Stephania Bell: Carlos Delgado

Waiting on David Wright

August, 19, 2009

It's a scary week in the land of fantasy baseball when you drop three places in your league's standings with less than a month to go until the playoffs. It's a terrifying week in the world of real baseball when three players get dropped by high-speed balls connecting with their heads.

The topic of batting-helmet protection was front and center last week when a New York Times article discussed the potential introduction of a new, reportedly safer helmet. The new helmets, designed with the goal of increasing protection for the player's head and its very important contents (yes, the brain), were largely rejected by players in an informal sample survey because of their "look." Many players found them unsightly, and Mets outfielder Jeff Francoeur was quoted as saying, "I am absolutely not wearing that ... We're going to look like a bunch of clowns out there."

Interestingly, Mets third baseman David Wright spoke in favor of the new helmets, saying, "If it provides more protection, then I'm all for it. I'm not worried about style or looking good out there. I'm worried about keeping my melon protected."

In a twist of irony, Wright was one of the three players to suffer a baseball to the head this past week. The image of Wright lying motionless on the ground was disturbing, emphasizing the point of just how serious these injuries can be. Also injured was Dodgers pitcher Hiroki Kuroda, who was without the benefit of any head protection as he took a comebacker to the forehead while on the mound. The third player hit, Rangers second baseman Ian Kinsler, was fortunate to escape a concussive injury when he was hit in the head by a pitch in the eighth inning of his first game back from the DL for a hamstring strain. While Kinsler was able to stay in the game, Kuroda and Wright are still recovering. It will be interesting to see if any players rethink their position on a safer helmet now.

Meanwhile, fantasy players might be wondering when, or even if, these athletes will be able to return. With that in mind, we take a closer look at their injuries and other updates around the league.

[+] EnlargeHideki Kuroda
Kyle Terada/US PresswireKuroda had an impressive 1.15 WHIP period to getting hurt.
Hiroki Kuroda, P, Dodgers: Rest assured that the Dodgers will take no chances when it comes to Kuroda's return from a concussion, which might translate into a DL stint. Kuroda - whose hit in the head might have posed the biggest scare since he was without a helmet at the time of impact -- had what trainer Stan Conte described to me as "pure, unadulterated luck." Conte added that the impact of a line drive at that speed could have been life-threatening, and not only was Kuroda lucky to come away with only the relatively minor symptoms he has (a headache, some nausea), but that he didn't even suffer a cut where the ball hit him. Given how easily the face and head can be lacerated, this is very unusual.

Nonetheless, all precautions will be taken before returning Kuroda to the mound, including the elimination of all symptoms at rest, followed by elimination of all symptoms with physical exertion and normalization of neurocognitive tests (which measure brain function). Although the Dodgers are optimistic that Kuroda will be able to play again this season, a 15-day absence would not come as a surprise.

David Wright, 3B, Mets: It's unfortunate that Wright felt "embarrassment" over his delegation to the DL in the wake of a frightening concussion. Athletes go to the DL for a multitude of reasons, and while some might debate the merit of any given athlete's injury warranting extended rest, it seems reasonable to think that a brain injury would qualify as unarguably serious. After all, concussions are brain injuries by definition, and there is no room for trying to "tough it out" when dealing with the brain. Wright's desire to be there every day is admirable, as is his work ethic, even in the face of his team's disastrous season. That aside, his protection not only of his athletic future but of his overall well-being could depend on how he proceeds.

The good news is that Wright seems to be feeling remarkably well, considering how he looked at the time of injury. But subjective reports can be misleading, and Wright no doubt will undergo neurocognitive tests that will help assess his readiness to return. One of the challenges with concussions is that seriousness cannot be determined at the time of injury, and symptoms do not necessarily correlate with loss of consciousness. In fact, loss of consciousness is not required in order to sustain a concussion. Just ask Hiroki Kuroda. Although statements suggesting Wright's season could be over might have been premature, there is really no way to determine how long he will be out. This is a day-to-day evaluation, and Wright, along with fantasy owners, will need to be patient.

Chad Billingsley, P, Dodgers: Tuesday night was a test ... and it's safe to say Billingsley passed it. In an amazingly quick return after a Grade 2 hamstring strain, he delivered a solid performance, allowing only three hits while securing a win for the Dodgers. It certainly looks as if there are no lingering worries about the hamstring.

On the mend...

&#8226 It certainly appears as if Roy Oswalt's back is still bothering him. He has not been himself in his past two outings, both of which came after a flare-up of a bulging disc in his back. While Oswalt says he's feeling pretty good, that does not necessarily translate to full strength. It would be surprising if his symptoms completely disappeared this quickly after an episode that was severe enough to warrant a cortisone shot. Whether he continues to progress -- both in terms of how he feels and his performance -- or whether he just guts it out for the rest of the season remains to be seen.

&#8226 Peavy update! ... White Sox pitcher Jake Peavy is one step closer to making a start for his new team. He made his first rehab start last week and delivered three scoreless innings. Not bad for a guy who has not been on the mound since June. He told the Chicago Tribune that while his ankle is "certainly not 100 percent ... it's getting there." He said he still lacked leg strength, which is understandable after coming off a six-week immobilization of his ankle to allow his tendon to heal. Peavy will use his additional rehab starts to build his endurance before appearing in a major league start. Right now he still appears on track for a late August or early September return.

&#8226 Red Sox pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka is gradually working his way back toward a major league return. He is expected to make a minor league rehab start soon after a couple of successful bullpen outings. As the Providence Journal reports, manager Terry Francona is particularly encouraged by the fact that Matsuzaka was able to continue to increase his intensity. Although no specific timetable is in place, if Dice-K continues along this path without a setback he could be eligible to rejoin the team sometime in September. The unknown will be whether his arm endurance will suffice to minimize the Red Sox's dependence on the bullpen.

&#8226 Meanwhile, Matsuzaka's teammate Tim Wakefield is hopeful about returning to the mound, but the jury is still out as far as the medical staff is concerned. He has been limited by weakness in his leg resulting from a bulging disc affecting his sciatic nerve. Although he says he thinks he can go, as The Boston Globe reports, the Red Sox have to evaluate the potential risk of his condition worsening and how that could affect not only this season but also his future. Wakefield has been throwing and participating in running workouts, but is still limping, a sign that his calf muscle strength is still compromised. Originally scheduled for a rehab start in Pawtucket on Friday, he might have to put that on hold depending on the outcome of his conversation with team doctors.

&#8226 Braves pitcher Tim Hudson continues his progression back from Tommy John surgery, which was slowed a bit recently due to a hamstring strain. He has recovered enough to move to rehab starts, and his improvement has been steady. He is already throwing in the low 90s as he works out the kinks of adjusting to his reconstructed elbow. Hudson's services could be available to the team in September.

[+] EnlargeCarlos Beltran
G Fiume/Getty ImagesOh Carlos. If only recovery was determined by the spirit of the player.
&#8226 Mets outfielder Carlos Beltran has been running increased distances this week and might soon attempt to run from first to third, according to the New York Daily News. Beltran spent last weekend shagging fly balls and performing drills in the outfield and told The Star-Ledger his knee did not bother him. He added that he is "working harder than when [he] was playing every day." While that might be true, and while his intent to return is admirable, there is still some question as to how much he should really push the knee. Remember, it was Beltran who wanted to increase his workout activity despite precautions from team physicians who were concerned about the lack of evidence of healing on imaging. Beltran, who was diagnosed with a bone bruise in his right knee, is scheduled to have another MRI at the end of the month. According to The Star-Ledger, he says if he feels good, he wants to play, regardless of what the tests show. While it's certainly true that how a player feels factors into the decision of when and how to progress him, the condition of his knee is not to be taken lightly. The tests of base running and rapid acceleration and deceleration will likely stress his knee to a greater degree than anything he has done so far. How he reacts to the next level of activity might be the key in determining whether or not he is able to return this season.

&#8226 Beltran's teammate, shortstop Jose Reyes, continues to receive therapy treatments to address the scar tissue in the region of his ailing hamstring. The Mets have been very quiet on this front lately. In this case, the saying "no news is good news" does not apply. Although the team has not made any definitive statement with regard to his status, it's hard to imagine him returning this season.

&#8226 As if the Mets needed any more disappointments or setbacks, first baseman Carlos Delgado, recovering from May hip surgery at age 37, now has a strained right oblique. Although it's not altogether uncommon for an athlete to suffer a muscle strain while working his way back from surgery, the reality of this latest ailment is that it makes his return this season look all the less likely. And to think just a few weeks ago he looked like the most likely to return of the Mets trio.

A number of players went under the knife during this past week, with most of them hoping to return next season. We mentioned Chien-Ming Wang (shoulder) and Kevin Slowey (wrist) last week. Slowey had a bone chip removed, and his rehab is expected to take anywhere from two to four months, giving him plenty of time to be ready for spring training. Wang's future is less certain, both in terms of timetable and location. His surgeon, Dr. James Andrews, indicated that following surgery (reportedly to address a tear in the shoulder capsule, the fibrous tissue that surrounds the joint), Wang might require a year before he can return to pitching in the majors, according to the Journal News. Whether he will return as a Yankee remains to be seen.

Edinson Volquez
Scott Boehm/Getty ImagesEdinson Volquez has shown promise over the past two seasons, but he probably has little value even next year.
This week, we add Cincinnati Reds pitcher Edinson Volquez, who struggled with back spasms earlier in the season before developing numbness in his throwing hand. It turns out the numbness was foreboding of what was to come. Back in June, when the numbness in Volquez's fourth and fifth fingers first appeared, we discussed that these ulnar nerve symptoms can be reflective of instability at the elbow, associated with ulnar collateral ligament problems. Volquez rehabbed to the point of a simulated game but then had to abort the effort because of elbow pain. The next step was indeed ulnar collateral ligament reconstruction (Tommy John surgery), along with a repair of the flexor tendon. Volquez likely won't return until late next season. This serves as a good reminder that imaging studies are not perfect, since Volquez underwent two MRIs during his injury stint, neither of which showed the tears. In fact, according to the Reds' Web site, the decision as to what specifically would be required in surgery was not made until the team's medical director, Dr. Tim Kremchek, actually looked inside the elbow.

And then there's Arizona Diamondbacks ace Brandon Webb. Webb, who made an abbreviated Opening Day appearance and then was never seen on the mound again, underwent what the team termed "minor" shoulder surgery this week. According to the Diamondbacks' Web site, Webb underwent a debridement, or clean-up procedure, of the shoulder. As Webb put it, the findings in surgery were "just normal wear and tear you get from pitching. It was as good as could be expected." He is expected to begin the rehab process later this week and plans to stay in Arizona in the offseason to continue his therapy. Webb is correct in pointing out that all the strengthening he has done for his shoulder so far can only help him with his overall recovery. For those in keeper leagues, take note: Webb has no major structural damage and did about as much "prehab" as one can do. That should bode very well for his 2010 season.

Ah, but where to begin as we tour the league looking at those players hoping to return in 2009? We start with the team that has the dubious honor of most player appearances in this column.

The New York Mets: That's right. I'm just listing the whole team now. And why not? Sadly for the Mets, the list of injured players (and injured players who have suffered setbacks) continues to grow. One of the latest Mets to succumb to the injury bug is second baseman Luis Castillo. Here's how you know things really aren't going your team's way: Your middle infielder sprains his ankle -- not while rounding the bases, nor when an opponent slides into him as he tries to turn a double play, but while stumbling down the dugout steps. Castillo might not have huge fantasy impact, but another injury sends a ripple through an already-struggling team, further limiting its available options.

It got even worse Wednesday, when starting pitcher Jonathon Niese left the game in the second inning with a hamstring injury suffered while fielding his position. And Gary Sheffield (who was just activated from the disabled list Sunday) also was pulled from the game in the sixth inning with an injury.

Jose Reyes
Ezra Shaw/Getty ImagesJose Reyes might continue to watch from the sidelines the rest of the season.
In last week's blog, I expressed some skepticism (despite manager Jerry Manuel's optimism) about shortstop Jose Reyes' impending return: "It's understandable that the Mets want to see the glass half-full, but fantasy owners need to see the Mets' glass as balancing on a very unstable surface, one that could tip over and spill at any minute."

It appears that glass indeed might have come crashing down, as the New York Daily News reported Tuesday that Reyes returned to New York to be examined by team doctors "because of continued discomfort with his right leg." Although the outcome of that visit is not known, it doesn't take great medical insight to appreciate that this is not a good thing. Throughout this process, Reyes has never progressed to the point of being able to run the bases. His fantasy owners can't say they weren't warned, at least in this column, as Reyes has had trouble with soft tissue injuries healing slowly in the past. There's at least a possibility that he will not return this season, and even if he does, it's difficult to imagine him regaining full speed.

On the positive side, the New York Daily News reports that Carlos Delgado continues to progress, but in a truly one-day-at-a-time fashion. He pretty well summed it up by saying, "I'm going to be ready when I'm ready. If by mid-August I'm not OK, it's going to be longer." Actually, the significance here is that Delgado appears to be quite aware of the importance of not pressing to return from hip surgery too quickly, despite the fact that his team is hemorrhaging players. Delgado, who has started hitting outdoors, still has to work up to running full speed straight ahead, then base running, sliding, aggressive defensive drills and, ultimately, rehab games. Although mid-August remains possible, later in the month sounds more reasonable (insert here: assuming no further setbacks).

Meanwhile, teammate Carlos Beltran is a tougher read. Beltran, who has been out since June 22 with a bone bruise, is doing more "stuff," but still has pain, something that continues to raise flags in terms of his overall recovery picture. While Delgado was hitting balls to the outfield earlier this week, Beltran was working on his defensive outfield skills. On the one hand, Beltran seemed pleased with the result, telling the Daily News, "Today was a good day for me, honestly ... because I was able to go out and move around and that gave me confidence to continue to improve and to do a little bit more every single day." On the other hand, Beltran acknowledged that he still felt pain, although the frequency and intensity were less than what he has experienced in the past, which led him to believe he is making progress.

While Beltran's determination to return is admirable and any signs of progress are encouraging, it is worth noting that the Mets' Web site noted he still had an observable limp as recently as this past Saturday. A recent MRI confirmed the bone bruise is still present, and as the New York Post reported last week, doctors advised Beltran to continue resting, but he wanted to try to increase his activity anyway. He desperately wants to return and help his team. Fantasy owners need to be cautious here because this is a very unpredictable situation that could change daily. Even if Beltran returns (which he is hoping will happen mid-month), his condition is not likely to have healed, and we know what happened the last time he tried to play through it. It will be important to see how his knee responds as he tries to increase his running work this week.

Roy Oswalt, P, Astros: Last week, the team was calling Oswalt's injury a left-side low back strain, but we discussed the concern related to his history of disc problems. So far, his treatment and symptoms have all the sounds of a disc-related problem. Add to it the fact that this is taking (not unexpectedly) a little longer than a minor muscle strain should to heal. In fact, Oswalt confirmed to the Houston Chronicle that the disc is the source of the trouble. "I got a bad disk. It's herniated. It's sticking out and it's pressing on a nerve going around to my side. And my hip and leg tends to go to sleep some time," he said. Hmm ... sounds just like what we were surmising last week.

Oswalt received an injection to help with inflammation in the area and appears to be making progress, albeit more slowly than the team initially hoped. A DL stint has not been ruled out, but he remains hopeful that he will be able to start Saturday. According to an AP report, Oswalt's recent checkup went well and he is scheduled to throw a bullpen session Wednesday. How the bullpen goes will go a long way in determining whether Oswalt is ready to go this weekend. Bear in mind that his first effort at throwing off the mound Monday did not go as well as his flat ground sessions, so this will be a big test.

On the Mend

Seattle Mariners pitcher Erik Bedard is throwing bullpen sessions, but it does not appear he will be ready to return to the rotation when eligible Monday. The never-easy-to-read Bedard said simply, "I felt OK," after his Tuesday session, according to the Tacoma (Wash.) News-Tribune. Given Bedard's history and slow progress, this remains a sketchy situation.

Chicago Cubs catcher Geovany Soto is expected to return to the lineup Friday in Colorado, according to the Chicago Sun-Times. He has not played since early July after originally being diagnosed with a mild oblique strain that looked as if it might keep him down for only a week or so.

Houston Astros first baseman Lance Berkman, recovering from a strained calf, is eligible to come off the DL on Friday, but it doesn't appear that he will. He tried some light running Monday and paid the price Tuesday. The Astros' Web site reported that Berkman's lingering soreness led manager Cecil Cooper to hint at a delayed return from the DL. One of the clues as to the degree of recovery of a muscle strain is whether there is any lingering soreness not only during or immediately after the activity, but a day later. A legitimate concern for the Astros would be if Berkman returns too quickly; he could end up tearing the calf muscle and miss the remainder of the season. It is worth keeping a close eye on this situation, as it could change fairly quickly.

• Newest Chicago White Sox right-hander Jake Peavy, formerly of the San Diego Padres, raised a lot of eyebrows when he was dealt while still on the DL. Peavy, who continues to work his way back from a partial tear of the posterior tibialis tendon (which courses through the leg and attaches to the foot), is hopeful that he will be able to contribute later this season, but his real value is expected to be realized in 2010 and beyond. Many people have expressed surprise that a team would be willing to deal for an injured player, but while there is naturally some risk involved, it isn't all that surprising, given the nature of Peavy's injury and where he is in his rehab program.

Specifically, Peavy's injury is of lesser concern going forward since it was not to his throwing arm. A big question after any significant arm injury that requires extended downtime for a pitcher, whether it's surgical or non-surgical, is just how well the pitcher's delivery will return to pre-injury form. Will he have the velocity, command and consistency that got him to the majors in the first place? An injury to any other body part is assumed to have less of an impact, since the arm is not directly affected and a thrower can continue to work the arm to some degree.

We have seen, though, that any injury can compromise a pitcher's return to form. Exhibit A: Chien-Ming Wang, who struggled in his return from a foot injury and then suffered an arm injury. Peavy insists that his leg is feeling good and he had a pain-free throwing session Sunday in his new town. As the Chicago Sun-Times reports, he thinks it is just a matter of returning full strength to his ankle to react defensively and restoring the endurance to his throwing arm. Peavy still hopes to contribute in September and appears on track to do so as of now.

• Whew. Everyone in Atlanta is breathing a little easier knowing that it was a proximal hamstring (near the top attachment by the pelvis) strain and not a setback to Braves pitcher Tim Hudson's recently reconstructed elbow. Hudson hopes to make a rehab start soon and get back on track for a late-season return.

And finally ...

Phillies pitcher Brett Myers continues his impressive return from hip surgery in June. Myers is scheduled to pitch a simulated game Thursday and has begun light jogging, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer. Although the team insists it is not counting on him, his steady progress has to be encouraging, and there remains the possibility that he could provide some bullpen support in September and October.

Hamilton back soon, caution with Delgado, Votto

May, 20, 2009

Didn't we start this column last week by celebrating Josh Hamilton's comeback from a strained rib-cage muscle? He came back all right, playing just as hard, including running into walls. Now the center fielder is sitting out Tuesday with another crash-into-the-wall-induced injury; this time it's a strained right groin. No word yet as to how long the team expects him to be sidelined, although this does not appear to be as big a deal as the previous injury which forced him onto the DL. In fact, on the Rangers' official Web site, Hamilton indicated that he felt better Tuesday and hoped he could return to the lineup Wednesday. That might be a little ambitious, but it does sound as though he could return this week.

Last week we also celebrated the return of Angels ace John Lackey. Well, he only lasted two pitches in his first start Saturday. When I first heard that news I wondered what devastating injury could have befallen him so quickly in his season debut. I later found out he had been ejected after hitting a batter (after first throwing behind him) and was relieved, as Lackey fantasy owners everywhere must have been, that his early exit was not injury-related. Incidentally, he did return to pitch Monday and notched his first victory of the season. He did not pitch deep into the game, but assuming his elbow continues to feel good, it will just be a matter of increasing his endurance.

The Angels also saw the return of Ervin Santana last week who, despite being a bit rusty, survived his first outing. Santana's ability to deliver his breaking pitches, most noticeably his slider, inspired confidence that his elbow is feeling good. When Kelvim Escobar rejoins the team -- which appears to be targeted for early June if all goes well in his rehab starts -- the Angels can really feel as if they're overcoming the big injury hurdle.

Chris Carpenter
Mark J. Rebilas/US PresswireChris Carpenter hadn't allowed an earned run in 10 innings in his first two starts of the season.
And there is more good news about an ace returning. Cardinals ace Chris Carpenter is expected to return today after missing time with an oblique strain. Carpenter's oblique was not injured, as one might expect, during pitching, but rather during batting. We see pitchers with oblique injuries and hitters with oblique injuries, but a pitcher succumbing to an oblique injury while hitting is rare. Carpenter's season had been off to an impressive start after he missed nearly two full years with various throwing-arm issues including Tommy John ligament reconstruction and nerve decompression surgery. Since this most recent injury was not to his throwing arm and he was able to maintain his physical conditioning, the hope is that he will be able to pick up his performance right where he left off. Fantasy owners who remained faithful to Carpenter over the past six weeks should be well-rewarded.

Here are the other walking wounded we're talking about in the world of baseball this week ...

Carlos Delgado, 1B, Mets: Delgado tried to play through the hip injury that has been bothering him since April. But after sitting out 10 straight days and trying all forms of conservative treatment -- a cortisone injection, therapeutic mobilization to the hip (which the New York Post accurately described as his leg being "pulled to create space in the hip") and rest -- all to no avail, the surgical option became imminent.

The Post reported that Delgado underwent surgery Tuesday to address a mechanical impingement, a labral tear and a bone spur. The Mets say they expect to have him back within about 10 weeks, a timetable similar to that given to Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez this preseason and Royals third baseman Alex Gordon in April.

However, although his timetable is similar to those two, there are a couple of differences in Delgado's situation. Beyond the fact that his name is not Alex, his fielding demands are somewhat different, since he plays first base, not third. Additionally, Delgado's injury -- unlike those of Rodriguez and Gordon -- is to his lead hip when he swings the bat since he bats left-handed. How does that impact his return? It doesn't necessarily alter the time frame, but it does shift some of the emphasis of his rehab.

It is also worth noting that despite the fact this injury is dated to late April when Delgado hurt his hip sliding into third, this hip has bothered him in the past. Last year Delgado missed time with "impingement" in the same hip. Although a longer-term injury can sometimes translate into more damage within the joint, based on the post-surgical rehab time frame issued by the Mets, this does not appear to be the case. In fact, one could potentially make the case that if indeed Delgado's hip has been a limiting factor, even intermittently, over the past two years, he might be able to improve his overall performance once he's fully recovered.

Carlos Delgado
Ezra Shaw/Getty ImagesThe hips are key to generating power for a slugger like Delgado.
A word of caution to fantasy owners. Take a look at some of Rodriguez's struggles since he has returned. He has hit some beautiful home runs, but his limited ability to connect the bat with the ball consistently exposes his lack of a true spring training. ESPN's Jayson Stark wrote this week in his Rumblings and Grumblings column that a scout recently made this observation about A-Rod's defensive play: "His defense has been terrible. He doesn't look like he could move off a dime. He's a dead-stand-up stationary third baseman right now." Presumably some of this is a reflection of Rodriguez still working his way back into the demands of the position post-surgery. In order to effectively play first base when he returns, Delgado will need to have the mobility in his hip to stretch off the bag and the strength to maintain his position. The fact that he has seen playing time early in the season should help his return to hitting, but he is 36 years old, soon to be 37. Returning to sliding along with regaining his defensive play might take longer still. Ten weeks would bring Delgado back in late July, but fantasy owners should not be shocked if that timetable is extended a bit. Stay tuned for updates.

Joey Votto, 1B, Reds: Votto's dizziness remains unexplained, and until there is some resolution, he won't be back on the field, much to the dismay of the Reds and fantasy owners alike. The trouble with dizziness is that there are hundreds of possible causes. Some of those potential causes are easier to eliminate than others, and no doubt the medical specialists evaluating Votto now are working their way through multiple tests and algorithms. According to the Reds' official Web site, Votto will continue to undergo further testing over the next few days, at which point the team will be "more prepared to discuss the cause of [his] dizziness."

Votto is in San Diego undergoing tests at the Scripps Clinic. After removing himself from Saturday's game against the Padres because of dizziness, Votto stayed in San Diego for evaluation. He has been experiencing dizziness intermittently since mid-May, shortly after a bout with the flu, which may or may not be related. It is impossible to prognosticate Votto's condition here without knowing the root cause, but it is worth mentioning that in many instances dizziness is very treatable, once the source is identified. Stay tuned.

On the mend

Red Sox first baseman Kevin Youkilis is scheduled to rejoin the team Wednesday. He has been absent from the lineup for two weeks with an oblique strain. Remember, just last Tuesday Youkilis was expected to play but aggravated the injury during batting practice and was instead forced onto the DL for some additional rest. In other words, he's been almost healthy for about a week. He should be able to jump right back in.

Jorge Posada, who has been out with a Grade 2 hamstring strain, is making strides. According to the Yankees' official Web site, Posada rates himself as 85 percent improved, despite the fact that he's still experiencing some tightness. The challenge with muscle strains is that there is no way to be absolutely certain that complete tissue healing has occurred. Although Posada has improved, he will still have to face a rehab assignment before rejoining the team. Fantasy owners should plan on at least another 10 days to two weeks.

Speaking of rehabbing Yankees, pitcher Chien-Ming Wang has looked impressive in his rehab starts. He has even indicated that he feels his balance is better since doing the strengthening work. Wang threw a bullpen session Tuesday and according to The (Newark, N.J.) Star-Ledger, Wang feels he's ready to return. The Yankees staff watched the session to evaluate Wang's command. The Yankees have not yet said out loud that they're ready to have him back, and they might opt to have him make another rehab start, but it looks as if his return is coming sooner rather than later.

Daisuke Matsuzaka, on the DL since April 15 with a right shoulder strain, could pitch for the Red Sox as soon as Friday. He certainly looks ready, striking out nine in his most recent rehab start. According to the team's official Web site, the decision has not been confirmed, but all signs point to that happening very soon.

An Associated Press report confirms that Angels outfielder Vladimir Guerrero is expected to begin a rehab assignment this week. Keep in mind that his rehab at this stage will only involve hitting and he could return to the team, perhaps as soon as Memorial Day, as a designated hitter. There is still no indication when he will be able to begin throwing.

And finally, the Dodgers' official Web site is reporting that pitcher Hideki Kuroda, who has been battling a lingering left oblique injury, passed the test of a three-inning simulated game this week and could start a rehab assignment Friday. If that progresses well, he could rejoin the team within the next ten days to two weeks.