Stephania Bell: Hanley Ramirez
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.
All projected return timelines should be considered fluid.
Bryce Harper, OF, Washington Nationals (placed on DL retroactive to May 27): Last week, Harper was officially placed on the DL (backdated to his last appearance); this week he’s hoping he can come off of it. That sounds a little optimistic given that Harper is traveling to Pensacola, Fla., to pay a visit to Dr. James Andrews for a consultation. That appointment was scheduled when Harper’s irritated knee appeared to be making no progress. In recent days, he seems to have turned a corner according to the Washington Times. Harper had been running in the pool but the Times reports he stopped that activity and the discomfort has subsided. Still, Harper will be evaluated by Andrews Monday after which more information should be forthcoming. As of now, it’s worth keeping an eye on his activity this week to see if he is cleared to do more intense workouts. But if running in the pool was bothering him, it’s hard to imagine running on land will be smooth sailing out of the gate.
Kirby Lee/USA TODAY Sports Matt Kemp's hamstring woes are just part of the Dodgers' many problems.
Matt Kemp, OF (placed on DL May 30), Hanley Ramirez, SS (day-to-day), Carl Crawford, OF (placed on DL June 2), Los Angeles Dodgers: The Dodgers’ collective hamstring woes are the ultimate example of how difficult these injuries are to manage. After missing five weeks following thumb surgery, Ramirez returned for a few days, then missed another month with his hamstring strain. The team wanted to be very careful about bringing him back, especially with Kemp and then Crawford suffering similar, albeit lesser, injuries of their own. This is how I described the Ramirez situation last week: What the Dodgers cannot afford is for Ramirez to return and reinjure himself. Obviously there are no guarantees but the team at least needs to feel comfortable they have seen enough in his rehab outings to suggest his leg is ready for prime time.
Well, Ramirez was back only one day before experiencing tightness in his left hamstring. Although he was out of the starting lineup for several consecutive days, he did make pinch-hit appearances. Ramirez is getting repeat imaging on that leg however, given that it remains bothersome. This was exactly the situation the Dodgers were trying to avoid. Ramirez played in a handful of rehab games exhibiting nothing that would hint at his being less than ready to return. Still, as we often say, until an athlete has returned to his prior level of play for a few weeks without incident following a hamstring injury, it’s difficult to exhale and believe the problem is truly behind him.
And Ramirez is not the only one. When Kemp was first injured roughly 10 days ago, there was some initial thought he might not even require a DL stint, given his hamstring symptoms were so minor. It looked as if 15 days would be more than enough time to recover. Apparently not. The Dodgers’ official website reports Kemp’s right hamstring bothered him enough during pregame workouts Sunday that he does not look to be ready to return. The team originally anticipated having him back Friday; now it’s unclear just when a return could come. Manager Don Mattingly offered this: “We're not where we need to be with him. We do know that he's not 100 percent." Whether Kemp is apprehensive given his recent injury woes and struggles at the plate or whether there is more significance to the injury is unclear.
In the meantime, fellow outfielder Crawford was officially placed on the DL last Monday (retroactive to June 2) with a hamstring injury Mattingly characterized as “fairly significant” after it had originally been described by the team as a cramp. It certainly looks as if his absence will extend beyond the 15-day minimum.
At this point there is no real timetable on ANY of these players. The team has to be hoping that Yasiel Puig, whose brilliant performance since being called up at least provides a temporary distraction from the injuries, remains immune to the hammie bug.
Jamie Sabau/Getty Images Ryan Braun's thumb is the short-term concern for fantasy owners. There could be long-term ones on the horizon.
Ryan Braun, OF, Milwaukee Brewers (day-to-day): It has not been a good week for Braun on multiple fronts, including the injury department. Braun has had a thumb ailment which has been giving him intermittent trouble over the last month. On Sunday, he was removed from the game in the third inning and his words hinted at perhaps more extended time off. After the game, Braun told reporters he should have taken steps to address it sooner. "From the very beginning, I should have taken more time off and gotten it right," said Braun. "But I just continued to try to fight through it, play through it. It's at the point where it doesn't feel very good.” No specifics have been revealed as to the nature of Braun’s thumb injury other than “soreness,” making it difficult to ascertain just how much time it could cost him for it to completely heal. Braun has indicated on prior occasions that he has made adjustments to his swing but clearly it hasn’t gone away. The timing may be right for a DL move.
Austin Jackson, OF, Tigers (placed on DL retroactive to May 12, could return soon): Last week it sounded as if Jackson might return but I did caution it could get postponed. The Tigers opted not to send Jackson on a rehab assignment until he progressed further with his running, something he did to the team’s satisfaction last week, according to MLive.com. Now the Tigers are officially sending him out on assignment with a specific plan that will have him increase his activity over several days. While the team is allowing for flexibility in his rehab appearance schedule based on how the hamstring responds, Jackson could potentially return to the big league club by late next week.
Giancarlo Stanton, OF, Miami Marlins (placed on DL April 30, could return Monday): When Stanton went down with a hamstring injury, it immediately looked serious. A June return seemed most plausible. After missing multiple weeks and a seemingly (yet understandably) slow rehab process, suddenly Stanton’s imminent return feels a bit hurried. Stanton only just embarked on a rehab assignment last Tuesday and got off to a slow start at the plate but was able to play on back-to-back days. Because of inclement weather, Stanton lost a couple of game opportunities in the middle of the week. The Palm Beach Post reports Stanton could return Monday, according to manager Mike Redmond. While Monday was floated as a potential target when Stanton entered a rehab assignment, the missed days because of weather seemingly would have delayed his return. According to the Post, Redmond indicated Stanton could return because Casey Kotchman might be unavailable because of sore ribs. Surely the Marlins would not activate Stanton unless they thought he was out of the woods with the hamstring. Or would they? The Dodgers’ recent challenges with players returning from hamstring injuries even on a conservative timetable would be a warning. Stanton may return Monday and he may ultimately return without incident but it seems like a big “if.” Given how serious his injury looked when he originally went down while sprinting to first base, it’s going to take some convincing -- as in a few weeks of no setbacks -- before the specter of potential reinjury fades.
Pablo Sandoval, 3B, San Francisco Giants (day-to-day): Last week, we talked about Sandoval’s vague diagnosis related to his foot and that he was quite literally day-to-day. On Saturday, Sandoval aggravated his foot injury during his first at-bat and did not play Sunday. The natural next question is whether this setback will lead to a turn on the DL. According to the San Jose Mercury News, manager Bruce Bochy said, “The DL is a possibility.” Sandoval, who is in a walking boot, has an injury on the outside of his left foot, according to the Mercury News (although it is still unclear which structure then is compromised). Sandoval is not tiny and between the torsion through his foot when swinging the bat and the pounding it absorbs while running, the demands are fairly high. A more extended absence may be in his future.
Will Middlebrooks, 3B, Boston Red Sox (placed on DL May 24, likely return this week): Middlebrooks expressed optimism from the outset that he would return when eligible, or close to it. After some solid outings at Triple-A Pawtucket, it appears his return is near. According to the Providence Journal, manager John Farrell has made it clear what his role will be when he does rejoin the lineup. "Will's our third baseman," Farrell said. The team has not indicated precisely when Middlebrooks is expected to return but fantasy owners should keep an eye on any potential roster move. His uneventful recovery from this episode of back spasms -- and his performance at the plate during his rehab games -- warrants inserting him in fantasy lineups immediately upon return.
Jedd Gyorko, 2B, San Diego Padres (day-to-day): Gyorko exited Sunday’s game in the middle of the 10th inning with what the team is referring to as soreness in his right groin. He apparently suffered the injury just prior to sliding into second base, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune. Although Gyorko hoped it wasn’t severe, Padres manager Bud Black was less clear. “We’re not sure what it is,” said Black, “a strain, a pull, a cramp. But he had to come out of the game.” Gyorko is likely to undergo further evaluation Monday to determine whether a DL stint will be necessary. Awkward slides or missteps heading into slides have proved to be problematic for several players this year, a reminder that seemingly benign maneuvers can still result in injury. Fantasy owners should prepare for at least a couple of missed days for Gyorko, if not a little longer.
Scott Cunningham/Getty Images Stephen Strasburg's DL stint may be very short-lived.
Stephen Strasburg, SP, Washington Nationals (placed on DL retroactive to June 1, expected return June 16): Last week we discussed the nature of Strasburg’s injury and the concern the Nationals likely had about him compromising his shoulder if he played through it. That concern translated to a formal DL-designation for Strasburg later in the week after soreness kept him from attempting a Wednesday bullpen session. The reported non-severe nature of the lat strain also proved to be true as Strasburg was able to complete a throwing session just three days later. If all continues well with his program this week, Strasburg will make his next start on June 16, the first day he is eligible to return.
Clay Buchholz, SP, Boston Red Sox (day-to-day): A couple weeks ago, it was an irritated AC joint after sleeping awkwardly that forced Buchholz to miss a start. After a successful return outing, Buchholz left his subsequent start prematurely due to tightness in his neck. Are the two related? It’s hard to say with any degree of certainty. Certainly the neck and the shoulder are closely integrated in the throwing motion, but these can still be separate issues. Nonetheless, one of the concerns when Buchholz was dealing with the AC soreness was whether he was compensating for the shoulder. In an effort to prevent any significant change in his throwing mechanics, Buchholz was scratched from one start, then delayed for his next start. He seemed to be past the issue with his shoulder, but it’s certainly possible that subtleties from one injury contributed to how he was throwing. The close timing of the two injuries also hints at some relationship, even if a specific cause-and-effect mechanism is difficult to determine. In any event, Buchholz has indicated he will take every measure to ensure he’s fully healthy before attempting a return but for right now it does not appear that will involve a move to the DL.
Alexi Ogando, SP, Texas Rangers (placed on DL retroactive to June 6): Ogando returned from the DL for one start … and then went right back. After missing a month with biceps tendinitis, Ogando is back on the DL with what is simply being termed right shoulder inflammation. The concerns are fairly obvious. Back-to-back moves to the DL for a pitcher with a shoulder injury is never a good sign. More concerning is what it might mean from a structural standpoint. Often a diagnosis of biceps tendinitis (at the shoulder) signals a problem with the labrum, given their interface at the shoulder. An MRI in mid-May when Ogando hit the DL the first time reportedly revealed no structural issues, although the nuances of what is observed on imaging may be subtle. This is not to suggest his season is necessarily threatened but it wouldn’t be surprising if he is sidelined for a bit longer this time to help guard against yet another setback. The bigger question long-term may be how his role is modified, if at all, when he returns.
Daniel Hudson, SP, Arizona Diamondbacks (on DL to start season, no timetable for return): In what may be the sad news of the week when it comes to injuries, Hudson reportedly suffered another tear in his ulnar collateral ligament (UCL), according to the Diamondbacks. Hudson was 11 months post-Tommy John surgery and was in the phase of rehab starts as he prepared to return to the majors. After feeling discomfort in his throwing elbow following his first rehab start Tuesday night, subsequent evaluation revealed the injury. The Diamondbacks have indicated they are exploring all medical options, but Hudson will first consult with Dr. James Andrews. While the initial news sounds dire, it is worth waiting to see the results of his consultation before presuming the worst-case scenario of yet another procedure.
Every Monday, in this space, we'll provide updates on a variety of players to help you make your weekly lineup decisions. We'll specifically try to hit the players who are day-to-day, have just gone on the DL or are ready to return, so that you can better decide whether you can count on them or not.
All projected return timelines should be considered fluid.
Bryce Harper, OF, Washington Nationals (placed on DL retroactive to May 27): Last week, I said not to expect Harper's left knee (originally injured crashing into the outfield wall in Dodger Stadium on May 13) to land him on the DL if he could help it. It couldn't be helped. In fact, Harper acknowledged to reporters that he aggravated his knee with a headfirst slide May 25 and it turns out the persistent swelling and soreness was too much to overcome. On Sunday, Harper described his knee as "still swollen and crappy" yet said he hopes to start running and hitting at some point this week. The bottom line is he won't be given the green light to run if he is still experiencing swelling to the point where he continues to walk with a limp, as he reportedly was Thursday night.
There's no magic antidote for the swelling associated with bursitis; rest is perhaps the key ingredient for getting it under control. The bigger concern would be preventing this from turning into a chronic issue over the remainder of the season. Harper's move to the DL reflects the Nationals' desire to curb the problem now and he's not likely to resurface until his progress moves him out of range of the easy threat of a setback. After all, teammate and fellow outfielder Jayson Werth followed a similar pattern of being placed on the DL following a string of consecutive missed games. At the time, Werth expected to return when eligible but was held back when his hamstring continued to nag at him with certain explosive activities. Now it looks as if Werth will rejoin the team Tuesday, so at least the Nationals anticipate getting a player back as they lose Harper, but it's worth noting his absence will have exceeded a month. If Harper's progress remains slow, expect his timetable to be extended because the Nationals know he isn't wired to play at anything less than 110 percent effort, regardless of how his body actually feels.
Matt Kemp, OF, Los Angeles Dodgers (placed on DL May 30): The Dodgers' decision to place Kemp on the DL seems to be more of a proactive effort to keep his injury from worsening than a reactive response to severity. Kemp felt his right hamstring tighten up while chasing down a Mike Trout double on Wednesday and took himself out of the game, perhaps a lesson learned from last year's episode with his left hamstring. Although the injury did not appear serious, the move to the DL forces Kemp to sit out at least 15 days and rest his legs. Last year, Kemp tried to return quickly following his hamstring strain, only to suffer a setback within two days, resulting in another six-week absence. And let's face it, he has not had the best start to his season. Kemp has been struggling at the plate after coming off surgery to repair his labrum, not because the shoulder is bothering him, but he has not rediscovered his swing. While his performance has been below expectations, other power hitters have said it can take months before they feel like their stroke is effortless after undergoing shoulder surgery. The twinge in his hamstring and the forced time off may be just the thing to help Kemp restart his season. No timetable has been issued, but it appears Kemp's leg will not require much beyond the minimal two weeks. Beyond how he looks and feels in running situations, it will be worth paying attention to how Kemp fares at the plate once those rehab games get underway.
Carl Crawford, OF, Los Angeles Dodgers (day-to-day): Another outfielder, another hamstring issue. These injuries seem to be running rampant among outfielders throughout the league. Crawford, who has been quiet on the injury front so far this year after missing virtually all of last season following wrist surgery and later Tommy John surgery, left Saturday's game with a left hamstring "cramp," according to the Dodgers' Twitter account. Crawford was held out of the game Sunday. A cramping or tugging is often a precursor to something more sinister; the question is whether a few days of rest is enough to clear the issue or whether more downtime is needed. Crawford did have some issues with the same hamstring in the early part of May and sat out one game as a result. In 2011, Crawford went on the DL for a left hamstring injury and missed a month. Other than that one episode, Crawford has not dealt with significant hamstring problems. Naturally, the Dodgers would like to keep it that way. With Kemp out and Crawford potentially out for several days -- or longer -- the Dodgers have promoted top prospect Yasiel Puig to provide outfield help.
Hanley Ramirez, SS, Los Angeles Dodgers (placed on DL May 4, expected to return this week): Hamstring injuries aren't just for outfielders, as the Dodgers are all too aware. Ramirez, who strained his left hamstring just days after returning from a month-long absence following thumb surgery, suffered a serious enough injury to sideline him another month. As frustrating as this injury has been for Ramirez and everyone else, he finally appears on the brink of return. He has been on a rehab assignment this weekend (with Sunday off) and is expected to play in a game again Monday with a possible activation as early as Tuesday. The key for the Dodgers' comfort level with his return is adequate situational play to stress the hamstring and observe its response. Ideally that would include turning corners running from first to third, which also happens to be how Ramirez suffered the injury in the first place, but that particular test has not presented itself. What the Dodgers cannot afford is for Ramirez to return and re-injure himself. Obviously there are no guarantees but the team at least needs to feel comfortable they have seen enough in his rehab outings to suggest his leg is ready for prime time. It appears this will be the week they get him back, barring a setback, but the specific day he will return is not yet set in stone.
Austin Jackson, OF, Detroit Tigers (placed on DL retroactive to May 12, possible return this week): Jackson's strain was not viewed as serious even when the team placed him on the DL, but as hamstrings are wont to do, his recovery time has proceeded slower than expected. Jackson has resumed baseball activities over the past 10 days and ran the bases Saturday, although it is unclear whether he did so at full speed. The expectation is that if all goes well, he will embark on a rehab assignment shortly. Manager Jim Leyland told reporters last week that Jackson would head to Toledo for a short rehab assignment prior to being activated. This gives him the opportunity to test the hamstring in unpredictable, reactionary situations, an important final step before returning to the lineup. If the rehab assignment is uneventful, Jackson could be back with his teammates this week however the Tigers have been clear they do not want to rush him. Should his rehab start get delayed or should they decide they want him to get more games under his belt before returning, he might not make an appearance before next week.
Aaron Hill, 2B, Arizona Diamondbacks (placed on DL April 15, no definite timetable): When Hill was first diagnosed with a fracture in his left hand, the projected timetable was his absence was four to six weeks, the standard for bone healing. The problem is that the bone hasn't healed. As reported by the Arizona Republic last week, Hill has a nonunion fracture, and the choices at this point are to try to resume baseball activities gradually and see how he is able to tolerate them, or to undergo surgery. Hill is trying the former option and so far has been able to hit from a tee. The Republic notes the next step will be facing live pitching. Hill would need to work his way through a rehab assignment before considering a return, suggesting he is still at least a couple of weeks out. And that's if the hand doesn't become too painful along the way. There's no clear answer here as to when Hill might return but at least there's some encouragement that he has picked up a bat again.
Brett Lawrie, OF, Toronto Blue Jays (placed on DL May 28): When Lawrie was injured this spring, forcing him to open the season on the DL, a source in the Jays' organization expressed concern to me about Lawrie's ability to stay healthy, given how he plays (a la Bryce Harper). Everyone admires the enthusiasm but knows it comes with a bit of risk. Still, there's nothing that could have prevented Lawrie's left ankle from catching the bag and twisting as it did on a recent attempted steal. In fact, it looked violent enough that it actually brought to mind a similar injury suffered by his teammate Jose Reyes, who has now been out over a month and is still recovering. Indications are that Lawrie's sprain was not as serious, but it still will take time to get back to full Brett Lawrie mode. He is currently undergoing rehab in Florida and will miss the full two weeks, possibly more. Fantasy owners should expect he will need some extra time to push the ankle with agility maneuvers, sliding and turning corners. Don't be surprised if it requires an additional week or two.
Stephen Strasburg, SP, Washington Nationals (day-to-day): Strasburg clearly looked uncomfortable Friday night and it didn't take long for the decision-makers to decide to pull him. Originally thought to be an oblique strain, Strasburg is now reported to be dealing with a Grade 1(minor) strained lat (latissimus dorsi) muscle, the large muscle on the back that attaches to the arm and is involved in throwing. Based on how Strasburg was flinching Friday night, rolling his shoulders around in an apparent effort to loosen up, it seemed as if the ailment was not behaving like a typical oblique (the highest oblique muscles attach around the middle of the rib cage and most often players will reach for their side or lean towards one side when that's the issue) and the announcement that it is indeed his lat makes sense. As of now the Nationals say they will be taking it day by day and that Strasburg could test himself throwing a side session Wednesday. This, of course, will happen only if he is pain-free.
It's worth pointing out that Strasburg also appeared to be uncomfortable during an outing in late April. That episode was later reported to be forearm tightness and he did not miss his next start. The Nationals have to be watching him closely for all the body language that would suggest he is less than full capacity, given that Strasburg seems to hold back when it comes to discussing injury. Their worst fear would be not simply an aggravation of a lat strain that could sideline him longer, but a more significant injury to this throwing arm as a result of compensating, especially when he is only recently removed from Tommy John surgery. More information should be available Wednesday after Strasburg's scheduled throwing session.
Josh Johnson, SP, Toronto Blue Jays (placed on DL April 26, expected to return Tuesday): There's some good news finally for the Jays, or at least it appears to be. According to the Jays' official website, Johnson, out since late April with a triceps injury, is expected to rejoin his team Tuesday to face the San Francisco Giants. Johnson has made three rehab starts with generally mixed results but most importantly has not had any discomfort in his arm and feels comfortable throwing all his pitches. The Jays could certainly benefit from his presence but as manager John Gibbons said, "We need Josh to be good when he comes back. He's got to stabilize things." The rehab and offseason maintenance programs Johnson has participated in over the last two years seemed to be paying off for him when he looked strong in his spring outings. If this episode can be viewed as just a minor speed bump on the season -- and there's no reason to think Johnson can't stay healthy for the remainder of the year -- then it really could be good news for everyone, including fantasy owners.
David Price, SP, Tampa Bay Rays (placed on DL May 16, no timetable for return): At least we can see some progress in Price's throwing progression, but he still isn't throwing from the mound. Price has increased the distance at which he's playing catch to 105 feet, according to the Tampa Bay Times. He has now been playing catch for about a week with no reported setbacks and at progressive distances. Still, the vigor of throwing increases substantially when a pitcher throws downhill, something Price could start to do within the week. While the Rays continue to refrain from establishing a timetable, it would stand to reason that Price would need rehab outings prior to a return. First things first. Let's see how his arm responds when he ratchets up the effort.
Rafael Betancourt, RP, Colorado Rockies (placed on DL June 1): When the Denver Post reported in May that Betancourt had inflammation around scar tissue in his right groin area, it seemed unlikely that a few days rest would be sufficient. After all, he had been experiencing what he described as tightness and weakness in the area since April. Even the Rockies indicate he's been dealing with this issue for several years, according to the Post. Betancourt never blamed the injury for his performance but his recent struggles would suggest it has to at least be considered a factor. Now he will have no option but to take some time to see if it settles down. When he returns - and it's possible he could miss only the minimum time - perhaps it will be clearer just how much a factor the groin has been.
Huston Street, RP, San Diego Padres (placed on DL retroactive to May 30): Uh-oh. It's deja vu with Street again. Not only is he returning to the DL, a place he has spent time each of the last three seasons, but he is dealing with an injury to the same part of his body that landed him there last August. Street has a strained left calf and last year it cost him 41 days. Padres manager Bud Black and Street told reporters the injury is less severe this time. According to the Padres' official website, Street had a simple assessment: "Same calf, different spot and a different severity level," he said. Perhaps the quick decision to move to the DL will result in less down time. Last year, Street did try to pitch through discomfort but that ultimately turned to pain and a lengthy absence. Street is hopeful he will only need to rest the leg a week or so before resuming activity. Calf injuries are not unlike hamstring strains in that an athlete often begins to feel better until he tests it at full speed. Fortunately for Street, he shouldn't be faced with sprinting that often and perhaps will be able to return after the minimum time.
Every Monday in this space, we'll provide updates on a variety of players to help you make your weekly lineup decisions. We'll specifically try to hit the players who are day-to-day, have just gone on the DL or are ready to return, so that you can better decide whether you can count on them or not.
All projected return timelines should be considered fluid.
HittersBrian McCann, C, Atlanta Braves (opened season on DL, expected to return May 6): McCann has been on the radar of many fantasy owners looking forward to his season debut. It appears that day has arrived. According to news reports, manager Fredi Gonzalez says McCann will be active and with the team Monday when the Braves open a series in Cincinnati. McCann underwent surgery to repair the labrum in his right (throwing) shoulder in October and has been working his way back since. Although he has been hitting throughout the spring, the slower component of his return was throwing. McCann says he is now making the necessary throws, telling reporters this week, "The way I'm throwing now is basically the way I was throwing before I got hurt." While that is all good news as far as performance expectations, the Braves have indicated that McCann would not return to an everyday role immediately. Fantasy owners should keep tabs on the Braves' daily lineups for the next few weeks to check McCann's status.
Hanley Ramirez, SS, Los Angeles Dodgers (placed on DL May 4, timetable uncertain): No sooner did Ramirez rejoin his team than he departed again, this time with a strained left hamstring that required him to be helped off the field. After wasting no time proving his surgically repaired thumb was a nonissue, as evidenced by him going yard in his season debut, Ramirez injured his lower half running the bases Friday night. Difficulty putting weight on it reflected the severity of the injury. Manager Don Mattingly did not shy away from the likelihood Ramirez would miss more than the minimum stay, telling reporters, "It's going to be a while." In fact, Mattingly referenced Dodgers outfielder Matt Kemp's injury of last year. Kemp, who was injured at virtually this same time of year, returned after a minimal DL stint only to reinjure his hamstring two days later. He then went back on the DL for more than a month.
Interestingly, Ramirez had not been sidelined for extended time with a left hamstring strain previously; however, he did have a 2011 DL stint for sciatica and numbness in his left leg associated with a lower back problem. It is not unusual clinically to see hamstring strains on the same side as previous sciatic episodes; whether they are directly or indirectly related -- or completely unrelated -- is often difficult to determine. The bottom line is that Ramirez will not be rushed, but as is always the case with hamstring injuries, until he returns successfully without a flare-up, there will be reason for concern about the potential for recurrence.
Michael Bourn, OF, Cleveland Indians (placed on DL April 15; expected to return late this week): It seems as if the "spike to the hand" is the injury du jour in baseball this season. And the injuries are proving to be a bit more challenging to return from than one might think. (Last week in this space, we discussed Pirates second baseman Neil Walker, who has a similar injury and was placed on the DL after having difficulty swinging a bat.) Bourn sustained a laceration to his right index finger when he dove into first base and his hand met the foot of pitcher Matt Thornton. It required five stitches to close the wound, and the DL move was not a surprise; the time allowed the finger time to heal.
What may come as more of a surprise to many was how difficult the injury can be to hit with. Bourn must close his fingers around the grip, which can be a challenge following a laceration. Bourn was finally able to take live batting practice Friday, and he's expected to begin a rehab assignment Monday. Manager Terry Francona told Jordan Bastian of MLB.com that Bourn likely will need three games before he can rejoin the team. The organization likely want him to get enough at-bats to test how his grip is holding up against live pitching and for him to feel comfortable with his timing.
Angel Pagan, OF, San Francisco Giants (day-to-day): Pagan got an early warning sign that his right hamstring was not feeling quite right Saturday night, and he sat out Sunday's game as a result. The good news for Pagan and the Giants is that it was not as severe an injury as that of Dodgers shortstop Hanley Ramirez or Marlins outfielder Giancarlo Stanton. As the San Francisco Chronicle noted, by coming out of the game shortly after feeling a "twinge" Saturday, the hope is that Pagan did not suffer significant tissue damage. Although he told reporters he hopes to play Monday night, manager Bruce Bochy said, "He's not going to be out there if this thing bothers him at all." Given the relative ease with which these injuries become more serious and the time off becomes more protracted, it would not be surprising if Pagan is held out for at least day or two to allow the hamstring to settle.
Jayson Werth, OF, Washington Nationals (day-to-day): Werth is trying to press through not one but two ailments. He suffered pain and swelling in his left ankle and foot area when he fouled a ball off it Tuesday. Fortunately, X-rays showed no fracture, and he has been able to play, despite some discomfort. His hamstring, however, is another story.
Werth began experiencing cramping in the back of his thigh earlier in the same game he fouled the ball off his foot, making his slightly early exit fortuitous. It appears that wasn't enough, though, to keep the hammy from pestering him some more. It tightened up further on Thursday, and Werth has not played since exiting that game early.
One of the most challenging decisions for a medical staff is how long to hold out an athlete who is experiencing discomfort in the hamstring. While the player may feel nothing at rest or during warmups, it is virtually impossible to simulate the maximum effort of in-game play, which is most likely to aggravate it. The obvious concern is potentially losing an athlete for an extended time to a more serious injury. That said, it's difficult to force the athlete to sit when he can pass all the pregame tests and has no symptom complaints. At this point, there is no indication Werth is headed for the DL, and he might even be able to return to the lineup Tuesday after sitting out the weekend series. This doesn't have a great feel about it, as the lingering concern for fantasy owners will be just how well -- and how long -- his hamstring will hold up.
PitchersRoy Halladay, SP, Philadelphia Phillies (DTD): Halladay has admitted to experiencing shoulder discomfort and will be traveling to Los Angeles for a consultation with Dr. Lewis Yocum. According to ESPN's Jayson Stark, Halladay began feeling discomfort in the shoulder the morning after his April 24 start. Halladay said the soreness "just kind of progressed over the last two weeks or so." Now they will try to get to the bottom of what exactly is causing this soreness. When speaking with reporters Sunday, Halladay also indicated this was the first time he had experienced this particular ailment, suggesting it was not the same sensation he had last year when he was diagnosed with a latissimus dorsi strain. The team has not yet confirmed a move to the DL, but it seems inevitable. At age 35, with the accumulated pitching mileage on his throwing shoulder, there was reason to be concerned heading into this season that Halladay's body would start showing signs it was unable to keep up with the physical demands of another baseball year. It is likely he will be shut down from throwing for a period of time; hopefully after his visit to the West Coast, we will learn more.
May 6 addendum: The Phillies have officially placed Halladay on the DL, recalling left-hander Joe Savery from Triple-A Lehigh Valley to take his place on the roster.
Every Monday in this space, we'll provide updates on a variety of players to help you make your weekly lineup decisions. We'll specifically try to hit the players who are day-to-day, have just gone on the DL or are ready to return so that you can better decide whether you can count on them or not.
All projected return timelines should be considered fluid.
HittersTroy Tulowitzki, SS, Colorado Rockies (DTD): The good news is that Tulowitzki's latest ailment does not appear to be serious; the better news is that his surgically repaired groin is doing just fine. The hot start to Tulowitzki's season has likely helped put to rest any lingering concerns about the injury that ended his 2012 campaign prematurely. Unfortunately, Sunday's game brought a different scare. Tulowitzki strained his left shoulder on an awkward slide in the third inning, forcing him out of the game. According to the Denver Post, the injury is being described as a strained rotator cuff. It appears he will only be sidelined for a couple of days to allow any inflammation and soreness to subside, and there are no plans to place him on the DL at this time.
Ryan Zimmerman, 3B, Washington Nationals (placed on DL 4/20, could return Friday): Zimmerman was placed on the DL with a strained left hamstring. While the injury was not considered serious, there are never any guarantees when it comes to these ailments. Zimmerman described it perfectly to the Washington Times: "Usually you can tell the difference between something that's bad and something that's not that bad, but with hamstrings you never know." What Zimmerman and the Nationals do know is that he has progressed well during his down time, performing running and hitting activities over the weekend. According to the Times, Zimmerman will play in rehab games Tuesday and Wednesday. If those outings are uneventful, he will rejoin the Nationals on Friday, when he is eligible to return. As is always the case with hamstrings, the only true measure of recovery is return to play without incident, but Zimmerman may be able to put that to the test soon.
Mark Ellis, 2B, Los Angeles Dodgers (DTD): Ellis pulled up while running to first base Friday and it was determined later that he had strained his right quadriceps muscle. According to the Dodgers' official site, Ellis worried initially that it might be something more serious, but as he was able to jog on it, he recognized that it was not severe. He has already been able to swing a bat and throw the ball without any discomfort and is hopeful he can avoid a trip to the DL. Of course, the big issue with a quad strain is straight-ahead running, something Ellis has not yet tested at full speed. It appears he will be given some additional recovery time of a few days but if he remains relatively symptom-free and can increase his activity, he could potentially return by the end of the week.
Kevin Youkilis, 3B, New York Yankees (DTD): Last week, we said concern over Youkilis experiencing tightness in his lower back would be justified given his history. At the time, however, manager Joe Girardi downplayed it, saying he expected Youkilis back within a couple days. Well, those two days turned into a week and after a return on Saturday when he went 0-for-3, Youkilis was again experiencing stiffness the following day. He is scheduled for an MRI Monday. Concern is officially warranted. ESPN New York's Andrew Marchand notes how this could affect a timeline for Youkilis should he need a trip to the DL. Girardi acknowledged Sunday that all backs "can be tricky" and this situation with Youkilis reminds us that it is often the case with chronic low back pain, where "management" becomes the goal, as opposed to "cure." Right now the Yankees are in wait-and-see mode with their third baseman, but it appears the team will err on the side of caution. With Alex Rodriguez out until at least the All-Star break, it would be a significant blow to lose Youkilis for multiple weeks at a time.
Shane Victorino, OF, Boston Red Sox (DTD): The tricky back is in play with Victorino as well. What looked to originally be a one- to two-day affair has now extended past a week thanks to a flare-up, and may require a longer recovery. Victorino left the game early on April 20 with back spasms and after returning to action on April 22, was forced to leave the April 24 game early when the symptoms recurred. According to the Boston Globe, Victorino's improvement has only been "slight" in recent days, and with the team heading to the harsh turf of Toronto this week, his absence could be extended. It is not clear whether this will translate to a DL stint, but that does not seem to be ruled out. At the very least, it looks as if Victorino will rest a few more days before being tested in a game outing.
Neil Walker, 2B, Pittsburgh Pirates (DTD): Those nasty spikes. Walker sustained a deep cut near the knuckle of his right index finger Friday while attempting to break up a double play, and he was forced out of the game. He received six stitches in what Walker described as "the deepest cut I've ever had for stitches," according to MLB.com. He was incredibly fortunate to escape without any damage to extensor tendons in the hand, which lie very close to the injury site. The team did not place Walker on the DL, in the hopes that he could return late this week. While he may not have the stitches out, if he can bend the finger enough to swing the bat effectively and throw accurately, he will return to the lineup. Walker is expected to test those skills Monday, and if all goes well, expect him to be back in the mix later this week.
Michael Saunders, OF, Seattle Mariners (placed on DL 4/11, could return Monday): Saunders has been recovering from a right AC sprain suffered when his shoulder encountered the outfield wall a few weeks ago. After returning to batting practice little more than a week post-injury, Saunders was able to gradually increase his throwing in subsequent days. He began a rehab assignment over the weekend, and the hope is that he will be activated Monday. As long as Saunders has shown he can make the necessary throws and bat effectively, there is no reason for lingering concerns regarding this injury. But it would probably be for the best if that right shoulder and the outfield wall can keep their distance for a bit.
Erick Aybar, SS, Los Angeles Angels (placed on DL 4/13, could return by midweek): Aybar was sent to the DL with a bruised left heel which was causing him trouble swinging the bat from the right side of the plate. He has since returned to running and hitting, all without incident thus far. Aybar has seen action in extended spring training games, but the Angels have opted to give him some more at-bats before returning him to the team. He will play in a Triple-A game Monday, but it's not yet clear whether this will be his final hurdle. The heel issue appears to be largely behind him; at least the extended rehab time allows him to test it in multiple situations. Aybar's return to the lineup is expected shortly, perhaps within the next couple days.
PitchersJustin Verlander, SP, Detroit Tigers (DTD): The Detroit News reports Verlander said he developed "a little bit of a blister" on his right thumb near his fingernail, which was enough to bring him out of last Thursday's game after seven innings. Verlander shrugged off the notion that it would compromise his next start. Despite the thumb, Verlander had a decent outing, and there is no real indication for concern, particularly given that this is something he has contended with in the past. Blisters or other forms of skin breakdown can certainly threaten a pitcher's status, depending on the severity and location. This does not appear to be one of those times.
Brett Anderson, SP, Oakland Athletics (DTD): Anderson sprained his right ankle on April 19, forcing him to leave a start after just one inning of work. It initially appeared as if it would be a non-issue since Anderson made his subsequent start. It was a rough outing, however, and he only lasted four innings. On Sunday, the team announced Anderson's Monday start would be skipped because of the ankle which, according to the San Francisco Chronicle, was aggravated during Wednesday's appearance. Although Anderson has indicated the ankle feels much better and he hopes to only miss the one start (his next outing would come Saturday this week), even subtle issues on a pitcher's landing leg can be enough to throw off his mechanics. With Anderson so recently removed from Tommy John surgery, there is no reason to press through an issue which should otherwise resolve quickly and risk greater consequences.
Josh Johnson, SP, Toronto Blue Jays (DTD): Sometimes players just know. After being scratched from his last start Friday due to triceps tightness and given his injury history, many were concerned as to what an MRI might show. Not Johnson. Shi Davidi of Sportsnet reported Johnson expected the MRI to come back clear. Turns out he was right. According to John Lott of the National Post, Johnson's MRI showed no ligament damage, only inflammation, and he is expected to resume his throwing program soon. While that program will likely be increased based on tolerance, it is too early to definitively say whether he will miss his next start, although it seems likely. Most importantly, on the scale of major injuries this does not appear to be a significant worry for Johnson.
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.
JUPITER, Fla. -- There was quite a buzz surrounding the Miami Marlins on Monday leading up to their first Grapefruit League game of 2012. Excitement is in the air because so much has changed for the team since last season ended. There are the new big-name additions (speedy shortstop Jose Reyes, veteran hurler Mark Buehrle, closer Heath Bell), a new manager (Ozzie Guillen), the new ballpark (the Marlins will play there Tuesday night for the first time); heck, even the team name and logo are new.
But the most chatter at Roger Dean Stadium centered around the 6-foot-7 anchor of the Marlins' pitching staff, a player whose season ended prematurely in 2011 after just nine starts. On Monday, Josh Johnson had his first competitive outing since May, and while it's important not to read too much into two innings of a spring game, there were some encouraging signs.
Johnson's words following the game provided further insight into how this spring is different from last, when he was also returning from a season that ended prematurely due to injury. He noted that his arm felt "really good." He threw all his pitches -- primarily fastballs, along with a mix of curveballs, sliders and changeups -- and didn't seem particularly fatigued. He also pointed out that he felt "a hundred times stronger than last year," in the process giving a shout-out to his physical therapist in Las Vegas, Tim Soder, who worked with him extensively in the offseason to prepare his body for pitching. Soder incorporated a variety of exercises Johnson hadn't done before, with a heavy emphasis on manual resistive work. "He was with me every step of the way," Johnson said.
In my preseason injury roundup, I referenced Johnson's change in his offseason regimen as one of the positive factors in his outlook for 2012. The type of exercises Johnson described are very specific in targeting the strength, endurance and neuromuscular coordination a pitcher's body demands, things he was not doing previously. While Johnson acknowledged he is still working his way back, he certainly has the perspective of someone who has faced big injury hurdles and overcome them, which he did following his 2007 Tommy John surgery.
However, this time it's a nonspecific shoulder injury, and Johnson's complete return to form is no sure thing. He will have to make it past the All-Star break healthy before anyone can really begin to exhale. Nonetheless, there is clear optimism within the organization about Johnson's readiness to return. Most important, Johnson sounds like a more confident, better-prepared pitcher heading into this season, as compared with last year. And he is indeed the projected starter for Opening Day at Marlins Park, where he will again face the same St. Louis Cardinals team he pitched against Monday.
Other notes from Monday ...
• Third baseman Hanley Ramirez looks to be in phenomenal shape heading into the season. In fact, he surprised some of the team's coaching staff by how fit he appeared to be when he showed up at camp. Ramirez, who is still getting a feel for his new position (third base), seemed upbeat and relaxed when discussing his health. After missing extensive time last year because of a disk injury in his lower back and later a shoulder injury that ultimately required surgery, Ramirez says he has been working hard to recover. He said his shoulder has the range necessary to swing the bat freely, and while he doesn't feel any discomfort in his back or leg, and says he hasn't for months, he continues to do his exercises "for the little muscles" that support his spine.
• Reyes was not in the lineup Monday but was expected to play in a split-squad game against the Detroit Tigers on Tuesday. Reyes appeared loose and upbeat during batting practice and drills.
• Outfielder Logan Morrison, who is coming off arthroscopic knee surgery, was also inactive Monday. He also was expected to play Tuesday, but with the other half of the squad (against the University of Miami). This exhibition game will be the first time the Marlins play in their new stadium.
• For the Cardinals, Allen Craig is still recovering from knee surgery, as I noted in my preseason injury roundup, and has not yet been cleared to resume baseball activities.
• Pitcher Adam Wainwright, on the mend following Tommy John surgery, is expected to see his first game action Friday in Fort Myers when the Cardinals visit the Boston Red Sox. This will be Wainwright's first start since September 2010.
• It was nice to see Philadelphia Phillies righty Roy Oswalt have such a successful outing this weekend. Remember in June when Roy Oswalt expressed so much frustration with his ongoing back troubles that he thought his career might be over? That moment seemed like a distant memory Sunday when Oswalt looked like, well, vintage Oswalt tossing eight shutout innings and fanning nine in the process. Oswalt showing he indeed has quite a bit left in the tank.
• Another pitcher who is making strides is Atlanta Braves ace Tommy Hanson, currently on the DL with inflammation in his throwing shoulder. Hanson was able to play catch Saturday and is scheduled for a light bullpen Monday. The return to throwing off the mound is always a big test as it increases the stress on a pitcher's arm. If the session goes well, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports Hanson could make a rehab start Saturday. The key for Hanson, who currently stands at 130 innings pitched this season, will be taking it slowly to guard against setbacks.
• The Chicago White Sox's Carlos Quentin has a sprained left A-C (acromioclavicular) joint, the result of a diving catch Saturday against the Texas Rangers. The A-C joint, at the tip of the shoulder, is where the collarbone (clavicle) meets the acromion, or point of the shoulderblade, and is bound together by ligaments. When those ligaments are injured, it is termed a sprain. When the sprain is severe enough to cause major ligament disruption, the bones can move apart from one another or "separate," hence the term separated shoulder, which is often used to describe more significant A-C injuries. An interesting note on Quentin. X-rays were reportedly negative of his shoulder, yet the MRI revealed the sprain. This would suggest that the damage is not severe. If the ligament damage was severe enough to result in true separation, the deformity would be visible on X-ray, even though the ligaments themselves are not. The MRI, however, can visualize soft tissue as well as inflammation in the area, confirming the diagnosis of an A-C sprain.
Even a minor A-C injury can be painful, making it difficult to lift the arm. Even though the injury is to Quentin's non-throwing shoulder, the biggest challenge will be using his arm when swinging the bat. Quentin acknowledged as much when he told the Daily Herald, "as a hitter I think your front shoulder is more important." The key early is to control pain and inflammation so that Quentin can regain the necessary range of motion to use his arm properly. Maintaining strength around the shoulder to the best degree possible while the injury winds its course will also be a focus.
• St. Louis Cardinals veteran shortstop Rafael Furcal must seriously wonder who or what is out to get him now. After breaking his left thumb in early April on a headfirst slide and then straining an oblique in June (resulting in another month away from the game), Furcal suffered a freak injury while on the road with his new team, the St. Louis Cardinals, this weekend. It wasn't even an injury sustained during the course of playing baseball. According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Furcal suffered a "severe thumb sprain" when he stumbled as a wooden step leading to the batting cages at Wrigley Field broke. In an effort to brace his fall, Furcal's thumb was twisted resulting in the injury. The bad news? This injury is to his right (throwing) hand. The good news? Well, it's not the same thumb he broke this spring. And maybe, if things really do happen in threes, his 2011 injury woes are now over. As to when he'll be able to return, there's no immediate answer as much will depend on how soon the pain and swelling subside and when Furcal can regain his grip.
• Teammate Placido Polanco is saying he expects to be activated from the DL on Monday. Polanco has been out most recently with a sports hernia and told the Philadelphia Inquirer he feels stronger after the rest. It will be interesting to see how Polanco fares once he returns to baseball. Many athletes try to play through this injury -- some are even successful for a while -- but often ultimately find themselves resorting to surgery. Exhibit A: Mike Cameron who fought valiantly through an early season injury last year while with the Boston Red Sox but increasingly struggled to run until the injury forced him out. Exhibit B: Washington Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman, who tried to play after suffering the initial injury during spring training but was forced to undergo surgery when it worsened. It's understandable that Polanco wants to try to play through it, given the timetable for recovery almost matches what's left of the regular season. But it will be challenging, especially in light of his recent issues with a bulging disc in his lower back.
• There was some excitement within the New York Mets organization Saturday after Jose Reyes did some running in the home park. Manager Terry Collins told the New York Post that Reyes looked "terrific." After his successful outing, Reyes spent Sunday running soft turns, "hugging the outfield grass" according to ESPN New York's Adam Rubin, in preparation for turning corners. The next big test is expected to come Monday when Reyes will increase the output while running the bases. If all goes well, a rehab assignment could be in short order and according to Rubin, Collins says Reyes will head to Double-A or Triple-A for that assignment. Bear in mind that Reyes' latest DL stint came just two weeks after he returned from the prior one (for the same injury) and no one wants history to repeat itself again. While it's impossible to guarantee a successful return, it seems likely the Mets will want to have Reyes repeatedly test the leg at a fairly high level before he rejoins the team.
• Speaking of hamstrings and setbacks, Texas Rangers third baseman Adrian Beltre knows a thing or two about such matters. Beltre injured his left hamstring in July, suffering a Grade 1 strain which was expected to sideline him for two to three weeks. He was nearing a return right around the three week mark. Then he tried to run the bases (there's a reason it's one of the final tests). It went well the first time, but in his second effort Beltre felt the familiar grab in his hamstring and was sent back to square one. Now, it's time for him to test the hamstring again. According to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Beltre is expected to run the bases Monday if cleared by the Rangers' team physician. There has to be a little anxiety around this activity not only for him but for the team as well, given the previous result. Expect a gradual progression to continue even if this activity is successful.
• And finally, the jury is still out on Florida Marlins shortstop Hanley Ramirez, on the DL with a left shoulder sprain. Ramirez has been able to work out (throwing, running) but has not been swinging the bat. The injury is to his lead shoulder (see Carlos Quentin above), the same shoulder he previously had operated on following the 2007 season to address a torn labrum. It remains to be seen whether he will be able to overcome this latest injury to return to the Marlins this season.
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.
Once again following the weekend games, there are some comings and goings in baseball. Some players are coming back from injury while others are departing (in one case potentially for the remainder of the season) due to injury. This week, it appears a few players who have been out for extended time are about to resurface. Wandy Rodriguez returns Monday for the Houston Astros to face the Atlanta Braves after spending some time on the DL with elbow inflammation. The team seems to think he's ready. But will he and the others returning from injury last?
ComingHanley Ramirez, SS, Florida Marlins: The Marlins sound optimistic that their ailing shortstop could rejoin the lineup Tuesday night when the team faces the Phillies. Ramirez, currently on the DL for the first time in his career, has been dealing with back pain and sciatica. Even though we did not learn of Ramirez's pain until he was removed from a game in late May, it turned out the back had been bothering him for several weeks prior, which may explain his offensive struggles.
Ramirez did not resume baseball activities until late last week and then engaged in a rehab assignment Friday and Saturday. The plan was for him to work out with the Marlins on Monday (originally Sunday also but that was changed), according to the Palm Beach Post, after which he was expected to be activated Tuesday (his first day eligible). This presumes no setbacks, which, in the case of low back and associated leg pain, unfortunately is not uncommon. While it's encouraging that Ramirez has apparently made enough progress to return after the minimum DL stay, it's not evidence that he's completely out of the woods. Bear in mind that it was just over a week ago when he was forced to cut a workout session short because of pain. The good news is that his swing has reportedly improved which suggests his back is indeed feeling better. Ramirez told the Miami Herald, "My back is better now and I'm going to be able to compete out there." Now the Marlins and Ramirez's fantasy owners will have to hope it stays that way.
Sandoval has been recovering from surgery to remove a fractured portion of the hamate bone in his right wrist. The big concern was whether he could effectively hit from the left side of the plate, the more challenging side following this injury given the pressure the bat puts on the surgical site. Even as Sandoval was hitting the ball out of the park on his rehab assignment, he was forced to take subsequent days off because of persistent soreness in his wrist, which is not unusual during the first few weeks of hitting following this procedure. Apparently, everyone is feeling confident that Sandoval is ready to contribute immediately and he is expected to be in the lineup Tuesday when the Giants face the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Ryan Zimmerman, 3B, Washington Nationals: Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post reports via Twitter that the Nationals will activate Zimmerman on Tuesday, presumably in time for the contest against the St. Louis Cardinals. The move would not be unexpected as there were hints late last week that Zimmerman was likely to return soon.
Credit the Nationals for taking the time to ensure Zimmerman's full recovery from surgery to repair an abdominal tear before bringing him back to the majors. According to the Washington Post, manager Jim Riggleman was clear that he wanted to take no chances. "We don't want to push it," Riggleman said. "I really want him to be 100 percent. I don't want any setbacks." The good news is the success rate following this type of procedure is very high. The key is making sure the athlete can perform every aspect of his position without hesitation and without any sensation of pulling or tightness in the surgical area. When Zimmerman first returned to baseball activities, he acknowledged soreness with hard throwing. As his strength and endurance have improved along with the extension of innings he has seen in the minors, it has become less of an issue. Additionally, as the Washington Post reported in early June, Zimmerman has taken advantage of the rehab window to work on his throwing mechanics. There is every reason to think Zimmerman will be able to be effective immediately.
Matt Holliday, OF, St. Louis Cardinals: It's about as confident a statement as one can hope for from an athlete looking to return from the DL. Holliday told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, "I have full confidence I'll be ready to play Thursday." Thursday will be the first day Holliday, who has been out with a strained left quadriceps, is eligible to be activated. He has tested his quadriceps in the best way possible, explosive directional running. According to the Dispatch, Holliday performed sprints from home to first base, then first to second. Most quadriceps strains in baseball happen during the first few steps out of the batter's box as the athlete attempts to explode towards first. And while it might seem strange that a muscle strain forced Holliday to the DL when an appendectomy didn't, it reflects the difficulty in returning an injured muscle, particularly one so critical for athletic performance, to full power. There is always a little something extra that the body delivers in a game situation so until an athlete has returned and stayed healthy for several weeks following an injury such as this, it's difficult to be confident that it's completely behind him. But when an athlete sounds as confident as Holliday does in his recovery, it should be taken as a very good sign.
GoingFreddy Sanchez, 2B, San Francisco Giants: Sanchez dislocated his right (throwing) shoulder in Friday night's opener against the Cincinnati Reds while diving to make a play. Not only is he on the DL, Sanchez may be done for the season. Giants head athletic trainer Dave Groeschner indicated that Sanchez suffered damage to both the labrum (cartilage ring which enhances stability of the shoulder) and the capsule (fibrous tissue that envelops the shoulder joint). In other words, after this event, Sanchez's shoulder is undoubtedly less stable. It is likely that he will ultimately require a surgical procedure, but the question is when that would take place.
According to AP reports, Sanchez will consult with the Arizona surgeon who previously operated on his left shoulder. The San Jose Mercury News reports Sanchez will undergo a course of rehabilitation to see if he can return to play and postpone any surgery, at least until the offseason. One of the most challenging issues for anyone who has suffered a traumatic dislocation with extensive damage to the joint is regaining adequate mobility in the arm to make it functional while overcoming the apprehension that it will dislocate again. A one-time dislocation in the absence of severe joint trauma can often do well with rehab alone. The more damage to the joint, however, the less stability (on what is already a relatively loose joint) and even minor subsequent subluxations (where the shoulder slips but does not completely dislocate) can be pain-inducing and cause the athlete to automatically guard the shoulder against movement. In other words, it can be very difficult to return to free and easy play. This will be the challenge for Sanchez who, as an infielder, has to dive without hesitation and throw hard regularly to make defensive plays.
Even if Sanchez does have some success with the rehab course, it would likely be multiple weeks before he could attempt to play. He will need to keep the shoulder immobilized in a sling initially, then gradually resume range of motion and strengthening before returning to any baseball activities. Given that a decision as to whether he could return or not might take some time to play out, fantasy owners would be wise to make alternate plans.
Mike Napoli, C, Texas Rangers: Napoli is going to be missed by his teammates and fantasy owners alike, but everyone is hoping he won't have to be missed for long. He is being placed on the DL with a left oblique strain; however so there is no telling at this point just how long his absence might be. There is some encouraging news, though, that Napoli may have jumped on this injury early before it became more severe. According to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Napoli first felt discomfort Friday that worsened during Sunday's game. Napoli seemed to recognize the potential for a more severe injury, telling the Star-Telegram he was concerned about continuing to play and aggravating the condition. "I didn't want to do that and miss eight weeks instead of two weeks," Napoli said. Given that statement it sounds as if Napoli may have avoided the type of injury which results in a four-week (or more) absence but naturally it remains to be seen how long before he can ease back into baseball activity.
Aaron Harang, P, San Diego Padres: The foot issue Harang has been trying to work through for the last couple weeks has proven to be painful enough to force him out of service for a while. The Padres have placed him on the DL due to persistent pain in his right foot which has been present since early June. The team website reported negative findings on X-ray and MRI, and said Harang is not sure how he injured it. Nonetheless, the pain in the top of his foot is sharp enough to be bothersome. Harang said of the pain, "It kind of sends a quick shock through my foot." Harang's last start came June 9, so he should be eligible to come off the DL by late June, presuming the foot pain has resolved.
As is usually the case following a series of weekend games, there are some comings and goings in the world of baseball. Some players are coming back from injury while others are exiting, or appear on the brink of exiting, due to injury. If only the return list was greater than the departure list, fantasy owners would be looking forward to adjusting their Monday rosters. While sadly this does not appear to be the case, there are still some nuggets of good news to be found in the injury reports. You just may have to scroll down a ways to find them.
Jake Peavy, SP, Chicago White Sox: The good news is Peavy's surgical repair to his lat tendon has held up brilliantly and his throwing arm is fine. The bad news is a right groin injury sustained during only his fifth start of the season likely will land him on the disabled list. According to the Chicago Sun-Times, Peavy said of his injury, "I'll probably miss more time now. ... the way I feel when I walk, [the disabled list] is a pretty safe bet." At this point Peavy is acutely aware of how an injury in his lower half can affect his upper half. When I talked with him during spring training, he acknowledged that the ankle injury he sustained while with the San Diego Padres had not fully resolved when he went to the White Sox. He said he suspects compensations he made for the leg contributed to abnormal mechanics and ultimately the failure of his latissimus dorsi tendon.
After that experience and the lengthy rehabilitation process he has just undergone, it is highly unlikely he would run the risk of returning to play while compromised. A groin strain is no small issue for a pitcher, no matter which leg is involved. In this case, it's Peavy's right leg, or his stance leg, and he needs strength in the musculature for balance during the wind-up. He needs power and flexibility as he moves further into his delivery and transfers his body weight forward to his left (landing) leg. He also needs to be able to move off the mound quickly for defensive plays. In the fourth inning of Sunday's game it was during a defensive move to cover first that Peavy first felt a "grabbing" pain, according to the Sun-Times. Peavy expected to undergo further evaluation Monday, but it appears fantasy owners should plan on a two-week absence, minimum.
Rafael Furcal, SS and Jon Garland, P, Los Angeles Dodgers: Furcal has to be asking himself what he did exactly to deserve yet another injury to yet another body part. On the DL for the second time this season, Furcal is now dealing with a left-sided oblique strain suffered during Friday's game. Oblique injuries typically require a few weeks of recovery, depending on severity, and given Furcal's history of low back problems, it is critical that he not return too soon. In other words, it's hard to imagine him returning before the end of the month, perhaps even the All-Star break. Sigh. The Dodgers also lost Garland to his second DL stint of the season (he started the season on the DL with, yes, you guessed it, an oblique injury). This time it's his throwing shoulder that's the culprit, and no one ever likes to see that in a veteran pitcher. Garland has been remarkably durable, but now that he is 31 years old, this could be a sign of things to come.
Brandon Belt, 1B, San Francisco Giants: Belt was placed on the DL when it was discovered he had a hairline fracture in his left wrist after being hit by a pitch last week. Consider this another blow to the Giants, who had brought Belt back into the lineup following the season-ending injury to Buster Posey. Although Belt's fracture likely will take another month to heal, he could resume baseball activities before then if he's progressing well.
ComingMatt Garza, P, Chicago Cubs: Garza has been activated and will start Monday against the Cincinnati Reds. He has been sidelined with an elbow contusion but has felt no pain when throwing recently, including a solid bullpen outing late last week. Pitching in a game situation is always a little more strenuous, though, so it remains to be seen how he will fare.
Derrek Lee, 1B, Baltimore Orioles: The Orioles got Lee back this weekend after he spent time on the DL with an oblique injury. Lee sustained the injury in mid-May and has returned fairly swiftly. It's worth pointing out that although Lee started the season on time, he missed a good portion of spring training because of his thumb, forearm and foot. The missed time may explain, in part, his unspectacular start to the season. If he is fully healthy now, it will be interesting to see what he has in the tank.
Adam Lind, 1B, Toronto Blue Jays: In case you missed it, Lind snuck back into the starting first-base role for the Blue Jays on Sunday, and all he did was go 4-for-4 with two home runs. It appears his back is much better. Lind had been out for nearly a month with intermittent back spasms. Early on, the team hoped Lind could avoid the DL altogether, but after several setbacks the extended time off became the wise choice. In retrospect it certainly seems as if Lind benefited from that decision, and while back pain is always at risk for recurrence, the hope is that the longer reprieve will help him avoid just that.
Somewhere in between
Philadelphia Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins was seen limping in the clubhouse Sunday after fouling a ball off his right kneecap Saturday. On Sunday, Rollins told the Philadelphia Inquirer, "It'll be a couple of days, but I don't think a DL thing, not at this moment," explaining that the response of the swelling would determine what he was able to do. On Monday, Rollins was not in the lineup and is considered day-to-day.
The New York Mets won't be getting third baseman David Wright back in the lineup this month. After a re-evaluation, Wright says he will have to wait at least another three weeks before resuming baseball activities. Teammate Ike Davis, who incidentally was injured in a collision with Wright in early May, also remains out with a bone bruise in his left ankle. When Davis tried to progress to running, it became so painful that he was forced back into a walking boot. As Davis told ESPN New York, if he does any running right now it's on an underwater treadmill. The good news is that he is hitting and working on other conditioning activities. But the impact of running is something the joint cannot tolerate yet.
Tampa Bay Rays third baseman Evan Longoria gave everyone a scare when he left Saturday's game early with "tightness" in his left side. Yes, it's the same side in which he suffered the oblique injury earlier this year. But Longoria was able to pinch hit Sunday and is expected back in the lineup Monday. Maybe he just wanted to see if anyone would notice. Judging from the collective anxiety of fantasy owners everywhere, the answer is yes, we noticed.
Resume normal breathing everyone, at least until tomorrow.
This is meant to be a "good news" Friday, so we'll get the ominous news out of the way first. Not surprisingly, Florida Marlins shortstop Hanley Ramirez is out of Friday's lineup, according to Joe Capozzi of The Palm Beach Post. Ramirez has been dealing with severe back pain and intermittent sciatica over the past week, and it appears ever more likely that he will make his way onto the DL, a decision which is expected to come shortly. The biggest hint? The Marlins recalled shortstop Osvaldo Martinez from Triple-A New Orleans on Friday.
Now, onto better things heading into the weekend ...
• It's a good day in Philadelphia when there's a player returning to the lineup, not departing. Phillies outfielder Shane Victorino will rejoin the lineup for Friday's matchup against the Pittsburgh Pirates. He had been out since suffering a hamstring injury mid-May. While the injury was never deemed serious, the team wanted to minimize the likelihood of a setback and placed him on the DL. After a handful of uneventful outings in minor league games, Victorino appears ready to roll. Naturally, everyone will feel better after he's had a couple of uneventful weeks in the majors, but at some point there is nothing left to do but let the athlete test himself in all-out play.
There is already reason to be encouraged. Sandoval, recovering from surgery to remove the fractured portion of the hamate from his right wrist, has demonstrated he can take swings from both sides of the plate. Batting left-handed during Wednesday batting practice, Sandoval hit two home runs, according to the San Jose Mercury News. The significance lies in the fact that when batting left-handed the knob of the bat puts pressure against Sandoval's surgical area (actually a likely reason for the original fracture, due to repeated contact pressure during his swing), which is often uncomfortable for players when they first resume hitting after a procedure such as this. Other players returning from this injury have reported soreness in the hand or difficulty with grip early on, which limits their power. So far the signs from Sandoval suggest that will not be a big concern for him.
• Although Chicago Cubs pitcher Matt Garza did not come off the DL immediately when eligible, his return does not appear to be far off. Garza threw a 30-pitch bullpen session Wednesday, according to Carrie Muskat of MLB.com. Although he had been throwing fine from flat ground, the bullpen was a bigger test for his bruised elbow. He apparently suffered no ill effects, and it looks as if he could rejoin the team next week.
• Another starter who could rejoin his team next week is Minnesota Twins lefty Francisco Liriano, who has been on the DL with shoulder inflammation, somewhat more concerning given that he also dealt with an episode of shoulder pain during spring training. Despite a couple of bright spots, Liriano has struggled this season, and it certainly appears the shoulder has been a factor. The Twins have to be hoping that a brief period of rest was the answer. The Minneapolis Star-Tribune reports Liriano felt pain-free playing catch Thursday. If all goes well with a planned Saturday bullpen, manager Ron Gardenhire expects Liriano to make his Tuesday start. While the Twins are looking for some positives, until Liriano is able to have consistent outings, it will be hard to have confidence that this is entirely behind him.
It doesn't take much in the way of a medical background to recognize the seriousness of what's ailing Florida Marlins shortstop Hanley Ramirez. Just look at his own description of the extreme pain he's experiencing and how it's affecting him, as told to the Palm Beach Post.
Ramirez was removed from Sunday's game after experiencing increased back stiffness, but the bigger concern now is the pain radiating into his leg. As Ramirez told the Post, "I'm getting tingles in my leg. That's not a good sign." Right you are, Hanley.
Ramirez is exhibiting classic symptoms of nerve root irritation in his lumbar spine, commonly called a pinched nerve. The progression of his symptoms is also classic. He acknowledges the presence of stiffness in his back for several weeks, which then worsened during Sunday's game. Shortly afterward, the pain began migrating in the form of "tingles" into his upper left leg. Tingling is a hallmark nerve symptom as anyone who has bumped his or her "funny bone" (and thus tweaked his or her ulnar nerve, sending tingling into the hand) can attest. The location of the tingling indicates which nerve is affected. The most common presentation associated with the low back is pain radiating into the back of the thigh and downward which represents the pathway of the sciatic nerve. Pain and tingling, which spread into the leg after starting in just the area of the spine, indicates a relative worsening of the condition.
The condition can be associated with a disc bulge, bony changes (such as spurs) resulting in narrowing of the opening where the nerve root exits the spine, or even simply inflammation in the area. The challenge is that once the symptoms present themselves in this manner, they are typically slow to resolve. Every movement becomes painful, few positions are tolerable (much less comfortable), and the individual has to move very slowly to avoid flaring the symptoms even further. Everyone out there who has experienced sciatica or other radiating nerve pain -- and there are a lot of you as this condition is extremely common -- can relate to Ramirez's agony. If the condition further worsens, the tingling can change to numbness and the muscles in the affected area of the leg can develop weakness. The goal is to try to prevent that next step from happening.
Unfortunately, there's no magic rapid cure. The time it takes for the symptoms to disappear is highly variable. Anti-inflammatories, controlled movement, manual therapy and rest are typically the best defense. Sometimes an epidural injection (a steroid injection into the spine near the nerve root) is indicated and can help calm the inflammation. Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Roy Oswalt has dealt with a disc bulge and associated leg pain off and on for several years, including an episode earlier this year that sent him to the disabled list. Ramirez may not want to go on the DL for the first time in his career, but it would be no surprise if he ends up there given the severity of his current symptoms.
While fantasy owners wait to learn whether Ramirez will end up on the DL, several other key players were already transferred there in recent days.
• Several pitchers found their way onto the DL this weekend. Minnesota Twins reliever Joe Nathan is experiencing some soreness in his surgically-repaired elbow and the team prudently opted to place him on the DL. The team is calling it a flexor strain (strain of the muscles on the undersurface of the forearm that anchor near the surgical site) and speed bumps like this in the course of recovery are not uncommon. There's a reason that the timetable standardly issued following Tommy John surgery is given as a range from 12 to 16 months (sometimes longer) because it allows for setbacks such as this. Nathan told reporters that he expects to be out anywhere from 10 days to a month and in the interest of his long-term health, there is no reason to rush, nor is there reason for huge concern.
• Nathan's teammate, Francisco Liriano, was also placed on the DL this weekend because of soreness in his left (throwing) shoulder. Liriano first experienced soreness during spring training and it became an issue again last week. According to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, an MRI revealed inflammation, but Liriano did not respond well to a session of catch on Monday, hence the move to the DL. The move is retroactive to May 23, suggesting Liriano could return after missing just one more start, but given that this is his second episode in three months (leading to a second MRI), there's reason to be concerned as to whether he will be truly healthy once he returns.
• The Houston Astros placed Wandy Rodriguez on the DL over the weekend due to fluid in his left (throwing) elbow. According to MLB.com, Rodriguez underwent an MRI, which revealed the fluid, after being scratched for Saturday's start due to discomfort. Fluid within a joint is a result of irritation within that joint, not an injury in and of itself. There has been no indication as to what the team suspects might be causing the problem, although officials do not appear overly concerned. In fact, general manager Ed Wade told MLB.com that the only pitch bothering Rodriguez during his last side session was the breaking ball. However, pitchers over the age of 30 with swelling in their throwing elbow should still raise a caution flag. Time will tell how Rodriguez responds to the rest.
• Finally, collisions at the plate are likely to remain a hot topic for the remainder of this season. After San Francisco Giants catcher Buster Posey suffered a season-ending injury while blocking the plate Wednesday, Pittsburgh Pirates catcher Ryan Doumit found himself on the DL performing the same task. Fortunately, Doumit's injury is less severe. The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported the injury as an ankle sprain (no fracture), but Doumit is in a protective boot and on crutches for the time being. Ankle injuries are clearly problematic for catchers given their routine squat position, so it will not be surprising if it takes more than 15 days for Doumit to return.