Stephania Bell: Derek Jeter
All projected return timelines should be considered fluid.
AP Photo/Joe RaymondHanley Ramirez injured his throwing shoulder at Wrigley Field on Sunday.
Hanley Ramirez, SS, Los Angeles Dodgers (day-to-day): Playing hard can come with associated risks, as we have seen throughout this season. We also have seen Dodgers starters succumb to an unusual number of injuries. Ramirez fell into both of those classes Sunday night when he injured his right shoulder crashing into the stands while tracking a foul ball. According to the Los Angeles Times, there was initial concern that his injury was serious. The good news is that, as of Monday, Ramirez already reported feeling improvement. According to MLB.com, his pain had decreased and manager Don Mattingly indicated his range of motion also had improved. If his function improves dramatically in the first 48 hours, Ramirez might not need more than a few days of rest. Fantasy owners should plan on a handful of days off at the minimum, but it appears he could avoid another trip to the DL -- it would be his third of the year -- if he continues to progress.
Howie Kendrick, OF, Los Angeles Angels (day-to-day): Collisions in the outfield are always scary, and the one between Kendrick and teammate Collin Cowgill in the fifth inning of Monday night's game was no different. Kendrick's leg hit Cowgill's body, and he was clearly in pain when he hit the ground, ultimately requiring assistance to get off the field. The Angels later reported that the injury is a hyperextended knee (when the knee moves backward beyond its normal range, placing strain on the structures on the back side of the knee) and that Kendrick is day-to-day. Depending on the amount of swelling and the severity of any soft tissue injury, Kendrick could be out just a few days or could require a DL trip. More should be known in the next several days as the team sees how Kendrick's knee responds.
David Wright, 3B, New York Mets (placed on disabled list Aug. 3): According to Adam Rubin of ESPN New York, Wright was diagnosed as having a moderate hamstring strain (otherwise known as a Grade 2 strain) and is expected to miss three to five weeks. Wright left Friday's game early, and a subsequent MRI confirmed the extent of the injury. Apparently, the "cramping" he had experienced earlier in the week signaled something bigger, and now the Mets can expect to be without their star for the better part of a month or more. A one-month absence for a moderate strain would be consistent with what other star players have experienced this year (Hanley Ramirez, Giancarlo Stanton), so fantasy owners shouldn't hold their breath for a dramatically earlier return.
Derek Jeter, New York Yankees (placed on DL Aug. 5): Jeter cannot seem to get any groove going this year. Now that his surgically repaired ankle (and subsequent stress fracture) has finally healed, his muscles are not cooperating. His first appearance in a major league game resulted in quadriceps soreness, which forced him back to the DL just as quickly as he had left it. In Jeter-like fashion, he homered out of the gate in his return to the majors, but, within the week, he was dealing with another soft tissue injury. Jeter was diagnosed as having a right calf strain, and the team returned him to the DL on Monday. With only five major league games under his belt in 2013, Jeter described the season as a "nightmare," according to ESPN New York.
On a more positive note, Jeter also said, "It won't be three weeks," a reference to the amount of time he missed in 2011 with a similar injury. His quick definitive declaration suggests he is not experiencing as much soreness this time around, but you can bet, considering the type of season it has been for Jeter, the Yankees will exercise caution. Even if Jeter feels substantially improved, the team will put him through all the testing paces before returning him to action, just as they did with the quad. At 39 years old, with a rough start to the season and with this injury occurring in the same leg as the recent ankle fracture, the team will ensure he's as close to full health as possible before he plays. It appears he could be available by the last week-plus of August, but, until he strings together a couple of consecutive weeks of plate appearance, there's reason to be cautious.
Desmond Jennings, Tampa Bay Rays (placed on DL Aug. 5): Jennings injured the middle finger on his left (non-throwing) hand on a slide into second base on Saturday. Originally thought to be a sprain when initial X-rays were negative, further tests Monday revealed a small fracture, according to the Tampa Bay Times, hence the placement on the DL. The team has not issued a timetable for Jennings' return, and, although simple fractures can take approximately six weeks to heal, a return to activity can happen significantly earlier. The key is good early healing and functionally being able to grip and swing a bat without threatening the bone. All that's certain at this point is that Jennings won't be in the lineup for at least two weeks.
Carlos Gonzalez, Colorado Rockies (day-to-day): Speaking of middle finger injuries, Gonzalez was already day-to-day with an injury to the third finger of his right hand, which has bothered him intermittently in the past month. By Sunday, it seemed he was inching closer to the DL stint he had been trying to avoid. Just a week ago, this was my assessment:
"While it sounds as if the team does not believe a DL stint will completely resolve the problem, it also sounds as if this is not likely to go away anytime soon, no matter what path they choose. The risk of aggravation exists with every swing of the bat. It's unclear how much time he will miss in the near future, as the Rockies are calling him day-to-day. The likelihood is that, regardless of whether he goes on the DL, he will again string together series of games where he performs well, but a setback could be lurking around the corner."
The challenge for Gonzalez is that, no matter what adjustments he tries to make, the finger continues to limit him. "I don't want to go on the DL," Gonzalez told The Denver Post. "But I can't swing. I am just a slap hitter; that's all I can do right now."
As of Tuesday morning, the Rockies had not made the move to place Gonzalez on the DL, and it's unclear whether they will opt (for now) to continue with the current plan, essentially resting him as needed, or move him to the DL. Gonzalez has remained fairly productive, despite the finger issue, when he has been in the lineup. The problem for fantasy owners is that the interruptions seem to be coming a little more frequently over the past couple of weeks. Unfortunately, that pattern is not likely to change in the course of the remaining season -- unless there's a two-week break with a DL move, of course -- so get used to checking the daily lineups.
Miguel Cabrera, 3B, Detroit Tigers (returned to lineup Monday, had been day-to-day): After missing three games because of his strained abdominal muscle, Cabrera made a pinch-hit appearance in the 12th inning of Sunday night's game. Although he didn't run, he apparently showed enough to return to the Tigers' lineup Monday. It's not clear whether he's entirely past the injury, however, and fantasy owners should monitor his performance (and status) closely this week. If he aggravates the injury, he could be pulled again to rest.
AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Frank GunnRyan Vogelsong is all set to return to the Giants' rotation Friday.
Ryan Vogelsong, SP, San Francisco Giants (placed on DL May 21): According to the San Francisco Chronicle, Vogelsong will be activated from the DL and start for the Giants on Friday. His return will be a welcome sight after a May injury in which he was hit by a pitch and suffered not one but two breaks in his hand. He required surgery to stabilize the fractures (and a subsequent procedure to remove pins), followed by a lengthy rehab process. Apparently, the rehab has gone well, as Vogelsong has looked sharp in rehab starts thus far. In fact, part of the length to return is the process of rebuilding his arm strength and overall throwing endurance, but his control has been strong. This all bodes well for a strong return for Vogelsong.
Alex Cobb, SP, Rays (placed on DL June 15): Cobb has made two rehab starts now, and the most important news is that he has not experienced a recurrence of concussion-related symptoms. Cobb told The Tampa Tribune, "The vertigo was nonexistent all night." He went on to say that he did not experience any headache, either, something he was concerned could happen. This ability to get through the next level of performance without a return of symptoms is critical in allowing Cobb to not only continue but to progress to the next level (increased innings, increased intensity of competition).
Also important is that he is getting more comfortable on the mound. After taking a line drive to the head in June, it's understandable that he'd need to acclimate to being back on the mound and facing hitters after an extended layoff. The combination of these two things suggests he is getting closer to rejoining the Rays. The plan was for Cobb to make two rehab starts (not counting a start that was shortened by a blister on his finger), and he is scheduled to make another this Thursday. If he continues to pitch well, is more comfortable on the mound and, most importantly, does not experience any recurrence of symptoms, his subsequent start could be alongside his major league teammates.
Yovani Gallardo, SP, Milwaukee Brewers (placed on DL July 31): Gallardo was placed on the DL with a hamstring injury suffered when he delivered a pitch in the fifth inning a week ago. It was Gallardo's left hamstring, the one on his landing leg that is stretched while controlling his body as he moves from ball release to follow-through. Before he can return to pitching, the leg needs to be strong enough to support him in a single-leg stance as he increases the load through that side. It also needs to be flexible enough to be placed under stretch while controlling his delivery.
One week into his DL stint, Gallardo seems to be making some progress. He has been long tossing to keep his arm loose while rehabbing the leg. The next test will be resuming throwing from a mound, which could happen later this week.
In honor of the 2013 MLB All-Star Game and accompanying festivities at Citi Field in New York City this week, it’s time once again to compile a roster of All-Injured All-Stars. Members of this roster are selected from:
a. Players who were chosen for this year’s All-Star game but could not participate due to injury
b. Past All-Stars who might have had the potential to earn another trip in 2013 were it not for the injuries that beset them this year.
Just as was the case in 2012, this year’s list offered multiple options at nearly every position in both the American and National Leagues. In other words, there is no denying the impact of injuries on the game. Not everyone who could possibly qualify is listed. Some are making a repeat appearance after making this list last season (a dubious distinction denoted with an asterisk). The selections here, just as with the actual All-Star roster, are debatable. But as the manager of the injury roster, the selections are at my discretion.
And now, I hereby present the 2013 All-Injured All-Stars.
Brad Penner/USA TODAY Sports Ryan Howard's health likely will be an issue for the next few years.
1B: *Ryan Howard, Philadelphia Phillies: Howard made the 2012 All-Injury roster as he was recovering from an Achilles tendon repair, a recovery slowed by setbacks in the spring. This year, the three-time All Star started the season on time but was placed on the DL on July 6 with a meniscus tear. Howard underwent surgery and is projected to be out for six to eight weeks (the Phillies hope to have him back and playing with the club in that time frame), a reasonable projection if all goes well with the rehab process. Still, the Achilles rupture and the meniscus injury have both been on Howard’s left side, which raises the level of concern about how that leg will treat the 33-year-old going forward.
2B: Aaron Hill, Arizona Diamondbacks: Although Hill has technically returned from the DL, there is little doubt that his injury derailed the All-Star second baseman’s season after a solid start. That too, the injury is not completely out of the picture. Hill sustained a nonunion fracture in his hand after being hit by a pitch. Ultimately, he was given clearance to try to play through it if the pain didn’t limit him. He has been able to do so, although the team is taking precautions to have him avoid overusing it. The risk remains that it could be aggravated during the course of the season and force him out of the lineup again.
SS: Rafael Furcal, St. Louis Cardinals: Last year at this time, Furcal was making an appearance in the All-Star game; this year he has not made an appearance in a major league game. After spraining his ulnar collateral ligament, Furcal tried to go the conservative route, but during spring training this year, his elbow failed him. After undergoing Tommy John surgery and spending the rest of this year rehabbing the elbow, Furcal hopes to return next season.
3B: Aramis Ramirez, Milwaukee Brewers: Ramirez has been plagued by a problematic left knee since the spring. The Brewers have attempted to manage the problem by giving him intermittent days off. The challenge with the knee sprain, sustained back in March, is that if there is any residual instability (which there appears to be, based on how his knee has behaved), it can easily become aggravated by an awkward movement that causes the knee to give way, such as a diving defensive play, a quick directional change or a slide while running the bases. Despite his attempt to play regularly through the injury, the All-Star third baseman has been limited at times by the knee and recently aggravated it to the point of requiring a second DL stint. In fact, teammate Ryan Braun was brought off the DL a few days sooner than expected when it became clear Ramirez would be heading back. The symptoms from this latest episode will likely settle fairly soon, and Ramirez should be able to then increase his activity and return to the lineup. But what the two trips to the DL along with the controlled management of his playing time tell us is that we can expect the uncertainty around Ramirez and his knee to continue throughout the season.
C: Yadier Molina, St. Louis Cardinals: We’re cheating a little bit by placing Molina here since it appears he will play in the All-Star game, despite the threat of injury. Molina’s knee began to bother him about a month ago, suddenly worsening last week and making it difficult for him to run. An MRI revealed no structural damage and after a few days rest, Molina returned to the lineup this weekend, seemingly without issue. It’s hard to imagine that an injury that has plagued him for the better part of a month would suddenly have disappeared, especially for a catcher whose job demands take a toll on the knees. It’s terrific that the National League’s leading vote-getter will be there for the fans. Let’s hope it doesn’t mean he won’t be there for them later this season.
Kamin-Oncea/USA TODAY Sports After missing very few games early in his career, Matt Kemp has dealt with DL stints each of the past two seasons.
OF: *Carl Crawford and *Matt Kemp, Los Angeles Dodgers; Justin Upton, Atlanta Braves: Crawford seemed to bounce back this season after spending most of 2012 on the DL, first for lingering wrist pain and weakness following offseason surgery, then for a torn ulnar collateral ligament that ultimately required season-ending Tommy John surgery. The injury bug appeared to be in the rearview mirror in 2013. Unfortunately, that changed in June when Crawford suffered a hamstring injury that sidelined him for several weeks. Just a week removed from the DL stint for his hamstring, Crawford was out of the lineup with back stiffness. Although an MRI turned up “nothing really significant,” according to manager Don Mattingly, Crawford has yet to return. At 31, it’s more difficult for Crawford to bounce back from these nagging types of injuries, making it more of a worry that the hamstring or the back -- or both -- could be problematic for Crawford for the remainder of the season.
Kemp’s performance in 2013 wouldn’t have earned him a spot on the All-Star team this year, even if he were healthy, but his talent has made him a regular in years past. Last year, a hamstring injury that flared up as soon as he returned from his initial DL stint caused him to miss more time than he ever had in his major league career. Now he is set to challenge that statistic this season with consecutive DL appearances for different injuries (a hamstring strain on the opposite side of last year’s injury followed by AC joint inflammation in his post-operative shoulder). The injuries only compounded the rough start Kemp was experiencing following his offseason labral repair. It always seemed likely that Kemp would improve in the second half of this year as he rediscovered his power swing. Now the hope is that he can simply be healthy enough to have the opportunity to do so. As of now, the end of the month appears to be the target for Kemp’s return, and the Dodgers are hoping to see the pre-2013 version of their star outfielder.
The entire Braves outfield is hurting right now, but it is Upton who has the most All-Star appearances of the three, hence his name at this position. Upton strained his calf muscle, but by all accounts, it sounds minor and he could return within the week.
SP: *Roy Halladay, Philadelphia Phillies; *Chris Carpenter, St. Louis Cardinals: Is it a coincidence that these two are repeat honorees? Probably not, especially given that their situations last year portended greater concern for their health heading into this season.
In 2012, Halladay was sidelined with a strained lat, an injury he was able to return from in just under two months. This year, when his performance suffered in an eerily similar manner to last year, Halladay was quicker to acknowledge there was perhaps an underlying physical problem. Indeed, Halladay was dealing with damage to his rotator cuff which required surgery to repair. After undergoing surgery, Halladay has embarked on an intensive rehab program. He has made it clear that he hopes to return this year, although it is not likely to be before September.
Carpenter underwent thoracic outlet surgery in 2012 to alleviate nerve compression that was causing weakness and pain in his throwing shoulder and arm. Surprisingly, he recovered well enough to rejoin his team for the postseason, but he did not pitch like his usual self. After taking some time to re-evaluate whether he even wanted to return to baseball, Carpenter dedicated himself to a focused rehab process … again. Despite several setbacks along the way, he is nearing the point where he could contribute to the Cardinals’ stable, as a starter. Carpenter is set to begin a rehab assignment Monday, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, which could pave the way for a late-season return.
RP: J.J. Putz, Arizona Diamondbacks: Technically, Putz has returned to his major league team after missing extensive time due to injury. An exception was made to include him in the list because he isn’t truly back yet, as evidenced by some of his lingering struggles. A sprain of his ulnar collateral ligament in his throwing arm had the former All-Star sidelined for virtually all of May and June. Shortly after returning, Putz blew a save, leaving us to wonder whether he had really fully recovered or whether he was just rusty. For now, he is operating in a support relief role, but the big question is whether he can pitch on a regular basis without any recurring elbow pain.
1B: *Kevin Youkilis, New York Yankees: Youkilis wasn’t going to make this year’s All-Star team, but he’s certainly made enough of them in the past to warrant making this All-Star roster. Hip and back problems have limited Youkilis intermittently for years, and this time, his back would not let him get comfortable. He ultimately had to go the route of back surgery in June and is expected to be out for approximately three months. It’s worth noting that the recovery timetable following this procedure is very fluid, so any setback could throw off that schedule. Despite his age (34), Youkilis is taking a chapter out of teammate Derek Jeter's book and expects to come back, although it remains to be seen whether he’s able to do so this year.
2B: Omar Infante, Detroit Tigers: After getting taken out by a hard slide in a game in early July, Infante’s injury was initially called a contusion. It was later announced that he had sprained his ankle, and Infante was placed on the DL but was expected back immediately following the All-Star break. Now it appears the ankle is recovering a little more slowly than expected, and manager Jim Leyland cautions that Infante may require a little more time. While this doesn’t have the sounds of a particularly serious injury, Infante still needs to move well enough to make defensive plays in addition to running the bases. A few extra days now will translate to a smaller likelihood of lingering problems in the second half.
Elsa/Getty Images Derek Jeter has played just one game this season, and he was hurt in that one.
SS: Derek Jeter, New York Yankees: No matter how hard he tried to return to the lineup to start the season, it just wasn’t meant to be for Jeter. After undergoing surgery to stabilize his fractured ankle last fall, Jeter appeared on track with his progression until pain during spring training interrupted his running program. Imaging studies revealed a second small crack, and Jeter’s program was put on hold to allow the bone to heal. As the bone healed to the point where he could resume running, Jeter progressed rapidly through his rehab progression. In fact, he progressed so well that the team opted to have him return prior to the All-Star break. He lasted less than one complete game.
During his first game back, Jeter’s 39-year-old quadriceps muscle tightened up on him, and he was forced out for the day. The Yankees are hopeful that this represents only a minor setback for the veteran given that it is a Grade 1 (mild) strain. After some rest and a few days to recover, it’s possible he could be ready to go after the break, although the Yankees may ease him back with alternating days off and DH usage.
3B: Alex Rodriguez, New York Yankees: It’s not surprising that the multiple-time All-Star is on the DL at this point. When he underwent January surgery to repair the labrum in his hip, Rodriguez was expected to be out until after the All-Star break. Still, it was uncertain whether his rehab would proceed smoothly and allow him to be on track for a July return. Minus the distractions associated with both the Biogenesis scandal and his recent rehab status updates on Twitter, Rodriguez has experienced a fairly smooth recovery. The last physical hurdle he needs to cross before rejoining the Yankees is a complete rehab assignment, and he is well on his way. On Monday, he graduated to Double-A Trenton as part of his progression towards major league competition. According to the New York Post, Rodriguez says his legs “feel good” and the plan, as he understands it, is to rejoin the team July 22. Although he hasn’t shown much at the plate thus far -- after being out of baseball for the bulk of the last nine months -- the rust is not surprising. While his physical condition is improving, there may be other hurdles -- other than of his hip -- which prevent him from contributing for the remainder of this season.
C: Francisco Cervelli, New York Yankees: Admittedly, Cervelli is a reach here as he has never been an All-Star. But with no one else really competing for a slot, he gets the nod as the starting catcher. Cervelli has been on the DL since late April after suffering a fracture in his right hand, which required surgery. (Incidentally, the Yankees seem to be leading the league in hit-by-pitches resulting in fractures among starters.) After finally recovering enough to take batting practice, Cervelli was just shut down again due to a stress reaction in his right elbow. It now looks like he will be sidelined until August, and it’s hard to imagine him being effective immediately after being limited from baseball activity for so long.
OF: Melky Cabrera, Toronto Blue Jays; Curtis Granderson, New York Yankees; Shane Victorino, Boston Red Sox Oh, what a difference a year makes. At this time in 2012, Cabrera was the All-Star Game MVP, and his performance helped secure home-field advantage for his team at the time, the San Francisco Giants, in their World Series appearance. It was a World Series that Cabrera would end up not participating in, due to the fallout from his suspension for testing positive for PEDs. Cabrera then switched leagues in the offseason when he signed with the Blue Jays. This year, he finds himself on the DL with what is being called left knee tendinitis. The good news is that he has begun a rehab assignment and should be able to rejoin his team shortly after the All-Star break, barring a setback. After going from the highest high to the lowest low last year, then following it with injury this year (which, so far, appears to be minor), Cabrera has to be ready to turn the page in the second half.
Granderson can’t catch a break this year. Or, maybe he can actually do it a little too well. After starting the season on the DL with a wrist fracture sustained when he was hit by a pitch during spring training, Granderson made his season debut in May. It was short-lived, however, as Granderson lasted just days before sustaining another fracture, also the result of being hit by a pitch. This time, he sustained a break to a bone in his hand that required surgical stabilization. For a while, Granderson struggled to grip the bat, and his progress back to baseball activities was slow as a result. As of now, he has begun taking swings but still needs to return to batting practice before a rehab assignment is even in the picture. Granderson still appears to be a few weeks from rejoining the team, and even then, some apprehension about exactly what he can deliver at the plate -- at least initially -- is justified.
Victorino has been in and out of the Red Sox lineup for much of the season with some variant of low back, hip or hamstring pain, which all seem interrelated, per manager John Farrell. The problem with this complex injury is that, as it moves around, it becomes more difficult to treat and slower to resolve. It’s just as well Victorino isn’t part of the All-Star festivities as his body can certainly use the rest. Given that Victorino has already missed a month’s worth of games this season combined with the fact that this problem has not gone away, there is definitely reason to be worried about how his body will hold up for the second half.
Ron T. Ennis/Fort Worth Star-Telegram/Getty Images Yu Darvish won't pitch in the All-Star game, but will he be able to go when eligible next week?
SP: Yu Darvish, Texas Rangers; Clay Buchholz, Boston Red Sox: Darvish would have been a fan favorite in this year’s All-Star Game, and matchups between him and some of the NL's heavy hitters would have been eagerly anticipated. Unfortunately, those matchups won’t be happening because of Darvish’s recent placement on the DL with an upper back strain. He has struggled with giving up runs in recent outings, and the team is describing his ailment as fatigue in his upper trapezius. It’s not your typical diagnosis, and it suggests he is experiencing associated neck or upper back stiffness. The question is how long the injury has been bothering Darvish and whether his performance of late can be attributed, at least in part, to his health. While the Rangers sound confident that he will return when eligible on July 22, consider that Red Sox ace Clay Buchholz is reportedly dealing with a similar problem and has been out for over a month. It may not be quite as benign as the team is making it out to be. We won’t really know much until Darvish tries to resume throwing.
Speaking of Buchholz, he started off the season in spectacular fashion, but that came to a crashing halt after an odd injury sidelined him in late May. Buchholz claimed an awkward sleeping position resulted in soreness in his AC joint. Within a week, the problem evolved into a neck issue that was not initially considered serious, but Buchholz has yet to return. In fact, he has yet to make a rehab start; that has been delayed until after the All-Star break. The expectation is that Buchholz will be ready to return by late July, but his recovery process has not been smooth. Until he is able to return to competition and string together consecutive starts, there remains some concern.
RP: Jesse Crain, Chicago White Sox: Oh, the injustice. Crain was named to his first All-Star game only to be sidelined with an injury to his throwing shoulder. Crain was placed on the DL in early July after experiencing tightness in his right shoulder while warming up. The soreness continues to linger when Crain attempts to throw, but it’s unclear just how serious the team thinks this particular episode is. Crain does have a history with his shoulder, having undergone surgery several years ago to address rotator cuff and labral damage. It’s never encouraging to hear about problems resurfacing in a thrower’s shoulder, but it’s too soon to establish whether this is a minor incident that will resolve itself with rest or the beginning of a decline.
The normal focus heading into any game is who is in the starting lineup. But this year is anything but normal, especially for the Yankees, when it comes to starting lineups. Injuries have hit the Yankees so hard in the offseason, with a couple scares early in the season too, that their DL roster could be confused with a starting lineup. Since many Yankees stars will be out for Wednesday's game against the Indians (7 p.m. ET, ESPN2 and WatchESPN), it seemed appropriate to provide some quick updates on their collective road to recovery.
Curtis Granderson, OF (injured Feb. 24, due back mid-May): Even Granderson was surprised when the "bruise" from a J.A. Happ fastball in a spring exhibition game turned out to be a fracture. Granderson has remained focused on conditioning ever since so that once the healing in his arm permitted it, he would be able to get baseball-ready in short order. Manager Joe Girardi says Granderson could hit soft toss or off a tee as soon as this weekend, keeping him on track for a mid-May return.
Mark Teixeira, 1B (injured March 5, due back in May): Teixeira hopes he will avoid the fate of Blue Jays outfielder Jose Bautista, who also suffered a partially torn tendon sheath, which ultimately required surgery. Teixeira's right wrist was immobilized after his injury in the hopes that the sheath would heal itself, and he says he did not experience any instability of the tendon itself -- something Bautista did feel, which led him to surgery. All reports of Teixeira's progress have been excellent so far. On April 1, he was permitted to remove the brace (other than for workouts), and he has been focusing on strengthening exercises for his wrist and forearm. He still has not been cleared to swing a bat, and doing so, especially from the left side -- the side he bats from primarily and also the way in which he was originally hurt -- will be the ultimate test. Even if the early swings are uneventful, the big challenge will be when he returns to hitting in a game situation, going all out on his swing repeatedly. Teixeira hopes he can return by the start of May, but there will be no rush. After all, if the sheath re-tears or he proves unable to function at the plate, he will find himself following in Bautista's footsteps into the operating room.
Alex Rodriguez, 3B (estimated back around All-Star break): There hasn't been much to report on Rodriguez because, well, he has remained mostly hidden from view. When he did emerge to meet the media on Opening Day, Rodriguez merely confirmed that he was dedicating himself to the rehab of his surgically repaired left hip. He was guarded about his progress, saying he was in "Stage 1" of his recovery. Based on the surgical procedure to address hip impingement along with a labral repair, it is reasonable to expect Rodriguez to be ready around the second half of the season. But until he is participating in baseball activities and approaching minor league games, it's too early to make any definitive claims.
Pitchers:Phil Hughes, SP (returned April 6): After a bulging disc in his back derailed Hughes' spring, the Yankees were just glad to have him back the first week in April, even if the outing was unspectacular. Perhaps they are happier that he appeared to suffer no physical setback and is in line to take the mound again Thursday.
Hiroki Kuroda, SP (no missed time): This is what you call dodging a bullet. Kuroda was hit by a line drive on the middle finger of his pitching hand, fortunately sustaining no break in the bone but a scare nonetheless. There was concern whether he would be able to make his subsequent start, but Kuroda pitched Monday, pain and all. At least the Yankees avoided sending yet another key player to the DL.
Michael Pineda, SP (surgery May 2012, due back June/July): Pineda's debut season with the Yankees went exactly the opposite of how everyone envisioned it and ended abruptly with him undergoing surgery to repair a torn labrum. The rehab has been long and arduous, and Pineda has used the time to get in better physical shape, something he unquestionably needed to do. While there are never any guarantees as to how a pitcher will perform following shoulder surgery, recent signs of Pineda's recovery and his young age are encouraging. He has been throwing bullpen sessions, even incorporating breaking pitches in the past month. He still has a ways to go before he can definitively return to healthy status, but there is reason to be optimistic he will contribute in the second half.
Meanwhile, in the Indians training room ...
I certainly couldn't leave Cleveland completely out of the conversation. While the Indians can't compete with the Yankees when it comes to starters on the DL, they do have one injury concern.
Carlos Santana, C (DTD): Santana bruised his left thumb Monday when he absorbed a fastball from Chris Perez. X-rays came back negative, but given that the impact was such that even Santana thought he broke it initially, don't be surprised if he's out for a few days.
With the regular season just about to start, here's a list of notable injury situations and their timetable for a return. Fantasy owners can and should adjust their lineups or draft strategies accordingly.
1. All projections reflect expectations as of March 29 and should be considered fluid after that date.
2. Opening Day ready = Expected to be "active" on Opening Day, not necessarily in lineup on Opening Day. For pitchers, first game depends on where slotted in rotation.
Brett Lawrie, 3B, Toronto Blue Jays (due back April): Intercostal strain will sideline him into the first week or two of the season, but a cautious return should help prevent a setback. Bigger concern is tendency to play with reckless abandon. Fun to watch, but may increase risk.
Pablo Sandoval, 3B, San Francisco Giants (Opening Day ready): An irritated ulnar nerve forced Panda to rest for several days in March, but he claims he's ready to return. I admire his enthusiasm but can't say definitively that this is behind him.
Chase Headley, 3B, San Diego Padres (due back late April): Left thumb fracture will delay Headley's regular-season debut by about a month. The good news is that it shouldn't hinder him after he returns.
Curtis Granderson, OF, New York Yankees (due back mid-May): No surgery needed for Granderson's small fracture. No reason to worry about his ability to produce once he returns to the lineup.
Hanley Ramirez, SS/3B, Los Angeles Dodgers (due back mid- to late-May): Ramirez will miss a couple months of playing time following surgery to repair his torn thumb ligament. The concern is that his performance at the plate could suffer a bit longer.
David Freese, 3B, St. Louis Cardinals (due back April): His back injury doesn't appear serious, but the Cardinals want Freese to see more at-bats before his regular-season debut. Recurrence is possible, but the minor nature of this episode keeps the worry factor low.
Derek Jeter, SS, New York Yankees (due back April): Jeter's post-surgery soreness is not unusual. In fact, it will likely take a few months for his ankle to feel normal again. He may return in April but he may not really return until June.
Mark Teixeira, 1B, New York Yankees (due back May/June): A partially torn tendon sheath is what Jose Bautista had ... and then he had surgery. Teixeira's wrist may heal with rest, but if it doesn't, the power on the left side of the plate won't be there and he may not last long, either.
Corey Hart, 1B/OF, Milwaukee Brewers (due back May): The key to Hart's post-surgical knee staying healthy is not returning too soon. The team has been good about controlling his activity thus far, so don't expect them to rush him now. Late May is the most likely scenario.
Brian McCann, C, Atlanta Braves (due back April/May): He's recently returned to hitting, but restrictions on McCann's post-labral repaired throwing shoulder remain in place. Once he returns, it may take a bit to ramp up, but look for a strong second half.
Alex Rodriguez, 3B, New York Yankees (due back around All-Star Break): If he's rehabbing as diligently as he says, Rodriguez should be poised for an uneventful return. The hip may be healthy, but he's still an aging player with mounting injury concerns.
For a more thorough progress report of pitchers returning from injury or surgery, see this blog entry.
Jaime Garcia, St. Louis Cardinals (Opening Day ready): He opted for rehab instead of surgery for a small (left) rotator cuff tear and has been fine through a handful of spring outings. Starting season strong, but will he last?
Roy Halladay, Philadelphia Phillies (Opening Day ready): Halladay insists there's no injury, but his performance this spring is a concern. Last year he said there was no injury, either. Then he went on the DL and missed nearly two months. This could be the start of the talented veteran's decline.
C.J. Wilson, Los Angeles Angels (Opening Day ready): Underwent arthroscopic surgery in October to address a bone spur and has had no issues with the elbow this spring. Consider this: He's had only two DL stints in his big league career. Aging but durable. Low level of concern.
Phil Hughes, New York Yankees (due back early April): A bulging disc in his back derailed Hughes' spring. He has bounced back quickly, but let's face it, injuries are always going to be a concern with Hughes.
Matt Garza, Chicago Cubs (due back May): Ended last season with stress fracture in right elbow, started this spring with strained lat. Sum total of injuries raises concern.
Shaun Marcum, New York Mets (Opening Day uncertain): Elbow issues last year, now shoulder and neck this spring. Don't like where this is headed. Even if he avoids the DL now, it may only be a matter of time.
Brandon Beachy, Atlanta Braves (due back June/July): On track post-Tommy John surgery. No major concerns, just temper expectations to the typical ups and downs of the first year back.
Relief PitchersJason Motte, St. Louis Cardinals (no timetable, expected to start season on DL): Diagnosed with a "small" tear in his flexor tendon, Motte is reportedly feeling better. He will have to prove he can throw without pain before returning, then hope the injury doesn't worsen across the season.
Ryan Madson, Los Angeles Angels (due back April): After Tommy John surgery last April, Madson is closing in on a return. But the normal inconsistencies that a pitcher first displays after this operation -- and a guy named Ernesto Frieri -- suggest Madson isn't a lock to close.
Casey Janssen, Toronto Blue Jays (Opening Day ready): After November surgery on his AC joint, a slow spring initially threatened Janssen's Opening Day status. He's recently turned a corner but there's still a bit of concern about how an uptick in work (think: frequency) will affect him.
Derek Jeter has now played a couple of games at DH and is beginning to get his baseball legs back. During pregame warm-ups, he looked more at ease trotting around the bases (although he was just trotting) and fielding ground balls. The next step will be Wednesday, when Jeter is expected to reprise his role as shortstop. Jeter has still not put the pedal to the floor when running the bases, but that's to be expected.
Despite receiving confirmation from his surgeon that the bone in his ankle had completely healed and he was clear to return to all activities, Jeter still has to adjust to those activities. It's worth pointing out that after the extended period of inactivity -- which includes two months of being off the foot after surgery followed by another two months of being protected -- the ankle develops considerable weakness. In other words, the bone may be back to normal, but everything around it is continuing to strengthen. After the basics of rehab are complete, the only thing left to train is high-level sports activity, and the only way to train is to participate in the activity itself.
So Jeter is back to baseball, but it will be some time before he is really back. Noted foot and ankle surgeon Dr. Robert Anderson, who performed Jeter's surgery, says that beyond the typical six-month recovery (return to activity) for this type of injury, it often takes athletes another 12 weeks to get comfortable performing all their high-level skills. In Jeter's case, this includes rounding the bases sharply and quickly as well as reacting defensively to field balls and to turn and make sharp throws. He is clearly using these early spring games as a means of getting comfortable again with his ankle, which is an integral part of the normal rehab process. Jeter has made it clear that his goal is to be ready for Opening Day, but even if he is playing shortstop then, he may still be a couple of months away from looking like his former self.
Furcal set for surgerySt. Louis Cardinals shortstop Rafael Furcal was headed to visit Dr. James Andrews when I visited their spring training. Now Furcal is scheduled to have surgery this week to reconstruct his ulnar collateral ligament, with Andrews expected to perform the surgery. The rehab time for a position player is shorter than for a pitcher (approximately six to nine months) and Furcal should be ready to go by this time next year, although where he will be remains a question (Furcal is a free agent after this season). The most recent comparable example of a shortstop returning following this procedure is the Cincinnati Reds' Zack Cozart, who injured his elbow acutely via a hyperextension mechanism in 2011 and ultimately required surgery. He returned in 2012 and had no issues with the elbow.
The playoff races are heating up as the regular season is winding down. Every time a player is threatened by an injury scare the entire season seems to be suddenly in jeopardy, especially when it's these guys.
• Oh Captain! My captain! Derek Jeter, the most reliable player on his team, if not in the entire league, gave everyone a scare when he had to leave Wednesday's game early. But there is a reason he is the New York Yankees' captain, and his return to the lineup the very next day spoke to his quiet leadership by example.
Manager Joe Girardi indicated after Wednesday's game that this was not the first time Jeter's left ankle had bothered him. Apparently, the injury has been an issue since the team was on the road in Tampa Bay last week, but Jeter hasn't missed a beat. Jeter jammed the ankle Wednesday while running out a grounder to first base, causing pain. It's not difficult to pinch the ankle joint if the foot lands in just the right position, forcing the primary ankle bone (talus) up against the lower leg bone (tibia). If there was any preexisting edema or bruising around the bone, a quick jamming of the joint could easily aggravate it. While it might have been painful, it was not enough to keep Jeter down. He served as DH on Thursday, but it shouldn't be long before he's back to his usual role. The risk of a flare-up remains, but Jeter has made it clear it won't be something that concerns him.
• The Texas Rangers were seemingly dealt a double blow when both outfielder Josh Hamilton and third baseman Adrian Beltre left Wednesday's game with injuries. Hamilton had a sore left knee and Beltre had an ailing left shoulder. Fortunately for the Rangers, neither was considered serious, according to ESPN Dallas. Hamilton got an injection in his knee and sat out Thursday's game, but he is expected to return Friday.
Beltre injured his shoulder on a diving fielding play in the second inning and was out of the game by the fourth. He subsequently had an MRI, which showed no structural damage. While he was diagnosed with shoulder inflammation, he convinced manager Ron Washington he could go Thursday. Beltre filled in at DH and likely will be evaluated on a daily basis before returning to play defense.
• Colorado Rockies shortstop Tulowitzki is back with his team but he's not really back just yet. Putting the final touches on a rehab effort that has been ongoing since June, the team is not yet declaring Tulowitzki ready for prime time even though he has returned to Denver. After undergoing surgery to remove scar tissue in the groin area, Tulowitzki has been on a steady recovery process, even pulling back at times when he expressed apprehension about pushing the recently repaired area.
To the Rockies' credit, he has been given the latitude to make a very gradual return, understandably made easier because they are out of contention. Still, if he is healthy enough to play in a major league game, he will do so before the season ends. If nothing else, it will allow Tulowitzki to enter the offseason confident that he has been able to return to full strength. The Rockies have not definitively indicated when he might see game action, but it sounds as if it could possibly come as soon as this weekend.
On Tuesday, the Boston Red Sox confirmed the diagnosis of a low-back stress fracture for pitcher Clay Buchholz. Manager Terry Francona told reporters that the injury is to the L2 vertebra (second of the five lumbar or low-back vertebrae) and reassured everyone that this is not a career-threatening situation.
Up to this point, the team had been referring to Buchholz's injury as a lower-back strain with manager Terry Francona specifically calling his injury a "muscle strain." But as ESPN Boston's Joe McDonald reported, a team source had indicated that Buchholz indeed had a stress fracture in his low back. Buchholz recently consulted with Dr. Robert Watkins, who then worked with the Red Sox's medical staff and management to formulate a plan for Buchholz going forward.
That plan, according to Francona, will consist of intensive rehabilitation, as is often the case with these types of injuries (see: New York Mets third baseman David Wright), and the Red Sox will continue to monitor Buchholz's progress. Naturally, with only a couple of months left in the regular season, there is reason to doubt that Buchholz will be able to make it back to the mound this year. But there is also reason to be optimistic that he could. After all, despite the lingering presence of pain, he had been able to increase his activity in recent weeks. Although he will be forced to retreat to basic rehabilitation measures for now, Buchholz could graduate to baseball activities once the symptoms are given adequate opportunity to subside. Remember, Wright played through pain for a month, but once he took the time to recover properly, he came back strong two months later. Red Sox fans and fantasy owners will now hope for a similar outcome with Buchholz.
• Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Roy Oswalt felt good enough after his second rehab start Monday to declare himself ready to return. He is expected to rejoin the rotation this weekend. Oswalt's back is not miraculously healed; rather, he has been able to move past the last painful episode and resume pitching amid his regular exercises for maintenance. The hope is that he will be able to successfully endure the remainder of the season without a setback. Although there are no guarantees, his optimism in the past two weeks is certainly encouraging.
• The New York Yankees were without veteran shortstop Derek Jeter on Monday as he rested his bruised right middle finger that he suffered when hit by a pitch Sunday. According to the Yankees' website, Jeter had good range of motion in the finger, always a good sign, and is expected to rejoin the lineup Tuesday. Meanwhile, teammate Alex Rodriguez got some good news Monday. He has been cleared to begin working out at the team's spring training complex in Tampa and is expected to resume baseball activities Thursday, according to the New York Daily News. His original timetable of returning to play four to five weeks post-surgery to address a torn meniscus (which took place July 11) appears to still be in effect, presuming no setbacks after he increases his workload.
• We're keeping an eye on two pitchers coming off major surgery who both appear as though they're in line for a major league appearance this season, if all continues to go well.
Washington Nationals young ace Stephen Strasburg is slated to begin a rehab assignment next week after another positive simulated game outing Tuesday. Strasburg continues to show steady progress in his return from Tommy John surgery and is inching closer to a September cameo, but nothing is set in stone. Every increase in workload is carefully monitored, and if there is any reason to hold him back, the Nationals will.
The same goes for New York Mets ace Johan Santana, who is being delayed a day from making his next rehab start after his arm "didn't feel quite as strong as he would've liked," according to Mets general manager Sandy Alderson. It's not a setback but a precautionary move, according to ESPN New York, and it's a move that makes sense. Santana is returning from major reconstructive surgery on his throwing shoulder, and it is important for him to monitor closely how his body responds to each new test.
Santana threw three scoreless innings in his first rehab start last week. Despite Santana's impressive initial outing, equally important to his performance on the mound is his shoulder's response after it. Given that he felt it was a little weak, the adjustment in the throwing schedule is not surprising. The Mets still hope to have him on the mound this season, but the shoulder will dictate if, when and where that will happen.
Fantasy owners may want to consider stashing either of these players if they have room on the bench for the potential upside of a few late-season innings, but they should be prepared for a fluid situation.
Looks like some of the big names who have occupied so much space on our pages lately are making their way back onto the field. New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter rejoined the lineup for Independence Day. His performance at the plate didn't bring him any closer to 3,000 hits but he did come out of the game feeling good, perhaps the most important result for him on the night.
The hairline crack in his left distal radius appears to be healing well and Pujols has maintained that his wrist felt fine as soon as the day after the injury. While the bone will still be in the process of healing for some time, a decision to return him to play would not be made if the team was not convinced that his re-injury risk was low. The fact Pujols has been taking swings without discomfort is a positive sign. According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Pujols has hit off a machine. While it may not be identical to facing a live pitcher, it does present a good test. Whether he will immediately produce remains to be seen but a shortened downtime only helps him in that regard, one reason a rehab assignment is not part of the equation. Naturally it would be best for his wrist if Pujols could avoid falling directly on it with his full weight, which seems unlikely to occur, especially for a first baseman. Barring some unusual event, his chances of remaining healthy should be very good.
• New York Mets speedy sensation Jose Reyes hurt one of his wheels this weekend, leaving in the third inning of Saturday's game after experiencing discomfort in his left thigh. The good news is that the injury was reported to be only a Grade 1 strain, but anyone who has followed Reyes in the past knows that the hamstring has been his nemesis. In May 2009, Reyes suffered a significant hamstring injury that ultimately sidelined him for the remainder of the season. While this injury appears far less severe, Reyes is very clear that he will not return too soon this time around. While there has been no move to place him on the DL, if he does not show improvement within a few days, it could still happen.
• Another New York baseball superstar is also being talked about in the injury news. Yankees closer Mariano Rivera had pain in his right triceps area, just above the elbow, which was the reason given for him being unavailable Monday. Although Rivera acknowledged he had never before experienced this particular pain, ESPN New York reports Rivera also said, "I'm not concerned about it, I can tell you that. I'm not concerned at all." Admired for his consistency and his durability, Rivera does not often make this column. But he is 41 years old with more than a thousand innings under his belt. In other words, we're keeping a close eye on this.
• The Colorado Rockies had two key players suffer injuries over the holiday weekend. Outfielder Carlos Gonzalez hit the outfield wall Sunday at high speed and suffered a contusion to his right wrist and forearm. The team is calling him day-to-day for now, but just how long it takes for him to come back will depend on when he can swing a bat effectively. The Denver Post reports Gonzalez will not return until Thursday at the earliest.
• For at least Tuesday's game, Gonzalez will be joined on the sideline by shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, who strained his right quadriceps Monday night while running down the first-base line. He has a history of significant quadriceps injury, suffering one just a few years ago, and while it appears this instance is not severe, he told the Post, "There was no sense in staying in to further injure myself." Expect the Rockies to play it cautiously if Tulowitzki has any lingering soreness, as they could keep him out for a few days.
Another player returns from the disabled list on Tuesday! According to the Atlanta Braves' website, Tommy Hanson is expected to start Tuesday's game against the Seattle Mariners at Safeco Field. Hanson went on the DL with tendinitis in his throwing shoulder but has commented on how good his arm has been feeling the past few days. It appears the rest has helped; now the key will be to see how he feels over the next few major league outings. The St. Louis Cardinals are also getting a key player back Tuesday night. Third baseman David Freese, out nearly two months following surgery to repair a broken bone in his left hand after being hit by a pitch, was activated Monday and is expected in the lineup against the Baltimore Orioles on Tuesday. Freese has had enough successful at-bats during his minor league rehab outings to convince everyone he is ready to return. Given how well he was hitting the ball at the time of his injury, if he can return quickly to that type of productivity, everyone (Freese, Cardinals, Freese's fantasy owners) wins.
• There is some encouraging news about New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter, who has begun baserunning drills at the team's spring training facility in Florida. According to reports, Jeter ran from home to first four times, first to second three times and first to third once. This is a significant step, as baserunning presents one of the biggest challenges when returning from a calf strain. Still, running bases in drill format is not quite the same test as running in a game situation in which reaction, hesitation and directional changes exist. This is why Jeter will not be returning from the DL when eligible Wednesday but instead will continue to increase the vigor of his activity. The team is smartly refraining from setting a timetable and is watching Jeter's response to each incremental challenge.
• Cleveland Indians outfielder Shin-Soo Choo underwent surgery on his broken left thumb Tuesday. Choo, out since last Friday after being hit by a pitch from the San Francisco Giants' Jonathan Sanchez, is expected to be out for two to three months. Keep in mind that it could be well over a month for good bone healing; then there is the matter of getting the hand strong enough to swing the bat. Fantasy owners would be wise to make roster moves as it is entirely possible Choo could miss the remainder of the season.
• The latest injury catastrophe for the Minnesota Twins happened Friday, night when outfielder Delmon Young ran into the outfield wall. The wall apparently won that battle, and Young, unable to put weight through the lower leg, was carted off on a stretcher. The team has since referred to the injury as a right ankle sprain but is still awaiting the results of an MRI taken Monday. Looking back at the replay video, Young's foot is visibly forced into an awkward position upon impact against the base of the outfield wall. His toes appear to be bent backward (towards him) as his ankle is forcibly flexed toward him. His foot locks into position while his right knee is bent and the momentum of his body weight continues to move forward until the wall stops him and he falls. It is one of those plays that doesn't look like much in real time but when it is played in slow motion and viewed frame by frame, it's easy to see how it could have been a very painful and potentially damaging injury. Young is already on the DL and it's worth noting that severe sprains, depending on the precise structures involved, can be slow to recover. Despite being a youthful 25 years old, Young has already been on the DL once this year with an oblique injury and struggled with a left turf toe issue during spring training.
• It appears Texas Rangers shortstop Elvis Andrus will not be making a trip to the DL for his sprained left wrist, an injury he sustained Friday when sliding into second base. The Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported early X-rays on Andrus' wrist were negative but when he actually returns to the lineup remains in question. While his return could come as early as Tuesday night, fantasy owners should consider Andrus day-to-day until proven otherwise.
It's mailbag time again! We're mixing it up a little more this week to include some of the questions that have come in via Twitter that deserve more than a limited number of characters in response. Thanks to everyone who has been contributing to the dialogue. Great thoughts as usual.
Dan Kukla (Carlsbad, N.M.): You mentioned in your injury blog that setbacks with back injuries, like the one Hanley Ramirez is dealing with, are not uncommon. Is this the type of injury that could linger all season or is he likely to be free of it sometime after the All-Star break? Really what I'm getting at is should we invest or avoid when it comes to Ramirez and his current injury?
Ramirez has been in the news this week, but not because of his back. With the attention focused on his benching by interim manager Jack McKeon and his interaction with his teammates, it's hard to know whether Ramirez is still contending with any discomfort in his lower back. His first outings after coming off the disabled list did little to indicate that his troubles at the plate were behind him. Now he has been moved in the lineup, and at least on Tuesday, his performance improved. Ramirez has not indicated how his back is feeling, but he also didn't say anything about it in the month preceding the episode that led to his disabled list stint. The risk for recurrence will not go away this season, but it does lessen the longer Ramirez is able to play without incident. Given his struggles, the turmoil and his injury, it would be wise to spend cautiously if you are thinking about making a move for Ramirez.
Here's Stephen Strasburg's current activity: In early June, he was throwing from a mound several times a week, averaging 30-40 fastballs per bullpen session, according to the Nationals' website. Changeups were recently added into the mix. Although this is encouraging, he needs to expand his pitching repertoire gradually to include his full complement of breaking balls (thrown later because of the increased stress on the arm); then there is the long road back to facing live hitters and ultimately rehab assignments. There is also the matter of building up to maximum effort when throwing. Each advancement in the pitcher's progression is predicated on success established at the previous stage.
Despite the optimism with his progress, it is important to remember that although the rehab progression after this surgery has general guidelines, it remains a fluid process, adapting at every stage based on how the athlete responds. For instance, when Strasburg was early in his rehab, there were rumblings that he could pitch in late 2011. Then in mid-April, The Washington Post's Adam Kilgore pointed out that at that precise moment, Strasburg was a week behind where Jordan Zimmermann had been in his post-Tommy John program. More importantly, as Kilgore noted, that comparison is actually irrelevant because every pitcher will return at the pace dictated by his individual healing process. As Nationals head athletic trainer Lee Kuntz aptly said, "No one is in a rush."
No one except fantasy owners, that is. The Nationals organization, however, understands the larger value of Strasburg and won't risk his long-term value for a few potentially meaningless games late in the season. Even if the games are meaningful, if Strasburg is not ready, he will not pitch. It's possible that if he's ready, he could return to get some major league-competitive innings, but that is not likely to be determined until that time draws much closer. For a fantasy owner who may well need the DL for other players more likely to provide significant contributions late in the season, those spots are probably better reserved for them. If you happen to have a wide-open DL (although it seems rather impossible, given all the injuries this year), it might not hurt to place Strasburg there, but be prepared to let go.
@gameofinches: When do you expect Harden to start pitching for the Oakland A's?
Rich Harden's return to the Oakland Athletics' rotation is rapidly approaching. Although no definitive date has been given for his return, Harden made his first rehab start for the Triple-A Sacramento River Cats on Monday and had a great outing. He threw three innings and struck out six batters, a performance so encouraging that it would not be surprising to see him moved along quickly. Of course, the concern is whether his strained latissimus dorsi muscle will be ready to handle the stamina of being used regularly. Given Harden's health history, the concern is understandable. It's undoubtedly a risk-versus-reward scenario, and the A's, who are dealing with a multitude of injuries in their pitching ranks, may be ready to take the gamble very soon.
• Pitcher Jake Peavy (right groin) has been activated from the DL and is returning to the Chicago White Sox's rotation. He is expected to start Wednesday against the Chicago Cubs.
• New York Yankees shortstop and face of the franchise Derek Jeter has been doing some activity at the team's complex in Florida. In addition to his rehab activities, Jeter participated in some long toss. Although the news prompted manager Joe Girardi to say, "He's going in the right direction," the team's website noted that Girardi expects Jeter to participate in at least one rehab game before returning to the team. It's worth repeating that the biggest test after a calf strain is running, especially pushing off when beginning a sprint. No doubt the team will want to see those movements in game-related action before it puts Jeter back in the lineup. ... Meanwhile, pitcher Bartolo Colon, nursing a left hamstring strain, has begun long-toss throwing. This is a positive step, but he is not a lock to return automatically at the end of 15 days.
• After being pushed back several times, pitcher Josh Johnson finally threw his first bullpen session on Friday, and according to the Miami Herald, he felt good afterward. The team continues to be optimistic that Johnson will return when eligible from his 60-day DL designation (July 16, after the All-Star break). It's still early, however, and Johnson has to face live hitters and some minor league outings before he'll be cleared.
Did something happen in New York last night? In case you were under a rock, New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter, just six hits shy of his crusade toward 3,000, left the game in the fifth inning with a right calf strain. Jeter underwent an MRI, and it was later described as a Grade 1 (minor) calf strain. While minor, it was enough for the team to put him on the disabled list for the first time since 2003, when he suffered a dislocated shoulder.
Last year, Jeter's teammate, Alex Rodriguez, was forced onto the DL with a minor calf strain when he tried to return to play just days after the initial injury and the leg did not cooperate. He came off the DL when eligible and played the remainder of the season without incident.
• But let's turn to celebrating the return of Washington Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman. Zimmerman has been out since early May after undergoing surgery to repair a torn abdominal muscle, an injury that had been bothering him intermittently since spring training. The Nationals have to be thrilled to be getting him back. He has been hitting the ball well while on his rehab assignment; the most lingering issue for him was getting to where he could throw the ball hard without discomfort. The Nationals wisely had no desire to rush him back, knowing that the success rate following this procedure is very high if allowed to fully recover before returning to sport. Fantasy owners have to be excited as well, as his bat should quickly pay offensive dividends.
• Tuesday will also see the return of Florida Marlins shortstop Hanley Ramirez. The Miami Herald reports Ramirez was activated from the DL after Monday's game, trading places with outfielder Scott Cousins, who heads to the DL with a low back strain. In the NL West, San Francisco Giants third baseman Pablo Sandoval is expected to rejoin the lineup Tuesday as his team takes on the Arizona Diamondbacks. On Monday, we outlined the outlook for both players, including the notion that Sandoval is likely to see some time at first base.
• The Minnesota Twins have been riding an injury carousel all season long, and the news has largely been gloomy. Their fortunes might (emphasis on the word "might") be changing a bit. It appears Tsuyoshi Nishioka could return as soon as Wednesday. According to the Minneapolis Star Tribune, he told that to the Japanese media following him at Triple-A Rochester. Nishioka has been gradually working his way back to baseball since breaking his left fibula in early April. The biggest challenge in coming back from this injury is ensuring Nishioka can play the game all out, without hesitation. So far in rehab games, he has spent significant time at shortstop, and manager Ron Gardenhire indicated that would be his everyday position going forward.
• The Twins also have an eye on catcher Joe Mauer's return. It appears he could be back as soon as Thursday or Friday, according to the Star Tribune. Mauer has been out since mid-April with what was categorized as generalized weakness, and the team has not provided much in the way of detail or timetable since. His increase in innings played recently in rehab outings has hinted at his near return, but the Twins are still not committing to a firm date.
• Then there's Twins first baseman Justin Morneau. After battling lingering post-concussion symptoms since the season-ending injury last July, Morneau was able to recover and return for Opening Day. Unfortunately, he has been challenged with other injuries since. A pinched nerve in his neck, which is causing him neck pain and is affecting his left shoulder, is making playing difficult, yet he is hanging in there.
Recently his left wrist has become problematic, repeatedly swelling, according to Morneau, "whenever I use it." As the Star Tribune reports, a recent MRI showed no significant structural damage, and the plan is to keep Morneau's day-to-day status. While Morneau avoids the DL for the time being, he is certainly struggling to stay active. It's hard to imagine he gets to a point of feeling "great" anytime soon, as these types of ailments respond best to extended rest. Time will tell if he can bounce back enough to contribute on a regular basis or whether the team opts to have him take that extended rest.
Wow! The hits just keep on coming. And I'm not talking about offensive power, at least not on any of my fantasy teams. I'm talking about the hits teams are taking, real and fantasy, as a result of injury early in the season. Is there any team that has not succumbed to the injury bug yet this year? Not as far as I can tell. Some seem to be particularly unlucky, but maybe teams like the Angels and the Rays are just getting all of their injuries out of the way early. No doubt that's what they are hoping is the case. I'm just the messenger. Let's take a closer look.
Mike Lowell, 3B, Boston Red Sox: Lowell is now a member of the disabled list thanks to a sprained left thumb sustained Wednesday while fielding a ball. The injury is to his non-throwing hand, but nonetheless, he needs to be able to get his hand into his glove, and needs to grip a bat effectively, both of which would be limited by pain and swelling. Lowell admitted that the thumb felt worse the day after the injury than he initially thought it would, and the team placed him in a thumb splint to help rest the joint and the soft tissue around it. The time frame for Lowell ranges from two to four weeks, and the variability in an athlete's response to swelling and functionality after a hand injury makes it difficult to be more precise. Keep in mind that it is not just the ability to return to play, but the ability to be productive that usually takes a bit longer with these cases.
Matt Garza, SP, Tampa Bay Rays: The Rays are hoping ace Scott Kazmir is on the mend in short order because they just placed another teammate on the disabled list. Garza left Tuesday night's game with what the team is referring to as "radial nerve irritation." Garza reportedly told the team that he was experiencing numbness in his right hand and had trouble gripping the ball. The radial nerve travels through the back of the upper arm and across the top of the forearm toward the hand. Overstretching of the nerve, or tightness of the muscles through which it passes, can cause irritation, and in Garza's case, there may have been some of both. Garza has had discomfort of this type before but, as he told the St. Petersburg Times, he always has been able to pitch through it. Many pitchers are tight in their forearm musculature, especially because it is well-developed. Interestingly, during Tuesday night's outing, Garza fielded a ground ball hit back his way, and in the process fell forward such that his right wrist got folded up underneath him. It just so happens that this is exactly the position that could place an excessive stretch on the radial nerve. Although we can't say for certain, Garza did exit the game shortly thereafter, complaining of discomfort and demonstrating a lack of ball control. A combination of tight musculature, and a quick abnormal stretch, could very easily provoke symptoms similar to what Garza described. The team has indicated that Garza will not be allowed to throw for several days in order to let the inflammation settle, and then he will be re-evaluated in two weeks. Since Garza has had similar symptoms in the past, the Rays no doubt want to be sure that this does not become severe and chronic. Translation: Extra rest if he requires it. Assuming no setbacks in his rehabilitation, Garza likely will return in late April or early May.
Justin Duchscherer, SP, Oakland Athletics: First Harden (out on the disabled list with what is now being called a subscapularis strain), then Duchscherer. The Athletics must be wondering what they need to do to catch a health break for their starting rotation. Duchscherer felt a pull in his right biceps during Friday night's game, a particularly unfortunate circumstance because he had been pitching well. An MRI confirmed the presence of inflammation at the biceps, which surprised Duchscherer because he had described the pain as "mild," according to the Athletics' official Web site. The A's, however have learned to take no chances where their starters are concerned, and decided to rest Duchscherer a bit longer by placing him on the disabled list. The biceps is especially important in the pitcher's anatomy because it attaches to the labrum. A pitcher's torn labrum most often requires surgery, and that would spell an end to a season. Resting him and quieting the biceps now may go a long way toward preserving his throwing arm, so the move is completely reasonable. The good news? Duchscherer has already thrown from 80 feet without experiencing pain and will be eligible to return April 20, assuming he continues to progress well.
The concern here is that the ankles, which each provide a full weight bearing base of support for Rodriguez at different points in his pitching motion, must be strong for him to pitch effectively. As manager Mike Scioscia told the Los Angeles Times, "We don't want to put him at any undue risk." The concern becomes that Rodriguez could injure himself further, and in a worst case scenario could injure his throwing arm if either ankle gives out on him while pitching. The hope at this point is that after a few days rest, Rodriguez will be able to throw a bullpen, or perhaps even make a game appearance this weekend. It is of concern, however, that the left ankle has some lingering symptoms from last season, and fantasy owners should consider that this may be the type of thing to crop up again during the season.
Rafael Soriano, RP, Atlanta Braves: Soriano experienced some elbow soreness after pitching last weekend, and the Braves wasted no time moving him to the disabled list. One of the reasons the decision was made to impose a period of forced rest on Soriano is that he had similar symptoms during spring training. Soriano's symptoms are actually above the elbow, near where the triceps muscle (large muscle on the back of the arm) attaches. The team is calling Soriano's condition elbow tendinitis according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and it sounds as if this muscle group could be the culprit. Soriano has had his share of elbow woes, having undergone Tommy John (ulnar collateral ligament reconstruction) surgery and missing most of 2004 and all of 2005 as a result. The good news here is that Soriano's discomfort does not appear to be located near the area of reconstruction, and tendinitis issues are much likelier to resolve than ligament sprains or joint problems at the elbow. It sounds as though the Braves are taking a cautious approach with their closer, which will no doubt benefit him and the team in the long run. Soriano will be out until at least April 22, but the hope is that this will not be a season-long problem.
Dontrelle Willis, SP, Detroit Tigers: Willis, who had a walk-filled first outing to start the season, was hoping to right the ship Friday. That was not to be. Despite the best efforts of the Chicago grounds crew, rain in the area may have contributed to a slippery mound. Willis started by walking leadoff batter Carlos Quentin, then slipped on the mound while facing the second batter, Orlando Cabrera. Willis' front leg stretched out in front of him as he transferred his weight during ball release, forcing his right knee into hyperextension. Willis reached for the back of his leg in obvious discomfort. Although Willis remained in the game through Cabrera's at-bat (another walk), he clearly appeared to be struggling as he faced the next batter, Jim Thome. Willis was removed from the game, and we will now wait to see what the future holds for him.
Derek Jeter, SS, New York Yankees: Jeter has not played this week since straining his quadriceps muscle. There is still a chance that he could make an appearance this weekend, but according to the Hartford Courant, manager Joe Girardi says that is "doubtful," meaning Jeter could sit out until next week. Despite the enticement of the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry, it is important that Jeter's minor strain does not become major, and the team will exercise patience.
Jimmy Rollins, SS, Philadelphia Phillies: All good things must come to an end. And so it goes with Rollins' streak of 230 consecutive games played. Rollins sprained his ankle on Tuesday night when making a directional change to get back to second base. Rollins has been out of the starting lineup for three straight games, but it does not appear that this injury will send him to the disabled list. According to Rollins in a quote on the Phillies' official Web site, the ankle bothers him when going "left to right," and that is a big part of his defensive game. Don't be surprised if he makes an appearance this weekend, but check the lineups daily, as the team could decide to hold him out until Tuesday if cutting remains a problem.
Francisco Liriano and Kevin Slowey, SP, Minnesota Twins: Finally, there is some good news to report: The return of Liriano has arrived! The Minnesota Star Tribune is reporting that Liriano will start Sunday for the Twins in place of the injured Kevin Slowey, who is being placed on the disabled list with soreness in his biceps. Liriano, who will make his major league return after undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2006, has struggled somewhat in the minors. It is normal for pitchers to take some time to regain their velocity and command after this procedure, so his struggles are not a concern from a health perspective. And just wait until he gets more time under his belt. By July, Liriano's numbers should be on the upswing. Meanwhile, Slowey, who left his first start with pain in his biceps, is improving, although he is still experiencing some lingering soreness. This downtime will give Slowey an opportunity to recover fully, and it helps make room for Liriano.
I know. I know. It appears never-ending. Where there are sports, there are bound to be injuries. And so it will go throughout the season. Keep checking back, and we'll keep updating you. Right here at ESPN.com. On Fantasy Insider (ESPNews, 11 a.m. EST). On Fantasy Focus (ESPN Radio, 9 p.m. EST). And wherever else those injury nuggets crop up. Have a good weekend, and may your fantasy teams go injury-free!
Last week we talked about National League players who opened the 2008 season on the disabled list. Today we take a look at key American League players who were noticeably absent from their teams' rosters on Opening Day and evaluate the likelihood of them making an appearance in the near future.
Andy Pettitte, New York Yankees: See Josh Beckett above. Pettitte's situation was not very different from that of his Red Sox counterpart. Some have speculated that Pettitte's offseason distractions put him at more of a risk for injury. Perhaps, but that is hard to quantify and remains speculation at best. Pettitte did have some elbow discomfort early in the spring, which is not uncommon for pitchers as they work on increasing their endurance in the preseason, but that subsided within a few weeks. Then, Pettitte's back locked up on him while he was driving home from practice in March. After missing a single scheduled start and allowing his back to rest, Pettitte eased back into his throwing program, throwing bullpens and minor league games before returning to the rotation Saturday. Although Pettitte did not get the win, he didn't appear to have any setbacks, and as is the case with Beckett, there is no reason to expect at this point that there will be any long-term problems as a result.
Scott Kazmir, SP, Tampa Bay Rays: Pain in his throwing elbow in early spring training led to a shutdown for Kazmir. While minor strains are not uncommon for pitchers in springtime as they rebuild their endurance, it is only when they return to action following a period of imposed rest that we get a feel for whether the episode was a minor occurrence or a sign of bigger things to come. Kazmir has been throwing and feeling no pain since mid-March, including a recent bullpen session incorporating changeups and sliders, according to the Tampa Tribune. Those things would seem to point to this incident as a minor spring training occurrence and fantasy owners can breathe a bit easier. Kazmir started the season on the disabled list to give him ample recovery time, as well as time to increase his overall strength and endurance, but it now appears that he could return to the lineup at the end of April.
Curtis Granderson, OF, Detroit Tigers: Granderson began the season on the disabled list with a fractured third metacarpal in his right hand after being hit by a pitch. Granderson rested the hand for two weeks and then had X-rays to determine the healing progress of the bone. Team doctors felt it had healed enough for him to begin light baseball activities, so Tuesday Granderson began hitting a ball from a tee and some light throwing, according to the Detroit News. Bear in mind that it takes up to six weeks for a fracture to fully heal so this is by no means finished. In fact, Granderson admitted to still having some pain in the hand, a reminder that he is not completely out of the woods. The good news is that he has the mobility to actually grip the bat and that he is getting his body used to the skills he will need to get back onto the field. The unknown is exactly how long it will take him to be comfortable enough and confident enough to actually return to the lineup. At this point it would be a surprise if Granderson is back before another 10 days since, by his own acknowledgment to the Detroit Free Press, he will need to face live pitching before returning.
Joel Zumaya, SP, Detroit Tigers: During the offseason, Zumaya was assisting his family in evacuating during the Southern California wildfires. While he was moving things out of the home, a box reportedly fell on Zumaya's right (throwing) shoulder, and the next thing we heard was that he had undergone acromioclavicular (AC) joint reconstruction to repair the damage. This procedure, although certainly not impossible to return from, is no walk in the park. Zumaya has to adjust to the altered mechanics, even if subtle, that result from such a procedure. His expected return date was originally targeted for sometime in July, presuming no delays or setbacks, but lately the Tigers have been less willing to set a concrete timeline. As of the start of the season, Zumaya was throwing from 120 feet and feeling good. He is said to be progressing well but since this is not a common injury for pitchers, it is difficult to draw comparisons. Yes, he should be able to eventually return and pitch effectively. Will he be able to deliver the 100 mph fastball? Perhaps, but it wouldn't surprise if he loses some steam off his delivery, at least initially. The first hurdle is him getting healthy enough to rejoin the rotation without a setback, or without some new injury cropping up. Then the Tigers can worry about triple-digit speed.
Fernando Rodney, RP, Detroit Tigers: Rodney, who experienced shoulder pain that forced him to miss time in 2007, began having similar symptoms very early in spring training of this year. After ups and downs in his attempts to return via a throwing program, the Tigers have indicated this week that he will resume playing catch. According to a report on mlive.com, the Tigers would like to have Rodney get to the mound at least one more time before considering something much more dramatic, such as surgery. An MRI this spring revealed no specific structural damage, which is not unusual, and the shoulder pain will continue to be treated symptomatically, until the point at which it becomes evident that Rodney simply cannot return. That point, unfortunately, does not look too far off. If Rodney fails to make it back after this round of conservative treatment, don't be surprised if he heads to the surgeon's table, which would essentially spell the end of the season for him.
Kelvim Escobar, SP, Anaheim Angels: Shoulder inflammation reared its ugly head again this winter for Escobar, who suffered through a similar bout near the end of the 2007 season. Escobar, who returned to the Angels' spring complex in January to undergo rehab and strengthening for his shoulder, was shut down from throwing for two months in the hopes that he could return during spring training. But after only three throwing sessions in mid-March, Escobar's pain returned and he was shut down once again. The Angels have disclosed that Escobar has a torn right labrum (ring of cartilage in the shoulder that helps increase the congruity of the joint), never a good diagnosis for a pitcher in particular, and they have decided to put him back on the conservative treatment track once again. Escobar told the Los Angeles Times that he was concerned about his pitching future as a result of this injury, complicated by the fact that he was born without a supraspinatus (one of the four rotator cuff muscles), something he apparently learned during his first physical after he was drafted. In any event, if Escobar does not respond to this next round of conservative treatment, he is expected to pay a visit to Mets team physician Dr. David Altchek for consultation regarding surgical options. This is not a great scenario for Escobar, no matter which way you look at it, because painful labral problems rarely respond to conservative management, and when addressed via surgery, there is a significant recovery period, not to mention one with no guarantees about final outcome. For fantasy owners, this is a situation to observe from afar.
Scott Rolen, 3B, Toronto Blue Jays: Rolen, so hopeful for a fresh injury-free start with his new team, succumbed to the disabled list bug after taking a bad shot to his right third finger from a hard-hit line drive. The ball hit his finger with such force that it resulted in a fracture at the very tip, and even worse, damage to the fingernail and soft tissue around the break. Rolen had to have a pin surgically implanted and, according to his own statements on the Blue Jays' official Web site, his surgeon gave him a four to six week estimate on returning to play. Although a broken bone is not something to take lightly, the more critical piece for Rolen in terms of healing is the flesh of the finger itself. He will likely be able to hit before he can throw, simply because managing the grip on the ball is so difficult when the soft tissue is injured. Fantasy owners know that Rolen is valued in reality largely because of his defensive skills, so the throwing limitations he faces are something to keep in mind when estimating his return time. As of this point in time, the Jays are hoping to have his services in early May. Assuming the tissue heals well, once Rolen regains his mobility and grip strength, he should not have ongoing issues with the finger.
It doesn't take long, does it? Another week of baseball and already there are enough sprains, scrapes and spasms to fill another column. Here are a few of the key injuries we are looking at this week with more details to come.
Derek Jeter, New York Yankees: Jeter has a strained left quadriceps muscle (large muscle on the front of the thigh) and is expected to miss at least three games, although he will not go on the disabled list, according to a report from The Associated Press. Jeter apparently strained the muscle while running before Monday's game, but he says the problem is not serious and an MRI appears to have confirmed that. Nonetheless, he is going to have some imposed rest to allow the muscle to quiet down, and as manager Joe Girardi points out, the upcoming weather is cold and the team does not want to risk further injury. At this point, this does not appear to be a major strain, and barring Jeter returning too early and aggravating the condition, this should not bother him on an ongoing basis once the acute episode has resolved.
Rich Harden, Oakland Athletics: Was it too good to be true? It seems that way for the moment, but it's not time to panic ... yet. Harden, who has started the season with a bang after injury issues plagued him for the past two seasons, is faced with another injury. The question at this point is whether this is a minor blip on the radar, or whether it echoes past problems that have resulted in lengthy absences. The San Francisco Chronicle is reporting that Harden has been scratched from Tuesday night's game due to back, specifically "lat," soreness. The "lat" refers to the latissimus dorsi muscle, the large muscle that, when well developed, makes the nice "V" shape on the back. Pitchers use their lats, which attach to the arm bone, to help provide stability and control rotation and extension of the arm. Optimistically the team has slated Harden for a Sunday start, suggesting that the soreness is minor and nothing that a few extra days of rest can't cure. Additionally, the A's are being more cautious than they would be otherwise because, after his spectacular return, the A's do not want to push Harden into a major injury by ignoring lesser symptoms. It is worth noting that Harden had oblique and lat strains that resulted in a two-month absence back in 2005. Harden has no doubt focused on strengthening his core muscles as part of his shoulder rehabilitation however, which would help him recover from this type of injury more quickly. If he is able to get back by Sunday, this injury goes in the "not a big deal" category and Harden can pick up where he left off. If however, it looks to turn into something more chronic, those shades of the term "injury prone" may return.
Michael Barrett, San Diego Padres: Another player who heard a "pop" this week associated with injury is Barrett. Last week it was Pedro Martinez and his hamstring. This week it's Barrett and his forearm. The team is reporting that Barrett has a fair amount of pain in the region of his ulnar nerve, which lies on the inner side of the elbow. By now, everyone knows what else is near there. Yes, the ulnar collateral (Tommy John) ligament. According to a report on the Padres' official Web site, Barrett could not throw the ball back to pitcher Greg Maddux without a bounce. A pop (believed to have occurred on an earlier throw), weakness and some nerve-like symptoms all are ominous signs for Barrett as a potential ligament injury. He is scheduled for an MRI Tuesday after which his course of treatment will be determined. If Barrett is on your fantasy team, don't wait for the results. Go out and get someone else, even if you end up needing him only short term. We'll keep you posted.
There are many other new injuries to report on so check back throughout the week as we update those, as well as the status of your fantasy draftees who may have started on the disabled list and are looking to make a return. Is anyone a safe pickup? Perhaps, and even better, perhaps there's a great bargain to be found. Stay tuned.