Stephania Bell: Jake Peavy

Stephania Bell discusses Dustin Pedroia's recovery from offseason thumb surgery and how Jake Peavy will see a hand specialist due to irritation in the ring finger of his throwing hand.

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.

[+] EnlargeStephen Strasburg
Mitchell Layton/Getty ImagesStephen Strasburg could return by season's end, but given his circumstances, fantasy owners shouldn't count on it.
@ping33: 20 team H@H, currently in 1st, starting to think playoffs: Strasburg, worth stashing on 1 of 2 DL slots?

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.

Quick hits

• 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.

This edition of Fantasy Focus discusses injury situations regarding Brett Anderson, Jake Peavy, Ryan Zimmerman, Pablo Sandoval, David Wright, Jason Heyward and Dustin Pedroia.

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.


[+] EnlargeHanley Ramirez
Steve Mitchell/US PresswireHanley Ramirez has not played since May 30 but could be activated as soon as next week.
Hanley Ramirez, SS, Florida Marlins: It's official. The Marlins have placed Ramirez on the DL, retroactive to May 30. Ramirez led the Friday blog amidst hints the Marlins would make the decision to place him on the DL at some point that day. Friday came and went without any movement for Ramirez, but it wasn't because he was making a sudden return to the lineup. In fact, Ramirez continued to sit out because of a lower back injury, which had been causing him problems for well over a week. It seems the delayed announcement was linked to the Marlins' decision as to which pitcher would be called up to fill his roster spot. According to the Marlins' official website, with Josh Johnson still out with shoulder inflammation (and no set timetable for his return), it was unclear who would take his Tuesday spot in the rotation. That question now appears to have been answered. According to Joe Capozzi of The Palm Beach Post, the Marlins called up lefty Brad Hand from Double-A Jacksonville. As far as Ramirez goes, it was clear he was hoping to avoid going to the DL for the first time in his career, but the pain was such that he couldn't pinch hit or run. Better for him to step away completely and try to resolve this episode than to press through it. After all, he had not been producing well at the plate. Turns out his back had been bothering him for a month but he kept it quiet until the pain got bad enough he simply couldn't function.

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.


Matt 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

[+] EnlargeRyan Zimmerman
Al Bello/Getty ImagesRyan Zimmerman has not played in the majors since April 9 but is making progress in the minors.
Washington Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman is working his way up the ladder following abdominal surgery in early May. On Sunday, Zimmerman appeared in a rehab game with Class A Hagerstown. After delivering a double, a triple and an RBI, Zimmerman is being moved to Class A Potomac. According to the Washington Post, Zimmerman referred to himself as winded and "sore" after the outing, noting he "was out of breath for a while after that triple." These are all normal responses to returning to game action following the type of surgery Zimmerman underwent, and he will continue to build his endurance and his strength by increasing the level of play. While there is no definitive date for his return, Zimmerman is certainly within the standard timeframe of recovery of six to eight weeks.

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.

Yet another ace was sidelined due to injury over the weekend. Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Roy Oswalt left the team April 28 to help his family in Mississippi in the aftermath of severe storms that hit the area. He returned to Philly last week and threw a bullpen Thursday, but felt soreness in his back, something he has been experiencing intermittently since April. The next day, Oswalt was added to the disabled list (retroactive to April 27) due to inflammation in his back, something the Philadelphia Daily News reports he referred to as causing "a little bit of concern." Given that Oswalt had not pitched since returning home, the retroactive DL designation gives him approximately a week's recovery time, and he would be eligible to return Friday.

[+] EnlargeRoy Oswalt
Mark J. Rebilas/US PresswireRoy Oswalt struggled in his last start before leaving the team, allowing five runs in three innings against the Diamondbacks on April 26.
Unfortunately for the Phillies, it does not appear he will be ready just yet. After all, back problems are nothing new for him and no one, especially Oswalt, wants this episode to turn into something more drawn out and more severe. While with the Houston Astros, Oswalt experienced back and leg pain associated with a bulging disc. That injury ended his 2009 season prematurely and reared its head again in spring of 2010. Since that time, he has not had any major episodes of pain or spasm, until now. But back problems are notorious for their recurrence over time. Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro told the Philadelphia Inquirer that while Oswalt is progressing this week, "He probably is not going to be ready for the weekend." Oswalt is scheduled to throw another bullpen Tuesday. If he continues to respond well, perhaps he will rejoin the rotation next week. The bigger hope is that this will not be an ongoing challenge for Oswalt throughout the season.

• The Phillies also placed catcher Carlos Ruiz on the DL this weekend. Ruiz has been having trouble with his back since late April. At the time it appeared Ruiz would miss a few days but not require a DL stint. While swinging off a tee a week later, however, Ruiz slightly aggravated the back, leaving his status as day-to-day. The Phillies placed Ruiz on the DL retroactive to April 28 and he hopes to rejoin the team when eligible Friday, if his back cooperates. He has been running and swinging the bat, and he even caught a bullpen session without incident in the past few days. He is now headed to extended spring training in Florida, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer. Beyond getting his back healthy, the rest for Ruiz may have been good for him, given the demands of his position combined with his workload.

• Meanwhile the Phillies are also getting a player back from the DL. Pitcher Joe Blanton (impingement in his throwing elbow) was activated Monday and will pitch Monday night against the Florida Marlins.

• Over in New York, the Mets made the decision to place pitcher Chris Young on the disabled list ... again. Young has been experiencing some tightness in his surgically repaired shoulder and was scratched from his scheduled Saturday start as a result, then placed on the DL on Sunday for the second time this season.

Young has not been able to pitch consistently since undergoing shoulder surgery in 2009. In 2010, he managed only 20 total innings for the San Diego Padres, most of which came in September. It seemed as if he might be off to a better start this year (two consecutive starts!) but then the biceps flared up and he was sent to the DL in mid-April. Young returned for two more starts, but his velocity was down, causing some concern. When Young reported stiffness in his posterior shoulder, the team went the conservative route and removed him from any chance of playing. Young was also sent for another MRI, which did not yield encouraging results. As ESPN New York's Adam Rubin reported, Mets general manager Sandy Alderson said of the imaging results, there is "swelling in the back of his shoulder in the area of an old injury. ... We're not sure the extent of this injury." While the team plans to proceed with caution, it's worth noting that Young says this injury does not feel as severe as the previous episode. "Last year I could barely even pick up a ball," he said. "This, I can go through the motion. It's just grabbing as I try to increase the intensity." Unfortunately, his body has failed to cooperate for any length of time in the past few years.

• Why not end on a positive note? Wednesday is the official projected return date for Chicago White Sox ace Jake Peavy, who is expected to start his first game since undergoing surgery to reattach his latissimus dorsi tendon. Peavy threw 100 pitches in his last rehab start, so it appears he is ready to take on a regular role. He will face the Los Angeles Angels in Anaheim and Peavy told reporters Sunday he wants to bring "some enthusiasm, some fire, some passion" to his club when he returns. After what he's been through, how can he not inspire his teammates to kick it up a notch?

Three Up, Three Down. That's what I've decided to call today's blog. It just seemed to capture the injury pattern in baseball in a neat, baseball-lingo sort of way. Just when you think it's time to get excited about players nearing a return from injury, the enthusiasm is tempered by others being forced out with new ailments. It's a never-ending battle for teams to maintain a healthy roster and this week is no different from any we've seen so far this season.

We start with the good news, which is as it should be on a Friday. Here are three players whose status appear to be on the upswing:

[+] EnlargeNeftali Feliz
Joy R. Absalon/US PresswireThe team opted to be cautious with Neftali Feliz, and now the Rangers' closer is back after just the minimum 15 days.
Neftali Feliz, P, Texas Rangers: When the Rangers put their closer on the DL in April, they did so fairly quickly. After Feliz initially complained of tightness in his shoulder, he struggled in his subsequent outing and that was enough for the Rangers to make the call. That decision may prove to be very beneficial in the long-term. Feliz looked so good in his Double-A Frisco rehab appearance on Wednesday that the Rangers decided to activate him before Friday's game (the first day he was eligible to return). Feliz will be back in the closer's role this weekend as the Rangers host the New York Yankees.

Jake Peavy, P, Chicago White Sox: Peavy's return from surgery to repair his ruptured latissimus dorsi tendon has been well documented, as have his minor speed bumps along the way. Peavy initially experienced some rotator cuff tendinitis during spring training, which forced him to back off his progression. After working his way back into rehab starts, Peavy had a recurrence of discomfort in his shoulder in mid-April, which again slowed his progress. His past two rehab starts, however, have signaled his readiness to return to the majors. Not only has he been throwing some good pitches, he has also been able to get his total pitch count up to 100, indicating his endurance has improved. The Chicago Sun-Times reports Peavy could make his season debut for the White Sox on Wednesday against the Los Angeles Angels.

Josh Hamilton, OF, Texas Rangers: There was a collective sad sigh among Rangers fans and fantasy owners on April 12 when Hamilton suffered a humerus fracture sliding into home plate. At the time, his projected absence was estimated at six to eight weeks. Hamilton is making strides, however, which suggest that he could return on the short end of that timetable. As of Wednesday, he was swinging off a tee, just over three weeks post-injury. For him to be cleared for this activity, the Rangers' medical staff must like what they're seeing in terms of the arm healing. As general manager Jon Daniels told the Dallas Morning News, "It's too early to narrow down a date for his return, but we're definitely heading in a good direction and it's reasonable to assume he'll be back within the original time frame." Hamilton's ability to increase his activity with his arm is as important for preserving muscular strength and coordination as anything else, which may help improve how he fares at the plate when he does return.

And then there are the less fortunate. Here are three players whose recent injuries will keep them down for at least the 15-day minimum.

[+] EnlargeNyjer Morgan
Scott Cunningham/Getty ImagesNyjer Morgan had a bad day in Atlanta on Thursday, getting caught stealing and then breaking his finger on a bunt attempt.
Nyjer Morgan, OF, Milwaukee Brewers: Morgan gave new meaning to the term "sacrifice bunt" when he absorbed the impact of the baseball on his left middle finger on a bunt during Thursday's game, ending up on the DL as a result. Morgan had just been activated from the DL two days earlier for a thigh contusion. The team estimates he could be away for two to four weeks, but the usual concerns about grip strength following a finger injury will follow.

Eric Chavez, 3B, New York Yankees: Even Chavez would probably acknowledge that the injury-prone label is justified but that says nothing about his work ethic. Chavez has battled his way back from numerous injuries, most recently a career-threatening neck issue, but earned himself a spot with the New York Yankees after an impressive spring. Unfortunately, he finds himself back on the disabled list after fracturing the fifth metatarsal (long bone of the outer forefoot) in his left foot while running out a triple on Thursday. The amount of time he'll miss is unclear but expect it to exceed 15 days.

Brandon Lyon, P, Houston Astros: The announcement that Lyon was being evaluated for shoulder weakness suggested the presence of a muscular injury. Sure enough, an MRI revealed a partial rotator cuff tear and biceps tendinitis in Lyon's right shoulder, not encouraging, but also not particularly surprising in a veteran pitcher. In other words, the wear and tear aspect of the injury is not likely new and has possibly been evolving for some time. Clearly it has become more problematic of late, as Lyon had not been effective in recent outings. He will be treated conservatively, meaning no surgery (at least not yet) but rather a period of rest and recovery followed by strengthening and a gradual throwing progression. Lyon should not be expected to return anytime soon.
In Thursday's edition of Fantasy Focus, Stephania Bell discusses the injury statuses Evan Longoria, Victor Martinez, Zack Greinke, Jake Peavy and Johnny Cueto.
In Thursday's edition of Fantasy Focus, Stephania Bell has forecasts on when Ryan Zimmerman, Rafael Furcal, Kendrys Morales, Grady Sizemore, Jake Peavy and Andrew Bailey may return from their injuries.

I posed a question right here in this blog Wednesday, a challenge if you will, to see if we could get through a day of baseball without any additions to the disabled list. It seems like the answer was no, thanks in part to a dramatic injury in the Bronx.

[+] EnlargeTsuyoshi Nishioka
William Perlman/THE STAR-LEDGER/US PresswireTsuyoshi Nishioka is likely to miss a month after taking the brunt of this Nick Swisher takeout slide.
On Thursday, Minnesota Twins new second baseman Tsuyoshi Nishioka was literally taken out on a takeout slide by New York Yankees outfielder Nick Swisher. Nishioka, new to the more physical version of baserunning played in the states, absorbed the impact of Swisher's slide with his left leg, resulting in a fractured fibula (the skinny bone on the outer aspect of the lower leg which runs from just below the knee to the ankle).

Nishioka has been placed on the DL and is expected to miss at least a month, but more should be known after his visit with Dr. John Steubs, team physician for the Twins. There are several variables that can influence the plan of care and the recovery time from this type of injury, including the location of the fracture (high on the fibula near the knee or low near the ankle), whether the fracture is displaced or not (whether the bony ends have moved apart or remain in alignment) and whether surgery is required (more likely with a significantly displaced fracture).

The Minneapolis Star-Tribune reports Nishioka's fracture to be high on the fibula, just below the knee, an important distinction in that he may not require ankle immobilization. One of the compounding issues for a low fibula fracture is the ankle joint; when immobilized for a period of time to allow the bone to heal, the ankle then becomes stiff. Regaining ankle range of motion can be a lengthy process, making returning to running and agility maneuvers more difficult. The best-case scenario for Nishioka would be a non-displaced proximal (high) fibula fracture that could heal with rest. He would be able to resume ankle range of motion and weight-bearing activities sooner. In the meantime he could participate in cardiovascular conditioning and upper-body workouts. His timetable should become clearer after his medical evaluation Friday.

• The other big injury news Thursday was the official diagnosis of a concussion for Toronto Blue Jays shortstop Yunel Escobar. Why so big? Because Escobar is the first player to suffer a concussion since the implementation of Major League Baseball's new concussion policy.

[+] EnlargeYunel Escobar
Tom Szczerbowski/US PresswireYunel Escobar suffered a concussion on this slide into third base on Wednesday.
The injury occurred when Escobar's head met the knee of Oakland Athletics third baseman Andy LaRoche as Escobar slid into third on a triple Wednesday. The mechanism of injury was eerily similar to the one that sidelined Twins first baseman Justin Morneau for months with post-concussion symptoms. According to the National Post, Escobar was examined on the field by Jays' athletic trainer Hap Hudson and was cleared to remain in the game. But in the next inning, Escobar developed dizziness (it is not uncommon for symptoms to emerge over time following a concussion) and the decision was made to remove him from the game.

Escobar underwent subsequent tests, including hospital-administered CT scans of the head and neck and neurological evaluation. The imaging tests were negative (they usually are with isolated concussion) and the early news on Escobar is encouraging. According to general manager Alex Anthopoulos, Escobar felt "great" Thursday morning, adding, "If you asked him he'd tell you that he could play today." Of course, Escobar did not play Thursday but he did show enough improvement for the Blue Jays to elect not to make use of the new optional seven-day disabled list stint for concussed players. As per the new protocols, however, Escobar will require clearance not only from the Blue Jays but also from Major Leagues Baseball's medical director, Dr. Gary Green, before he can return. The Blue Jays hope to have Escobar back next week, but as is the case following any concussion Escobar will be evaluated daily.

• The Blue Jays have some more encouraging news regarding Octavio Dotel. The veteran relief pitcher, who started his season on the DL with a hamstring strain that cropped up in early March, is now ready to return. Dotel is probably most likely to be used in a setup role for Jon Rauch. Closer Frank Francisco, on the DL with a right pectoral muscle strain, was cleared to begin a rehab assignment Monday. According to the Blue Jays' website, Francisco likely will need a minimum of three rehab outings before he can rejoin the team. As with any muscle strain, the key will be to see how Francisco responds to a progressively increasing workload. Finally, starter Brandon Morrow (forearm strain) made his rehab debut Thursday, allowing five runs in three innings. His performance may have been less than ideal, but the more important element will be how his forearm held up. If all continues well, Morrow is expected to make another rehab start and could rejoin the team within the next two weeks.

• The Chicago White Sox have to be feeling encouraged when it comes to Jake Peavy's progress following his latissimus dorsi tendon repair. Peavy, who had a very minor speed bump in his rehab road when he developed some rotator cuff tendinitis in March, is now on track to start throwing in minor league games. The Chicago Sun-Times reports Peavy is expected to throw 75 pitches Friday for Class AA Birmingham. Assuming there are no issues, he will be on a structured progression to increase his pitch count and arm strength over the next few weeks. While no one wants to commit to a formal timetable, there is reason to believe Peavy could rejoin the White Sox by the end of April.

• The White Sox could see Adam Dunn this weekend if Dunn has his way. Dunn is still having pain, though, and he will most certainly not be permitted to suit up if there are any concerns about his healing. Given that Dunn is an athlete and not a physician, his goals, while admirable, will not drive the decision. It would not be surprising if Dunn was out until next week, but fantasy owners with daily lineups may want to check before games.

• Meanwhile, Dunn's counterpart in abdominal surgery, St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Matt Holliday, could make an appearance this weekend in a pinch-hitting role, although according to Fox Sports Midwest on Twitter, manager Tony La Russa says the chances of that are "slim." Stay tuned. says Holliday is expected to undergo a full workout and batting practice Friday, after which a decision on the next step will be made.

That's the buzz for Friday. Here's to a happy and healthy weekend, everyone! Something tells me, though, we'll still have plenty to discuss as next week rolls around.

It's not supposed to be quite so busy in the injury department this early in the season. After getting ready for Opening Day, I figured I'd take in the first weekend of baseball and perhaps update the status of a few players who have yet to make their season debuts.

So much for that idea. The weekend news kicked off with St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Matt Holliday undergoing an appendectomy Friday. On a positive note, the Cardinals have not moved Holliday to the DL, at least not yet. The team says it will wait until Monday or Tuesday and see how Holliday is progressing. For what it's worth, manager Tony La Russa told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that Holliday felt "less discomfort" Sunday than he did Saturday. So far, so good.

Holliday might not be on the DL but there are several new additions from around the league.

[+] EnlargeEvan Longoria
AP Photo/Gene J. PuskarEvan Longoria could be sidelined until next month with his oblique injury.
Tampa Bay Rays third baseman Evan Longoria has joined the strained oblique club. Longoria left Saturday's game after the fifth inning with soreness in his side. Although he appeared to be downplaying the severity of the injury initially, his manager sounded more concerned. Apparently, Longoria first felt some discomfort during batting practice, and it increased as the game progressed. On Sunday, the decision was made to formally put Longoria on the disabled list to ensure full healing.

According to the St. Petersburg Times, manager Joe Maddon has projected that Longoria will miss at least three weeks, a reasonable estimate given the time required to first rest the healing tissue followed by gradually increasing the load. Amid a team lacking in offensive production out of the gate, Longoria was 0-for-5 with a walk through the first two games of the season. Depending how long he is sidelined, Longoria might not get his first hit until May. Not exactly what fantasy owners were anticipating. In the meantime, Sean Rodriguez is likely to get the majority of the playing time at third base.

• Several pitching staffs took a hit this weekend as well. Baltimore Orioles left-hander Brian Matusz was scratched from his Saturday start with what was originally described as soreness in his left mid-back. An MRI revealed an intercostal (small muscles between the ribs) strain severe enough for the team to suggest he could miss anywhere from three to six weeks.

There are three layers of intercostal muscles. The top layer (external intercostals) is analogous to the larger external oblique abdominal muscles, both in terms of being the most superficial and the orientation of the muscle fibers. The next layer (internal intercostals) is analogous in depth and fiber direction to the internal obliques. Although the intercostals are much smaller, both muscle groups are active during trunk rotation. It is no surprise then that these two muscle groups -- intercostals and obliques -- tend to be injured in similar fashion for ballplayers. The intercostals' direct attachment between ribs can make this a very painful injury when acute, as even deep breathing can be painful.

The Orioles called up another lefty, Zach Britton, who made his big league debut Sunday, and he certainly left an impression by pitching six shutout innings against the Rays. Britton is a hot fantasy pickup this week, even if his time might be limited.

Atlanta Braves pitcher Jair Jurrjens, who struggled with health issues in 2010, found himself on the DL this week but the injury occurred prior to the start of the season. Jurrjens, who developed soreness in late March, will have his DL stint backdated to March 25, making him eligible to return April 9. Jurrjens has a strained right oblique, slightly unusual in that he is a right-handed thrower. Most pitchers strain an opposite oblique, which is generally attributed to the hard cross-body torque associated with throwing. Jurrjens' injury appears to be relatively minor, and he started throwing bullpens late last week. The bigger concern with Jurrjens might be staying healthy through the course of the season.

Situations to keep an eye on

Philadelphia Phillies right fielder Ben Francisco (starting the season in place of Domonic Brown, who is still recovering from hand surgery following a hamate fracture) and center fielder Shane Victorino had a scary collision in the outfield Saturday. Francisco's neck appeared to get forcibly bent when it met Victorino's hip en route to playing a deep fly ball. Francisco remained in the game for the duration but it was Victorino who exited in the fifth inning with left calf soreness. The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that Victorino felt tightness in the calf when jogging off the field after that inning, although he didn't think it particularly serious at the time.

On Sunday, Victorino entered the game as a pinch hitter in the sixth inning but was able to stay in the game afterward. According to the Phillies' website, Victorino said he could still "feel it," suggesting it was possibly an irritated nerve. He reiterated that he was not concerned, but the Phillies will no doubt be keeping a close eye on how his calf responds over the next few days. The painful memory of a star player sidelined at the start of the season with a calf injury (Jimmy Rollins, 2010) is no doubt still fresh. As far as Francisco, he was in Sunday's game, crashing spectacularly into the right field wall to make a play. It appears his neck is doing fine.

Chicago Cubs pitcher Carlos Zambrano left Saturday's game in the seventh inning because of cramps in his throwing (right) hand. Zambrano also reportedly experienced tightness in his hamstring. He is no stranger to cramps, and in the past he has commented on the need to maintain adequate fluids, which he did again after this episode, according to ESPN Chicago. "I'll be OK," Zambrano said. "I'll drink a lot of fluid and do whatever I have to do, not to feel bad anymore." According to manager Mike Quade, Zambrano is expected to make his next scheduled start Friday.

[+] EnlargeUbaldo Jimenez
Chris Humphreys/US PresswireUbaldo Jimenez's cuticle issue on his thumb could be one reason why he struggled on Opening Day.
Colorado Rockies ace Ubaldo Jimenez struggled through his first outing with a cut cuticle on his throwing thumb. The Denver Post reports that the thumb is affected on every pitch because of how Jimenez grips the ball. The primary issue is not one of immediate discomfort, but rather preventing this from turning into a more protracted issue because the cut fails to heal. Originally, manager Jim Tracy suggested Jimenez could miss his next start. As of now, that start has been pushed back one day to Friday but all depends on how the thumb healing progresses.

• Meanwhile, teammate Jorge de la Rosa developed a painful blister on his left middle finger that shortened his first outing, possibly a consequence of his grip on the ball. After exiting Saturday's game, de la Rosa had the blood blister well treated and bandaged by the athletic training staff, according to the Rockies' website. De la Rosa did not seem overly concerned by the blister, as he has dealt with similar issues in the past, and he expects to make his next start. As is the case with Jimenez, de la Rosa's finger will be monitored over the next few days to ensure there are no lingering issues.

Cuticles and blisters might sound like seemingly small injuries, but make no mistake, they're big enough to threaten the status of the first and second guns in the Rockies' rotation. Anyone who's had a bad manicure experience can relate ... come on, who's with me?

Encouraging news

It wasn't all doom and gloom; there was some good news to be found over the weekend.

San Diego Padres ace Mat Latos, sidelined with bursitis in his throwing shoulder, threw a side session Saturday and looked, well, "fantastic," according to pitching coach Darren Balsley. Latos is expected to start in a minor league game Monday with the goal of increasing his pitch count.

San Francisco Giants closer Brian Wilson, who also started the season on the DL with an oblique injury, threw a simulated game Sunday. His outing impressed pitching coach Dave Righetti, who suggested that Wilson could be back with the team this week. Wilson is eligible to come off the DL on Wednesday when the team is in San Diego, and while that move is not set in stone, Wilson's outing Sunday was a good step in that direction.

Chicago White Sox pitcher Jake Peavy, who stayed behind in Arizona to continue recovery from offseason surgery to repair his latissimus dorsi tendon, threw a simulated game Sunday. He was just shy of 60 pitches. Peavy, whose overall recovery has been impressive, developed rotator cuff tendinitis after a spring outing, which came on the heels of a stomach ailment. The issue seems to have settled, and Peavy is on track again with building his arm strength. He is expected to start in a minor league game Friday (for Double-A Birmingham) and will try to bump up his pitch count. If there are no more bumps in the road, he could rejoin the team in late April.

There is some good news to report in the baseball blog this week. Besides the fact that you may be celebrating your upcoming fantasy baseball playoff matchups, the return of a couple of previously injured players brought a smile to their teammates and fantasy owners alike.

AP Photo/David ZalubowskiDavid Wright returned to action complete with a new batting helmet as he recovers from last month's beaning.
Mets third baseman David Wright rejoined his team Tuesday night after a stint on the disabled list with a concussion that he suffered last month when he was hit in the head by a 93 mph fastball. He made more than a fashion statement in his first at-bat by sporting a new Rawlings S100 helmet that, according to the company, can withstand the impact of a 100 mph fastball. It will be interesting to see whether other players follow Wright's lead, compromising style for safety, something that should be an easy decision.

And how about Tim Hudson's return from Tommy John surgery Tuesday? He looked pretty darn good, allowing just six hits and two runs. He also struck out five. There were high fives all around as his teammates welcomed him back. Fantasy owners looking for a pitcher in the playoffs might think about picking him up, but be sure to check his status, as the Braves may elect not to have him start every fifth day.

But, as always, there are injuries old and new to discuss.

Jake Peavy, P, White Sox: Ah, the best-laid plans ... Just when it seemed Peavy was in line to make his White Sox debut, he took a hard line drive to his pitching elbow that may have thrown his goal of returning this season into a tailspin.

Peavy, recovering from a partially torn tibialis posterior tendon in his right lower leg, had been solid in his initial rehab outings and had looked on track to make his White Sox debut in early September -- that is, until he was hit on his right elbow. Peavy initially experienced soreness and swelling in the elbow, as expected. The problem, however, has lingered to the point where it appears he may not appear on the mound for the White Sox this season after all. Peavy was forced to exit a subsequent rehab start because of elbow discomfort, and a recent MRI revealed fluid in the area, according to the Chicago Sun-Times. The Chicago Tribune reports that manager Ozzie Guillen is seriously considering shutting Peavy down for the year if the White Sox's free fall continues. Sorry, fantasy owners, Peavy's leg did heal well enough (as projected) for him to make a September return. Unfortunately, we can't anticipate those comebackers to the throwing elbow ... and neither could the White Sox.

Alfonso Soriano, OF, Cubs: Last week, we recommended insurance for Soriano's fantasy owners because of the unknown status of his painful left knee. This week, one MRI and cortisone shot later, you still need that insurance, because there is at least the chance that Soriano's knee will continue to give him problems intermittently.

Soriano's MRI reportedly showed only inflammation in the knee, without any specific structural damage, according to the Daily Herald. The Cubs' official Web site reported that Soriano received a cortisone injection in his ailing knee, which Soriano hopes will help him. It's true. Cortisone does help alleviate inflammation and can provide a temporary relief. The bigger question for the long haul is what the root cause of this inflammation is. Soriano has said he does not want offseason surgery, but it might not be avoidable if the pain and irritation linger. In the meantime, fantasy owners need to be aware that Soriano (who returned to the lineup Tuesday) is likely to have ups and downs through the remainder of the season.

Four guys who left Tuesday's games with injuries:

Adam Jones, OF, Orioles: Jones sprained his left ankle when he twisted it on first base. X-rays were negative, but manager Dave Trembley called it a "pretty good sprain," according to the Baltimore Sun. Here's the thing about sprains: A bad sprain can take longer to recover from than a small fracture (break). Soft-tissue injuries are less well defined when it comes to healing time frames and can create challenges in balance and agility, which are critical for any sport. Jones, who had recently returned from a back injury, may be out for a while and should not be counted on for fantasy production.

Michael Young, 3B, Rangers: Young is expected to undergo an MRI on Wednesday after straining his left hamstring running out a grounder in the second game of Tuesday's doubleheader. The fact that he is being sent for an MRI suggests that the team thinks the injury is on the serious side. As we have seen multiple times, soft-tissue injuries are hard to predict, and even a moderate strain could sideline Young for an extended period. It would not be surprising if he was moved to the DL, but that likely will be decided after the MRI results come back. Fantasy owners should prepare for the worst.

Jon Lester, P, Red Sox: The Red Sox had to be worried when Lester exited the game in the sixth inning Tuesday because of a sore right groin. According to the Boston Herald, his removal was precautionary, and there's no reason to push the issue at this point in the season. Perhaps most reassuringly, Lester told the Herald, "I don't think it's going to hinder me or prevent me from pitching." So far it sounds as if the lefty is not expected to miss time.

Hanley Ramirez, SS, Marlins: Ramirez is now listed as day-to-day because of left hamstring tightness that forced an early exit Tuesday. The good news is that Marlins manager Fredi Gonzalez called it "a cramp" on the Marlins' official Web site. He does not expect Ramirez to miss much time. The team was waiting to see how he looked when he arrived at the facility Wednesday, but it sounds as if this is a less serious scenario than Michael Young's.

On the mend

• Could it really be so? Is Carlos Beltran returning to the Mets? There is still no definitive answer, but Beltran finally did something this week that he had not done in months: He ran the bases. Beltran, who has been challenged by a bone bruise in his right knee, has been cleared to begin a rehab assignment, according to the Mets, and is scheduled to play Wednesday night. How Beltran tolerates all the different facets of the game when he has to put them together for several innings at a time will determine whether he can ultimately return. It will be important to see not only how his knee behaves during a game but also how he feels the next day and the day after that as he plays in consecutive games. If he is able to pass this test, it's quite possible he'll make an appearance with the Mets in September. Although this is good news, there are still hurdles to cross, so it is best to take a wait-and-see approach. The Mets -- and anyone who roots for them -- are certainly accustomed to doing just that.

• Braves outfielder Nate McLouth is expected to play in a minor league rehab game Thursday, according to the team's official Web site. He is recovering from a right hamstring strain, and as is known to happen, he suffered a setback in a rehab game this past weekend. Fortunately, that setback appears to have been minor, and McLouth is back in the rehab groove. If Thursday's game is uneventful, he could rejoin the team Friday. Be sure to check lineups before the weekend.

And finally ... a heads-up to all Grady Sizemore fantasy owners. The Cleveland Plain Dealer is reporting that the team may elect to shut the outfielder down early for surgery on his ailing left elbow. The surgery itself is not a surprise; this has been something looming for Sizemore for months. The surprise may be in the timing. Although the Indians indicate that they have not made an absolute decision, it sounds as if they are leaning in that direction to ensure that Sizemore is ready to start Opening Day next season. Recent call-up Michael Brantley would be expected to replace him in center.

And just when no one thought it could get any worse for the Mets ... Johan Santana is now done for the season. Let's get right down to business:

Johan Santana, SP, Mets: Despite the trauma of losing yet another player to the DL -- and in this case, it's a definitive season-ender -- it appears to be overall relatively good news for Santana and the Mets. Santana, whose left (throwing) elbow has been bothering him for quite some time, will not be undergoing Tommy John ligament reconstruction, which would keep him out for most of next season. Instead he will undergo a far less extensive procedure to remove bone chips and should be ready for spring training in 2010. But this is not a cut-and-dried situation.

Johan Santana
Noah K. Murray/The Star-Ledger/US PresswireJohan Santana is done for this season, but the Mets are hopeful surgery now will prevent problems in 2010.
The presence of bone spurs can be suggestive of subtle instability in the elbow. The spurs themselves form in response to stress within the joint. They can become painful and limit motion. They can also fragment and form chips or loose bodies. Removing the spurs or chips can help reduce pain and restore motion. There is some speculation, though, that the spurs provide additional stability, and that once removed, the increased motion in the elbow could place additional strain on the all-important ulnar collateral (Tommy John) ligament. Cardinals ace Chris Carpenter had bone spurs removed in 2007, only to end up having Tommy John surgery a few months later. Of course, there are other pitchers who have gone on to pitch successfully after bone spur/chip removal.

One of the advantages of doing the scope is that the surgeon will be able to visually inspect the ligament to see just how healthy it is at this point. Occasionally, during surgery the ligament is shown to be torn, despite not being visible on MRI, and then a reconstruction would be in order. Surely the Mets are not even considering that as a possible outcome because it might just be too much to take. The more likely scenario is that some stretching or fraying of the ligament might be evident, which would be expected in a veteran pitcher, and although it provides some information, it doesn't really change the next steps. In this case, the bone chips are removed, the athlete will undergo rehabilitation and everyone remains hopeful that there will be no further issues.

The Mets have to be hoping this arthroscopic procedure will be the only one Santana will need.

Jake Peavy, SP, White Sox: Peavy had a very scary moment in what the team was hoping would be his final rehab start. Peavy, who has been working his way back from a partially torn posterior tibial tendon in his right lower leg, was hit in his throwing elbow by a line drive Monday night. He managed to stay in the game to throw out the next batter he faced and close out the fifth inning (which was the scheduled length of his appearance), but the elbow swelled as the night went on.

Peavy has since joined the White Sox, but whether he makes a start for them this week or not will depend on how the elbow responds. Until the blow to the elbow, Peavy appeared to be in line to start for the White Sox Saturday at Yankee Stadium. "Every part of me wants to be out there Saturday in a great venue against a great team, giving my team a chance to win," Peavy told the Chicago Sun-Times on Tuesday. In the whole scheme of things, this appears to be a minor road bump that shouldn't interfere much, if at all, with his ultimate return. Most importantly, he does not appear to have any residual issues with the ankle and has looked strong in his rehab outings.

Freddy Sanchez, 2B, Giants: Although the decision to place Sanchez on the DL because of his sore left shoulder might concern fantasy owners, it's worth noting that this move is retroactive to Aug. 18. If Sanchez can come off the DL when eligible, he could rejoin his team during the series in Philadelphia.

Sanchez originally strained the shoulder two weeks ago while swinging. He returned for a couple games, but the soreness persisted, forcing him out of the lineup for six games before he was ultimately placed on the DL. The good news is that this is not the same shoulder that gave Sanchez trouble last year. It is also not his throwing shoulder. The main issue with his inflamed left shoulder is that it hinders his ability to swing the bat. As long as it is just inflammation -- there is no reason to think otherwise at this point -- Sanchez should be able to work his way back following the 15-day DL period.

Alfonso Soriano, OF, Cubs: The Cubs' injury concerns have been overshadowed by the Mets', but the Cubs have had their share of troubles. This time it's Soriano, who faces a possible trip to the DL for an ailing knee. Soriano's left knee has apparently been bothering him since he collided with the outfield wall in late April. According to the Chicago Sun-Times, Soriano says he has been told that he has tendinitis, although it's worth noting that trauma is not the most common mechanism of the onset of tendinitis. It's possible, though, that trying to play through pain could create a chronic inflammation of soft tissue in the area, which might be one reason Soriano could head to the DL for some forced rest.

The Sun-Times reports that Soriano was planning to see the doctor and anticipated a possible MRI. He says he's experiencing pain when he has to run or unexpectedly put weight on the leg, neither of which is avoidable while playing his position. While it's unclear just how much time he might miss, if any, knowing that Soriano has a history of leg muscle strains that have kept him out for extended periods is definitely a concern. Fantasy owners should get insurance now, just in case.

On the Mend

• Diamondbacks outfielder Justin Upton appears to be swinging the bat quite nicely, thank you. Recovering from a right oblique strain, Upton played in his second rehab game Tuesday and delivered a grand slam. It sounds like the oblique is no longer an issue and he should rejoin the team within days.

• Mariners outfielder Ichiro Suzuki, known for his durability, is sitting out for a few days with a calf strain. Although the Mariners initially thought he would return Wednesday, it appears that they will hold off a little longer. This should not be interpreted as anything other than the team's taking a cautious approach with one of its stars. We have seen other players try to test their calf (Lance Berkman comes to mind) only to find out that trying to push off while running sets them back. The Mariners would hate to see Ichiro's tightness turn into a more serious muscle tear. That said, it appears he will avoid a DL stint and will return late this week. Fantasy owners may want to see how he looks in his first outing back to ensure he's up to speed before returning him to the lineup.

• Here's something new! I'm going to use the words "good news" and "Mets" in the same sentence. The good news for the Mets is that third baseman David Wright, who took a scary pitch to the head and suffered a concussion, has been able to increase his activity. This is a good sign because there are certain targets a player has to meet in order to begin physical exertion following a brain injury. According to the Daily News, Wright has been able to do some light running and is hopeful to come off the DL when eligible next week. There is still more that he needs to do, but the fact that he has been able to progress to running is extremely positive. Meanwhile, the Daily News reports that Wright's teammate Carlos Beltran, still recovering from a bone bruise in his knee, has had no pain with outfield running but has not yet been cleared to run the bases. Call me skeptical, but I'm still not convinced that we will see him back this season, despite his desire to return.

• According to the Rockies' official Web site, there is reason to be relieved about Aaron Cook's shoulder: An MRI showed no major structural damage. With the team flying high and Cook being critical to their rotation, the news that he could return to help his team down the stretch is encouraging. The plan is to allow him to rest his throwing arm while undergoing treatment, and then gradually resume a throwing program next week as his symptoms permit. As we all know, throwing shoulders can be unpredictable, but so far this looks good for the Rockies.

• And finally, it looks as if Red Sox pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka is making the case for a return early next month. His most recent rehab start had him throwing three innings, and the Red Sox staff is happy with what they're seeing. Manager Terry Francona seemed to be absolutely glowing when he told the Boston Globe, "The last two months have gone, in my opinion, as good as possibly expected. He's not only met, but exceeded, every milestone that's been put in front of him." Matsuzaka has been out with a shoulder strain after having arm fatigue near the very start of the season. Bringing him back slowly may well pay off in the late season for the Red Sox, as Matsuzaka may have avoided a more significant injury. Fantasy owners in a playoff run may be able to take advantage here.

Waiting on David Wright

August, 19, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On the mend...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A couple of players returned this week, one just in time for the All-Star Game.

Aramis Ramirez rejoined the Cubs' lineup Monday but struggled at the plate in his first outing. Ramirez, who returned from a dislocated left shoulder suffered in May, still experiences some discomfort in that shoulder when he swings the bat. Although not surprising, it still raises a bit of a red flag.

This was not the first injury to Ramirez's shoulder, and it would not be shocking if he ultimately requires surgery to stabilize it. Given that possibility, Ramirez and the Cubs have to hope that he can hold off long enough to be able to deliver for the remainder of the season. The concern from a production standpoint is that the anticipation of pain, especially on a swing and miss, could cause Ramirez to become apprehensive or guarded at the plate. Persistent shoulder discomfort is what hitters like Hanley Ramirez and B.J. Upton experienced, ultimately leading them to undergo surgery.

Speaking of surgery, the Rangers' Josh Hamilton recently rejoined the lineup after a monthlong absence. Hamilton, who underwent surgery to repair a torn abdominal muscle, has looked solid in his return and seems certain that all his symptoms are behind him. The Rangers have every reason to be encouraged, as the prognosis after this type of surgery has been generally excellent. As a bonus, Hamilton returned to the lineup sooner than expected, and he likely will record his second straight All-Star appearance.

Naturally, a few players have gone on the disabled list, but this week, everyone benefits from the timing of the All-Star break, including fantasy owners. Assuming the latest additions to the injury ward can recover quickly, they should miss fewer total games. That decreased absence time is especially helpful when it comes to pitchers. So that's where we start. ...

Randy Johnson
AP Photo/Dino VournasIt's not often you can say that it's a relief that Randy Johnson left the game with only a shoulder injury, like he did Sunday.
Randy Johnson, P, Giants: At least it's not his back. Usually when a pitcher has a shoulder strain, it signals cause for concern. In this case, there's reason to be relieved that Johnson's shoulder, not his twice-operated-on spine, is sending him to the DL. The troubles Johnson has had with his back in the past were potentially career-threatening, but he worked diligently through intensive rehabilitation and found his way back to the mound. In 2009, he made a new home with the San Francisco Giants and earned his 300th win.

Given that back problems often recur (Johnson experienced just that with disc problems in back-to-back seasons) and given Johnson's treelike height of 6-foot-10, a third spine issue just might be enough to do him in. His back seemingly has held up very well through this season, however, and he has not appeared to suffer any shoulder issues while throwing.

In fact, it was the swing of a bat that initially strained Johnson's shoulder. In the third inning of Sunday's contest, Johnson grabbed his left (throwing) shoulder after swinging and missing on a third strike, according to the Giants' official Web site. Although Johnson returned to start the fourth inning, he promptly gave up two home runs, and catcher Bengie Molina noticed that Johnson's velocity had dropped sharply. In the face of the evidence that all was not right, Johnson summoned Giants athletic trainer Dave Groeschner to the mound and was promptly escorted off the field.

A subsequent MRI on Johnson's shoulder revealed a strain, suggesting a muscular or tendinous issue, but the team has released no details beyond that. If the strain is indeed minor, Johnson may be in good shape. The timing of the All-Star break helps to some degree, but Johnson is 45 years old, so it may be necessary to allow some additional healing time. Complete healing of the shoulder is critical to ensure that Johnson does not end up compensating and placing undue stress on his spine. At this point, there is no reason to believe that this injury will spell Johnson's demise, but the team will be sure not to rush him back unnecessarily. Translation for fantasy owners: Plan on a few weeks' worth of insurance.

Mark DeRosa, 2B, Cardinals: A strained left wrist was the initial diagnosis for DeRosa, who injured himself, like the aforementioned Johnson, while swinging the bat and missing. How about a little bit more irony? Johnson was on the mound on June 30 and delivered the pitch that resulted in DeRosa's injury. (Johnson hurt his shoulder on a swing-and-miss in his subsequent outing.)

The Cardinals decided to place DeRosa on the DL on Tuesday when it became apparent that he would need some additional recovery time for the wrist. As it turns out, DeRosa has a partially torn tendon sheath (connective tissue surrounding the tendon), according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, so the injury takes on a more serious note than first suspected.

According to the Post-Dispatch, DeRosa was "kind of panicking a little bit" the night of his injury, no doubt feeling the pressure of wanting to perform for his new team but finding himself incapacitated. A cortisone shot to decrease inflammation had him feeling better quickly, but not well enough to swing the bat. Subsequent tests obviously bore out DeRosa's concern.

In the big picture, this is the type of injury that can heal on its own, although it doesn't eliminate surgery as an option if that fails. Wrist injuries, however, even minor ones, are often underestimated as far as their ability to sap the power from a hitter. Any lingering discomfort will result in an inability to grip the bat at full strength, automatically changing a hitter's stroke.

The Cardinals are wise to use the All-Star break to their advantage. DeRosa's DL stint is retroactive to July 1, so he will be eligible to return for the first game after the break if his wrist permits. That timeline is unlikely, however, and DeRosa will need to prove that he repeatedly can swing pain-free before rejoining the lineup. After all, the Cardinals made the deal with the Indians to acquire DeRosa so that they would benefit from his bat throughout the second half of the season; better to wait now and give his wrist the best opportunity to heal than to jeopardize his power going forward.

Ryan Dempster
AP Photo/John SmierciakA so-so year for Ryan Dempster has gotten worse thanks to a broken toe suffered while celebrating a Cubs win.
Ryan Dempster, P, Cubs: Dempster was placed on the DL on Tuesday with a broken right toe. For any of you out there who have experienced a toe injury, it is easy to appreciate just how disabling an injury to such a tiny body part can be. For a right-handed pitcher, a painful toe on the push leg makes it virtually impossible to bring one's body weight over the top during delivery.

To add insult to injury, Dempster didn't hurt himself in the heat of the game making a spectacular play. His injury came, innocently enough, as he hopped the dugout fence Sunday in celebration following the Cubs' victory over the Brewers. According to the Chicago Tribune, manager Lou Piniella said Cubs trainer Mark O'Neal indicated Dempster would miss "at least three weeks and probably four," which translates to six or seven starts. Dempster will be in a walking boot to minimize motion at the toe and allow the bone to heal, but he will be able to exercise his throwing arm. The good news for Dempster is that the fracture was nondisplaced, meaning the bony ends are in alignment and should heal well. The key will be how quickly he can regain his range of motion in the toe once he is cleared to remove the boot.

Brandon Webb, P, Diamondbacks: For the time being at least, it appears that Webb will not undergo surgery on his throwing shoulder. That decision came after Webb sought input from multiple specialists. Webb has not been able to pitch since his abbreviated Opening Day start and has struggled in his rehabilitative efforts thus far. His original diagnosis of a teres major muscle strain (a muscle located on the back side of the shoulder, not part of the rotator cuff muscle group) is certainly a nonsurgical injury. According to the Diamondbacks' official Web site, Webb was told that the muscular weakness had led to compensations, which in turn created an impingement (pinching) of some of the structures within the shoulder joint.

Webb clearly seemed relieved that several top orthopedic surgeons had all come to a similar conclusion about his shoulder; he doesn't need surgery and should be able to return with continued rehabilitation. "I've had some of the best doctors in the world for this stuff look at me, and they all say pretty much the same thing," Webb said. "Hopefully I can get this shoulder stronger, then start throwing a little and be back to make a few starts in September. The doctors said that's a realistic goal."

Obviously for fantasy owners, a few starts by Webb in September are not likely to be all that helpful, if they even come to pass. But for those who have Webb in a keeper league, the fact that he won't have his shoulder opened up surgically is a huge plus for his future value.

Chipper Jones, 3B, Braves: Consider this just another Chipper Jones minor injury alert. Jones apparently has a groin strain that caused him to miss Tuesday's game and may keep him down for a few more. Jones' fans and fantasy owners are by now familiar with his intermittent injuries. Jones told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that his absence should not extend beyond a few days. He's usually pretty accurate when assessing his aches and pains, so no need to panic here.

On the mend

• Padres ace Jake Peavy had his injured posterior tibialis tendon on the inside of his right ankle re-examined this past week. The recommendation was, well, more of the same. Peavy, who has been sporting a walking boot for more than two weeks to protect his injured tendon, has been relegated to approximately two more weeks in the boot.

It's not just the healing of the tendon. Restoring normal ankle motion is a project after this much time in a boot. Although Peavy is able to participate in some rehabilitative activities to ensure that his ankle does not stiffen up completely, it is a different matter to be able to carry that range of motion over to weight-bearing and pushing-off activities (i.e., walking, jogging and, yes, pitching) once he is allowed to do so.

Late August or early September still looks like the earliest possible return date for Peavy, with emphasis on possible.

• Phillies outfielder Raul Ibanez had his return delayed ... again. Last week, we noted that although Ibanez's strained groin showed improvement, that improvement was not consistent. Consequently, his rehab assignment was pushed back from Wednesday to this past weekend. Then that date was delayed yet again. Ibanez finally started a rehab assignment Monday, and the encouraging news is that he told The Philadelphia Inquirer that for the first time since the injury, he "didn't feel anything." He acknowledged being a bit rusty and knows that he has a ways to go but said, "I'm one step closer to getting back on the field." It would not be surprising if the Phillies hold him out until after the All-Star break.

• Here's something that will not surprise regular readers: Mets shortstop Jose Reyes does not appear close to a return. The New York Daily News is reporting that he received another cortisone injection, although the exact location of the shot is unclear. First it was his calf, then his hamstring, and now his overall healing has been delayed. Very tough for a speed guy. Very painful for fantasy owners. But don't say you haven't been warned. Don't look for anything before August, and even that is wishful thinking.

• What about the status of Reyes' teammate, outfielder Carlos Beltran? It's simple. Just like Reyes, Beltran does not appear close to a return. He is still limited in the amount of weight he can put on his leg as the result of his bone bruise. His only activity is stationary bike riding and waiting out the healing process. That means the Mets hope the bruise will heal on its own. For those of you who were hoping for a July return, hope no more. August is likely a best-case scenario.

• Finally, although White Sox outfielder Carlos Quentin is participating in a rehab assignment, don't expect him back until after the All-Star break (which I've been saying all along, but now it's actually coming from the White Sox). Quentin is still having trouble with making cuts, not a surprise given that the problem is in the arch in his foot. He can swing the bat, but the foot problems definitely would hamper his outfield play and could hinder his baserunning. Manager Ozzie Guillen told the Chicago Tribune exactly why he doesn't want to rush Quentin's return to the team. "I'm worried about the artificial grass in Minnesota, and I worry about calling him up too quickly," Guillen said. Late July looks like a possibility.

Any regular visitor to my blog knows I love to start with some good news. Given that new or recurring injuries are a weekly staple, it's a great feeling when I can counter with news that a guy is getting healthy and coming off the DL. Maybe it's because I feel like the Grim Reaper most of the time, bringing news of the injured to distraught fantasy owners week in and week out. And if we've learned anything this year, it's that no one is safe from the injury bug. Occasionally, though, the sun does manage to shine and athletes exceed expectations in their recovery from injury.

This week is particularly special because I've been looking forward to this announcement since John Smoltz signed with his new team. After enduring a lengthy but steady rehab following offseason shoulder surgery, the veteran righty has finally been assigned a date to debut as a member of the Red Sox. Circle June 25 on your calendar, boys and girls. Smoltz is set to rejoin the rotation when the Red Sox face the Nationals. It will be exciting just to see him back on the mound. While it's worth tempering expectations early on (after all, he is 42), I believe that the acquisition of Smoltz will prove to be a brilliant move by the Red Sox and that he will indeed be the comeback story of 2009. OK. I put it out there. Now we just have to watch and see what happens.

Oh yes, I know, there are new injuries to discuss. Here are the guys we're paying attention to in the injury world this week ...

Jake Peavy
Scott Wachter/Icon SMIDon't expect Jake Peavy back by late August or early September at best.
Jake Peavy, P, Padres: By now the bad news on Peavy's right ankle has spread far and wide. Peavy could miss 8-12 weeks with a partial tear in his posterior tibialis tendon, according to team athletic trainer Todd Hutcheson, quoted in the San Diego Union-Tribune. My colleague A.J. Mass and I discussed Peavy at length right after the announcement was made, both in terms of what the injury actually is and what it means for Peavy's trade prospects.

Here's the bottom line for fantasy owners: Move on for three months. In the very best-case scenario, Peavy returns after the All-Star break, although an August or even September return is more likely. Any delays or setbacks between now and then could lessen the chance of a return. In the worst-case scenario, if the tendon does not show signs of healing when Peavy is re-evaluated in a few weeks, the prospect exists that surgery could be warranted. That is clearly a less desirable, last-resort type of option, but until we hear that Peavy is making progress, it remains a possibility.

Given that Peavy's ankle has already been slow to heal, despite the fact that he reported feeling better since the initial injury, you can bet that the medical staff will proceed conservatively with his long-term health in mind. In other words, don't bank on Peavy beating the recovery timetable issued by Hutcheson, no matter how optimistic the team wants to be. The good news here is that if the tendon heals properly, whatever the time it takes to do so, Peavy should be able to return to form.

Grady Sizemore, OF, Indians: After resting his elbow for the better part of a week, Sizemore had a repeat MRI on Monday to help assess his progress. Apparently the Indians liked what they saw, since Sizemore was allowed to resume baseball activities this week. Sizemore did some light throwing and took some light swings in his first such activity since going on the disabled list May 31.

Now you know I like good news, but there are reasons not to get over-excited just yet. According to the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Indians head athletic trainer Lonnie Soloff indicated that Sizemore was suffering from synovitis, which is inflammation of the synovium, the smooth tissue layer that lines the joint. This condition can certainly be the type of thing that can flare up repeatedly. According to the Akron Beacon Journal, Sizemore himself said, 'There's a chance it could get worse. It could linger all year."

General manager Eric Wedge summed up the situation best when he said, "As we continue to ramp up with him, we'll know more." In other words, there is not much surprise that Sizemore feels better after completely resting the arm. The bigger question is whether the inflammation will recur as he starts to use the arm or whether he can keep it at bay through the remainder of the season.

The next big test comes this weekend. According to, Sizemore will take batting practice and throw from his position this weekend. If he passes the test (read: no pain), then he can begin working his way back toward being ready to play. If Sizemore does experience pain, an arthroscopic surgical procedure likely awaits him. Fantasy owners need to keep their insurance options available for a while as it is simply too early to gauge this one.

Torii Hunter
Cary Edmondson/US PresswireTorii Hunter suffered bruised ribs during this crash into the wall on Monday but could be back in action by the end of the week.
Torii Hunter, OF, Angels: The outfield walls seem to be fighting back against the players who hit them hard this year. Josh Hamilton has been to the DL not once, but twice (including surgery!), after running into walls. Rick Ankiel's neck and shoulder were on the losing end of a battle with a wall. Hunter is the latest to be punished by a wall while attempting to make a play, suffering bruised ribs Monday night. Fortunately for Hunter, X-rays taken of his right rib cage (where he contacted the wall) were negative, indicating no fracture.

Not that that lessens Hunter's pain. Any rib injury is painful. Just ask Hamilton, who ended up on the DL despite early resistance to the idea. Hamilton, who also suffered a soft-tissue rib injury, pointed out that in addition to baseball activities, breathing hurt. Until the pain and inflammation settled, Hamilton was incapacitated. According to AP reports Hunter was in a rib brace Tuesday, which is designed to help limit his overall rib movement. Minimizing movement allows the soft tissue to heal by preventing muscle fibers from getting overstretched. It's virtually impossible to eliminate all rib motion, however, since sneezing, turning, even breathing all result in movement at the rib cage.

Hunter's targeted return of Friday suggests the injury is not serious, but it may very well require additional time in order for him to move as necessary to play his position.

Coco Crisp, OF, Royals: Crisp was finally placed on the DL with what the team is calling a rotator cuff strain in his right (throwing) shoulder. Crisp has been bothered by a sore shoulder since late May, but several days of rest intermittently have failed to alleviate the problem, so the team decided to give him an extended break. According to the Royals' official Web site, manager Trey Hillman was hoping that a recent six-game break -- four absences because of the shoulder, plus an additional two to attend his great-grandmother's funeral -- would be enough to allow Crisp to return at full strength, but that has not been the case. Crisp has reportedly struggled most with batting from the left side of the plate and with throwing.

From the sound of things, Crisp may require some extended time away from baseball activities, focusing on rehab alone to clear his symptoms. Given that six days of rest was not sufficient, expect Crisp to rest longer before resuming hitting and throwing, meaning he may not be ready to return at the 15-day mark.

Ervin Santana, P, Angels: Uh-oh. Santana, who missed time at the start of the season with a sprained ulnar collateral ligament in his throwing elbow, was scratched from his Tuesday start with tightness in the same elbow. After lasting just 4 2/3 innings in his last start, should fantasy owners be concerned?

There's definitely reason to be concerned, but this may not quite signal the demise of Santana's season. Santana told the Los Angeles Times that the pain he's experiencing, which actually has been described as forearm tightness, is not in the same area as his original symptoms. "That was on the inside of the elbow. This is on the outside. I know I'm going to be OK." It's good to know he's confident.

Apparently manager Mike Scioscia has confidence as well. "If I hadn't seen him throw as well as he did in Detroit and hadn't seen his stuff pick up like it has, I wouldn't be as comfortable with where he is," Scioscia said. Nonetheless, Santana is under the very watchful eye of the medical staff as they evaluate next steps. Even if the symptoms are different, the fact that he is feeling discomfort in his throwing elbow/forearm so soon after his return is somewhat worrisome. The Angels hope Santana will be able to start June 23, but if he is unable to go at that point, he could be facing a return to the DL.

On the mend

• Last week we said A's pitcher Justin Duchscherer's back had calmed, allowing him to resume his rehab activities. So much for that. Turns out Duchscherer's spine is behaving like many spines do and is flaring up again. Rehab has again been put on hold until the symptoms settle.

• The St. Petersburg Times reports that Rays lefty ace Scott Kazmir is expected to make a minor league start Wednesday. Kazmir has been feeling good and thinks his mechanics are under better control. In fact, he sought out advice from friend and former Mets pitching coach Rick Peterson as to which drills would help him maintain his improved mechanics. Several rehab starts should give him a chance to test out his improved quadriceps muscle and delivery. Although there has been no specific date given, if the rehab outings go well, Kazmir could rejoin the team by the end of next week.

Asdrubal Cabrera's left separated shoulder is feeling better. He is now taking practice swings and doing some fielding activities. According to, the Indians should have a better idea of when he'll be able to return by the end of this week.

• Royals third baseman Alex Gordon continues to make steady progress toward his return to the lineup after right hip labral surgery. He has taken some swings this week against live pitching, according to the Kansas City Star, and has returned to light jogging. Gordon is also fielding ground balls, which ultimately may be one of the more challenging activities for him to resume full force. The team still appears to be targeting a return near the All-Star break. I suspect it won't come until after that, but the good news is that Gordon's rehab is going according to plan.

• Finally ... Angels pitcher Kelvim Escobar has been placed on the DL ... again. Somehow this seems like a good move strategically. Escobar did experience some challenges when he rejoined the rotation in early June, and the Angels had indicated he was headed to the bullpen. With Escobar experiencing some fatigue in his surgically repaired shoulder and the Angels needing to add another starter in place of Santana this week, the DL move appears to be a good option. As the Los Angeles Times reports, manager Mike Scioscia said he would be "very surprised" if Escobar was not in the bullpen next Monday, the first day he is eligible to be activated.