- Stephania Bell, Fantasy Sports
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How about some good news for a change? There are a handful of players who are expected to rejoin their teams' lineups this week, giving fantasy owners some options to consider.
• Colorado Rockies ace Ubaldo Jimenez will return Tuesday to face the San Francisco Giants. Jimenez, who went on the disabled list with a cracked cuticle following his first start, threw with his usual velocity in his latest rehab outings. Now that the cuticle has healed, the issue should be behind him. Consequently, as Troy Renck of the Denver Post reports, Jimenez will not be on a pitch count (fantasy owners rejoice ... Giants fans, not so much).
• Cincinnati Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips is returning to play Tuesday after resting a few days because of a mild right groin strain. Phillips sustained the injury last Wednesday and, although he has hinted that he could have played by now, the team has not wanted to take any chances. Groin injuries can be particularly problematic for second basemen, who have to make explosive lateral defensive maneuvers on a regular basis. The last thing the Reds need is to see Phillips' injury turn into a more severe strain and an extended absence. According to the Cincinnati Enquirer, manager Dusty Baker also factored the elements into the equation as far as holding off Phillips' return, saying, "This [cold] weather isn't helping." It appears those concerns are no longer an issue, as Phillips is in the lineup for Tuesday night's game against the Arizona Diamondbacks.
• New York Mets outfielder Jason Bay's return to the starting lineup has been a long time coming. Bay suffered a scary concussion last July when he crashed into the outfield wall at Dodger Stadium, ending his 2010 season prematurely. Bay's concussion-related symptoms finally subsided in September and he appeared to be headed for a fresh start in spring training. That optimism didn't last long, as Bay strained a left intercostal muscle in late March. Originally, Bay denied the injury was serious but he was forced to start the season on the DL to let it heal. Bay began hitting off a tee less than two weeks ago and has steadily increased the vigor of his swing to playing in rehab games. ESPNNewYork.com reports that, in the absence of any setback, Bay is expected to be activated Thursday.
• In Toronto, there could be a switch at the closer position soon with Frank Francisco's return from the DL. Francisco, out since the start of the season with a strained pectoral muscle, was activated by the Blue Jays on Tuesday but is not expected to close right away. His 2010 season (with the Texas Rangers) ended with an injury to his right latissimus muscle, and he was unable to participate in the playoffs. The 31-year-old reliever's health was not enough of a concern to keep the Blue Jays from acquiring him, but they may be relieved to have Jon Rauch as insurance. Rauch has performed admirably at the closer position to start the season with Francisco out.
Francisco's latest injury involved not only his pectoral muscle but also inflammation of his biceps, a key structure in a thrower's shoulder in part because of its physical attachment to the labrum. Given his age (translation: wear and tear on the shoulder over time), there is reason to maintain at least some level of concern, even if minor. MRIs taken of Francisco's shoulder this spring revealed no structural damage, according to the Blue Jays' official website, which is encouraging, but only time will tell how well he holds up. The Blue Jays are expected to work Francisco back into relief duties but aren't likely to pass the closing baton to him automatically.
• The Blue Jays will also be getting Brandon Morrow back in the mix. Morrow started the season on the DL with right elbow inflammation after experiencing forearm tightness following a spring outing. Morrow initially expected to miss only one start, but the team kept him on a slower pace of building his pitch count, a wise move considering the length of the season. According to the Blue Jays' website, Morrow is expected to start Friday or Saturday.
• There may be some shuffling in San Francisco as the Giants prepare for the return of Cody Ross. Ross started the season on the DL with a calf strain and has progressed pretty much on pace with the Giants' initial projection of a three-week absence. Calf strains can be slow to heal and easily aggravated, but Ross showed no limitations in his spring outings as his innings gradually were extended. If Ross returns to the team Tuesday, which was the plan if there were no setbacks after his Monday outing, then Aubrey Huff would (no doubt thankfully) return to first base, according to the Giants' official website. Manager Bruce Bochy may then opt to send rookie Brandon Belt back to the minors for the time being. Fantasy owners should double-check pregame lineups because Bochy hinted that the weather in Colorado could be a factor in determining when Ross is activated.
Stephania Bell looks at the impending returns of players such as Ubaldo Jimenez, Brandon Phillips, Jason Bay and Frank Francisco.