post reports. As devastating as the news is for De La Rosa, at least there's a relative certainty of knowing what lies ahead for the next year. De La Rosa is expected to undergo the all-too-common Tommy John reconstruction procedure, followed by a lengthy, laborious rehab. The upside is that the success rate is incredibly high following this surgery and the path is well-documented by those who have traveled down it before. The downside is, well, obvious. De La Rosa loses the rest of this season (and part of next) and has to spend most of that time away from his teammates while he recovers. The team loses one of its aces and the only starting lefty on the squad.



De La Rosa started the season by developing a blood blister during his first outing. Although it initially appeared as if it might threaten his subsequent start, he healed quickly and heated up, becoming one of the Rockies' most effective starters. That came to a sudden end in the third inning of the opening game of Tuesday's doubleheader when De La Rosa was forced to leave early because of pain in his left elbow. Prior to this injury, you have to go back to 2007 to see when he last dealt with an issue in his throwing elbow. At that time, De La Rosa suffered what was termed an elbow strain and missed more than a month, then struggled in his return. In fact, his struggles persisted for some time as he bounced from the Kansas City Royals to the Rockies, which in hindsight leads to the natural question as to whether the elbow was a factor. He eventually turned the corner, however, improving his effectiveness until a torn tendon pulley in the middle finger of his throwing hand caused him to miss 10 weeks in 2010. He returned for the latter half of the 2010 season and was off to perhaps his best start ever in 2011, until this latest setback.

We should not expect De La Rosa to return before June of next year, and that, of course, is a soft timetable depending on how things evolve from here. At 30, he is neither the youngest nor the oldest to suffer this injury and he can take comfort in knowing that others have come back to deliver career years afterward.

Josh Johnson, P, Florida Marlins: After Johnson appeared to suffer no severe injury following a hit to his right forearm in a game early last week, it seemed as if he was out of the woods. Clearly that was not the case. Johnson was placed on the DL retroactive to May 17 with what the team is calling inflammation in his throwing (right) shoulder, the same term used to describe what ended his 2010 season somewhat prematurely. According to the Miami Herald, Johnson says he has felt some measure of discomfort in the shoulder "pretty much the whole year" but could always work it out before pitching. This is not particularly encouraging, especially given his recent history. Johnson has rested the arm since being placed on the DL and has indicated that it feels much improved with rest. While there is no hint at this point that Johnson's absence will exceed the 15-day timetable, the concerns about whether this is just a minor speed bump or an indicator of things to come remain.

Matt Garza, P, Chicago Cubs: After relaying to the team that he was dealing with some tightness and soreness in his throwing elbow, Garza found himself missing a start and ultimately making a trip to the DL, something he was trying to avoid. No doubt the Cubs are hoping this heads off a more serious issue for their recently acquired starter. The results of Garza's MRI, to the relief of the organization, did not show any major structural damage, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.



Interestingly, the imaging did show a bone bruise, and the question is how it got there. Bone bruises can be the result of direct trauma or, within a joint, the result of excessive motion of one bone on the other, often from instability, which causes bruising. For instance, when an individual tears the ACL in the knee, it is not unusual to get an accompanying bone bruise from the contact of the bony ends as they exceed normal motion. Naturally it leads to the question of whether excessive motion within Garza's elbow might have resulted in this injury (which would raise bigger concerns about the long-term health of his elbow perhaps). A vigorous hyperextension potentially could bruise the joint as well. As the Sun-Times reports, the Cubs' medical staff hypothesizes the stress of power pitching might have led to a pitch which created the bruise. Continuing to pitch might then have aggravated it. Without knowing the precise location of Garza's bone bruise, it is difficult to appreciate the exact implications of the injury, but in any case, rest is the single best mode of allowing it to heal. The big test will be once Garza returns to throwing to see how his elbow responds. That test might come soon, as Garza is eligible to return June 3 and the team sounds optimistic he will meet that target.

[+] EnlargeVicente Padilla
Charles LeClaire/US PresswireVicente Padilla had been looking decent as the Dodgers' closer when he got hurt.
Vicente Padilla, P, Los Angeles Dodgers: The Dodgers have not had much luck cementing the closer position thanks in part to both injury and ineffectiveness. Padilla, who seemed to have the lock on the position earlier this month, began to struggle with a sore forearm last week, the same forearm on which he had surgery in February. That surgery was done to release an entrapment of the posterior interosseous nerve, a branch of the radial nerve that travels through the back side of the forearm. Tightness in the supinator muscles, which rotate the forearm (to turn it palm up), and the wrist extensors can compress and irritate the nerve. Even after tight tissue in the area is released, there is always the potential for tightness to return or even some scar tissue to develop, despite efforts to keep the area loose through stretching and soft tissue work. After all, there is no way to avoid using these muscles as part of the act of pitching, so it presents an ongoing management challenge.



Stan Conte, director of medical services for the Dodgers, says Padilla has responded well to a cortisone injection and potentially could begin a rehab assignment soon, which would have him returning at or close to his 15-day window. The good news here is that this does not appear to be serious and some brief downtime might go a long way toward preventing a disabling recurrence of Padilla's injury. Naturally, the Dodgers would have preferred that all their closers weren't having issues simultaneously, but Padilla seems to be in the best shape for a near return. Jonathan Broxton (elbow inflammation) has played some catch but has no definitive timetable for his return, and Hong Chih-Kuo (anxiety disorder) is out indefinitely.

Quick hits


Philadelphia Phillies outfielder Shane Victorino is making some progress from his hamstring strain, doing agility drills and taking batting practice. The Philadelphia Inquirer reports he could begin a rehab assignment this weekend. He is eligible to return June 3, and the Phillies have hinted at having him back on time.

The good news is Victorino reportedly has not dealt with hamstring injuries in the past. The not-so good news is the Philadelphia Inquirer reported that the day Victorino got hurt, he had been experiencing pain in his low back and hip prior to feeling it in the hamstring. If indeed Victorino has low-back issues, which are contributing to the hamstring symptoms, the injury might not be totally behind him, even after he returns.

• Don't expect Cleveland Indians designated hitter Travis Hafner back anytime soon. He has an oblique strain that is likely to keep him out the better part of a month. Hitters need their core strength for power. He will not be rushed back. But hey, on the bright side, the Indians expect to get Grady Sizemore back this weekend, according to MLB.com. After he ran the bases without incident Wednesday, the team has confidence that his knee is progressing in the right direction. Sizemore had been dealing with a bone bruise in his right knee following a hard slide. He underwent microfracture surgery in his left knee in the offseason.

Toronto Blue Jays first baseman Adam Lind has seen some progression of his baseball activity (swinging the bat, fielding drills) down at the team's Florida facility. Although his move to the DL last week took some by surprise, he has appeared to make steady progress since he's been there. The team appears hopeful he could return to extended spring training action this week, according to the Jays' website. Perhaps most notably, it sounds as if the team plans to share his workload, at least initially, with Juan Rivera when he returns so as not to overwork him.



Much to the dismay of fantasy owners everywhere, Monday may have been one of the busiest baseball injury days on record. Here's the spillover into Tuesday.

Adam Lind, 1B, Toronto Blue Jays: So much for hoping Lind could avoid the DL because of back issues. The team opted to place him there but it's retroactive to May 8, meaning he could return next week. He was making improvements as of the weekend so the hope is he will be ready to return when eligible.

[+] EnlargeJohn Lackey
David Butler II/US PresswireJohn Lackey is 2-5 with an 8.01 ERA so far this season.
John Lackey, P, Boston Red Sox: Lackey was placed on the DL Monday with a right elbow strain. He has been inconsistent on the mound this season, with things getting worse lately. After giving up nine runs in his last outing, an exasperated Lackey summed up his feelings by telling the Boston Herald, "It's got to turn some time. Everything in my life sucks right now, to be honest with you." Manager Terry Francona confirmed Lackey's physical ailment was responsible for the DL move, telling reporters, "He's been having some tugging in his elbow." Just how long the elbow has been bothering him this season is unclear, but he has a history of minor trouble with it. His 2009 season started late because of elbow pain, and in 2008, he missed time with a strained triceps in his throwing arm. Maybe the years are throwing are taking a toll on the 32-year-old pitcher. While there is no report of anything serious with Lackey, the caution flags are certainly flying.

Josh Johnson, P, Florida Marlins: Johnson looks to have escaped serious injury after absorbing the brunt of a Carlos Beltran line drive on his right (throwing) forearm Monday. Johnson stayed in to finish the inning but did not return to the game as the forearm got tight. The team referred to the injury as a bruised right forearm. X-rays taken Monday night were negative. According to the team's website, manager Edwin Rodriguez is optimistic Johnson will be able to make his next start against the Tampa Bay Rays on Saturday.

Derrek Lee, 1B, Baltimore Orioles: Lee exited Monday's game after just two innings with what the Baltimore Sun reported to be a left oblique strain. The team has called Lee's status day-to-day and he was expected to be evaluated further Tuesday. The severity of the injury will dictate whether Lee is likely to be absent for days or weeks. Lee has a history of low back problems (disc-related) and cannot afford to play with any compromised core strength.



Good news! The Philadelphia Phillies have to be relieved to be getting a player back from the DL instead of adding another to the list, as pitcher Roy Oswalt has been activated for his Tuesday start. He had been on the DL with inflammation in his lower back, but fortunately turned the corner fairly quickly. Still, he is likely to be limited in the number of pitches he throws as he works his way back to form. His last start was April 26 against the Arizona Diamondbacks. Since then he left the team to be with his family in the aftermath of the severe storms in the south, then returned only to be forced onto the DL because of his back.



What would a weekend be without more names to add to the walking wounded in baseball? There were a couple of hit-by-pitches and a couple of strains and tweaks here and there. But it wasn't until Monday afternoon when we got the biggest news of the weekend, an injury that took everyone, even the player himself, by surprise.

[+] EnlargeDavid Wright
Jim McIsaac/Getty ImagesDavid Wright is hitting just .226 with six homers and 18 RBIs this year.
David Wright, 3B, New York Mets: ESPNNewYork.com's Adam Rubin reports that New York Mets general manager Sandy Alderson announced that Wright has a stress fracture in his low back. The fracture was discovered when Wright was evaluated at Hospital for Special Surgery in New York on Monday. Alderson indicated that Wright would be seeking a second opinion but that the planned course of treatment was, quite simply, rest. Alderson said of Wright's reaction upon learning of his injury, "David himself was surprised by it."



At this point, there is not much further detail and we are awaiting the outcome of Wright's second opinion. But generally speaking, these injuries are typically treated with rest and once the pain associated with the fracture resolves, the athlete can resume activity based on comfort. While it sounds dramatic, this is potentially far less threatening than a serious soft tissue injury such as an ACL or rotator cuff tear. Bone, once healed, is exceptionally strong. The key is allowing the bone to fully heal, which is why proper rest, to avoid excessive movement in the injured area, is critical. Expect Wright to be sidelined for several weeks, but naturally we will update his condition as more information becomes available.

Albert Pujols, 1B, St. Louis Cardinals: He's a machine, after all, so we should not expect Pujols to break just because he was hit by a Francisco Cordero fastball on his lead forearm. It looked painful Sunday as Pujols grasped his wrist and went to his knees in pain, but Pujols was able to carry on. As Pujols told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, "It's going to take more than this to pull me down." The injury is being called a bruised left wrist and the plan was for him to seek X-rays only if he developed more swelling and soreness overnight.

Chipper Jones, 3B, Atlanta Braves: It would be hard not to root for Jones after he took what could have been an entree into retirement and turned it into motivation to return for another season. Not only was he physically ready to go at the start of the spring following a second ACL reconstruction on his left knee, he has been fairly consistent. So naturally it's disappointing to learn that Jones' other knee is now giving him trouble.



Jones reportedly has a small meniscus tear in his right knee, which has been causing him discomfort, as those things are wont to do. In an effort to avoid midseason surgery, Jones received a cortisone injection and is resting the knee for a few days to see how it responds. If he is unable to play through it, he will yield to an arthroscopic procedure that could cause him to miss a few weeks. This really comes down to how well he can function in the presence of the injury. Tears of the meniscus do not heal themselves, but depending on the size and location, they may not prevent an athlete from continuing to play. Of course, that can change at any time, particularly if the tear increases in dimension or creates mechanical limitations that continue to irritate the joint. In other words, even if Jones is able to play through the injury for the time being, fantasy owners should be prepared that it could be problematic down the road.

Grady Sizemore, OF, Cleveland Indians: It seemed inevitable that Sizemore would revisit the disabled list after he jammed his right knee on a hard slide into second base last week. He underwent an MRI and the team confirmed afterward that Sizemore had a right knee contusion (deep bruise) and he has been out of the lineup ever since. According to AP reports, Sizemore indicated the bruise was to his kneecap. Bone bruises, even mild ones, can be painful and a bit slow to resolve. It should come as no big surprise then that the Indians decided to place him on the DL on Monday, retroactive to May 11, to extend his recovery window. Although he had been resuming some baseball activities over the past few days, including hitting in the batting cage and some light drills, the soreness in his knee persisted.



There is no reason to rush Sizemore back. It is well known that Sizemore is coming off a microfracture procedure in his left knee, which required many months of rehabilitation and an easing into the 2011 season. Beyond the obvious risk of pushing his right knee when it is not feeling 100 percent healthy, there is the increased risk of Sizemore compromising his left knee if he alters his gait in any way to compensate. With a history of significant cartilage damage in his left knee, the hope is that Sizemore's right one does not suffer a similar fate.

[+] EnlargeAroldis Chapman
Jake Roth/US PresswireSince April 30, Aroldis Chapman has faced 19 hitters, allowing two hits, 12 walks and 10 runs.
Aroldis Chapman, P, Cincinnati Reds: Chapman has been placed on the DL due to shoulder inflammation, according to the Reds' official website. There were signs in mid-April that this could happen, and at that time, he was held out for a few days because of inflammation in his shoulder. While his velocity returned, he continued to struggle with his command and the shoulder issue may have played a big part. In early May, there was talk from manager Dusty Baker about the lengthy time Chapman required to get loose before entering a game. There was discussion about Chapman's mechanics. In hindsight, perhaps these were reflections of an underlying issue. It's hard to be surprised about a shoulder or elbow issue in a flamethrower like Chapman. The hope is that this is truly just a minor setback that will respond to some extended rest.

Shane Victorino, OF, Philadelphia Phillies: Last week, when talking about Utley's near return, I mentioned that Victorino (along with Rollins and Polanco) had not yet had a day off. Now that's been forced to change. Victorino strained his right hamstring Saturday and was out of the lineup Sunday. According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, Victorino will be out until at least Wednesday when the Phillies begin a homestand against the Colorado Rockies. While the team does not think this injury will warrant a trip to the DL, it's no secret that hamstring strains, even the very mild variety, can be tricky. Those that seem minor can quickly act up when an athlete pushes full speed and Victorino is not going to be jogging in the outfield. Fantasy owners should not be surprised if this return timeline gets extended.

Adam Lind, 1B, Toronto Blue Jays: He's still not in the lineup, but he's not on the disabled list, either. Consider this a sign that Lind could make an appearance soon, especially since he reported feeling much improved after Sunday's drills. Lind has been dealing with back spasms for more than a week. Initially it appeared he had improved enough to play in this past weekend's series against the Minnesota Twins, but he was scratched Friday after developing some pregame tightness. Manager John Farrell pointed out that Lind was not sitting around during the game. "He went through a full two hours of treatment, exercises and rehab," said Farrell, adding that the team had hoped to have him back in the lineup Monday. According to the Toronto Sun, Lind was surprised to not be playing Monday after an uneventful Sunday workout. "I'm a little disappointed," Lind said. "I went hard today."



Perhaps after Friday's setback, the team wants to see how Lind feels a full 24 hours after his workout before committing him to the lineup. If all continues well, it appears the Blue Jays will consider getting him back in the groove shortly as he has avoided the DL thus far.

Don't look now, but there might be a couple of players sneaking back into the lineup this week. Can they be counted on for immediate production?

Rafael Furcal, SS, Los Angeles Dodgers: Furcal is now on a rehab assignment as he inches closer to returning to the Dodgers' lineup after missing time with a broken left thumb. His final hurdle is batting right-handed without any discomfort. Furcal, who can hit from both sides of the plate, has been hitting well in rehab games but initially hit only from the left side. Right-handed swinging was originally causing mild discomfort, but after two right-handed at-bats Sunday night, the hope is that this is resolving. Furcal will face a left-handed starter Monday night and have another opportunity to test his thumb. Manager Don Mattingly is not interested in returning Furcal to a situation in which he is less than 100 percent healthy. Equally important is Furcal's confidence that he is past the injury. His productivity at the plate will be compromised if he is at all tentative in his swing. Mattingly indicated he would like Furcal to get 25 to 30 at-bats before rejoining the team. If he continues to progress well, it could signal his return late this week.

Jason Heyward, OF, Atlanta Braves: Last week, Heyward sat out several games after experiencing numbness in his right hand and forearm and soreness in his right (non-throwing) shoulder. Since that time, Heyward has undergone an MRI, which showed inflammation in his shoulder, and he received a cortisone injection. According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Heyward took his first swings Sunday since being sidelined with the injury, hitting off a tee and saying he hoped to take full-scale batting practice Monday. Heyward reported the shoulder felt improved and hinted at a Tuesday return to the lineup. The good news is that this is the first time Heyward has reported feeling better since he made an early exit in last Tuesday's game. The unknown is whether this issue will be truly behind him or whether it will crop up again later. After all, Heyward indicated the shoulder has been problematic intermittently since spring training, resulting in an inconsistent swing. Until he returns to hitting on a regular basis, it will be hard to assess just how much progress he has made.


[+] EnlargeWells
Kim Klement/US PresswireVernon Wells will be out at least the next two weeks because of a strained groin.
• A sound defeat by the Chicago White Sox wasn't the only loss the Los Angeles Angels suffered Monday. The team also saw outfielder Vernon Wells exit the game in the fourth inning after straining his right groin. Wells has been placed on the disabled list, and as he is 32 years old, there's a decent chance the recovery time will extend beyond two weeks. Wells wasn't exactly lighting it up at the plate this spring, but his veteran presence was valued by his teammates and coaches. Although he managed to avoid the DL the past two seasons, Wells dealt with several significant injuries the two seasons prior (shoulder, hamstring and wrist). Considering the workload he has delivered across the bulk of his career, it stands to reason his body might show some signs of yielding to wear and tear, and this injury might be the first evidence. According to the Angels' website, Wells will be evaluated by team doctors Tuesday, after which the team hopes to learn more about his prognosis.

• Meanwhile, Wells' former team, Toronto, is deciding whether to place Adam Lind on the disabled list. Lind has been dealing with back spasms for several days and left Saturday's game early when his back stiffened. According to the Toronto Sun, Toronto Blue Jays manager John Farrell described Lind's condition as "day-to-day right now. He is symptom-free when it comes to neurological, but the spasms are strong." Lind was scheduled for an MRI on Monday, but even in the absence of significant findings, if Lind continues to be limited by pain and spasms, the team could opt to move him to the DL. Farrell hinted that direction, saying, "If there's no improvement, we'd have to consider the next step."



Keeping an eye on ...


We always hear about injuries as they happen, but once players are relegated to the DL, they can disappear off the radar, particularly if they are out for an extended period of time. It just so happens that many fantasy owners have several players whom they are "waiting on" in hopes of a triumphant return. Whether to hang on and continue to wait out their absence or drop them to open up a roster spot can be a constant source of angst.



Chase Utley, 2B, Philadelphia Phillies: Perhaps no single player's return has been more sought after by fans and fantasy owners than Utley's. Out since spring training with chronic degenerative issues in his right knee involving his patellar tendon (which anchors the quadriceps muscle to the tibia or shinbone) and his patella (kneecap), Utley has persevered through a graded -- and very cautious -- rehab progression in the hope that he can return successfully for the bulk of the season. This approach seems to be paying dividends in terms of the progress Utley has been able to make so far. The biggest question at this point no longer seems to be whether he will make a return (as he appears poised to do just that if there are no setbacks in his rehab outings) but whether he can stay on the field once he does. As I wrote in March when Utley's condition was outlined by the Phillies' team physician: Unfortunately, cartilage damage is not reversible. It comes down to whether the condition can be effectively managed (i.e., whether he can play through it).

ESPN baseball writer Jayson Stark crafted an excellent piece in March that captured the essence of Utley as an athlete who gives 110 percent percent every time he takes the field. As admirable as that quality is from a work ethic perspective, it might challenge Utley when it comes to managing his condition going forward. There is reason to be encouraged. Utley hasn't said much about his knee, but when he has spoken, he has sounded resigned to the fact that this is a slow process that requires careful evaluation after each bump up in activity. When some were suggesting that Utley's light jogging and defensive drills in mid-April signaled an imminent return, Utley was quick to caution about looking too far ahead. Utley told reporters, "The next step is just to continue doing what I'm doing and to hope that it responds well, and so far it has."

Chase Utley
Kim Klement/US PresswireChase Utley still has to take things easy in the field although hitting hasn't been a major issue so far.
His knee has continued to respond well to a very stepwise progression. Utley has participated in two extended spring training games, going 5-for-7 with two home runs in his first outing Saturday. It's worth noting that Utley was taking batting practice in spring training, even when the knee was at its worst, as swinging the bat was never an issue that caused pain. But in that first extended spring training outing, Utley was limited to alternating defensive innings played in an effort to control the activities that typically have been more stressful for his knee. The best news to come out of that outing was not his production at the plate, but the fact that he felt fine the next day. In Utley's second extended spring training outing, he played back-to-back defensive innings for the first time and, as the Philadelphia Inquirer noted, he made a leaping defensive play -- and landed -- without incident. While his 1-for-7 hitting didn't make the newswires that day, his increased defensive activity might have been even more significant.



Tuesday brings the next big test, as Utley will begin a rehab assignment with Class A Clearwater. Not only does this signal a less-controlled environment, but it will be his first time playing on consecutive days. According to Todd Zolecki of MLB.com, Utley is expected to serve as DH, so he will not be playing the field back-to-back days, another hurdle he will need to cross before returning to the majors. But his return is indeed inching closer since a rehab assignment officially starts a 20-day countdown clock. Barring a setback, the expectation is that Utley will be activated within that timeframe.

Utley's story is encouraging and his success thus far is without a doubt a testament to his unwavering work ethic, not to mention the valuable care and supervision of the rehab staff around him and the organization's support of a slow-progressing program. The question no one can answer, however, is what will happen once Utley rejoins the Phillies. How will his knee hold up over days, weeks, even months? Will he play every day? And should he? As of today, three veteran members of the Phillies' starting lineup, Shane Victorino, Jimmy Rollins and Placido Polanco -- all age 30 or older -- have yet to have a day off, not counting the forced day off April 16 due to weather. Utley, age 32, is not known for being one to slow down or remove himself at the first sign of discomfort. In the interest of enduring the bulk of the season, he might have to learn to do just that.

Kendrys Morales, 1B, Los Angeles Angels: Morales' activity has stalled in recent weeks as the ankle, which has kept him on the DL since the start of the season, continues to be problematic. Morales underwent surgery last summer after breaking his ankle during a celebration at home plate. His failure to tolerate running has persisted since spring training, and he now is going to visit Dr. Thomas Clanton, a foot-and-ankle specialist, at the Steadman-Hawkins Clinic in Vail, Colo., for consultation. According to the Los Angeles Times, Tim Mead, the team's vice president of communications said, "This is something the Angels recommended to get an optimal course of treatment." Whether the consult results in reassurance and reinforcement, or redirection of his program, Morales ultimately needs to get moving ... literally. As the Times noted, Morales was shut down after receiving an injection into the joint last week, and until he can run full speed, he simply can't play. The team now hints at June as the soonest return date for Morales. Until he has resumed some type of running program, it's hard to be confident in any timetable whatsoever.

Rafael Furcal, SS, Los Angeles Dodgers: Furcal broke his thumb on a headfirst slide in early April and was so dejected after the injury that he hinted at possible retirement. But the hardworking Furcal turned that frown upside down and got to work. He's made enough progress that manager Don Mattingly says Furcal could be headed for a rehab assignment later this week. Initial projections had Furcal out from four to six weeks, and he currently stands at the one-month mark. He has been doing some drills and taking batting practice but still experiences some discomfort when swinging right-handed. According to the Dodgers' website, Mattingly will not send Furcal on a rehab assignment until that discomfort resolves. "I don't want him going out until he's not feeling that anymore," Mattingly said. "I don't want him to push it and do something that sets him back." Fantasy owners should keep an eye on Furcal, as he could rejoin the team within another week.

In closing:

Oakland Athletics reliever Andrew Bailey, out since the start of the season with a forearm strain, is scheduled to throw a simulated game Tuesday. He is likely another week away at least from returning to the team but is inching closer.

• Philadelphia Phillies closer Brad Lidge has targeted a pre-All-Star break return but still has some work to do to get there. Lidge has a partial rotator cuff tear and has been on the DL since the season began, although he has been throwing on flat ground without incident. The good news is that he has progressed to the point where he could throw off the mound soon. The Philadelphia Daily News reports that test could come within the next 10 days.



• The news is less encouraging for Seattle Mariners closer David Aardsma. Aardsma has been on the mend following surgery to repair a labral tear in his hip and now has been shut down for a few days with forearm stiffness. Aardsma underwent an MRI on Friday as a precautionary measure, according to the Mariners' website. While the team indicates this is not a major concern, it still represents a delay in his return. As is often the case with pitchers who miss extensive time, even if the injury is not in the throwing arm, there might be setbacks in returning to competitive form associated with the extended absence from throwing.

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