Stephania Bell: Bryce Harper
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.
Bryce Harper, OF, Washington Nationals (placed on DL retroactive to May 27, expected to return Monday): Last week there was some disagreement between Harper and manager Davey Johnson about the right time for Harper to return to the lineup. It now appears they are on the same page. According to the Washington Times, Harper is expected to return Monday night after completing a rehab assignment with Double-A Harrisburg. He originally injured his knee in May crashing into the outfield wall at Dodger Stadium but tried stoically to play through it. Less than two weeks later, it became apparent the knee was not improving and Harper went on the DL. Persistent swelling in the form of bursitis nagged at him until June, when he received two separate injections in the area: cortisone and PRP. Once the pain and inflammation settled, Harper was able to resume baseball activities and now, after increasing that activity to the level of playing in games, he is in line to rejoin his team.
The knee is not perfect and the chance remains that it could become aggravated with a crash, a dive or another move often associated with Harper and his style of play. For now, however, he is just anxious to get back in the lineup, posting the following on his Twitter account Monday: “I'm so blessed and thankful to be back playing the game that I love! Felt like forever.” Fantasy owners no doubt feel the same way.
Evan Longoria, 3B, Tampa Bay Rays (day-to-day): Longoria aggravated plantar fasciitis in his right foot Friday night and sat for the remainder of the weekend. The question for fantasy owners is how long the rest will continue. Manager Joe Maddon said Longoria had improved substantially by Sunday to the point where a DL stint might not be necessary, according to the Tampa Bay Times. In fact, Maddon suggested Longoria might be available to pinch hit Monday if he continued to feel better.
The problem with plantar fasciitis (pain in the fibrous tissue which reinforces the arch of the foot) is that the pain is typically provoked by load-bearing activity, including running. If Longoria does test the foot and the pain escalates, the team may have to re-evaluate the possibility of more extended rest.
Victor Decolongon/Getty Images Carl Crawford's impending return could cause a logjam in the Dodgers' outfield.
Carl Crawford, OF, Los Angeles Dodgers (placed on DL June 2, could return this week): After not hearing much about Crawford’s progress in rehab during the month of June, there’s suddenly a rather dramatic update. Crawford began a rehab assignment over the weekend and is scheduled to add playing time in the field early this week, according to the Los Angeles Times. If all goes well, he could return to the lineup this weekend when the Dodgers face the San Francisco Giants.
The risks remain the same as they are for any player coming off the DL with a significant hamstring strain, something with which the Dodgers are all too familiar. The hope is that Crawford will situationally test the hamstring as much as possible while on his rehab assignment, but that will never match the intensity of a major league contest. It wouldn’t be the worst thing for the health of their outfielders if the Dodgers choose to rotate among them all (Crawford, Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier and Yasiel Puig). With Kemp coming off a recent hamstring injury (which appears to be fully recovered) and still trying to regain his form following shoulder surgery, Ethier’s recently sore knee and Puig playing every game as if it might be his last, the addition of Crawford -- who has yet to stay healthy for more than eight weeks over the past two years -- could provide the sort of insurance the Dodgers’ outfield needs. For fantasy owners, however, it will be worth monitoring how the workload is divided up once Crawford is back in the mix.
Mike Trout, OF, Los Angeles Angels (day-to-day): Right now there seems to be little concern on the part of the Angels about the “minor” hamstring issue that kept Trout out of the lineup Sunday. At nearly the halfway point of the season, Trout had yet to miss a game, so perhaps a day of rest was in order, especially if that day keeps him healthy going forward. Trout is expected to play Tuesday after the team’s day off on Monday but, as we have seen with other hamstring ailments around the league, sometimes even a seemingly minor issue can resurface if provoked. Everyone is hoping this will not be the case for Trout.
Everth Cabrera, SS, San Diego Padres (placed on DL June 17, could return this week): When Cabrera was first injured, he sounded like someone who knew it would take more than a few days off to recover. The good news is that he likely he will not miss much beyond the minimum DL time with his strained left hamstring. Cabrera has been making progress with his conventional rehab and, according to the Padres' official website, could head out on a rehab assignment early this week with their Class A affiliate in Fort Wayne, Ind. If he plays without incident there, the Padres could see him back in their lineup as soon as Thursday in Boston or for the weekend series in Washington against the Nationals. Given Cabrera’s value in base stealing and the fact he was injured while attempting a stolen base, he probably would want to test that skill in a game situation before returning to the majors. Not every scenario can be forced, so his return may not hinge on it, but a successful minor league steal would help instill confidence -- both for Cabrera and fantasy owners -- that he will not be hesitant to do so upon return.
Peter Bourjos, OF, Los Angeles Angels (day-to-day, likely to be placed on DL): Bourjos broke a bone “just below his right wrist” and is now expected to miss two to three weeks minimum, according to the Los Angeles Times. The fracture occurred Saturday when he was hit by a pitch in the fourth inning of a game against the Astros. Fortunately for Bourjos, this is a nondisplaced fracture (bony ends remain in alignment), which doesn’t require surgery. Assuming the bone shows good early healing and he is able to grip and swing a bat effectively, his timetable for return is projected at under a month. Bourjos has already spent as much time on the DL this season as he has on the playing field, so the news of another significant injury is particularly discouraging. At least he knows the drill.
Ryan Sweeney, OF, Cubs (placed on DL June 30): Sweeney had been seeing regular playing time since mid-June, filling in for the injured David DeJesus, who is out with a shoulder sprain. Sweeney will now be joining DeJesus on the DL after a crash into the outfield wall Saturday resulted in a left-sided rib fracture. (DeJesus also injured himself when he collided with the outfield wall.) Originally labeled a contusion (deep bruise), the injury turned out to be more severe upon further examination. The broken bone will require four to six weeks to heal and Sweeney’s activity will be determined both by that healing process and his discomfort. It now looks as if recently called up Brian Bogusevic will see regular playing time until DeJesus returns (not expected until late July). Note to Bogusevic: Avoid the outfield walls.
Melky Cabrera, OF, Blue Jays (placed on DL June 28): It was a bit surprising to see Cabrera placed on the DL Thursday when there hadn’t been much chatter about a problem. Apparently a midweek tweak of his knee during a game against the Rays had Cabrera laboring a bit with his movement, according to manager John Gibbons, prompting the DL designation. The injury was originally reported to have been tendinitis in his left knee, and the diagnosis was supported by a subsequent MRI, according to Sportsnet. The diagnosis remains unspecific given it is not clear which tendon is aggravated, but it sounds as if the Jays expect he could return when eligible.
Jedd Gyorko, 2B, San Diego Padres (placed on DL June 10, could return this week): Gyorko was expected back last week assuming his two scheduled rehab games went as planned. They did not. He felt his right groin tighten up while running hard during a rehab game Wednesday and exited early as a precaution. As of Saturday, Gyorko reported feeling improvement, according to the Padres’ official website, but he remains without a definitive timetable for return. If anything, the experience of the setback, however minor it was deemed to be, reinforced the need to test Gyorko’s response to baserunning. Before he returns, it would seem likely the team would send him on a rehab assignment to test the area not only in-game, but to see how he responds the following day. A specific plan has not been outlined as of yet, but fantasy owners should not expect him before late in the week.
Chris Humphreys/USA TODAY Sports Troy Tulowitzki likely won't be back for the All-Star Game, but he could return not long after.
Troy Tulowitzki, SS, Rockies (placed on DL June 13): Tulowitzki has just recently passed the 15-day mark of his DL placement but he will be staying put for a while longer. Still, his progress thus far has been encouraging. Tulowitzki has resumed some light baseball activities, including fielding, playing catch and, as the Denver Post reported, hitting off a tee as of Saturday. He’s still on the projected four-to-six week time frame and he’s not entirely pain-free, but his ramped-up work is a good sign. Assuming the healing of the rib itself cooperates, Tulowitzki could get clearance to further advance his activity in the coming days.
Corey Hart, 1B, Milwaukee Brewers (opened season on DL, now done for the season): Just when it seemed the news for Hart couldn’t get any worse, somehow it did. Hart, who has struggled to return from offseason surgery on his right knee, will now undergo surgery on his left knee, ensuring his absence for the remainder of the 2013 season. It was only last week that Hart revealed his frustration to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel at a constantly changing return date and his continued lack of strength. Return following any procedure involving cartilage resurfacing can vary widely depending on the individual’s healing response and whether any setbacks are encountered along the way. Hart had several setbacks with his right knee, but his biggest comes in the form of an entirely different blow. On the other hand, the forced scaling back of the rehab for his right knee while he undergoes surgery on the left may end up having a beneficial effect. He will have to ramp up his activity gradually to accommodate the left knee and the adjusted program may be just what his right knee needs to fully recover. Another surgery is not the news any athlete wants to hear, but it was beginning to look worrisome as to whether Hart would be able to make it back this year anyway. At least this way he has the opportunity for a fresh start in 2014.
Johnny Cueto, SP, Cincinnati Reds (placed on DL June 29): This is now the third time that Cueto has been bothered enough by a lat strain to be forced out of the rotation. Cueto went on the DL in mid-April, then returned a month later and looked sharp. But shortly thereafter he aggravated the area behind his shoulder and was sidelined for another 15 days. Now, after less than two weeks of being back in the mix, Cueto has again suffered a setback. The repeat nature of this has to raise concerns for his ability to truly get past the injury in-season. After a diagnostic ultrasound confirmed the injury is to the same spot within the same (latissimus dorsi) muscle, the team’s plan is to completely shut down his throwing for several weeks and slow down his rehab process, according to the Cincinnati Enquirer. It’s hard to argue with the plan when the problem has been as recurrent in nature as it has for Cueto. The Reds have to be hoping that the third time’s the charm in terms of keeping Cueto off the DL, but as Reds athletic trainer Paul Lessard told the Enquirer, “It’s probably going to be an issue the rest of the season.”
David Price, SP, Tampa Bay Rays (placed on DL May 16, expected to return Tuesday): From start to finish, this injury episode has been a bit unusual. It started with the vague diagnosis of “triceps tightness” for Price which manager Joe Maddon initially projected would cost him merely two to three starts. A month later, Price is just approaching a return from the DL. His rehab has progressed fairly cautiously, but Price has not been beset by setbacks. Still, the team was careful not to place any expectations on his return date and offered very little in the way of specifics about Price’s injury. Muscular tightness is generally not the cause of a 45-day absence. The concern is that this incidence reflects a greater underlying issue with Price’s throwing shoulder. But his fairly linear recovery and strong performance in rehab outings provides some reassurance that he is indeed returning healthy. Only if Price lasts the remainder of the season without any recurrence of symptoms, however, will we be able to breathe a sigh of relief about his health. Until then this is an exercise in cautious optimism.
J. Meric/Getty Images David Price's absence was a lot longer than many had expected.
Anibal Sanchez, SP, Detroit Tigers (placed on DL June 16, could return this week): The plan was for Sanchez to make a rehab start Monday to assess his readiness to return. If all went well, it was conceivable he could be activated by the weekend. Unfortunately, Sanchez took a line drive to his left leg during this rehab outing and had to exit the game. According to James R. Chipman of Scout.com, Sanchez appeared to be in a fair amount of pain. There is no word yet as to the seriousness of this injury. The issue here with regards to Sanchez's shoulder is not necessarily the severity of this episode per se, but rather the lengthy history of shoulder problems that Sanchez has dealt with across his career. His near return is encouraging but it remains to be seen whether this was a minor bump in the road or a signal that his shoulder is fatiguing.
A.J. Burnett, SP, Pittsburgh Pirates (placed on DL June 9): Burnett has been working his way back from a Grade 1 calf strain and has resumed throwing downhill. After a successful couple of bullpen sessions, Burnett is expected to throw a simulated game Tuesday according to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Burnett’s challenges following this injury have as much (if not more) to do with running to cover first base and fielding as anything with his push leg. Even if his throwing sessions are uneventful, until he tests those activities, it will be difficult to gauge his readiness to return. A rehab assignment could be in his near future which will provide the situational play necessary to test the calf. If all goes well, Burnett could be eyeing a return within the next couple weeks, although the Pirates have not specified a timetable.
AP Photo/Michael Dwyer Fantasy owners are definitely missing Clay Buchholz, who's 9-0 with a 1.71 ERA.
Clay Buchholz, SP, Boston Red Sox (placed on DL retroactive to June 9): An MRI on Buchholz’s shoulder reportedly revealed inflammation in the bursa sac of his right shoulder, or simply, bursitis. While the diagnosis is relatively benign, it doesn’t fully explain the neck pain Buchholz has been experiencing recently. Buchholz’s issues began in the shoulder in late May, but recently his complaints have been closer to the neck and he was reported to be dealing with a trapezius strain (large muscle between the neck and the shoulder). Whether that area was symptomatic as a result of origination of a problem elsewhere is the ultimate question the Red Sox need to answer. Perhaps Buchholz’s response to the next round of treatment will do just that. The bottom line in terms of activity is that the plan for Buchholz is to gradually resume his throwing program. Again. This latest effort started with a session of catch before last Saturday’s game and will likely progress, as previously, based on what his level of comfort allows. In other words, it’s a matter of wait and see. Again.
Josh Beckett, SP, Los Angeles Dodgers (placed on DL May 14, now expected to miss remainder of season): Beckett has barely been present for the Dodgers this season and the appearances he did make were forgettable. His season has been marred by injury -- predominantly connected to numbness in his throwing hand -- and he is now heading to surgery for thoracic outlet syndrome (compression of nerve and/or blood vessels between the neck and shoulder, generally by a rib which is then resected in surgery). This is similar to the surgery St. Louis Cardinals ace Chris Carpenter underwent, and we have witnessed his ups and downs in trying to return to pitching. It is no easy rehab process and Beckett has expressed concern at various points about what his future holds. For now the only certainty is that he is not expected back on the mound for the Dodgers this year.
Brandon Beachy, SP, Atlanta Braves (opened season on DL): Just as Beachy appeared to be on the verge of making his season debut following Tommy John surgery, he suffered a setback in mid-June which threw him off his timeline. Fortunately, an MRI revealed only inflammation but no significant structural damage in the area of his recently reconstructed ligament. After a week of rest, Beachy gradually resumed throwing and has again worked his way back to throwing off a mound. His recent bullpen sessions have gone smoothly and the next step appears to be re-engaging in a rehab assignment. Given that his setback happened after what was to be his final rehab outing, it’s likely the team will want him to make several rehab starts before bringing him to the big league setting. So far, so good given how things looked just two weeks ago, but fantasy owners should not expect him to join the Braves for a while yet. Even then it may take him awhile to accumulate substantial innings.
Joakim Soria, RP, Texas Rangers (opened season on DL): It is really nice to see Soria doing so well in his road back from Tommy John surgery, especially since this is his second time undergoing the procedure. He has yet to appear in back-to-back games, likely the final step before re-emerging in the majors. Bear in mind that Soria has been out for over a year and he may be gradually integrated into relief work once he joins the team. Still, it’s nice to have a feel-good story on the injury front, especially after a player has been down such a long recovery road twice.
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 to count on them or not.
All projected return timelines should be considered fluid.
Jesse Johnson/USA TODAY Sports Ryan Braun's thumb injury may keep him on the disabled list much longer than expected.
Ryan Braun, OF, Milwaukee Brewers (placed on DL June 10): Despite the Brewers’ initial suggestion that Braun would return when eligible (or close to it), it no longer appears that that will be the case. Braun consulted with hand specialist Dr. Don Sheridan in Phoenix, a visit referred to at the time as a matter of “due diligence.” While Sheridan did not reportedly recommend any more substantial intervention, he did instruct Braun to scale his activity back even further, as in completely, according to Adam McCalvy of MLB.com. Braun was advised to extend his rest period and then gradually work his way back toward baseball activity. The obvious goal is to see if Braun can return to functioning like his former self, as opposed to playing with pain and a power-sapped swing. Still, there are no guarantees that a couple additional weeks of rest will allow the contusion to resolve entirely. It’s possible that as Braun returns to swinging, the symptoms will flare up again even with the medical staff’s best attempt to buffer the contact between bat and thumb with padding. As manager Ron Roenicke told Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, "He may not get rid of [the pain] completely until the offseason." Translation: There’s no way to know what results Braun can deliver at the plate even when he does return.
Bryce Harper, OF, Washington Nationals (placed on DL retroactive to May 27): Harper is increasing his activity, but there seems to be some disagreement between Harper and manager Davey Johnson as to just when he might return. Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post outlined the details of their differing viewpoints, highlighting the challenges of coordinating between medical personnel, players and managers in choosing an appropriate time to return to play. Clearly, medical personnel have the overriding authority to keep a player out if they believe a return to be unsafe. But as a player gets healthy enough to return, some may want extra time to regain the “feel” of being their normal game-ready selves, whereas managers may believe the best final stage of rehab is major league play. That disparity seems to be at the heart of the disagreement between Harper and Johnson.
This much we know. Harper is performing fielding drills and was scheduled to take batting practice on the field Monday. He is no longer having pain and the effusion (swelling) has dissipated. Harper appears on track to start a rehab assignment this week if all continues well, although the start date and the length of assignment are up in the air. He has turned a corner in his rehab effort and is approaching a return to his team either late this week or next. There is no denying the problem could become aggravated with another Harper-style crash into a wall, a diving slide or even an awkward lunge. But at some point, Harper will have nothing left but to re-enter the big leagues and test it.
Matt Kemp, OF, Los Angeles Dodgers (placed on DL May 30): Kemp is recovering from two ailments, a mild right hamstring strain and a more serious case of struggling at the plate. He began a rehab assignment Saturday, presumably to get both back in major league shape. After going 0-for-5 in his first outing and 1-for-3 in his second, it’s hard to feel supremely confident about either. Of course, that is a small sample size and part of his struggle can be attributed to his extended absence from the game. And Kemp did score from second on a single Saturday, indicating he gave the hammie a little test, and it responded well. It’s not clear just how long Kemp will remain on the DL as he tries to get himself ready to return, but he could rejoin the team later this week.
Jayson Werth, OF, Washington Nationals (day-to-day): Werth left Sunday’s game in the fourth inning due to a groin strain, a day after sitting out of the lineup with flu symptoms. According to the Washington Post, Werth acknowledged feeling dehydrated before the game began and felt it put him at risk. Werth strained his right hamstring earlier this season, attributing that injury to dehydration and cramps as well. It’s unclear whether he will end up on the DL; last time he sat out for a week, then moved to the DL when the hamstring did not improve. This injury is on Werth’s left side and does not appear directly related to his previous soft tissue ailment, but the cumulative wear and tear may be adding up. Now 34 years old, the injuries seem to be taking a toll on Werth, who, before last season’s wrist fracture, had not been to the DL in four years.
AP Photo/Morry Gash Carlos Gomez, one of this season's biggest surprises, may need a few days, at least, to recover from a shoulder injury.
Carlos Gomez, OF, Milwaukee Brewers (day-to-day): The shoulder injury Gomez suffered Sunday looked painful enough that anyone who saw it immediately thought it was serious. Gomez made a great play at the wall, but as is often the case, his body paid the price. The contact his left shoulder made with the wall left Gomez in clear discomfort. Later reports indicated Gomez had suffered a “sprained shoulder” and was considered day-to-day, a much better diagnosis than first anticipated.
However, this diagnosis is still vague. The typical “sprain” a player suffers after slamming his shoulder into a wall is to the acromioclavicular (AC) joint. (This is the injury that Seattle Mariners outfielder Michael Saunders suffered earlier this year, causing him to miss roughly three weeks.) However, Gomez's injury was somewhat different. Gomez actually got his elbow pinned behind him as he made the catch, which put his shoulder (glenohumeral) joint itself in a precarious position. According to the Brewers’ official website, Gomez felt his shoulder pop out and back in, otherwise known as a subluxation (where it slips briefly out of position but doesn’t dislocate). It’s hard to know whether the force when he hit the wall or the translation of the force up through the arm as he got jammed contributed to the injury. Regardless, Gomez, who suffered a fractured clavicle (collarbone) on the same side two years ago and required surgery to repair it, had to be relieved this wasn’t a repeat performance. Still, his shoulder is bound to be sore and swollen, which will make it difficult to move for a few days. The sooner he regains his motion, the less down time he will likely require. The Brewers aren’t talking DL at the moment, but much will depend on what happens over the next few days. Fantasy owners should not plan on having him available this week.
Aaron Hill, 2B, Arizona Diamondbacks (placed on DL April 15, expected to return Tuesday): Last week, I outlined Hill’s progression toward a return, despite the presence of a non-union fracture. He has now been officially activated by the Diamondbacks and is expected to play his first game in over two months on Tuesday. Judging from his performance during his rehab assignment, Hill has been able to function quite well despite the fact that his hand has not fully healed. The hope is that this will translate to the big leagues. While it’s always possible the hand could become problematic down the line (and he will likely require an offseason procedure), it’s also possible his discomfort has stabilized to the point where he can function just fine going forward. Only time will tell.
Pablo Sandoval, 3B, San Francisco Giants (placed on DL June 9; due back today): The left foot strain that had Sandoval limping around in early June has healed significantly, and Sandoval was activated Monday. His strong performance in his rehab outings suggested that the foot was not affecting his power swing, and he was convincing enough running the bases to quell any other concerns. Expect Sandoval in the lineup as the Giants face the Dodgers in one of the few Monday night games.
Alex Rodriguez, 3B, New York Yankees (started season on DL; due back after All-Star break): There’s no doubt that Rodriguez is making stepwise progress in his recovery from offseason hip surgery, but when that progress will translate to game play is not yet clear. Although reports from the New York Daily News indicated that Rodriguez was medically cleared to begin game play July 1, Yankees general manager Brian Cashman refuted that statement. According to ESPNNewYork, Cashman said, "He has not been cleared by our doctors to play in rehab games yet." However, it does sound as if that time is rapidly approaching. Rodriguez has been performing baseball activities such as hitting and fielding at the team’s spring training facility in Tampa. The natural next step is to incorporate the activities into game situations. It’s unclear whether he would DH initially or return to third base duties, but he is likely to be eased gradually into innings of play. As far as his timeline, Rodriguez is on target with the activities he’s been doing thus far. If all continues well, he could rejoin the team right around the initial projected return of just post-All Star break.
Asdrubal Cabrera, SS, Cleveland Indians (placed on DL June 4, could return this week): Cabrera has been gradually working his way back from a quadriceps strain and could be ready to go before the week is out. Quad strains are not unlike hamstring strains in that sometimes the only way to truly test the final phase of recovery is by returning to action. Cabrera progressed from pool work initially to land drills that incorporated hitting, fielding and, ultimately, running. At this point, it appears the Indians are satisfied enough with his progress that he may not be sent on a rehab assignment, but that also means he won’t have been tested in game situations. Sprinting out of the batter’s box down the first base line and situational running are hard to simulate, so until he survives those activities without a setback, he won’t be out of the woods.
Dan Haren, SP, Washington Nationals (placed on DL June 23): Haren has not been himself; this is something upon which everyone can agree. As for whether an injury is truly responsible for his poor performance is up for debate. Still, Haren finds himself on the DL as he attempts to sort through what has troubled him the first half of the season. Reportedly dealing with stiffness in his throwing shoulder, Haren downplayed the problem when speaking to the Washington Times. “… My shoulder’s been bugging me the last two, three starts … nothing I haven’t pitched through in the past,” Haren said. As for the move to the DL, Haren indicated the team wanted him “to get 100 percent,” but was quick to point out the shoulder was not to blame for his performance early in the year. As he told the Times, “That was more due to lack of execution, instead of an injury.”
The good news is that the “injury” sending Haren to the DL is not overly concerning, although he is scheduled for an MRI to take a closer look. Haren has had an amazing health record dating back to his college days, and until he went on the DL last year because of a nagging back issue, Haren had not missed a start in his career. Not a single start! Pretty remarkable when you consider the physical toll exacted on pitchers. After he returned from the DL, his back symptoms were fairly stable, but his performance was inconsistent, and he struggled with giving up the long ball.
When I spoke with Haren during spring training this year, he struck me as an athlete who was very in tune with his body. He was diligent about maintaining a physical regimen during the offseason to proactively fend off a recurrence of back troubles. That regimen included a focus on hip flexibility, an essential component of maintaining back strength, and so far, neither area has been a problem for him this season. (Readers may recall there was some discussion about the health of Haren’s hip when trade options were being discussed.) Unfortunately, there’s no eliminating the wear and tear pitching will ultimately place on a thrower’s arm, and it typically manifests itself in an injury at some point in a pitcher’s career. But given both his and the team’s description of what he’s currently experiencing, there’s no reason to panic about Haren’s health…at least not yet.
Clay Buchholz, SP, Boston Red Sox (placed on DL retroactive to June 9): Buchholz is eligible to be activated this week and the initial thinking was that he might start Tuesday if his Saturday throwing session went well. Apparently it did not go well enough. As ESPNBoston.com reports, Buchholz did not throw a planned bullpen, limiting his throws to flat ground only. Buchholz is still experiencing tightness in his neck and upper right shoulder area, which is not allowing him to throw at full intensity. He says he is making progress although manager John Farrell acknowledges, “…it's going slower than we had anticipated." There remains no timetable as Buchholz’s progression is completely dependent on how he responds to each outing. This ailment dates back to the AC joint soreness he experienced in May after sleeping with his shoulder in an awkward position. The neck stiffness appeared soon afterward and has lingered ever since. It’s a bit concerning that it has not yet resolved, but there have been no reports of numbness or weakness in his arm, which would suggest a more serious problem. As annoying as the slow advancement may be for Buchholz, the Red Sox and fantasy owners, Buchholz is right to wait and not try to pitch through something that could result in compensation and, perhaps, a more serious injury. In the meantime, fantasy owners need to replace him in their lineups for at least another week.
Chris Perez, RP, Cleveland Indians (placed on DL May 27, expected return this week): After being placed on the DL for the first time in his major league career, Perez is hoping to come off it this week. After being shut down with rotator cuff tendinitis in his throwing shoulder, Perez has progressed through his rehab fairly uneventfully. His shoulder has not regressed, but his uneven performance in early outings led to a bit longer time in rehab games. According to MLB.com, Perez will have another rehab outing Tuesday, but if that goes well, he should be activated shortly thereafter. This injury never had the look of something particularly serious and appears to have responded well to the brief downtime.
Rafael Betancourt, RP, Colorado Rockies (placed on DL June 1, could return this week): After reluctantly going on the DL at the start of the month, Betancourt has wisely progressed at a reasonable pace, not rushing back. As reported by the Denver Post, he underwent PRP injections early in the process and has been progressively increasing his throwing activity in the weeks since. He has now been throwing downhill for the past 10 days with increasing intensity over that period. Betancourt is hoping to avoid a rehab assignment, according to the Rockies’ official website and given his relatively short downtime from throwing, that could be a reasonable possibility. The groin issue that sent him to the DL had reportedly been present for quite some time, so this may be a situation to watch. The extended rest was clearly necessary to get him over the hump, but whether it resurfaces as the season progresses remains to be seen.
Ryan Madson, RP, Los Angeles Angels (opened season on DL, no timetable for return): The last time we discussed Madson in this space, we talked about his multiple setbacks post-Tommy John surgery delaying his big league debut. The good news is that Madson is throwing again; the bad news is that he is limited to playing catch and the possibility of a shutdown is looming. According to the Angels’ official website, manager Mike Scioscia acknowledged the prospect. "As the calendar turns, it becomes more of a possibility," Scioscia said. At the end of the day, the important thing is to protect Madson’s arm and not press him into service before he is ready. While an appearance this year is not yet ruled out for Madson, for fantasy owners who didn’t heed the advice in this column last time, it’s repeated again. Time to move along.
All projected return timelines should be considered fluid.
It certainly seems that is the case now. Teixeira was removed from Saturday's game in the fourth inning, not so much because of a specific incident that aggravated the injury, but because of continuing discomfort and weakness. According to ESPN New York, an MRI on Sunday revealed inflammation in the area, but no new tear. Teixeira received a cortisone shot and will sit out for a few days. No move to the disabled list is specifically planned, though it has not been ruled out.
The bigger issue for the Yankees is what they can expect from Teixeira going forward. Manager Joe Girardi's comments from Saturday evening were very telling. "He came to us and said he just feels like there's not a lot of strength there," Girardi said. "I think he just doesn't feel he has the whip that he normally has hitting left-handed." Since the injury is to Teixeira's right wrist, the strain on the injured sheath is greatest when he bats from the left side of the plate, which is also how he hurt himself in the first place. If his strength is impaired and the wrist remains irritated months after sustaining the original injury, not to mention after having nearly two full months off, it's hard to envision it improving significantly now. It's possible the "S" word (surgery) could start to enter the conversation.
After getting hurt Sunday while trying to steal yet another base, Cabrera has been scheduled for further evaluation of his left hamstring. Although the results have not yet been reported, Cabrera had the sound of someone who knew from prior experience that this was not good. According to the Padres' official website, Cabrera said, "I knew something was wrong right away. I have experience with hamstring problems, and this one is unfortunate." Fantasy owners should be prepared for a DL stint.
According to the Washington Post, manager Davey Johnson said he expects Harper to test the knee with some on-field activities early in the week, then potentially begin a rehab assignment later in the week. Of course, everything depends on how Harper's knee responds to the uptick in work. If all goes well, it sounds like the Nationals could be eyeing a return in the not-too-distant future, but considering Harper's path has been a little bumpy so far, no timetable can be set in stone.
Kemp looked as if he was inching closer to rejoining his teammates when he did some pregame running work with them last weekend. He was still experiencing symptoms, however, which led to the Dodgers pushing back more aggressive activity. A rehab assignment date remains fluid, although it could begin late this week if Kemp is showing signs of progress.
There is little doubt that Kemp's major setback to his opposite hamstring after trying to return too soon last year is likely causing some apprehension this time around. And his performance at the plate certainly hasn't been encouraging. Fantasy owners should not plan on having Kemp available this week, and even if next week starts to look like a possibility, it might be worth waiting to see how he performs first.
It sounds as if the Brewers expect him to resume playing in the presence of the symptoms, even if they remain unresolved when the DL window is up. The only problem there is that even if they don't expect the injury to worsen, there's no guarantee his power at the plate will return, at least on a consistent basis. Braun acknowledged that the thumb was bothering him enough to affect his performance, even after trying to make adjustments to his grip. It sounds as if Braun might return when eligible, but whether he's the Braun fantasy owners have come to expect is anybody's guess.
When it was discovered that Hill had a non-union fracture in his hand, the plan became to try to progress his activity to see how well he could function despite the condition and any associated discomfort. So far, so good. Good enough, in fact, for the Diamondbacks to allow Hill to progress from a simulated game to a rehab assignment with Triple-A Reno. Hill played seven innings Saturday for Reno and will be in line for more innings early this week. It is not clear how many rehab games he will require before he's ready to return to his team, but there finally appears to be hope that it could come soon.
Fantasy owners should keep in mind that he will not be 100 percent recovered from the injury, although he might be able to function at or close to his normal level. There is the possibility the hand could become painful again at any time, and Hill may still require an offseason procedure. For now, however, it just comes down to whether he can do enough to contribute to the team. It sounds like we shall soon see.
Utley's strain was originally diagnosed as a Grade 1 (mild) type, but the Phillies have been understandably cautious, not wanting him to exacerbate the injury and have it turn into something more severe. If he returns this weekend, it will mark just about a month since the injury or just under the average length of DL stay for an oblique strain. Given that his injury was minor, there is a good chance that it will be completely behind him when he does make his return.
All projected return timelines should be considered fluid.
Bryce Harper, OF, Washington Nationals (placed on DL retroactive to May 27): Last week, Harper was officially placed on the DL (backdated to his last appearance); this week he’s hoping he can come off of it. That sounds a little optimistic given that Harper is traveling to Pensacola, Fla., to pay a visit to Dr. James Andrews for a consultation. That appointment was scheduled when Harper’s irritated knee appeared to be making no progress. In recent days, he seems to have turned a corner according to the Washington Times. Harper had been running in the pool but the Times reports he stopped that activity and the discomfort has subsided. Still, Harper will be evaluated by Andrews Monday after which more information should be forthcoming. As of now, it’s worth keeping an eye on his activity this week to see if he is cleared to do more intense workouts. But if running in the pool was bothering him, it’s hard to imagine running on land will be smooth sailing out of the gate.
Kirby Lee/USA TODAY Sports Matt Kemp's hamstring woes are just part of the Dodgers' many problems.
Matt Kemp, OF (placed on DL May 30), Hanley Ramirez, SS (day-to-day), Carl Crawford, OF (placed on DL June 2), Los Angeles Dodgers: The Dodgers’ collective hamstring woes are the ultimate example of how difficult these injuries are to manage. After missing five weeks following thumb surgery, Ramirez returned for a few days, then missed another month with his hamstring strain. The team wanted to be very careful about bringing him back, especially with Kemp and then Crawford suffering similar, albeit lesser, injuries of their own. This is how I described the Ramirez situation last week: What the Dodgers cannot afford is for Ramirez to return and reinjure himself. Obviously there are no guarantees but the team at least needs to feel comfortable they have seen enough in his rehab outings to suggest his leg is ready for prime time.
Well, Ramirez was back only one day before experiencing tightness in his left hamstring. Although he was out of the starting lineup for several consecutive days, he did make pinch-hit appearances. Ramirez is getting repeat imaging on that leg however, given that it remains bothersome. This was exactly the situation the Dodgers were trying to avoid. Ramirez played in a handful of rehab games exhibiting nothing that would hint at his being less than ready to return. Still, as we often say, until an athlete has returned to his prior level of play for a few weeks without incident following a hamstring injury, it’s difficult to exhale and believe the problem is truly behind him.
And Ramirez is not the only one. When Kemp was first injured roughly 10 days ago, there was some initial thought he might not even require a DL stint, given his hamstring symptoms were so minor. It looked as if 15 days would be more than enough time to recover. Apparently not. The Dodgers’ official website reports Kemp’s right hamstring bothered him enough during pregame workouts Sunday that he does not look to be ready to return. The team originally anticipated having him back Friday; now it’s unclear just when a return could come. Manager Don Mattingly offered this: “We're not where we need to be with him. We do know that he's not 100 percent." Whether Kemp is apprehensive given his recent injury woes and struggles at the plate or whether there is more significance to the injury is unclear.
In the meantime, fellow outfielder Crawford was officially placed on the DL last Monday (retroactive to June 2) with a hamstring injury Mattingly characterized as “fairly significant” after it had originally been described by the team as a cramp. It certainly looks as if his absence will extend beyond the 15-day minimum.
At this point there is no real timetable on ANY of these players. The team has to be hoping that Yasiel Puig, whose brilliant performance since being called up at least provides a temporary distraction from the injuries, remains immune to the hammie bug.
Jamie Sabau/Getty Images Ryan Braun's thumb is the short-term concern for fantasy owners. There could be long-term ones on the horizon.
Ryan Braun, OF, Milwaukee Brewers (day-to-day): It has not been a good week for Braun on multiple fronts, including the injury department. Braun has had a thumb ailment which has been giving him intermittent trouble over the last month. On Sunday, he was removed from the game in the third inning and his words hinted at perhaps more extended time off. After the game, Braun told reporters he should have taken steps to address it sooner. "From the very beginning, I should have taken more time off and gotten it right," said Braun. "But I just continued to try to fight through it, play through it. It's at the point where it doesn't feel very good.” No specifics have been revealed as to the nature of Braun’s thumb injury other than “soreness,” making it difficult to ascertain just how much time it could cost him for it to completely heal. Braun has indicated on prior occasions that he has made adjustments to his swing but clearly it hasn’t gone away. The timing may be right for a DL move.
Austin Jackson, OF, Tigers (placed on DL retroactive to May 12, could return soon): Last week it sounded as if Jackson might return but I did caution it could get postponed. The Tigers opted not to send Jackson on a rehab assignment until he progressed further with his running, something he did to the team’s satisfaction last week, according to MLive.com. Now the Tigers are officially sending him out on assignment with a specific plan that will have him increase his activity over several days. While the team is allowing for flexibility in his rehab appearance schedule based on how the hamstring responds, Jackson could potentially return to the big league club by late next week.
Giancarlo Stanton, OF, Miami Marlins (placed on DL April 30, could return Monday): When Stanton went down with a hamstring injury, it immediately looked serious. A June return seemed most plausible. After missing multiple weeks and a seemingly (yet understandably) slow rehab process, suddenly Stanton’s imminent return feels a bit hurried. Stanton only just embarked on a rehab assignment last Tuesday and got off to a slow start at the plate but was able to play on back-to-back days. Because of inclement weather, Stanton lost a couple of game opportunities in the middle of the week. The Palm Beach Post reports Stanton could return Monday, according to manager Mike Redmond. While Monday was floated as a potential target when Stanton entered a rehab assignment, the missed days because of weather seemingly would have delayed his return. According to the Post, Redmond indicated Stanton could return because Casey Kotchman might be unavailable because of sore ribs. Surely the Marlins would not activate Stanton unless they thought he was out of the woods with the hamstring. Or would they? The Dodgers’ recent challenges with players returning from hamstring injuries even on a conservative timetable would be a warning. Stanton may return Monday and he may ultimately return without incident but it seems like a big “if.” Given how serious his injury looked when he originally went down while sprinting to first base, it’s going to take some convincing -- as in a few weeks of no setbacks -- before the specter of potential reinjury fades.
Pablo Sandoval, 3B, San Francisco Giants (day-to-day): Last week, we talked about Sandoval’s vague diagnosis related to his foot and that he was quite literally day-to-day. On Saturday, Sandoval aggravated his foot injury during his first at-bat and did not play Sunday. The natural next question is whether this setback will lead to a turn on the DL. According to the San Jose Mercury News, manager Bruce Bochy said, “The DL is a possibility.” Sandoval, who is in a walking boot, has an injury on the outside of his left foot, according to the Mercury News (although it is still unclear which structure then is compromised). Sandoval is not tiny and between the torsion through his foot when swinging the bat and the pounding it absorbs while running, the demands are fairly high. A more extended absence may be in his future.
Will Middlebrooks, 3B, Boston Red Sox (placed on DL May 24, likely return this week): Middlebrooks expressed optimism from the outset that he would return when eligible, or close to it. After some solid outings at Triple-A Pawtucket, it appears his return is near. According to the Providence Journal, manager John Farrell has made it clear what his role will be when he does rejoin the lineup. "Will's our third baseman," Farrell said. The team has not indicated precisely when Middlebrooks is expected to return but fantasy owners should keep an eye on any potential roster move. His uneventful recovery from this episode of back spasms -- and his performance at the plate during his rehab games -- warrants inserting him in fantasy lineups immediately upon return.
Jedd Gyorko, 2B, San Diego Padres (day-to-day): Gyorko exited Sunday’s game in the middle of the 10th inning with what the team is referring to as soreness in his right groin. He apparently suffered the injury just prior to sliding into second base, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune. Although Gyorko hoped it wasn’t severe, Padres manager Bud Black was less clear. “We’re not sure what it is,” said Black, “a strain, a pull, a cramp. But he had to come out of the game.” Gyorko is likely to undergo further evaluation Monday to determine whether a DL stint will be necessary. Awkward slides or missteps heading into slides have proved to be problematic for several players this year, a reminder that seemingly benign maneuvers can still result in injury. Fantasy owners should prepare for at least a couple of missed days for Gyorko, if not a little longer.
Scott Cunningham/Getty Images Stephen Strasburg's DL stint may be very short-lived.
Stephen Strasburg, SP, Washington Nationals (placed on DL retroactive to June 1, expected return June 16): Last week we discussed the nature of Strasburg’s injury and the concern the Nationals likely had about him compromising his shoulder if he played through it. That concern translated to a formal DL-designation for Strasburg later in the week after soreness kept him from attempting a Wednesday bullpen session. The reported non-severe nature of the lat strain also proved to be true as Strasburg was able to complete a throwing session just three days later. If all continues well with his program this week, Strasburg will make his next start on June 16, the first day he is eligible to return.
Clay Buchholz, SP, Boston Red Sox (day-to-day): A couple weeks ago, it was an irritated AC joint after sleeping awkwardly that forced Buchholz to miss a start. After a successful return outing, Buchholz left his subsequent start prematurely due to tightness in his neck. Are the two related? It’s hard to say with any degree of certainty. Certainly the neck and the shoulder are closely integrated in the throwing motion, but these can still be separate issues. Nonetheless, one of the concerns when Buchholz was dealing with the AC soreness was whether he was compensating for the shoulder. In an effort to prevent any significant change in his throwing mechanics, Buchholz was scratched from one start, then delayed for his next start. He seemed to be past the issue with his shoulder, but it’s certainly possible that subtleties from one injury contributed to how he was throwing. The close timing of the two injuries also hints at some relationship, even if a specific cause-and-effect mechanism is difficult to determine. In any event, Buchholz has indicated he will take every measure to ensure he’s fully healthy before attempting a return but for right now it does not appear that will involve a move to the DL.
Alexi Ogando, SP, Texas Rangers (placed on DL retroactive to June 6): Ogando returned from the DL for one start … and then went right back. After missing a month with biceps tendinitis, Ogando is back on the DL with what is simply being termed right shoulder inflammation. The concerns are fairly obvious. Back-to-back moves to the DL for a pitcher with a shoulder injury is never a good sign. More concerning is what it might mean from a structural standpoint. Often a diagnosis of biceps tendinitis (at the shoulder) signals a problem with the labrum, given their interface at the shoulder. An MRI in mid-May when Ogando hit the DL the first time reportedly revealed no structural issues, although the nuances of what is observed on imaging may be subtle. This is not to suggest his season is necessarily threatened but it wouldn’t be surprising if he is sidelined for a bit longer this time to help guard against yet another setback. The bigger question long-term may be how his role is modified, if at all, when he returns.
Daniel Hudson, SP, Arizona Diamondbacks (on DL to start season, no timetable for return): In what may be the sad news of the week when it comes to injuries, Hudson reportedly suffered another tear in his ulnar collateral ligament (UCL), according to the Diamondbacks. Hudson was 11 months post-Tommy John surgery and was in the phase of rehab starts as he prepared to return to the majors. After feeling discomfort in his throwing elbow following his first rehab start Tuesday night, subsequent evaluation revealed the injury. The Diamondbacks have indicated they are exploring all medical options, but Hudson will first consult with Dr. James Andrews. While the initial news sounds dire, it is worth waiting to see the results of his consultation before presuming the worst-case scenario of yet another procedure.
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.
Bryce Harper, OF, Washington Nationals (placed on DL retroactive to May 27): Last week, I said not to expect Harper's left knee (originally injured crashing into the outfield wall in Dodger Stadium on May 13) to land him on the DL if he could help it. It couldn't be helped. In fact, Harper acknowledged to reporters that he aggravated his knee with a headfirst slide May 25 and it turns out the persistent swelling and soreness was too much to overcome. On Sunday, Harper described his knee as "still swollen and crappy" yet said he hopes to start running and hitting at some point this week. The bottom line is he won't be given the green light to run if he is still experiencing swelling to the point where he continues to walk with a limp, as he reportedly was Thursday night.
There's no magic antidote for the swelling associated with bursitis; rest is perhaps the key ingredient for getting it under control. The bigger concern would be preventing this from turning into a chronic issue over the remainder of the season. Harper's move to the DL reflects the Nationals' desire to curb the problem now and he's not likely to resurface until his progress moves him out of range of the easy threat of a setback. After all, teammate and fellow outfielder Jayson Werth followed a similar pattern of being placed on the DL following a string of consecutive missed games. At the time, Werth expected to return when eligible but was held back when his hamstring continued to nag at him with certain explosive activities. Now it looks as if Werth will rejoin the team Tuesday, so at least the Nationals anticipate getting a player back as they lose Harper, but it's worth noting his absence will have exceeded a month. If Harper's progress remains slow, expect his timetable to be extended because the Nationals know he isn't wired to play at anything less than 110 percent effort, regardless of how his body actually feels.
Matt Kemp, OF, Los Angeles Dodgers (placed on DL May 30): The Dodgers' decision to place Kemp on the DL seems to be more of a proactive effort to keep his injury from worsening than a reactive response to severity. Kemp felt his right hamstring tighten up while chasing down a Mike Trout double on Wednesday and took himself out of the game, perhaps a lesson learned from last year's episode with his left hamstring. Although the injury did not appear serious, the move to the DL forces Kemp to sit out at least 15 days and rest his legs. Last year, Kemp tried to return quickly following his hamstring strain, only to suffer a setback within two days, resulting in another six-week absence. And let's face it, he has not had the best start to his season. Kemp has been struggling at the plate after coming off surgery to repair his labrum, not because the shoulder is bothering him, but he has not rediscovered his swing. While his performance has been below expectations, other power hitters have said it can take months before they feel like their stroke is effortless after undergoing shoulder surgery. The twinge in his hamstring and the forced time off may be just the thing to help Kemp restart his season. No timetable has been issued, but it appears Kemp's leg will not require much beyond the minimal two weeks. Beyond how he looks and feels in running situations, it will be worth paying attention to how Kemp fares at the plate once those rehab games get underway.
Carl Crawford, OF, Los Angeles Dodgers (day-to-day): Another outfielder, another hamstring issue. These injuries seem to be running rampant among outfielders throughout the league. Crawford, who has been quiet on the injury front so far this year after missing virtually all of last season following wrist surgery and later Tommy John surgery, left Saturday's game with a left hamstring "cramp," according to the Dodgers' Twitter account. Crawford was held out of the game Sunday. A cramping or tugging is often a precursor to something more sinister; the question is whether a few days of rest is enough to clear the issue or whether more downtime is needed. Crawford did have some issues with the same hamstring in the early part of May and sat out one game as a result. In 2011, Crawford went on the DL for a left hamstring injury and missed a month. Other than that one episode, Crawford has not dealt with significant hamstring problems. Naturally, the Dodgers would like to keep it that way. With Kemp out and Crawford potentially out for several days -- or longer -- the Dodgers have promoted top prospect Yasiel Puig to provide outfield help.
Hanley Ramirez, SS, Los Angeles Dodgers (placed on DL May 4, expected to return this week): Hamstring injuries aren't just for outfielders, as the Dodgers are all too aware. Ramirez, who strained his left hamstring just days after returning from a month-long absence following thumb surgery, suffered a serious enough injury to sideline him another month. As frustrating as this injury has been for Ramirez and everyone else, he finally appears on the brink of return. He has been on a rehab assignment this weekend (with Sunday off) and is expected to play in a game again Monday with a possible activation as early as Tuesday. The key for the Dodgers' comfort level with his return is adequate situational play to stress the hamstring and observe its response. Ideally that would include turning corners running from first to third, which also happens to be how Ramirez suffered the injury in the first place, but that particular test has not presented itself. What the Dodgers cannot afford is for Ramirez to return and re-injure himself. Obviously there are no guarantees but the team at least needs to feel comfortable they have seen enough in his rehab outings to suggest his leg is ready for prime time. It appears this will be the week they get him back, barring a setback, but the specific day he will return is not yet set in stone.
Austin Jackson, OF, Detroit Tigers (placed on DL retroactive to May 12, possible return this week): Jackson's strain was not viewed as serious even when the team placed him on the DL, but as hamstrings are wont to do, his recovery time has proceeded slower than expected. Jackson has resumed baseball activities over the past 10 days and ran the bases Saturday, although it is unclear whether he did so at full speed. The expectation is that if all goes well, he will embark on a rehab assignment shortly. Manager Jim Leyland told reporters last week that Jackson would head to Toledo for a short rehab assignment prior to being activated. This gives him the opportunity to test the hamstring in unpredictable, reactionary situations, an important final step before returning to the lineup. If the rehab assignment is uneventful, Jackson could be back with his teammates this week however the Tigers have been clear they do not want to rush him. Should his rehab start get delayed or should they decide they want him to get more games under his belt before returning, he might not make an appearance before next week.
Aaron Hill, 2B, Arizona Diamondbacks (placed on DL April 15, no definite timetable): When Hill was first diagnosed with a fracture in his left hand, the projected timetable was his absence was four to six weeks, the standard for bone healing. The problem is that the bone hasn't healed. As reported by the Arizona Republic last week, Hill has a nonunion fracture, and the choices at this point are to try to resume baseball activities gradually and see how he is able to tolerate them, or to undergo surgery. Hill is trying the former option and so far has been able to hit from a tee. The Republic notes the next step will be facing live pitching. Hill would need to work his way through a rehab assignment before considering a return, suggesting he is still at least a couple of weeks out. And that's if the hand doesn't become too painful along the way. There's no clear answer here as to when Hill might return but at least there's some encouragement that he has picked up a bat again.
Brett Lawrie, OF, Toronto Blue Jays (placed on DL May 28): When Lawrie was injured this spring, forcing him to open the season on the DL, a source in the Jays' organization expressed concern to me about Lawrie's ability to stay healthy, given how he plays (a la Bryce Harper). Everyone admires the enthusiasm but knows it comes with a bit of risk. Still, there's nothing that could have prevented Lawrie's left ankle from catching the bag and twisting as it did on a recent attempted steal. In fact, it looked violent enough that it actually brought to mind a similar injury suffered by his teammate Jose Reyes, who has now been out over a month and is still recovering. Indications are that Lawrie's sprain was not as serious, but it still will take time to get back to full Brett Lawrie mode. He is currently undergoing rehab in Florida and will miss the full two weeks, possibly more. Fantasy owners should expect he will need some extra time to push the ankle with agility maneuvers, sliding and turning corners. Don't be surprised if it requires an additional week or two.
Stephen Strasburg, SP, Washington Nationals (day-to-day): Strasburg clearly looked uncomfortable Friday night and it didn't take long for the decision-makers to decide to pull him. Originally thought to be an oblique strain, Strasburg is now reported to be dealing with a Grade 1(minor) strained lat (latissimus dorsi) muscle, the large muscle on the back that attaches to the arm and is involved in throwing. Based on how Strasburg was flinching Friday night, rolling his shoulders around in an apparent effort to loosen up, it seemed as if the ailment was not behaving like a typical oblique (the highest oblique muscles attach around the middle of the rib cage and most often players will reach for their side or lean towards one side when that's the issue) and the announcement that it is indeed his lat makes sense. As of now the Nationals say they will be taking it day by day and that Strasburg could test himself throwing a side session Wednesday. This, of course, will happen only if he is pain-free.
It's worth pointing out that Strasburg also appeared to be uncomfortable during an outing in late April. That episode was later reported to be forearm tightness and he did not miss his next start. The Nationals have to be watching him closely for all the body language that would suggest he is less than full capacity, given that Strasburg seems to hold back when it comes to discussing injury. Their worst fear would be not simply an aggravation of a lat strain that could sideline him longer, but a more significant injury to this throwing arm as a result of compensating, especially when he is only recently removed from Tommy John surgery. More information should be available Wednesday after Strasburg's scheduled throwing session.
Josh Johnson, SP, Toronto Blue Jays (placed on DL April 26, expected to return Tuesday): There's some good news finally for the Jays, or at least it appears to be. According to the Jays' official website, Johnson, out since late April with a triceps injury, is expected to rejoin his team Tuesday to face the San Francisco Giants. Johnson has made three rehab starts with generally mixed results but most importantly has not had any discomfort in his arm and feels comfortable throwing all his pitches. The Jays could certainly benefit from his presence but as manager John Gibbons said, "We need Josh to be good when he comes back. He's got to stabilize things." The rehab and offseason maintenance programs Johnson has participated in over the last two years seemed to be paying off for him when he looked strong in his spring outings. If this episode can be viewed as just a minor speed bump on the season -- and there's no reason to think Johnson can't stay healthy for the remainder of the year -- then it really could be good news for everyone, including fantasy owners.
David Price, SP, Tampa Bay Rays (placed on DL May 16, no timetable for return): At least we can see some progress in Price's throwing progression, but he still isn't throwing from the mound. Price has increased the distance at which he's playing catch to 105 feet, according to the Tampa Bay Times. He has now been playing catch for about a week with no reported setbacks and at progressive distances. Still, the vigor of throwing increases substantially when a pitcher throws downhill, something Price could start to do within the week. While the Rays continue to refrain from establishing a timetable, it would stand to reason that Price would need rehab outings prior to a return. First things first. Let's see how his arm responds when he ratchets up the effort.
Rafael Betancourt, RP, Colorado Rockies (placed on DL June 1): When the Denver Post reported in May that Betancourt had inflammation around scar tissue in his right groin area, it seemed unlikely that a few days rest would be sufficient. After all, he had been experiencing what he described as tightness and weakness in the area since April. Even the Rockies indicate he's been dealing with this issue for several years, according to the Post. Betancourt never blamed the injury for his performance but his recent struggles would suggest it has to at least be considered a factor. Now he will have no option but to take some time to see if it settles down. When he returns - and it's possible he could miss only the minimum time - perhaps it will be clearer just how much a factor the groin has been.
Huston Street, RP, San Diego Padres (placed on DL retroactive to May 30): Uh-oh. It's deja vu with Street again. Not only is he returning to the DL, a place he has spent time each of the last three seasons, but he is dealing with an injury to the same part of his body that landed him there last August. Street has a strained left calf and last year it cost him 41 days. Padres manager Bud Black and Street told reporters the injury is less severe this time. According to the Padres' official website, Street had a simple assessment: "Same calf, different spot and a different severity level," he said. Perhaps the quick decision to move to the DL will result in less down time. Last year, Street did try to pitch through discomfort but that ultimately turned to pain and a lengthy absence. Street is hopeful he will only need to rest the leg a week or so before resuming activity. Calf injuries are not unlike hamstring strains in that an athlete often begins to feel better until he tests it at full speed. Fortunately for Street, he shouldn't be faced with sprinting that often and perhaps will be able to return after the minimum time.
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.
HittersCurtis Granderson, OF, New York Yankees (placed on DL May 25; expected to miss at least a month): When it comes to injuries this season, if the Yankees didn't have bad luck, they wouldn't have any luck at all. Granderson, whose season finally got under way just a few weeks ago, is now out for at least a month with another fracture.
Two hit-by-pitches have resulted in fractures for Granderson, the first a broken right radius (forearm bone) just above the wrist, and now a broken left fifth metacarpal (the long bone of the hand, at the base of the fifth (pinkie) finger). The latest incident occurred Friday night when Granderson absorbed the impact of a pitch to his left knuckle in the fifth inning. In an almost eerie forewarning of this event, Granderson spoke to the Yankees' website just weeks ago during his rehab assignment (from the first fracture) about not fearing the inside pitches. "There's going to be pitches inside, I'm going to get hit again, but you got to stay in," Granderson said. In this case, he stayed in until he was forced out, literally, because of injury.
If there's any good news here, it's that it appears this fracture, like the first, will not require surgery. Broken bones typically require four to six weeks to allow sufficient healing to permit return to play; if Granderson's finger shows good early callus formation (bone healing) and he can grip the bat effectively, his timetable should fit right in that timeframe. That said, he might have to encase his fingers, hands and forearms in bubble wrap when he steps to the plate to get through the rest of the season.
Shane Victorino, OF, Boston Red Sox (placed on DL retroactive to May 21): Victorino had been battling back spasms in recent weeks yet managed to avoid a DL stint. Not now. This time it's his left hamstring that's giving him fits, and Victorino will be forced to rest until he can run without limitation. Interestingly, Victorino's hamstring started to bother him just days after returning to the lineup following missed time for his back. If these two issues are related, which would not be surprising, this could turn out to be intermittently problematic throughout the season.
Will Middlebrooks, 3B, Red Sox (placed on DL May 24): Perhaps back spasms are contagious in Boston. Middlebrooks left Thursday's game early due to back spasms, something manager John Farrell told reporters might have begun Wednesday night as Middlebrooks came out of the batter's box. The good news is that Middlebrooks said, according to ESPN Boston, that as of Saturday he was already feeling improvement. "I do [think I'll come off the DL when eligible]," he said, adding, "I feel better than yesterday, so if I'm already making steps forward, that's where I want to be." This looks to be a minor episode.
Jayson Werth, OF, Nationals (placed on DL retroactive to May 3): When Werth was first placed on the disabled list, the thought was that he would miss the minimum amount of time. After all, when the decision was made to formally move him, he had already missed eight games and seemed to be faring better. But if there's anything we know about hamstring injuries, it's that they are among the least predictable of all soft-tissue ailments. It is often not until the athlete tests the leg with full-speed sprinting activities that lingering issues make themselves known. In Werth's case, he experienced discomfort when breaking out of the batter's box, according to Amanda Comak of the Washington Times. The persistent discomfort led to an MRI, which manager Davey Johnson told reporters was "alarming." Consequently, Werth's timetable has been extended with a new target date of June 3, according to general manager Mike Rizzo (via the Washington Post). It's worth reiterating, however, that hamstrings remain unpredictable. Let's see what Werth does this week in his workouts before counting on a Monday return.
Chase Utley, 2B, Philadelphia Phillies (placed on DL May 23): Utley's knees haven't really been a topic of discussion this season since they haven't seemed to limit him thus far. Now, however, Utley is dealing with a different type of injury issue: a strained right oblique. The Phillies report it as a Grade 1 or minor strain, and the move to the DL reflects their desire to not allow it to worsen. Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. offered a timetable of 2-4 weeks, which is certainly reasonable, adding, "We do believe and hope that Chase will be ready to play in Philadelphia within 15 days." The average missed time for an oblique strain in a hitter runs right around a month, but the most mild forms have allowed an athlete return after the minimum stay (such as Freddie Freeman earlier this season). Although there is some optimism Utley will be back after the 15 days, there's no reason for the team to rush him, especially this early in the season.
Trevor Plouffe, 3B, Minnesota Twins (placed on 7-day concussion DL May 22; expected to return Wednesday): Plouffe took a knee to the head while sliding last Tuesday and was subsequently placed on the concussion DL. Concussions are the least predictable of all injuries, but based on Plouffe's fairly swift recovery so far, it appears the Twins will get him back the first day he's eligible to return. According to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Plouffe passed his neurocognitive (ImPACT) tests Thursday and participated in cardio work Friday, which shows progression. If he is able to perform baseball-related activities early this week without any recurrence of symptoms, it appears he will be cleared to rejoin his team's lineup Wednesday.
Wilkin Ramirez, OF, Twins (placed on 7-day concussion DL May 26): Another collision, another concussion for a Twins player. Unlike the knee to the head Plouffe sustained, Ramirez was concussed making a defensive play in the outfield Saturday when he crashed into teammate Josh Willingham. According to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Ramirez was not originally on board with the DL designation, that is until he experienced queasiness during the team's flight home Sunday. Good job by the Twins, who certainly have had experience with complex concussions (think former AL MVP Justin Morneau). Now it will be a matter of waiting to see how Ramirez progresses throughout the next week.
PitchersChris Perez, RP, Cleveland Indians (placed on DL May 27): Perez is sidelined with right shoulder soreness, and he was placed on the disabled list for the first time in his major league career early Monday. He was forced to leave Sunday's game against the Red Sox early because of the shoulder, according to ESPN.com. "It kind of pinched on me and sent a little pain down my arm," Perez said. While any shoulder issue is of concern for a pitcher, this doesn't yet have the sounds of something major. It appears Perez at least needs some down time to let the symptoms settle, and he can then hopefully return to throwing. Hopefully.
Clay Buchholz, SP, Red Sox (day-to-day, expected to start at some point this week): Buchholz was scratched from his Monday start after irritating his right acromioclavicular (AC) joint (the point of the shoulder), something he attributes to falling asleep on his side with his arm wrapped around his young daughter. The impression is that this is just a simple matter of delaying his start to account for the soreness, preventing him from compensating and potentially creating another problem. According to ESPNBoston.com, the plan is for Buchhholz to play catch Monday, and he expects to pitch again later this week.
Chris Sale, SP, Chicago White Sox (day-to-day): Mild tendinitis in his posterior throwing shoulder was the diagnosis for Sale. While any inflammation in a thrower's shoulder is a cause for some concern, the Sox immediately indicated they expected Sale to return for his next start after being scratched last Wednesday. Those plans were confirmed after Sale played catch in the outfield prior to Saturday's game. Afterward, Sale said, "It felt a lot better than I actually thought it would be. Everything is on track, and I will be ready to go Tuesday." He was scheduled to follow up Saturday's session with a Sunday bullpen, and there has been no word of any setback.
If Sale returns without incident, there will be a big sigh of relief from his fantasy owners. But the specter of concern has been raised once again -- last year, there were some questions about whether he was dealing with an elbow injury in May, followed by a reported dead arm period in July -- which must remain in the back of our minds. The bigger question will be whether or not Sale can get through the remainder of the season without this turning into something more substantial.
David Price, SP, Tampa Bay Rays (placed on DL May 16): Triceps tightness originally put Price on the DL, but nobody on the Rays seemed overly concerned. Manager Joe Maddon said he did not expect Price to miss more than two or three starts. Apparently there's now reason to be at least a little more concerned. Despite Price's assertions that his arm feels "great," he hasn't yet begun to throw. According to the Tampa Bay Times, playing catch hopefully will begin within the next few days, but Price will have to proceed through a throwing progression before returning the rotation, which could take an additional few weeks. So much for him missing only 2-3 starts; now there is no official timetable. Until Price actually starts throwing with effort, it's difficult to gauge whether the slow progress is as a result of the Rays taking a conservative approach with him or because of legitimate concern over the health of Price's arm.
Ryan Madson, RP, Los Angeles Angels (opened the season on DL; no timetable for return): Every time it seems Madson is making progress in his recovery from Tommy John surgery, he seems to have some form of setback, which delays his return. The most recent incident occurred last week, when Madson developed soreness in his arm while throwing. Instead of beginning an anticipated rehab assignment with Triple-A Salt Lake, Madson has been shut down indefinitely. He is now 14 months post-surgery, and while the timetable for return following this procedure has a range of anywhere from nine to 16 months, the multiple setbacks Madson has experienced are discouraging.
Rarely is the road back to competition entirely uneventful, but Madson seems to have been pushed back with various episodes of discomfort a bit more than usual. At this point, the Angels seem to be getting solid production from Ernesto Frieri in the closer role, and it looks as if he will stay there for the foreseeable future. No doubt the Angels would like to see Madson return to the mound this year, but it has already proven to be slow going. For fantasy purposes, it's probably time to move along.
Jered Weaver, SP, Angels (placed on DL April 8; expected to return Wednesday): It's always nicer to see someone returning from the disabled list as opposed to going on it, especially when it's your team's -- real or fantasy -- ace hurler. Weaver has been out for more than a month after sustaining a non-displaced fracture of his radial head as a result of an awkward fall on the mound. His road to recovery has been uneventful, with the latter part primarily focused on building up his arm strength to the point of being able to reclaim his spot in the rotation. The Angels have announced Weaver will return Wednesday to face the Angels' neighboring rival, the Los Angeles Dodgers, and fantasy owners should have no concerns about starting him right out of the gate.
Ryan Vogelsong, SP, Giants (placed on DL May 21; expected to miss eight weeks): Vogelsong had not one break but two in his right (throwing) hand, an injury sustained while hitting last week. He underwent surgery last week which required five pins to stabilize the fractures, according to manager Bruce Bochy, and he will need time for the bone to show evidence of healing before he can resume throwing. He will then need additional time to regain throwing strength. Given the projected timeline, expect Vogelsong to be out until well after the All-Star break.