Look who's back. St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Matt Holliday rejoined the lineup for Sunday's win over the San Francisco Giants. And Holliday wasn't just a placeholder. He scored the go-ahead run (after being walked by Barry Zito) and added a single in the seventh to drive in another run. Perhaps most importantly, Holliday's return to hitting the ball and playing the field -- just nine days after surgery to remove his appendix -- came and went without incident, relieving Cardinals fans and fantasy owners alike.
This has to be an encouraging sight for Chicago White Sox slugger Adam Dunn, who underwent an appendectomy of his own in the wee hours of Wednesday morning and has been pressing to return. Luckily, there are others who make the ultimate decision as to when he can come back, but Dunn has shown definite progress, taking batting practice over the weekend. While it's not clear yet exactly when Dunn will rejoin the lineup, it is expected to be sometime this week. It remains a daily evaluation process, however, and the team will not rush Dunn back, no matter how eager he is to return. The takeaway here is uncomplicated laparoscopic appendectomies are no longer an automatic DL assignment; recovery from these procedures is improving.
• In the "ailment" category, Baltimore Orioles second baseman Brian Roberts looked as if he could be the next in line for a procedure when he made a hospital visit for stomach pain Friday. Luckily, he was cleared, was released and was back in the lineup Saturday. No appendectomy there. ... New York Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez wasn't in the hospital, but he was ill enough to be scratched from the lineup Sunday night. With the Yankees getting Monday off, manager Joe Girardi is hopeful Rodriguez will be back Tuesday, according to the New York Post. ... Illness also kept Colorado Rockies outfielder Carlos Gonzalez out of the lineup Sunday, but he was able to pinch hit, so it appears he is in good shape to start the week.
• There were some more typical baseball-related injuries this weekend. Florida Marlins shortstop Hanley Ramirez sustained a left shin contusion in a scary takeout slide by Bill Hall. Not only did it look serious at the time (Ramirez needed assistance off the field), but the memory of Minnesota Twins second baseman Tsuyoshi Nishioka's broken leg, sustained in an eerily similar fashion, was barely 24 hours old. Fortunately for Ramirez, there were no fractures, just a deep bruise on his lower left leg just above the ankle, according to the Palm Beach Post.
Even in the absence of a broken bone, the injury could have been worse. Formation of a hematoma or collection of blood in the lower leg can occasionally result in acute compartment syndrome. While the condition usually is preceded by significant trauma (like a crush injury), if there is enough swelling and pressure in an area like the shin, it can develop. Pressure can quickly compromise blood flow to muscles in the area and can inhibit nerve function, making it an urgent situation. Football fans might recall New York Giants wide receiver Hakeem Nicks undergoing a surgical procedure (fasciotomy) this past fall after he developed an acute compartment syndrome.
The location of the injury to Ramirez had the potential to affect muscles to the foot and ankle along with a major nerve. In fact, as the Post reports, the nerve in Ramirez's lower leg was impacted temporarily by the blow. Ramirez described the sensation after the impact: "It kind of fell asleep right away so I didn't feel anything. Then there was a lot of pain." That falling asleep or pins and needles sensation typifies the feeling associated with direct blow to a nerve (ever bang your "funny bone" -- really your ulnar nerve -- on the corner of the desk and your fingers go tingly?). By the next day, Ramirez was describing it more as "stiff and tight," typical symptoms associated with a contusion. The main issue is controlling the swelling and pain in the area, then seeing how well Ramirez can function (run, push off, change direction). He hopes to return Tuesday, and manager Edwin Rodriguez is "very optimistic" that he will be able to do so. Fantasy owners with daily lineups should check ahead of time to be sure, but at least it appears Ramirez dodged what could have been a serious situation.
• A player who will not be dodging a trip to the DL is Orioles shortstop J.J. Hardy. The suspicion of an oblique injury was confirmed by MRI on Monday, and he will be out for at least a couple of weeks, probably longer. There have been hints of anywhere from two to six weeks absence, and there is really no way to predict exactly how long Hardy's recovery will take. Hardy was a late scratch from Thursday's game with what was termed a sore left rib cage. Two days later, Hardy was removed after just one at-bat because of soreness in the same area, which led to the follow-up tests.
Oblique injuries seem to be running rampant throughout the league for both hitters and pitchers. While the timetable to return is variable depending on the severity of the injury, among other things, one hitter has already exceeded a month-long absence. Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Corey Hart injured himself in late February and has yet to make his 2011 debut. Hart has turned a corner with his oblique injury, no longer experiencing soreness in his left side. According to MLB.com, Hart is close to a rehab assignment, which could signal a return in the near future. If Hart returns next week, it would be just short of two months since the initial injury, a reminder that these oblique strains cannot be taken lightly.
• Other players with abdominal muscle strains include Los Angeles Angels shortstop Erick Aybar, who has finally landed on the DL with what the Los Angeles Times called a strained left rib-cage muscle. It seemed as if Aybar, who has not played in a week but whose MRI revealed only a "slight strain," might avoid the DL, but the Times reports the Angels made the move to help bolster their bullpen by recalling reliever Francisco Rodriguez from the minors. Aybar already has been doing some drills and can be activated as soon as April 18, if ready. ... Washington Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman aggravated an abdominal injury he originally sustained during spring training, and the team is going to place him on the DL on Tuesday, according to MLB.com's William Ladson. The Washington Post reports Zimmerman is not sure how severe the injury is but he did acknowledge, "It's worse than it was," adding, "It's not terrible. I just hope it doesn't get worse."
• Meanwhile, Arizona Diamondbacks shortstop Stephen Drew somewhat surprisingly rejoined his team's lineup over the weekend. Drew, who has been working to recover from an abdominal strain since mid-March, had an impressive outing Sunday, going 4-for-4. Drew is not out of the woods yet, however. He openly acknowledges he is not 100 percent past the injury. As Drew told the Arizona Republic, "It's [discomfort] still there a little bit, but it's manageable." He went on to say that he considers himself "day-by-day" and wants to ensure that he doesn't go backwards. In other words, fantasy owners need to keep a close eye on him and hope he can heal the rest of the way while playing.
• The San Francisco Giants have lost outfielder Andres Torres for a period of time, although how long remains uncertain. Torres sustained a left Achilles strain Saturday and was forced to leave the game early. He was seen sporting a walking boot later, although according to the San Jose Mercury News, the MRI for Torres revealed only a "mild" strain. The concern with these injuries is the risk of something far more serious (worst case clearly being a season-ending Achilles rupture) if one returns too soon. While manager Bruce Bochy told the Mercury News he will likely not know how long he expects Torre to be out until Wednesday, it would not be surprising if he ends up on the DL. Meanwhile fellow Giants outfielder Cody Ross is still recovering from a calf strain and is likely another couple of weeks (at least) from returning.
• It's Monday, so all the more reason to end on a positive note. How about the return of Mat Latos (bursitis) who is going to make his season debut Monday night at Petco Park when the San Diego Padres host the Cincinnati Reds? Latos insists his shoulder feels better than it has all spring. The key might not be in how he looks Monday night, or even five days from now, but how his shoulder holds up as the season progresses.