Stephania Bell: Brett Anderson
May, 13, 2013
Every Monday in this space, we'll provide updates on a variety of players to help you make your weekly lineup decisions. We'll specifically try to hit the players who are day-to-day, have just gone on the DL or are ready to return, so that you can better decide whether you can count on them or not.
All projected return timelines should be considered fluid.
HittersJason Heyward, OF, Atlanta Braves (placed on DL April 21, could return this week): Heyward went on the disabled list following an emergency appendectomy, so at least there's comfort in knowing this is not going to be a recurrent problem. Now it's just a matter of when he will return … and when he'll be effective.
Heyward has been on a rehab assignment for several days at Triple-A Gwinnett, and other than some soreness that warranted a day off, his stint has been uneventful from a health perspective. It also has been uneventful at the plate, that is until Sunday, when he finally started hitting. The Braves don't have an exact date for his return, but he's expected to rejoin the team at some point this week.
Curtis Granderson, OF, New York Yankees (opened season on DL, could return this week): It's only fair that the Yankees actually get a player back from the DL after adding more and more players to it this season. Granderson's recovery and rehab have been totally uneventful, just the way the medical staff likes it. He has been crossing "to do" items off the list during his rehab assignment: He has faced both left- and right-handed pitching, played defense and played both day and night games. Perhaps most importantly, Granderson has not shown any lingering apprehension from getting hit by a pitch this spring. As he told the Yankees' official website regarding his rehab at-bats, "There was no recall of the injury. There's going to be pitches inside, I'm going to get hit again, but you got to stay in."
AP Photo/Seth WenigCurtis Granderson could return to the Yankees as early as Tuesday.
The Yankees would like it if he stays healthy and stays in. There's every indication he will come back and be productive immediately, and that return could happen any day now, potentially as early as Tuesday, when the Yankees open a series at home.
Coco Crisp, OF, Oakland Athletics (placed on DL April 30, could return this week): Crisp strained his left hamstring trying to run out a ground ball in the A's seemingly never-ending Monday night game nearly two weeks ago. Fortunately, the strain appeared mild and Crisp could potentially attempt to run the bases soon, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. Obviously his tolerance of running will help determine his readiness to return -- manager Bob Melvin told reporters Crisp might not need a formal rehab assignment -- but as is always the case with hamstrings, until he runs in games without a setback, it will be impossible to tell just how healthy he is.
Chris Young, OF, A's (placed on DL April 30, could return Wednesday): The A's hope to get another outfielder with a soft tissue injury back soon. Just as Coco Crisp recovers from his hamstring, Young is working to get past a left quad strain that has sidelined him the past couple of weeks. After passing the necessary rehab clearances, Young is expected to get some at-bats in extended spring training games during the early part of the week, according to the A's official website. If all goes well, he could return when eligible on Wednesday.
Neil Walker, 2B, Pittsburgh Pirates (placed on DL retroactive to April 27, expected to return Monday): Two weeks ago in this space, I wrote about how the Pirates hoped to return Walker within days if he could swing the bat effectively. Clearly he could not, and the decision was made to place him on the DL. After beginning a rehab assignment last Thursday, it seems Walker has shown he has moved past the injury, and his return appears imminent.
Michael Cuddyer, OF, Colorado Rockies (placed on DL retroactive to May 9): Cuddyer had already missed three games with what he referred to as inflammation in his neck, related to a disc problem. Now it's clear he will be missing a few more. This is not Cuddyer's first episode of neck pain, but it appears to be the first time it has forced him on the DL. The hope is that the symptoms are limited to his neck and that it won't progress into his shoulder or arm. Rest is the best option for him in the short term, but given the variability of these types of ailments, a definitive timetable is difficult to determine. The soonest he can return is May 24, if his neck cooperates.
Jayson Werth, OF, Washington Nationals (placed on DL retroactive to May 3): This doesn't come as a huge surprise after Werth's hamstring continued to bother him despite missing the past eight games. If there is any good news, it's that it can be backdated to the last time Werth saw the field, making him eligible to return May 18. Whether he will be able to actually run at full speed by the end of this week remains to be seen. The Nationals have also indicated they believe dehydration was a factor in Werth's repeated muscle cramping.
The hope is that all will be under control and back to normal by the end of the week, although fantasy owners might want to wait until next week to insert him into their lineup.
Adrian Gonzalez, 1B, Los Angeles Dodgers (day-to-day): Gonzalez has been dealing with a minor muscular strain in his neck, recently aggravated when he and an umpire crossed paths as he was attempting to field a ground ball. An MRI revealed little of significance and Gonzalez returned to play late last week. However, he promptly aggravated it again, then sat out Sunday's game.
This is what falls under the header of "annoying" injuries, frustrating to the athlete because of the come-and-go pattern and difficult to predict in terms of behavior and severity. It does not look as if Gonzalez is in danger of going on the DL, but fantasy owners will want to check daily lineups until he is playing consistently.
Austin Jackson, OF, Detroit Tigers (placed on DL retroactive to May 12): Another outfielder, another hamstring injury. It seems to be quite the injury trend this week. Also a trend: Teams opting to send players to the disabled list for seemingly minor strains early in the season, not wanting to risk a more severe injury. That makes sense. Teams as a whole seem to be offering their players a couple of days to test the effects of rest, but if there are any lingering warning signs, they waste little time scaling the athlete back (in the form of a DL stint). The hope then is that the player will miss the minimal amount of time, and Jackson's case is no different.
Shane Victorino, OF, Boston Red Sox (day-to-day): After missing a week due to spasms in his back, Victorino returned to action May 3. He seemed to be faring well ... until he ran into the outfield wall Sunday, ultimately requiring a trip to the hospital to be examined. As bad as it looked -- and perhaps felt -- Victorino appears to have escaped major injury. According to ESPN Boston, X-rays on his ribs came back negative, and manager John Farrell says Victorino should be ready to play Tuesday after the team's off day Monday. The hope is that this collision will not wake up the painful spasms in his low back again, and so far there has been no word of that. If Victorino does return Tuesday, that will be a good sign that he should be available going forward.
AP Photo/Winslow TownsonShane Victorino (lying down) collided with the outfield wall Sunday at Fenway Park.
Desmond Jennings, OF, Tampa Bay Rays (day-to-day): Jennings has missed a few games with a minor groin strain, but the Rays seem fairly confident they will have him back Tuesday. Jennings has downplayed the injury since it first cropped up last week, suggesting he could play if necessary. Given that it's May and not September, manager Joe Maddon opted to rest Jennings for several days. The proof that it is not anything to worry about will come when Jennings returns to action for consecutive days without incident.
PitchersZack Greinke, SP, Los Angeles Dodgers (placed on DL April 12, could return Wednesday): When Greinke was injured in the brawl with Carlos Quentin, no one knew what to expect since a clavicle fracture in the non-throwing arm of a pitcher is not exactly your everyday injury. As soon as the Dodgers announced he was undergoing surgery to stabilize the fracture, his prognosis for return actually improved, as it appeared he would not face as much down time from throwing.
Turns out that was an accurate assessment. Despite the Dodgers' (understandably) conservative eight-week projection, Greinke appears poised to possibly return this week, which would mark 4 1/2 weeks post-surgery. He has passed the point of having discomfort and pitched in high Class A ball last Friday. His velocity is up where he left off at the time of injury, and he appears from a functional standpoint to be ready to pitch in the majors. The final remaining hurdle is whether the bone has healed to the point where the team is comfortable with him absorbing contact. (The high Class A outing afforded him the opportunity to pitch with a DH in the lineup; when he returns to the Dodgers, he will need to hit, run and potentially absorb contact should there be a collision). Expect those clearing tests to be performed over the next 24 hours and a decision to be forthcoming shortly after. If the team opts to hold Greinke out of a return to the majors Wednesday, he would likely get another rehab start this week and rejoin the team next week.
Brett Anderson, SP, A's (placed on DL April 30, could return Friday): After originally spraining his ankle in mid-April, it looked as if Anderson could avoid a DL stint with some rest. But he got called into service in the A's marathon game a couple of weeks ago and it set him back, forcing the DL stint. With a pitcher so recently removed from Tommy John surgery, it's probably for the best that he allow the ankle to recover sufficiently to not threaten his throwing mechanics and, consequently, the health of his arm. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, Anderson is likely to rejoin the rotation Friday.
Ryan Madson, RP, Los Angeles Angels (opened the season on DL, could return this week): Madson's return following last April's Tommy John surgery has been delayed due to the soreness he experienced this spring. The delays aren't highly unusual, but it does bode for a gradual progression even as he returns to his major league team. Madson has been pitching in extended spring training and will begin a rehab assignment this week. He might not spend much time there, as the team could bring him up to the majors to build further endurance in that setting. As the Los Angeles Times has reported, he will not be the closer immediately upon return, and how the Angels opt to use him will likely depend on what they see from him as he resumes big league action.
Johnny Cueto, SP, Cincinnati Reds (placed on DL April 15, could return within one to two weeks): Cueto's original ailment was reported as a triceps injury, then was modified to a lat strain (more typical for a pitcher). But as he was recovering from that injury, he developed soreness in his oblique, a pitcher's nemesis, forcing a slowdown in his return schedule. Now Cueto seems to have cleared most of the major obstacles in his recovery and has initiated a rehab assignment. His next rehab outing is slated for Tuesday, and the Cincinnati Enquirer is reporting he could return to the Reds' rotation May 19.
Eric Hartline/US PresswireHe's been out of sight, out of mind, but it shouldn't be forgotten that Johnny Cueto finished 13th among all pitchers on the ESPN Player Rater in 2012.
It's entirely possible the team opts for another rehab start, depending on what they see during his outing this week and how Cueto feels after consecutive starts. Either way, it appears that, barring a setback, his return is not far off.
Andrew Bailey, RP, Boston Red Sox (placed on DL retroactive to April 29, could return within a week): Bailey is eligible to return from the DL on Wednesday, but the club could still opt to send him out on a rehab assignment, pushing back that return. Bailey went on the disabled list with a biceps strain, a bit more worrisome than the one that sidelined teammate John Lackey because of the location of Bailey's symptoms (higher, closer to the shoulder). As noted in this space last week, Bailey has been plagued by a series of injuries, but he started the season strong for the Red Sox. With Joel Hanrahan now out for the remainder of the season, it would seem Bailey has the opportunity to recapture his closer role from Junichi Tazawa, if he can stay healthy. Considering his history, particularly in light of this current ailment, that's a big if. Even if Bailey returns without a rehab assignment, the bigger question will be how long he can go without a potential flare-up.
Chris Perez, RP, Cleveland Indians (day-to-day): As he began to warm up Sunday before entering the game in relief, Perez experienced what the team is calling "stiffness" in his throwing shoulder. Manager Terry Francona opted not to press his luck and rested Perez instead. At this point, it doesn't appear to warrant major concern, but it does warrant you keeping an eye on the situation. Unless he's scratched again this week, consider this just a bump in the road.
Jake Westbrook, SP, St. Louis Cardinals (placed on DL May 12): Westbrook becomes the latest pitcher to hit the disabled list with inflammation in his elbow. According to ESPN's Jim Bowden, Westbrook received a cortisone injection in his elbow. Expect several days of rest with a gradual increase in activity to see if he can resume throwing. Until he reaches that point, it will be difficult to project the length of his absence.
Wei-Yin Chen, SP, Baltimore Orioles (day-to-day): After getting his team off to a good start Sunday, Chen was forced to leave the game early because of a strained oblique. He was scheduled to undergo an MRI Monday, and it would not be surprising if this results in a trip to the DL. The typical absence for a pitcher runs on the order of a month, so if it is serious enough to warrant the trip, plan on not having him available for approximately four weeks.
April, 29, 2013
Every Monday in this space, we'll provide updates on a variety of players to help you make your weekly lineup decisions. We'll specifically try to hit the players who are day-to-day, have just gone on the DL or are ready to return so that you can better decide whether you can count on them or not.
All projected return timelines should be considered fluid.
HittersTroy Tulowitzki, SS, Colorado Rockies (DTD): The good news is that Tulowitzki's latest ailment does not appear to be serious; the better news is that his surgically repaired groin is doing just fine. The hot start to Tulowitzki's season has likely helped put to rest any lingering concerns about the injury that ended his 2012 campaign prematurely. Unfortunately, Sunday's game brought a different scare. Tulowitzki strained his left shoulder on an awkward slide in the third inning, forcing him out of the game. According to the Denver Post, the injury is being described as a strained rotator cuff. It appears he will only be sidelined for a couple of days to allow any inflammation and soreness to subside, and there are no plans to place him on the DL at this time.
Ryan Zimmerman, 3B, Washington Nationals (placed on DL 4/20, could return Friday): Zimmerman was placed on the DL with a strained left hamstring. While the injury was not considered serious, there are never any guarantees when it comes to these ailments. Zimmerman described it perfectly to the Washington Times: "Usually you can tell the difference between something that's bad and something that's not that bad, but with hamstrings you never know." What Zimmerman and the Nationals do know is that he has progressed well during his down time, performing running and hitting activities over the weekend. According to the Times, Zimmerman will play in rehab games Tuesday and Wednesday. If those outings are uneventful, he will rejoin the Nationals on Friday, when he is eligible to return. As is always the case with hamstrings, the only true measure of recovery is return to play without incident, but Zimmerman may be able to put that to the test soon.
Hanley Ramirez, SS, Los Angeles Dodgers (placed on DL 3/20, could return Tuesday): Ramirez injured his thumb playing in the final game of the World Baseball Classic and underwent surgery to repair a torn ulnar collateral ligament (yes, in his thumb). Credit the work the Dodgers had him do while in a modified cast -- including throwing -- with his quick recovery since the cast has come off. Ramirez regained his range of motion quickly, began hitting within days and progressed to throwing shortly afterward. He has already appeared in rehab games over the past weekend and has hit well. Granted, he's not facing major league pitchers yet, but the fact that he is ready to play both offense and defense will certainly have him beating the original target date of mid-May (eight weeks post-surgery). By how much will he beat it? The Dodgers aren't saying for sure, but April 30 is Ramirez bobblehead day at the park. Just sayin.'
AP Photo/Wilfredo LeeHanley Ramirez has been out since injuring his thumb in the World Baseball Classic championship game March 19.
Mark Ellis, 2B, Los Angeles Dodgers (DTD): Ellis pulled up while running to first base Friday and it was determined later that he had strained his right quadriceps muscle. According to the Dodgers' official site, Ellis worried initially that it might be something more serious, but as he was able to jog on it, he recognized that it was not severe. He has already been able to swing a bat and throw the ball without any discomfort and is hopeful he can avoid a trip to the DL. Of course, the big issue with a quad strain is straight-ahead running, something Ellis has not yet tested at full speed. It appears he will be given some additional recovery time of a few days but if he remains relatively symptom-free and can increase his activity, he could potentially return by the end of the week.
Kevin Youkilis, 3B, New York Yankees (DTD): Last week, we said concern over Youkilis experiencing tightness in his lower back would be justified given his history. At the time, however, manager Joe Girardi downplayed it, saying he expected Youkilis back within a couple days. Well, those two days turned into a week and after a return on Saturday when he went 0-for-3, Youkilis was again experiencing stiffness the following day. He is scheduled for an MRI Monday. Concern is officially warranted. ESPN New York's Andrew Marchand notes how this could affect a timeline for Youkilis should he need a trip to the DL. Girardi acknowledged Sunday that all backs "can be tricky" and this situation with Youkilis reminds us that it is often the case with chronic low back pain, where "management" becomes the goal, as opposed to "cure." Right now the Yankees are in wait-and-see mode with their third baseman, but it appears the team will err on the side of caution. With Alex Rodriguez out until at least the All-Star break, it would be a significant blow to lose Youkilis for multiple weeks at a time.
Shane Victorino, OF, Boston Red Sox (DTD): The tricky back is in play with Victorino as well. What looked to originally be a one- to two-day affair has now extended past a week thanks to a flare-up, and may require a longer recovery. Victorino left the game early on April 20 with back spasms and after returning to action on April 22, was forced to leave the April 24 game early when the symptoms recurred. According to the Boston Globe, Victorino's improvement has only been "slight" in recent days, and with the team heading to the harsh turf of Toronto this week, his absence could be extended. It is not clear whether this will translate to a DL stint, but that does not seem to be ruled out. At the very least, it looks as if Victorino will rest a few more days before being tested in a game outing.
Neil Walker, 2B, Pittsburgh Pirates (DTD): Those nasty spikes. Walker sustained a deep cut near the knuckle of his right index finger Friday while attempting to break up a double play, and he was forced out of the game. He received six stitches in what Walker described as "the deepest cut I've ever had for stitches," according to MLB.com. He was incredibly fortunate to escape without any damage to extensor tendons in the hand, which lie very close to the injury site. The team did not place Walker on the DL, in the hopes that he could return late this week. While he may not have the stitches out, if he can bend the finger enough to swing the bat effectively and throw accurately, he will return to the lineup. Walker is expected to test those skills Monday, and if all goes well, expect him to be back in the mix later this week.
Michael Saunders, OF, Seattle Mariners (placed on DL 4/11, could return Monday): Saunders has been recovering from a right AC sprain suffered when his shoulder encountered the outfield wall a few weeks ago. After returning to batting practice little more than a week post-injury, Saunders was able to gradually increase his throwing in subsequent days. He began a rehab assignment over the weekend, and the hope is that he will be activated Monday. As long as Saunders has shown he can make the necessary throws and bat effectively, there is no reason for lingering concerns regarding this injury. But it would probably be for the best if that right shoulder and the outfield wall can keep their distance for a bit.
Erick Aybar, SS, Los Angeles Angels (placed on DL 4/13, could return by midweek): Aybar was sent to the DL with a bruised left heel which was causing him trouble swinging the bat from the right side of the plate. He has since returned to running and hitting, all without incident thus far. Aybar has seen action in extended spring training games, but the Angels have opted to give him some more at-bats before returning him to the team. He will play in a Triple-A game Monday, but it's not yet clear whether this will be his final hurdle. The heel issue appears to be largely behind him; at least the extended rehab time allows him to test it in multiple situations. Aybar's return to the lineup is expected shortly, perhaps within the next couple days.
PitchersJustin Verlander, SP, Detroit Tigers (DTD): The Detroit News reports Verlander said he developed "a little bit of a blister" on his right thumb near his fingernail, which was enough to bring him out of last Thursday's game after seven innings. Verlander shrugged off the notion that it would compromise his next start. Despite the thumb, Verlander had a decent outing, and there is no real indication for concern, particularly given that this is something he has contended with in the past. Blisters or other forms of skin breakdown can certainly threaten a pitcher's status, depending on the severity and location. This does not appear to be one of those times.
R.A. Dickey, SP, Toronto Blue Jays (DTD): Last week we heard about neck and back stiffness giving Dickey trouble, a decidedly vague qualification. It hasn't improved -- nor have Dickey's recent challenges on the mound -- and he is headed for an MRI to try to gain some additional information. Dickey has been pitching through consistent discomfort, according to Shi Davidi of Sportsnet. There is no doubt that pain, tightness or stiffness in the neck will influence the function of the shoulder and potentially the entire upper arm. One question is whether it is an inhibition of arm strength due to pain or whether there is true weakness as a result of nerve compromise associated with the neck. More information should be forthcoming, but given the lack of improvement both subjectively in how he feels and objectively in how he's performed recently, don't be surprised if Dickey is headed for a more definitive absence.
Kim Klement/USA TODAY SportsR.A. Dickey (4.50 ERA, 1.31 WHIP) currently rates just 112th among all pitchers on the 2013 ESPN Player Rater.
Brett Anderson, SP, Oakland Athletics (DTD): Anderson sprained his right ankle on April 19, forcing him to leave a start after just one inning of work. It initially appeared as if it would be a non-issue since Anderson made his subsequent start. It was a rough outing, however, and he only lasted four innings. On Sunday, the team announced Anderson's Monday start would be skipped because of the ankle which, according to the San Francisco Chronicle, was aggravated during Wednesday's appearance. Although Anderson has indicated the ankle feels much better and he hopes to only miss the one start (his next outing would come Saturday this week), even subtle issues on a pitcher's landing leg can be enough to throw off his mechanics. With Anderson so recently removed from Tommy John surgery, there is no reason to press through an issue which should otherwise resolve quickly and risk greater consequences.
Josh Johnson, SP, Toronto Blue Jays (DTD): Sometimes players just know. After being scratched from his last start Friday due to triceps tightness and given his injury history, many were concerned as to what an MRI might show. Not Johnson. Shi Davidi of Sportsnet reported Johnson expected the MRI to come back clear. Turns out he was right. According to John Lott of the National Post, Johnson's MRI showed no ligament damage, only inflammation, and he is expected to resume his throwing program soon. While that program will likely be increased based on tolerance, it is too early to definitively say whether he will miss his next start, although it seems likely. Most importantly, on the scale of major injuries this does not appear to be a significant worry for Johnson.
April, 22, 2013
Every Monday, in this space, we'll provide updates on a variety of players to help you make your weekly lineup decisions. We'll specifically try to hit the players who are day-to-day, have just gone on the DL or are ready to return, so that you can better decide whether you can count on them or not.
All projected return timelines should be considered fluid.
Albert Pujols, 1B, Los Angeles Angels (DTD): "I'm dying." Those were the words of Pujols himself Sunday when describing trying to play through plantar fasciitis in his left foot. Not particularly encouraging. Every athlete who contends with plantar fasciitis will describe extraordinary pain (like "stepping on a nail" or "walking on broken glass") and knows it is virtually impossible to get relief, unless he stops activity altogether. As for now, the plan is for Pujols to try to manage the condition, meaning he will receive treatment directed at pain relief, stretching, supportive footwear and anything else that might help all while continuing to play, albeit limited to DH duty. Unfortunately, every time the foot hits the ground stretching the inflamed fibrous tissue of the arch, Pujols is reminded of the pain. At some point it simply may be too much for him to bear and his foot could force him to take some extended down time.
Victor Decolongon/Getty ImagesFantasy owners will have to keep a close eye on Albert Pujols' foot in the upcoming days.
Ryan Zimmerman, 3B, Washington Nationals (placed on DL April 20): Zimmerman had been experiencing cramping in his left hamstring for several days before being forced out of last Wednesday's game early. He did not play Friday or Saturday, instead undergoing an MRI, which led to placement on the DL. While it sounds as if the strain is not serious, it was hampering him not only with his running but also while hitting. Manager Davey Johnson noted Zimmerman was not comfortable landing on his left leg when hitting. One has to wonder if some of his recent throwing inconsistencies can also be attributed, at least in part, to discomfort in his left leg. According to Amanda Comak of the Washington Times, the Nationals are hopeful that Zimmerman will only miss the minimum time, but hamstrings can be finicky. The key for the Nationals is preventing this from turning into a bigger injury, undoubtedly part of the rationale for a DL placement.
Dan Uggla, 2B, Atlanta Braves (DTD): Sometimes being a veteran means understanding when to take yourself out of a game proactively. It appears Uggla did just that on Saturday when he felt something in his left calf while trying to run out a ground ball. According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Uggla let manager Fredi Gonzalez know he was having discomfort in the calf and was concerned it could get worse if he stayed in the game. Uggla then sat out Sunday's game also but was hopeful he could return Monday. Calf strains tend to be increasingly prevalent as athletes move into their thirties (Lance Berkman, Derek Jeter, Albert Pujols) and early rest may be the best medicine in trying to minimize downtime.
Asdrubal Cabrera, SS, Cleveland Indians (DTD): Slipping on the dugout steps is not how an athlete wants to incur an injury. Unfortunately that's precisely how Cabrera ended up with a contusion of his left wrist, and it's lucky it wasn't worse. X-rays taken of his wrist were negative, but as the Cleveland Plain-Dealer reported, it started to bother Cabrera during Saturday's game, so he came out early. Falls on an outstretched hand can often result in a fracture of the forearm or wrist bones but it appears Cabrera escaped both. He sat out Sunday's game and could sit longer if the wrist is still painful so fantasy owners should monitor his status daily.
Kevin Youkilis, 3B, New York Yankees (DTD): When Youkilis left Saturday's game early because of tightness in his lower back, those familiar with his history may have been a little nervous. That concern would be justified because Youkilis has a fairly extensive history of low back problems including an episode, which required a trip to the DL in 2011. This flare-up appears to be of the minor variety with manager Joe Girardi telling reporters he thinks Youkilis will be available Monday night.
Shane Victorino, OF, Boston Red Sox (DTD): Victorino also left Saturday's game early due to tightness in his lower back. He sat out Sunday's doubleheader but is expected to return to the lineup Monday. Early Sunday, manager John Farrell had considered using Victorino in the second game, suggesting he was making rapid improvements. Ultimately he was given all of Sunday off but it appears he will be back to face the Oakland Athletics.
Freddie Freeman, 1B, Atlanta Braves (placed on DL April 7, activated April 22): It looks as if the decision to rest Freeman early -- despite his displeasure -- has paid off. ESPN's Jim Bowden reported Monday that manager Frank Wren indicated Freeman has been activated and is ready to play against the Colorado Rockies on Monday night. Freeman had been sidelined with a right oblique strain, but it was always considered minor; the Braves were trying to ensure that it remained that way. After a couple of uneventful rehab games, Freeman has been deemed ready to return.
Michael Saunders, OF, Seattle Mariners (placed on DL April 11, could return late in week): A crash into the outfield wall resulted in a sprained right shoulder for Saunders. Although the team did not issue a timetable initially, it looked as if it could sideline him for an extended time. There are some encouraging signs that Saunders is progressing nicely however, most notably that he took batting practice last Friday. According to Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times, Saunders hopes to return when eligible (April 26) but will need to test throwing with his injured shoulder first. One of the most difficult things to do after an injury such as this is raise the arm completely overhead. Throwing with power will perhaps present more of a challenge than hitting so fantasy owners should monitor his activity closely throughout the week.
PitchersJhoulys Chacin, SP, Colorado Rockies (placed on DL retroactive to April 20): Chacin was off to a solid start but has been sidelined with a lower back strain that forced him out of Friday's game early. According to the Rockies' official website, Chacin is scheduled to undergo an MRI on Monday. As for now there is no timetable for his return in place. The Rockies have recalled right-hander Rob Scahill from Triple-A Colorado Springs to take his place.
Kyuji Fujikawa, RP, Chicago Cubs (placed on DL April 13, could return when eligible, April 28): Fujikawa suffered a right forearm strain, sending him to the DL, but according to Jesse Rogers of ESPN Chicago, Fujikawa has already begun testing the forearm throwing. If all continues well, Rogers reports Fujikawa will get a couple of rehab outings under his belt this week and could return this weekend.
David Banks/USA TODAY SportsKyuji Fujikawa could be back this week to boost the Cubs' bullpen.
Brett Myers, SP, Cleveland Indians (placed on DL April 21): Myers has been fighting some tendinitis in his throwing elbow, but the picture has recently become more complex. The Indians announced via Twitter that Myers was placed on the DL Sunday with tendinitis and a mild UCL sprain. The report also indicated Myers would be shut down for two weeks and would not throw until symptom free. While the suggestion that the UCL sprain is minor is encouraging, it ultimately comes down to function. The fact that Myers experienced a drop in velocity is worrisome, but he also indicated he was not having any pain while pitching. At the very least, fantasy owners should expect him to miss four to six weeks (shutdown time followed by throwing progression), although the timeline ultimately will be dictated by how his elbow responds.
Ted Lilly, SP, Los Angeles Dodgers (opened season on DL, expected return April 24): Lilly underwent a labral repair of his left (throwing) shoulder last September and was slowed in the spring by the flu. He felt he was ready to pitch in the majors when Zack Greinke went down with a clavicle fracture, but the Dodgers preferred to keep him on a rehab assignment, moving Chris Capuano to the starting rotation instead. As it turns out, Capuano was moved to the DL with a calf strain last week and Lilly was able to get some extra innings under his belt. According to Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times, Lilly has confirmed he will start Wednesday against the New York Mets. Given the Dodgers' starter woes, a healthy -- and effective -- Lilly is badly needed.
Chad Billingsley, SP, Los Angeles Dodgers (placed on DL retroactive to April 16, could be out for the season): Did we mention the Dodgers are having some woes with their starting rotation? It looked initially as if Billingsley had survived the scare with his throwing elbow that cropped up last season. He underwent PRP injections in the fall, rested his right elbow, then resumed a progressive throwing program. The Dodgers waited during the offseason, expecting perhaps a bump in the road to recovery as often happens with partial UCL tears, but nothing went wrong with the elbow ... until now.
Billingsley managed well all through the spring but had a delayed start to the 2013 season due to a bruised index finger sustained while he was attempting a bunt. He eventually joined the rotation April 10 but it wouldn't last long. After two starts, Billingsley experienced some renewed elbow pain and now finds himself back on the DL. The bigger concern is that this may signal the beginning of the end of his season. If in fact the UCL tear has progressed to the point where Billingsley cannot function well enough to throw, he will be headed for Tommy John surgery. Given the recovery time from reconstructive elbow surgery, Billingsley stands a chance of losing time into next season if he does not address it quickly. No one wants to send an athlete to surgery when it isn't warranted and there will undoubtedly be careful evaluation of all sides of the equation, but the writing seems to be on the wall. Don't count on seeing Billingsley back in the lineup anytime soon, if at all.
Shaun Marcum, SP, New York Mets (placed on DL April 1, could return late this week): Marcum has been sidelined since the start of the month with what the team called "nerve inflammation" in his neck. After receiving injections early to help with pain and inflammation, Marcum has been on a slow and steady rehab course. There have been no reports of any setbacks thus far, an encouraging sign. According to ESPN New York's Kieran Darcy, Marcum will throw 70-75 pitches in a rehab outing Monday and, if all goes well, could return to face the Philadelphia Phillies on Saturday. This is all positive news for Marcum and the Mets, but it is worth noting that these types of ailments lend themselves to recurrence.
Brett Anderson, SP, Oakland Athletics (DTD): Anderson has been contending with a sprained right ankle, which resulted in a shortened appearance Friday and a complete day of rest Saturday. Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle reports that Anderson threw a bullpen Sunday, which went well, and he appears "likely" to make his Wednesday start. The biggest concern with an ankle sprain on the landing leg of a pitcher is that it not throw off his mechanics and risk injury to his throwing arm. The A's must like what they see if they're considering a prompt return.
June, 29, 2011
Your mailbag and Twitter questions drive the blog today. Thanks to all for your thoughts, ideas, musings and perspectives. I read and enjoy them all, even though we only have space for some. And if you don't see your question answered here, it might be that I'm saving it for later, or even for the 06010 Fantasy Focus podcast, so stay tuned.
Jason Jeffrey (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.): Is there any update on Josh Johnson?
Wednesday could be a big day for Johnson as he is visiting Dr. James Andrews. Johnson, who has been on the DL since the third week of May with inflammation in his throwing shoulder, finally progressed to throwing from a mound in mid-June but apparently was not completely rid of his symptoms. According to the Palm Beach Post, Marlins president of baseball operations Larry Beinfest issued this statement regarding Johnson: "JJ says shoulder does not feel 100 percent and is going to see Andrews tomorrow before proceeding further with throwing program."
Steve Mitchell/US PresswireJosh Johnson is definitely no stranger to Dr. James Andrews.
The fact that Johnson has made it as far as throwing from a mound suggests there likely won't be any catastrophic news. Dr. Andrews is certainly familiar with Johnson, having performed his elbow (Tommy John) surgery in 2007, and this may be primarily a case of seeking reassurance that he is on the right track. But if Johnson is in fact still experiencing stiffness in his shoulder, his throwing program may be slowed or even halted for a time, depending on how serious the concerns are about what is causing his current discomfort.
Johnson was originally placed on the 15-day DL but was slow to progress and was eventually transferred to the 60-day DL. The Marlins were hoping he could pitch for them again shortly after his eligible return date in mid-July, but that now appears to be in question. Given that no timetable has held up for Johnson thus far, it continues to be a wait-and-see scenario.
@digitalbear11: What's going on with Carl Crawford?
Crawford is definitely demonstrating improvement from his left-hamstring strain. He began swinging a bat Monday. On Tuesday, he performed some light running according to the team's website, running several 90-foot intervals at half-speed. The encouraging news with Crawford is that his recovery has progressed well and he has not had any setbacks. Naturally, the team wants to be as confident as possible that when he returns to game action he will be at minimal risk of re-injury.
As ESPN Boston's Gordon Edes reported, manager Terry Francona has all but ruled out Crawford for this weekend's series against the Houston Astros (although Crawford is eligible to return Sunday and Houston is his hometown). As of now it seems more likely Crawford will return Monday, July 4, when the Boston Red Sox begin a homestand.
@bobthemule: Can Shaun Marcum really avoid going on the DL or are he and the Brewers just postponing the inevitable?
@peacechex Should I trust him [Marcum]?
We may have the answer to that very soon. Marcum is scheduled to pitch a full workload against the New York Yankees on Wednesday, so we will see how he holds up. His original injury (left hip flexor strain) was in mid-June, but Marcum made his next start, although he was limited to just three innings. He later said he felt his hip not while pitching, but during an at-bat in that game. The Brewers said they had planned to limit his innings in that game all along, staying clear of calling it any kind of a setback. For his part, Marcum told reporters Friday that his hip was a "non-issue" and expected a regular outing Wednesday. He does benefit from the scheduling that afforded him a couple of extra days rest but until he goes the distance, we won't know how his hip responds. The red-hot Yankees, who traditionally have done well against Marcum, might present a challenge, but if he is able to get through the game without incident, it will help alleviate concerns about a DL stint. And then we will have a better idea as to whether we can trust him.
@teeceli: Any word on Brett Anderson?
@PutonSwole: Will he be effective this season?
There's not much to report at this early stage. To recap, Anderson had discomfort in his elbow in early June which sent him back to the A's team physician for evaluation. He subsequently had a consultation with Dr. Andrews in Alabama, and many feared the season was over for Anderson, especially given he was on the DL twice in 2010 for issues with the elbow. The decision, however, was not for Anderson to undergo surgery, but rather to try an extended course of rehab and attempt to return to play. Anderson then received a PRP (platelet-rich-plasma) injection into the elbow, which required a follow-up immobilization period for his elbow and forearm. Anderson visited his teammates in the clubhouse on June 19 sporting his splint and tried to focus on the positive. According to the team's website, Anderson said, "The shot wasn't much fun, but it's better than having surgery."
Ezra Shaw/Getty ImagesBrett Anderson is avoiding surgery for now, but his return is still up in the air.
Anderson knows however that there are no guarantees. This is his second such injection (he had one last year), and often times these extended rehab trials are performed when there is not clear and distinct evidence that surgery is required. The hope is that the athlete will be able to return and pitch effectively and perhaps go on indefinitely without additional problems. The alternate possibility, however, is that the rehab effort will not succeed, something which may not become evident until a pitcher returns to full-scale throwing. In other words, every step along the way is a notch on the measuring stick. After each success in a rehab and return to a throwing program, the pitcher is progressed to the next level of activity. Unfortunately, success at one level is not necessarily predictive of continued success, meaning we won't know whether Anderson can return and be effective until he actually arrives at that point. His history certainly gives us reason to be concerned. Then again, there are pitchers currently pitching who have defied similar odds.
For those who might be inclined to think that Anderson should just go ahead and have surgery proactively, the response is this: The best surgeons will remind us that the decision to operate is arrived at when the indications are clear that surgery is the best option, a decision mutually agreed upon by the surgeon and the athlete. The rehab process following Tommy John surgery is lengthy and difficult and is not undertaken lightly. If there are any doubts as to whether surgery is absolutely necessary, then all other treatment options must be tried first. And that seems to be exactly what Anderson is doing.
@kristinereese: A Phillies fan wants to know about Roy Oswalt ...
The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that Oswalt is scheduled to consult with Dr. Drew Dossett in Dallas on Friday, after which we hope to learn more about his scheduled rehab. The Inquirer noted that a recent MRI showed mild disc bulging in his lower back. It's worth mentioning that many people have mild disc bulges, often without any symptoms at all, so this was not an alarming finding on its own. Phillies team physician Michael Ciccotti also indicated that Oswalt has thickening of a joint capsule in the spine, which may be contributing to his symptoms. In essence, though, the reported findings aren't devastating and don't add much to what we've known for some time, which is, simply, that Oswalt has a chronic back condition.
The issues aren't so much what's present in the pictures but how the symptoms Oswalt is experiencing are impacting his ability to perform. After Oswalt's Friday appointment, the medical personnel will discuss the rehab plan and move forward from there. Although there seems to be some debate as to how long he will be sidelined, the fact is that nobody really knows. The chronic nature of back pain and the degree to which it has limited Oswalt over the past few years are not encouraging factors. Oswalt's dejection after he was forced to leave his last start early is typical of all patients who are frustrated by the severity and frequency of recurring back (and leg) pain. After a period of rest and another round of rehabilitation, he may again be optimistic about being able to return and contribute. Unfortunately for all involved, there is no way to definitively predict just how long that could take ... and whether it will ultimately work.
June, 10, 2011
It wasn't enough for the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox to face each other in a three-game series this week. Each team vied for the top injury headline Thursday, but in the contest no one wants to win, the Yankees appeared to beat out their rival when the day was through.
While Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia returned to Boston to have his right knee examined, Yankees pitcher Joba Chamberlain was learning the results of the contrast MRI taken of his right (throwing) elbow. According to ESPN Boston's Gordon Edes, Pedroia underwent an in-office exam with team physician Thomas Gill, who used a needle with a fiber-optic camera to look inside Pedroia's knee. The verdict? A bruised patella (kneecap), which Pedroia believes he injured in mid-May after taking a hard fall directly on the knee. He has been playing since then, but the knee had reportedly been bothering him more of late. While it's not clear whether Pedroia will take some time to rest the knee (he is back in the lineup for Friday's game), it appears, at least for the time being, that no surgery is required.
The outlook was not quite as optimistic for Chamberlain. According to ESPN New York's Andrew Marchand, Chamberlain's MRI showed a torn ligament in his elbow, a significantly worse prospect than the original flexor tendon strain diagnosis that landed him on the DL the day before. Both manager Joe Girardi and general manager Brian Cashman indicated that Tommy John surgery appeared forthcoming (suggesting that Chamberlain's MRI showed a completely torn ulnar collateral ligament), yet Chamberlain acknowledged having no pain, just tightness in the elbow. In fact on Wednesday, the day after experiencing tightness following a throwing session which led to the evaluation, Chamberlain said: "If you asked me to pitch today, I would tell you I could pitch today."
Kim Klement/US PresswireJoba Chamberlain is just the latest in a line of Yankees relievers to go down with injury this season.
While not all pitchers experience an acute injury of the ligament in the form of a sudden pop or jarring pain, most see something more dramatic than tightness, perhaps in the form of a drop in velocity or lack of command. Chamberlain's last appearance on the mound was Tuesday and there was no indication of a problem. Even the following day, he had what Girardi described as a "normal long-toss for him." Chamberlain's post-throwing tightness, however, led to further examination, followed by a fairly startling result. From the sounds of it, Chamberlain has a significant injury and the road to recovery is expected to be lengthy. The current plan is for some form of secondary consultation with Dr. James Andrews, after which a more definitive outline of next steps for Chamberlain should emerge. (Update: Yankees manager Joe Girardi announced Friday that Chamberlain will undergo Tommy John surgery Thursday, with Dr. Andrews performing the procedure.
Now, on to quick hits heading into the weekend:
• For those waiting to hear the verdict on Oakland Athletics pitcher Brett Anderson, you will have to wait a little longer. Anderson is expected to see Dr. Andrews early next week for a second opinion on his left elbow. Anderson has been evaluated by team orthopedist Dr. Jon Dickinson, but as the Oakland Tribune points out, the results of that visit have not been made public. Given Anderson's history of difficulty with his elbow (two DL stints last year and recent problems with velocity and command), there is cause for concern.
• Florida Marlins pitcher Josh Johnson is still limited to throwing on flat ground. According to the Miami Herald, Johnson says the shoulder is improved, yet he still has residual mild discomfort. It's worth noting that Johnson has not thrown from a mound since his last start on May 16, when a comebacker to his forearm forced him out of the game. He also exhibited a loss of velocity that outing, and after going on the DL, acknowledged feeling some discomfort in the shoulder for the better part of the season but said he had previously been able to work through it. His return has now been pushed back twice and there is no new target date for him to rejoin the team.
• Minnesota Twins catcher Joe Mauer continues to make progress as he goes deeper into rehab games. He is eligible to come off the 60-day disabled list on Monday, but it sounds as if manager Ron Gardenhire wants Mauer to get some more innings under his belt. According to the St. Paul Pioneer Press, Gardenhire would like to see Mauer get some time at Triple-A Rochester, which is expected to happen this weekend. On Sunday, the team will assess his status. Given the fact this episode has been attributed to Mauer trying to do too much too soon in spring training (following offseason knee surgery), the Twins will no doubt be cautious in moving him back to the majors. After all, they want him to play on a regular basis and not find themselves in the midst of a recurrent pattern. Still, it does appear that Mauer's return to the big leagues is now in sight.
• Meanwhile Twins reliever Joe Nathan is feeling better. After a successful bullpen session Thursday in which Nathan said his arm felt "great," he is expected to throw again this weekend after which, the Pioneer Press reports, a rehab assignment could follow.
June, 7, 2011
I've made a decision. It's time to bring mailbag questions back to the blog. With all the injury news -- and we all know there has been plenty this year -- I haven't been able to dedicate select time and space to the mailbag. But each week, I get amazing questions from all of you, some of which are sure to be of interest to lots of other folks out there. Sometimes the questions are answered within the injury updates themselves. Other times it's an alert reader out there posing a question about an athlete who's been quietly rehabbing away from the team, due to return soon (or not!) who is worth mentioning. And then there are the great philosophical questions that have no clear answer but are great conversation pieces. In honor of you, the readers, we resurrect the mailbag today!
But first we should mention Oakland Athletics pitcher Brett Anderson, who returned to the Bay Area on Monday for evaluation. The San Francisco Chronicle reported Anderson traveled home to have his left elbow evaluated after experiencing a recent drop in velocity as well as trouble with his slider. Anderson did have two stints on the DL last year because of issues with the elbow, potentially a red flag for his current situation. While fantasy owners await the outcome of Anderson's evaluation, they should prepare for the likelihood that he will see some down time, given the history with his elbow, even if this is not a season-threatening problem.
Jim Rogash/Getty ImagesAfter a solid April, Brett Anderson has gone 1-4 with an ERA near 5 since the start of May.
And now ... to the mailbag! (If you want to send a question to the mailbag, just click here.)
CJ, Fort Myers, Fla.: What's up with Pablo Sandoval? He's missing rehab games because of his wrist, but they say it's nothing to worry about ... I'm getting the feeling of extended time on the DL. He probably came back too fast. What do you think about the situation?
Of course, my beloved San Francisco Giants would love to get the Panda back into the lineup, but no one wants it to come at a long-term cost so no one will push him too quickly. Sometimes the only way to know how the wrist/hand is going to respond is to test it in a game situation. Sandoval had no issues when hitting off a tee or even when taking live batting practice before he was placed on a rehab assignment. He was even able to hit from both sides which is significant since batting left-handed places more pressure (from the knob of the bat) on the surgical site.
On Monday, Sandoval told the Fresno Bee, "It's still sore, but getting better every day." Even though he did not play Monday, he did work out and is expected to start Tuesday. According to the Bee, after Tuesday's game Sandoval will head to San Francisco to work out with the Giants on Wednesday, then will join the Class A San Jose Giants on Thursday. How he feels swinging the bat over the next few days will guide his return to the team. Other players who have undergone this procedure often complain of similar soreness early on, which gets better as the tissue becomes less sensitive. I wouldn't be concerned about the fact that Sandoval experienced the typical soreness that follows this procedure. But I would rather delay his return by a few days if necessary and get him back when he's ready to really contribute.
H.J. Kim, Edmonds, Wash.: Stephania, What are some updates on Phil Hughes?
So far, the news seems encouraging. Just to recap, Hughes experienced a drop in velocity this spring for no apparent reason and it failed to improve. He was not experiencing pain, just an inexplicable lack of power. The Yankees had him undergo the full battery of tests, including various shoulder imaging studies and vascular tests to evaluate the circulation in his arm. He was even sent for consultation with a vascular specialist in St. Louis. Nothing significant was found. Hughes subsequently received a cortisone shot and was shut down for another two weeks.
He resumed a throwing program in mid-May and two weeks later began throwing bullpens. Last Saturday, he threw batting practice, marking the first time he has thrown to live hitters in well over a month. The session went well and Hughes told the New York Post, "I had no issues and threw strikes," but added, "... at this stage we still won't know until I get in a game." Games are truly the ultimate test but a rehab assignment is not in the works just yet.
Given all the down time and the fact that his shoulder was really a problem since spring training, Hughes is essentially starting over. He will be brought along much like any pitcher returning to spring training following the offseason only this time the hope is the outcome for Hughes will be different than it was this April. The team has not issued a formal timetable but it's hard to imagine he returns before July. Right now it's still very much one day at a time.
May, 26, 2010
Welcome back! Here's to being back from an extended stay away from the team, settling into the regular routine and finishing out the season on an upswing. No, the salutation is not self-directed, although I did manage to tear myself away from the beaches of Cabo San Lucas in Mexico to get back to the business of discussing injuries. This welcome is directed to Los Angeles Dodgers shortstop Rafael Furcal, who rejoined the lineup Tuesday in Chicago after missing time with a hamstring strain.
After originally looking as if he'd be back when eligible May 14, there was enough concern about some lingering symptoms to postpone the return date until now. It wasn't exactly Furcal's most notable performance (0-for-4 and a couple of errors), but he got through the game just fine. As reported by Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com, Furcal said after the game, "I am very disappointed with the way I played. The best thing is that I'm healthy and I didn't feel anything." Very true. Rust can be overcome quicker than reinjury. The biggest test, however, will come during the next couple of weeks as we see just how Furcal and his hamstring tolerate the grind of daily play.
Also returning from injury were Boston Red Sox outfielder Mike Cameron, returning from an abdominal strain, and Minnesota Twins shortstop J.J. Hardy, coming off a bone bruise in his left wrist. Cameron is going to be eased back into play, according to The Boston Globe. He will not be used daily, at least not initially, plus he will spend some time playing left field. The 37-year-old Cameron, whose superb fitness may be a reason he's even been able to return from this injury, may yet require surgery down the line. Hardy's return Tuesday was abbreviated because the Yankees-Twins game was suspended in the fifth inning by rain. That said, Hardy's first at-bat was a double to deep right, so it looks as if his wrist is not a limiting factor.
Earlier it appeared that we would be welcoming back another star in this week's blog, Philadelphia Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins, but he was back on the DL before we ever got the chance. On that unfortunate note, we turn to some of the key injuries in the world of baseball this week ...
Jimmy Rollins, SS, Philadelphia Phillies (15-day DL, May 22): Rollins' situation exemplifies the challenge for a medical staff when dealing with an athlete returning to play following a significant muscle strain. No matter how many sprints, drills or running workouts an athlete goes through to test the injured part, there is no guarantee that he is out of the woods when he returns to play. It is impossible to simulate every game situation and perhaps even more challenging to simulate the environment -- such as the intensity, the adrenaline of playing in a major league game -- and those things can factor into how the body responds. The Phillies brought Rollins along at a conservative pace, even holding him back at times as a measure of precaution. Sometimes even the best-laid plans don't unfold as anticipated.
Miles Kennedy/Getty ImagesJimmy Rollins hit a homer in his brief stint off the disabled list earlier this month.
In Rollins' case, his right calf gave him a signal that it was not going to fully cooperate with his agenda. Rollins returned to the lineup on May 17 after missing 30 games with the original injury. Just four days later, the calf bothered him while he ran to first on a single. He was forced to leave the game early and returned to the DL the next day. No fooling around here.
As Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro told The Philadelphia Inquirer, "It might not take [the entire 15-day DL stint], but we can't afford to put ourselves in a position where it gets reinjured and turns into something serious." Hmmm. It looks as though the first part (reinjury) already happened, but the hope is that this does not represent a serious setback. The fortunate aspect is that this strain is reportedly not as severe as the initial injury. The team is referring to it as a Grade I, or mild, strain (the original injury was a Grade II, or moderate, strain) and the team hopes he will not require much, if any, additional time off.
Fantasy owners are understandably frustrated (just think how Rollins feels!), but this is not time to panic.
Andre Ethier, Los Angeles Dodgers (15-day DL, retroactive to May 15):
What a difference a day -- or a splint -- makes! Ethier, who landed on the DL after suffering a fracture in his right pinkie finger while taking batting practice, could have missed up to six weeks with the injury. As it turns out, thanks to the aid of a particular splint, Ethier may be able to return when eligible on Sunday.
The emphasis is on the word "may," however, as Ethier will have to show that he can perform without limitation and that the fracture is indeed healing before he can definitively play. But so far, things are looking good. If he performs well in a simulated game Saturday, he could be activated Sunday.
The fracture that Ethier suffered was bit odd, or at least the mechanism of injury was unique. Ethier sustained an avulsion fracture -- when a small chip of bone is avulsed or pulled away where the tendon attaches to the bone -- at the tip of his fifth finger. Typically this type of injury, also called mallet finger, results from hyperflexion (exaggerated bending) of the digit, most often when the finger gets jammed by a ball or by contact with another athlete. In Ethier's case, it occurred while batting, when a slight slip of his pinkie finger caused it to get jammed between the bat and his hand.
Harry How/Getty ImagesAndre Ethier could be back from the disabled list as soon as he's eligible.
As the medical staff discussed what route to take for treatment, the Dodgers' director of medical services, Stan Conte (himself a physical therapist and athletic trainer), made a call to colleague Gary Vitti, longtime athletic trainer for the Los Angeles Lakers. Anyone who has followed the Lakers lately knows they have had their share of finger issues, as is common in basketball. Conte said that Vitti recommended use of the "Pro-Ferred" splint, a splint that uniquely maintains the joint of the tip of the finger in extension (keeps it straight) to allow it to heal while allowing the joint just below some ability to flex or bend. This ability to flex the proximal or near part of the finger is what allows Ethier to be able to handle a bat.
Conte said that the use of the splint, along with some modifications of padding at the knob of the bat to make for easier grip, have enabled Ethier to already begin taking batting practice. While Conte stresses that the Dodgers are not yet sure whether Ethier will be ready to return when eligible, he does acknowledge that they are very pleased with the progress he has been able to make. Ethier would continue to wear the splint even if he does return because the tissue will still be healing.
From a medical standpoint, the more normal motion that can be encouraged while still protecting the injured area, the better the outcome typically is. We often see hitters who struggle when returning from wrist and hand injuries, particularly as they work to regain their motion and strength even if the injury has technically healed. In this scenario, it's quite possible that many of those challenges could be avoided as a result of Ethier's being able to continue to swing the bat relatively uninterrupted.
A little interleague cooperation could prove to go a long way to make fantasy owners really, really happy here. Stay tuned.
Grady Sizemore, OF, Cleveland Indians (15-day DL, May 19): An awkward landing while diving back to first base sent Sizemore to the DL, aggravating a knee injury first sustained near the end of spring training. Sizemore's next step will not be known until he gathers several opinions on his injured knee. The team has termed Sizemore's injury a bone bruise, but based on the locales of the specialists he's reported to be visiting -- Vail, Colo., and New York -- it raises the specter of cartilage damage. Vail is home to Dr. Richard Steadman, a pioneer of microfracture surgery (he performed January surgery on the New York Mets' Carlos Beltran), and there are surgeons in New York with similar expertise in cartilage defects.
The question that every fantasy owner wants answered is whether Sizemore will require surgery. Although the bone bruise likely will have him sidelined for multiple weeks, surgery could keep him out even longer, perhaps even threatening his return this season. Until the team releases more information, a timetable remains speculative, but at the very least, fantasy owners should make alternate plans for the next month.
Josh Beckett, SP, Boston Red Sox (15-day DL, May 19): Beckett and back problems are nothing new. In fact, he has dealt with lower back and upper back issues at different points in recent years. It seems that this year will be no different.
Beckett began having back spasms in early May after taking batting practice, and he missed a scheduled start. Days later, while pitching in rainy conditions, Beckett left his start early with tightness in his back. A DL move was natural and precautionary in trying to prevent this from being a lingering and lengthy situation. Although Beckett is eligible to return on June 3, there is certainly no guarantee that he will. So far he has thrown a few side sessions, and next up comes the bullpen. The Red Sox will want to see how he tolerates the progression to the mound before deciding on a return date.
Jorge Posada, C, New York Yankees (15-day DL, May 20): Posada has been placed on the DL with a hairline fracture in his right foot, the result of absorbing a foul tip off that foot in mid-May. Posada was hoping for just a bone bruise, but imaging tests showed the crack.
Initial projections from the team after the fracture was revealed had Posada out for three to four weeks, but he has taken a bit of a defiant position against that notion. According to the Newark Star-Ledger, Posada believes he will return earlier. "They can say whatever they're going to say. I'll be here before that," Posada said. It's worth noting that he followed up by saying he had never had a problem with his feet before, pointing out that "You've got to be able to put your weight on and all that stuff. You've got to be able to transfer your weight from one side or the other." Right. And he was immobilized in a walking boot when he made the remarks.
Given his position as a catcher where he is in a crouch, placing significant load through his feet while intermittently, explosively moving to full stance, the demands on the foot are high. Not only is he not likely to be back before three weeks, he'd be lucky to be back by then.
A hairline fracture can show evidence of healing more quickly than a complete fracture, but beyond the bone repairing itself, the foot needs to be able to tolerate loading, pivoting and twisting, without causing any symptoms before an athlete is able to return to baseball activities. Then, of course, he has to get back up to the level of playing in games. Until Posada is cleared for impact activities, it's probably too soon to even think of a return date. Fantasy owners should be planning on being without his services for the better part of a month.
Brad Penny, SP, St. Louis Cardinals: (15-day DL, May 22): Penny escaped with a relatively mild injury but was still relegated to a DL stint just to be safe. Penny, who was diagnosed with a strained lat (short for latissimus dorsi, one of the broad muscles of the back), left his Friday start early because of discomfort. Despite delivering a grand slam, Penny was not feeling good and came out of the game as a result.
According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the decision to move Penny to the DL was easy for the Cardinals when considering the big picture. General manager John Mozeliak said, "It just makes sense to DL him, rather than put him out there for the next start and he makes a pitch and goes backward. It's a precaution." The team does not expect him to miss time beyond the minimum DL requirement.
Justin Duchscherer, SP, Oakland Athletics (15-day DL, May 16): After working so hard to get back this season, Duchscherer has to be disappointed in the cards he's been dealt so far this year. He knew that keeping his lead hip healthy was the key to keeping his lower back pain-free and avoiding overload on his throwing arm, which was surgically repaired in 2008. In fact, he told me that very thing in spring training after making his first start of the year coming off pain-alleviating sacroiliac joint (where the low back joins the pelvis) injections. That's why he dedicated extra time to stretching his hips and keeping them loose.
Tony Medina/SMIJustin Duchscherer currently has a 2-1 record with a 2.89 ERA in five starts this season.
But his anatomy is just not cooperating. Duchscherer, who already endured surgery on his right hip, is now being plagued by similar symptoms on the left side. His prior experience with the right hip is no doubt what led him to tell the San Francisco Chronicle that he anticipates needing surgery on the left hip. That statement came just after Duchscherer returned to the DL in mid-May because of continued hip discomfort one mere day after coming off it.
For the time being, Duchscherer is trying the conservative route to see whether he can delay surgery until the season ends. The Chronicle reports that he has undergone a Synvisc injection, a joint lubricant that may alleviate some of his current symptoms.
Fantasy owners who were holding out hope should probably look elsewhere, however. Synvisc was not ultimately able to stave off surgery when Duchscherer's right hip was bothering him; it's hard to be overly optimistic that this will turn out differently.
Other names to watchHuston Street, RP, Colorado Rockies (15-day DL retroactive to March 26): Street began experiencing shoulder stiffness in mid-March. After steady progress, Street was throwing in a rehab assignment mid-May and was feeling good. So good, in fact, that he told the Rockies' official website, "I'm close -- dangerously close. I'm close enough to start getting my hopes up, and that's something I'm trying to keep together." Then, as if foreshadowing what was to come, Street added, "I got real excited last time [in spring training], and we had the setback. That set us back six more weeks."
Uh-oh. It happened again. Street suffered a setback just when it appeared he was on the verge of returning. It's important to distinguish, however, that this setback was not to his shoulder; instead, Street suffered a groin injury. Fortunately, it appears that the injury was not as serious as first thought, and Street's return may not be extensively delayed. In fact, Street threw a bullpen session Tuesday, which suggests he could be back in a rehab assignment in the not-too-distant future. Fantasy owners should keep an eye on early June if all continues well.
Brett Anderson, SP, Oakland Athletics (15-day DL, April 27): Anderson has been out since late April with a flexor tendon strain in his throwing (left) forearm. ESPN's Buster Olney originally reported that Anderson was expected to miss a month, and it appears that time frame could be right on the money.
Anderson has been progressing well since his injury and threw three innings in a rehab start in Sacramento on Monday. Although it seems like a relatively short rehab stint, the A's must be pleased with what they have seen so far, because Anderson is expected to rejoin the team Wednesday according to Contra Costa Times reporter Joe Stiglich. The plan is for Anderson to throw off the mound and, if there are no setbacks, pitch Saturday. Despite the short rehab assignment, Anderson has been throwing his repertoire of pitches without incident during flat ground sessions since mid-May, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. Although this is certainly a strong sign, the demands of throwing off the mound are always greater. It will be interesting to see how deep he goes into his first game out after the layoff.
And yes, there are always more injuries than there is room to discuss here. We might even hit on some of them in tomorrow's Fantasy Focus podcast. Next week, we will take a look at some of those "forgotten" players nearing the end of their terms on the 60-day DL. Will they be ready? Check back and see what we're hearing.
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