Stephania Bell: Ben Francisco
April, 4, 2011
By Stephania Bell | ESPN.com
It's not supposed to be quite so busy in the injury department this early in the season. After getting ready for Opening Day, I figured I'd take in the first weekend of baseball and perhaps update the status of a few players who have yet to make their season debuts.
So much for that idea. The weekend news kicked off with St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Matt Holliday undergoing an appendectomy Friday. On a positive note, the Cardinals have not moved Holliday to the DL, at least not yet. The team says it will wait until Monday or Tuesday and see how Holliday is progressing. For what it's worth, manager Tony La Russa told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that Holliday felt "less discomfort" Sunday than he did Saturday. So far, so good.
Holliday might not be on the DL but there are several new additions from around the league.
• Tampa Bay Rays third baseman Evan Longoria has joined the strained oblique club. Longoria left Saturday's game after the fifth inning with soreness in his side. Although he appeared to be downplaying the severity of the injury initially, his manager sounded more concerned. Apparently, Longoria first felt some discomfort during batting practice, and it increased as the game progressed. On Sunday, the decision was made to formally put Longoria on the disabled list to ensure full healing.
AP Photo/Gene J. PuskarEvan Longoria could be sidelined until next month with his oblique injury.
According to the St. Petersburg Times, manager Joe Maddon has projected that Longoria will miss at least three weeks, a reasonable estimate given the time required to first rest the healing tissue followed by gradually increasing the load. Amid a team lacking in offensive production out of the gate, Longoria was 0-for-5 with a walk through the first two games of the season. Depending how long he is sidelined, Longoria might not get his first hit until May. Not exactly what fantasy owners were anticipating. In the meantime, Sean Rodriguez is likely to get the majority of the playing time at third base.
• Several pitching staffs took a hit this weekend as well. Baltimore Orioles left-hander Brian Matusz was scratched from his Saturday start with what was originally described as soreness in his left mid-back. An MRI revealed an intercostal (small muscles between the ribs) strain severe enough for the team to suggest he could miss anywhere from three to six weeks.
There are three layers of intercostal muscles. The top layer (external intercostals) is analogous to the larger external oblique abdominal muscles, both in terms of being the most superficial and the orientation of the muscle fibers. The next layer (internal intercostals) is analogous in depth and fiber direction to the internal obliques. Although the intercostals are much smaller, both muscle groups are active during trunk rotation. It is no surprise then that these two muscle groups -- intercostals and obliques -- tend to be injured in similar fashion for ballplayers. The intercostals' direct attachment between ribs can make this a very painful injury when acute, as even deep breathing can be painful.
The Orioles called up another lefty, Zach Britton, who made his big league debut Sunday, and he certainly left an impression by pitching six shutout innings against the Rays. Britton is a hot fantasy pickup this week, even if his time might be limited.
• Atlanta Braves pitcher Jair Jurrjens, who struggled with health issues in 2010, found himself on the DL this week but the injury occurred prior to the start of the season. Jurrjens, who developed soreness in late March, will have his DL stint backdated to March 25, making him eligible to return April 9. Jurrjens has a strained right oblique, slightly unusual in that he is a right-handed thrower. Most pitchers strain an opposite oblique, which is generally attributed to the hard cross-body torque associated with throwing. Jurrjens' injury appears to be relatively minor, and he started throwing bullpens late last week. The bigger concern with Jurrjens might be staying healthy through the course of the season.
Situations to keep an eye on
• Philadelphia Phillies right fielder Ben Francisco (starting the season in place of Domonic Brown, who is still recovering from hand surgery following a hamate fracture) and center fielder Shane Victorino had a scary collision in the outfield Saturday. Francisco's neck appeared to get forcibly bent when it met Victorino's hip en route to playing a deep fly ball. Francisco remained in the game for the duration but it was Victorino who exited in the fifth inning with left calf soreness. The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that Victorino felt tightness in the calf when jogging off the field after that inning, although he didn't think it particularly serious at the time.
On Sunday, Victorino entered the game as a pinch hitter in the sixth inning but was able to stay in the game afterward. According to the Phillies' website, Victorino said he could still "feel it," suggesting it was possibly an irritated nerve. He reiterated that he was not concerned, but the Phillies will no doubt be keeping a close eye on how his calf responds over the next few days. The painful memory of a star player sidelined at the start of the season with a calf injury (Jimmy Rollins, 2010) is no doubt still fresh. As far as Francisco, he was in Sunday's game, crashing spectacularly into the right field wall to make a play. It appears his neck is doing fine.
• Chicago Cubs pitcher Carlos Zambrano left Saturday's game in the seventh inning because of cramps in his throwing (right) hand. Zambrano also reportedly experienced tightness in his hamstring. He is no stranger to cramps, and in the past he has commented on the need to maintain adequate fluids, which he did again after this episode, according to ESPN Chicago. "I'll be OK," Zambrano said. "I'll drink a lot of fluid and do whatever I have to do, not to feel bad anymore." According to manager Mike Quade, Zambrano is expected to make his next scheduled start Friday.
• Colorado Rockies ace Ubaldo Jimenez struggled through his first outing with a cut cuticle on his throwing thumb. The Denver Post reports that the thumb is affected on every pitch because of how Jimenez grips the ball. The primary issue is not one of immediate discomfort, but rather preventing this from turning into a more protracted issue because the cut fails to heal. Originally, manager Jim Tracy suggested Jimenez could miss his next start. As of now, that start has been pushed back one day to Friday but all depends on how the thumb healing progresses.
Chris Humphreys/US PresswireUbaldo Jimenez's cuticle issue on his thumb could be one reason why he struggled on Opening Day.
• Meanwhile, teammate Jorge de la Rosa developed a painful blister on his left middle finger that shortened his first outing, possibly a consequence of his grip on the ball. After exiting Saturday's game, de la Rosa had the blood blister well treated and bandaged by the athletic training staff, according to the Rockies' website. De la Rosa did not seem overly concerned by the blister, as he has dealt with similar issues in the past, and he expects to make his next start. As is the case with Jimenez, de la Rosa's finger will be monitored over the next few days to ensure there are no lingering issues.
Cuticles and blisters might sound like seemingly small injuries, but make no mistake, they're big enough to threaten the status of the first and second guns in the Rockies' rotation. Anyone who's had a bad manicure experience can relate ... come on, who's with me?
It wasn't all doom and gloom; there was some good news to be found over the weekend.
• San Diego Padres ace Mat Latos, sidelined with bursitis in his throwing shoulder, threw a side session Saturday and looked, well, "fantastic," according to pitching coach Darren Balsley. Latos is expected to start in a minor league game Monday with the goal of increasing his pitch count.
• San Francisco Giants closer Brian Wilson, who also started the season on the DL with an oblique injury, threw a simulated game Sunday. His outing impressed pitching coach Dave Righetti, who suggested that Wilson could be back with the team this week. Wilson is eligible to come off the DL on Wednesday when the team is in San Diego, and while that move is not set in stone, Wilson's outing Sunday was a good step in that direction.
• Chicago White Sox pitcher Jake Peavy, who stayed behind in Arizona to continue recovery from offseason surgery to repair his latissimus dorsi tendon, threw a simulated game Sunday. He was just shy of 60 pitches. Peavy, whose overall recovery has been impressive, developed rotator cuff tendinitis after a spring outing, which came on the heels of a stomach ailment. The issue seems to have settled, and Peavy is on track again with building his arm strength. He is expected to start in a minor league game Friday (for Double-A Birmingham) and will try to bump up his pitch count. If there are no more bumps in the road, he could rejoin the team in late April.
March, 8, 2011
By Stephania Bell | ESPN.com
Philadelphia Phillies outfielder Domonic Brown underwent surgery Tuesday morning to remove the fractured "hook" portion of the hamate bone in his right hand. According to Phillies athletic trainer Scott Sheridan, the projected timetable for Brown's return to play is four to six weeks, presuming no setbacks.
I spoke with Brown's teammate, Ben Francisco, who suffered a similar injury in the minors (and, in an interesting twist of fate, stands to see increased playing time while Brown is out). Francisco said he was able to return to play within six weeks but it really took a couple of months for his power to return. Beyond that, Francisco said he still had lingering soreness in the hand for a couple of months. It's a good reminder that although the procedure has become relatively routine among ballplayers, there is often a difference between returning to play and returning to normal. On the flip side, it's no secret that Brown was struggling at the plate before his injury. Sometimes a forced rest can do a world of good, and that may indeed be the case with Brown.