Stephania Bell: Jason Kubel



Every Monday in this space, we'll provide updates on a variety of players to help you make your lineup decisions. We'll specifically try to hit the players who are day-to-day, have just gone on the DL or are ready to return, so that you can better decide whether you can count on them or not.

All projected return timelines should be considered fluid.

Hitters

David Ortiz, DH, Red Sox (opened season on DL, due back April): It's no secret that Ortiz has been battling inflammation in his heels this spring and chronic Achilles soreness since last year. Slowly and steadily, however, he has been increasing his activity and appears to be not far from rejoining his team. Ortiz began a rehab assignment Thursday with the Pawtucket Red Sox and managed to incorporate some baserunning -- including a slide -- over the weekend. He told ESPN Boston that he had "no hesitation" when running the bases -- a good sign, since that is what had triggered his Achilles issues last season. Red Sox manager John Farrell has indicated he will leave it to Ortiz to say when he's ready to return but estimated it would take approximately 25 to 30 at-bats. Ortiz did not play Sunday because of an illness, but presuming it is short-lived, he could get enough work to rejoin the team late this week. No guarantee this is behind him for the rest of the season but it sounds like Ortiz is reaching a point where he is able to play comfortably.

[+] EnlargeBrett Lawrie
Derick E. Hingle/USA TODAY SportsBrett Lawrie will be playing second base for Dunedin as part of his rehab.
Brett Lawrie, 3B, Blue Jays (injured March 6, opened season on DL, due back April): Lawrie has been steadily working his way back from a left-sided intercostal strain over the past few weeks. He began a rehab assignment with the Dunedin Blue Jays over the weekend suggesting he is nearing a return, perhaps late this week. With the loss of shortstop Jose Reyes for several months to a severe ankle sprain, the Blue Jays are experimenting with Lawrie at second base during his rehab assignment. It is not clear yet whether that experiment will carry over to his major league return. The priority for Lawrie, beyond regaining the rhythm of playing in games, is proving that he can play on back-to-back days without discomfort and can swing the bat without hesitation. Lawrie and his all-out style of play may always present some injury risk but the Jays at least want him to be fully recovered from the spring ailment before activating him.

Chase Headley, 3B, Padres (injured March 17, opened season on DL, due back April): Headley looks as if he could return this week, although which day that would be is unclear. Headley fractured the tip of his left thumb in March and was originally projected to be out until late April. When X-rays taken last week indicated the fracture was healing well, however, Headley was given the green light to do as much as he was comfortable doing, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune. That activity has progressed from drills -- including taking batting practice from both sides of the plate -- to a rehab assignment which began Friday. So far Headley seems to be comfortable with everything he's tested. Once he demonstrates he can perform offensively and defensively consistently without limitation, Headley could be back in the mix and that could happen any day.

Erick Aybar, SS, Angels (placed on DL April 13): Aybar bruised his left heel Tuesday when it hit the bag at first base hard as he ran out an infield single and it forced him to leave the game. Now it will force him to miss more extensive time. Although imaging tests appeared to have ruled out a significant injury, the pain associated with heel contusions makes it virtually impossible to put full weight through the foot for some time. According to Alden Gonzalez of MLB.com, Aybar, despite feeling improvement overall, was still having trouble hitting from the right side during batting practice Friday. The rest he will be able to give the heel during a DL stint should allow him to get past this. If all goes well, his absence should not exceed the two weeks.

Yoenis Cespedes, OF, A's (placed on DL April 13): Cespedes injured his left hand during a slide into second base Friday and was placed on the DL the next day. Imaging tests showed no fracture and the team is calling this a muscle strain, but given that this the injury is to his bottom batting hand, the A's perhaps wanted to take no chances on having him try to press and end up compensating elsewhere. At this point it appears he could return after the minimum 15-day stay.

Coco Crisp, OF, A's (DTD): Cespedes wasn't the only A's outfielder to injure himself Friday; Crisp exited the same game early after suffering a left groin strain. According to Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle, Crisp was removed from the game as a precautionary measure after the injury to Cespedes. At this point, Crisp's injury is considered minor and the team considers him day-to-day. Although he didn't play Sunday, he did take batting practice and did some running. It sounds as if he could return as soon as Monday, although the A's have not tipped their hand just yet.

Gordon Beckham, 2B, White Sox (placed on DL April 10, due back late May/early June): Beckham fractured the hamate bone in his left wrist and will undergo surgery at the Cleveland Clinic on Tuesday. This is the same surgery Giants third baseman Pablo Sandoval has undergone on both hands and is not uncommon among hitters. While lingering soreness from scar tissue can make swinging the bat uncomfortable initially, most hitters recover their power within the first few weeks back.

Michael Saunders, OF, Mariners (placed on DL April 11): Saunders suffered what the team is calling a sprain of his right shoulder when he crashed into the outfield wall last Wednesday. He managed to hang onto the fly ball that sent him to the wall, delivering an out for his team, but the wall took him out for an indefinite period of time. The team has not issued a timetable but fantasy owners should plan on at least a few weeks.

Mike Morse, OF, Mariners (DTD): On Friday I explained why Morse's broken finger isn't as serious an injury as it could have been. In fact, the team expressed hope he could return within three to seven days. Although a Sunday return seemed a little optimistic (and did not end up happening), the Seattle Times reports that manager Eric Wedge hopes to have him available Tuesday (following a team off day on Monday). The key is having him comfortable enough to swing the bat normally, but given the location of the injury, it shouldn't take long.

Franklin Gutierrez, OF, Mariners (DTD): Seriously, it appears to be hazardous to your health to be a Mariners outfielder. Add Gutierrez to the list of walking wounded with tightness in his groin, which caused him to sit out the weekend games. The Seattle Times reports manager Eric Wedge hopes to have Gutierrez back on Tuesday along with Morse. The concern in the case of Gutierrez is not exacerbating a minor ailment and turning it into a DL-worthy injury. Don't be surprised if Gutierrez sits a bit longer, especially if he is still experiencing discomfort Tuesday.

Jason Kubel, OF, Diamondbacks (placed on DL April 13): Lingering soreness in his left quadriceps led Kubel to be placed on the DL on Saturday. He hasn't appeared to truly be at full health since the spring, and after undergoing an MRI Saturday for his latest ailment, the decision was made to move him to the DL. It is not clear just yet whether the team expects him to miss more than the minimum time.

Michael Bourn, OF, Indians (DTD): Expect Bourn to miss several days after requiring five stitches in his right index finger. Bourn was stepped on by White Sox pitcher Matt Thornton while sliding headfirst Sunday. The main thing for Bourn is that the cut heals well so that this does not turn into something bigger which would force more time off.

Brian Roberts, 2B, Orioles (placed on DL April 4): After battling to return following lengthy injury absences the last two seasons, Roberts again finds himself sidelined after getting hurt. Roberts reportedly tore a hamstring tendon when he felt something "pop" in the back of his knee while stealing a base. While the prospects for returning from this injury are good, it most certainly will extend beyond the minimum DL time. He has yet to begin any baseball activities. It would be a surprise if he were to return before early May.

Wilson Ramos, C, Nationals (placed on DL April 14): The good news is that this injury is not to the same leg which recently underwent ACL reconstruction. The bad news is that the hamstring strain Ramos suffered was enough to send him to the DL. After such a difficult year in 2012, the hope was that Ramos could have a nicer start to the 2013 season. Unfortunately, getting into the groove of the season will be delayed by this setback, which will likely cost him more than the minimum two weeks.

Jason Kipnis, 2B, Indians (DTD): Kipnis has been battling a sore left elbow for several days, and he was out of the lineup both Saturday and Sunday. This spring, Kipnis reportedly dealt with soreness in his right elbow, which he attributed to the increased throwing that accompanies that time of year. So far, there's been no explanation as to what may be the source of this episode making it hard to evaluate just how worrisome his latest elbow issue is. As of now the Indians are calling Kipnis day-to-day and sound hopeful that he will return after Monday's off day but the vagueness surrounding the injury raises a bit of a concern.


Pitchers

[+] EnlargeAndy Pettitte
AP Photo/Seth WenigAndy Pettitte will turn 41 on June 15th of this season.
Andy Pettitte, SP, Yankees (missed last start, expected to start Friday): Back spasms. They happen when you're 40 years old. There's no reason to panic about Pettitte, as he has already indicated that he's feeling better than he did last week. The Yankees still thought it wise to give him a little extra time. According to ESPN New York, Pettitte will throw a bullpen session Tuesday, then start against the Blue Jays on Friday.

Johnny Cueto, SP, Reds (Placed on DL April 15): Cueto left his Saturday start in the fifth inning with what was initially described as a triceps injury. On Sunday, Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports reported Cueto is going to be placed on the DL with a lat strain. "Lat" of course refers to the latissimus dorsi muscle, the same muscle Phillies ace Roy Halladay strained last year which sent him to the DL for over a month, and the same ailment which has prevented Cubs pitcher Matt Garza from pitching yet this year. As with any muscle strain there are varying degrees of injury and the team has not offered much more in the way of specifics. But the lat is integral to a pitcher's throwing motion, and it is likely Cueto will not be permitted to throw for a period of time while allowing the tissue to recover. The time it takes for the soreness to resolve (which will impact the length of time until Cueto is permitted to resume throwing) will determine how long the total recovery will be. It would not be surprising, even if the strain is minor, for Cueto's absence to exceed two weeks.

Matt Harrison, SP, Rangers (placed on DL April 6): Harrison essentially left his Opening Day start with lower back soreness and has been out ever since. According to the Rangers' official website, Harrison experienced weakness in his left leg, a serious enough sign (suggesting nerve involvement) to send him to the DL. He has undergone epidural injections in his back to help with pain and inflammation but is still in recovery mode. He has yet to throw. Although Harrison is scheduled to be evaluated again this week, it does not appear he will be ready to come off the DL at the end of 15 days. Until he resumes throwing, there is really no timetable to project.

Wandy Rodriguez, SP, Pirates (DTD): Rodriguez left in the third inning of his April 8 start with a strained left hamstring. He told reporters Saturday that the only thing he can't do is "push off of it" when he tries to pitch, and he is hopeful he will miss only one start. The fact he has not been moved to the DL thus far is a good sign as are his own reports of his progress. As a left-handed thrower, Rodriguez needs power from that left leg, and he is in the best position to know by feel whether it is fully cooperating or not. If all goes well, he could make a start later this week.

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