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.
Brian McCann, C, Atlanta Braves (opened season on DL, expected to return May 6): McCann has been on the radar of many fantasy owners looking forward to his season debut. It appears that day has arrived. According to news reports, manager Fredi Gonzalez says McCann will be active and with the team Monday when the Braves open a series in Cincinnati. McCann underwent surgery to repair the labrum in his right (throwing) shoulder in October and has been working his way back since. Although he has been hitting throughout the spring, the slower component of his return was throwing. McCann says he is now making the necessary throws, telling reporters this week, "The way I'm throwing now is basically the way I was throwing before I got hurt." While that is all good news as far as performance expectations, the Braves have indicated that McCann would not return to an everyday role immediately. Fantasy owners should keep tabs on the Braves' daily lineups for the next few weeks to check McCann's status.
Hanley Ramirez, SS, Los Angeles Dodgers (placed on DL May 4, timetable uncertain): No sooner did Ramirez rejoin his team than he departed again, this time with a strained left hamstring that required him to be helped off the field. After wasting no time proving his surgically repaired thumb was a nonissue, as evidenced by him going yard in his season debut, Ramirez injured his lower half running the bases Friday night. Difficulty putting weight on it reflected the severity of the injury. Manager Don Mattingly did not shy away from the likelihood Ramirez would miss more than the minimum stay, telling reporters, "It's going to be a while." In fact, Mattingly referenced Dodgers outfielder Matt Kemp's injury of last year. Kemp, who was injured at virtually this same time of year, returned after a minimal DL stint only to reinjure his hamstring two days later. He then went back on the DL for more than a month.
Interestingly, Ramirez had not been sidelined for extended time with a left hamstring strain previously; however, he did have a 2011 DL stint for sciatica and numbness in his left leg associated with a lower back problem. It is not unusual clinically to see hamstring strains on the same side as previous sciatic episodes; whether they are directly or indirectly related -- or completely unrelated -- is often difficult to determine. The bottom line is that Ramirez will not be rushed, but as is always the case with hamstring injuries, until he returns successfully without a flare-up, there will be reason for concern about the potential for recurrence.
Michael Bourn, OF, Cleveland Indians (placed on DL April 15; expected to return late this week): It seems as if the "spike to the hand" is the injury du jour in baseball this season. And the injuries are proving to be a bit more challenging to return from than one might think. (Last week in this space, we discussed Pirates second baseman Neil Walker, who has a similar injury and was placed on the DL after having difficulty swinging a bat.) Bourn sustained a laceration to his right index finger when he dove into first base and his hand met the foot of pitcher Matt Thornton. It required five stitches to close the wound, and the DL move was not a surprise; the time allowed the finger time to heal.
What may come as more of a surprise to many was how difficult the injury can be to hit with. Bourn must close his fingers around the grip, which can be a challenge following a laceration. Bourn was finally able to take live batting practice Friday, and he's expected to begin a rehab assignment Monday. Manager Terry Francona told Jordan Bastian of MLB.com that Bourn likely will need three games before he can rejoin the team. The organization likely want him to get enough at-bats to test how his grip is holding up against live pitching and for him to feel comfortable with his timing.
Angel Pagan, OF, San Francisco Giants (day-to-day): Pagan got an early warning sign that his right hamstring was not feeling quite right Saturday night, and he sat out Sunday's game as a result. The good news for Pagan and the Giants is that it was not as severe an injury as that of Dodgers shortstop Hanley Ramirez or Marlins outfielder Giancarlo Stanton. As the San Francisco Chronicle noted, by coming out of the game shortly after feeling a "twinge" Saturday, the hope is that Pagan did not suffer significant tissue damage. Although he told reporters he hopes to play Monday night, manager Bruce Bochy said, "He's not going to be out there if this thing bothers him at all." Given the relative ease with which these injuries become more serious and the time off becomes more protracted, it would not be surprising if Pagan is held out for at least day or two to allow the hamstring to settle.
Jayson Werth, OF, Washington Nationals (day-to-day): Werth is trying to press through not one but two ailments. He suffered pain and swelling in his left ankle and foot area when he fouled a ball off it Tuesday. Fortunately, X-rays showed no fracture, and he has been able to play, despite some discomfort. His hamstring, however, is another story.
Werth began experiencing cramping in the back of his thigh earlier in the same game he fouled the ball off his foot, making his slightly early exit fortuitous. It appears that wasn't enough, though, to keep the hammy from pestering him some more. It tightened up further on Thursday, and Werth has not played since exiting that game early.
One of the most challenging decisions for a medical staff is how long to hold out an athlete who is experiencing discomfort in the hamstring. While the player may feel nothing at rest or during warmups, it is virtually impossible to simulate the maximum effort of in-game play, which is most likely to aggravate it. The obvious concern is potentially losing an athlete for an extended time to a more serious injury. That said, it's difficult to force the athlete to sit when he can pass all the pregame tests and has no symptom complaints. At this point, there is no indication Werth is headed for the DL, and he might even be able to return to the lineup Tuesday after sitting out the weekend series. This doesn't have a great feel about it, as the lingering concern for fantasy owners will be just how well -- and how long -- his hamstring will hold up.
Roy Halladay, SP, Philadelphia Phillies (DTD): Halladay has admitted to experiencing shoulder discomfort and will be traveling to Los Angeles for a consultation with Dr. Lewis Yocum. According to ESPN's Jayson Stark, Halladay began feeling discomfort in the shoulder the morning after his April 24 start. Halladay said the soreness "just kind of progressed over the last two weeks or so." Now they will try to get to the bottom of what exactly is causing this soreness. When speaking with reporters Sunday, Halladay also indicated this was the first time he had experienced this particular ailment, suggesting it was not the same sensation he had last year when he was diagnosed with a latissimus dorsi strain. The team has not yet confirmed a move to the DL, but it seems inevitable. At age 35, with the accumulated pitching mileage on his throwing shoulder, there was reason to be concerned heading into this season that Halladay's body would start showing signs it was unable to keep up with the physical demands of another baseball year. It is likely he will be shut down from throwing for a period of time; hopefully after his visit to the West Coast, we will learn more.
May 6 addendum: The Phillies have officially placed Halladay on the DL, recalling left-hander Joe Savery from Triple-A Lehigh Valley to take his place on the roster.