Stephania Bell: Jayson Werth
Every Monday, in this space, we'll provide updates on a variety of players to help you make your weekly lineup decisions. We'll specifically try to hit the players who are day-to-day, have just gone on the DL or are ready to return, so that you can better decide whether to count on them or not.
All projected return timelines should be considered fluid.
Jesse Johnson/USA TODAY Sports Ryan Braun's thumb injury may keep him on the disabled list much longer than expected.
Ryan Braun, OF, Milwaukee Brewers (placed on DL June 10): Despite the Brewers’ initial suggestion that Braun would return when eligible (or close to it), it no longer appears that that will be the case. Braun consulted with hand specialist Dr. Don Sheridan in Phoenix, a visit referred to at the time as a matter of “due diligence.” While Sheridan did not reportedly recommend any more substantial intervention, he did instruct Braun to scale his activity back even further, as in completely, according to Adam McCalvy of MLB.com. Braun was advised to extend his rest period and then gradually work his way back toward baseball activity. The obvious goal is to see if Braun can return to functioning like his former self, as opposed to playing with pain and a power-sapped swing. Still, there are no guarantees that a couple additional weeks of rest will allow the contusion to resolve entirely. It’s possible that as Braun returns to swinging, the symptoms will flare up again even with the medical staff’s best attempt to buffer the contact between bat and thumb with padding. As manager Ron Roenicke told Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, "He may not get rid of [the pain] completely until the offseason." Translation: There’s no way to know what results Braun can deliver at the plate even when he does return.
Bryce Harper, OF, Washington Nationals (placed on DL retroactive to May 27): Harper is increasing his activity, but there seems to be some disagreement between Harper and manager Davey Johnson as to just when he might return. Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post outlined the details of their differing viewpoints, highlighting the challenges of coordinating between medical personnel, players and managers in choosing an appropriate time to return to play. Clearly, medical personnel have the overriding authority to keep a player out if they believe a return to be unsafe. But as a player gets healthy enough to return, some may want extra time to regain the “feel” of being their normal game-ready selves, whereas managers may believe the best final stage of rehab is major league play. That disparity seems to be at the heart of the disagreement between Harper and Johnson.
This much we know. Harper is performing fielding drills and was scheduled to take batting practice on the field Monday. He is no longer having pain and the effusion (swelling) has dissipated. Harper appears on track to start a rehab assignment this week if all continues well, although the start date and the length of assignment are up in the air. He has turned a corner in his rehab effort and is approaching a return to his team either late this week or next. There is no denying the problem could become aggravated with another Harper-style crash into a wall, a diving slide or even an awkward lunge. But at some point, Harper will have nothing left but to re-enter the big leagues and test it.
Matt Kemp, OF, Los Angeles Dodgers (placed on DL May 30): Kemp is recovering from two ailments, a mild right hamstring strain and a more serious case of struggling at the plate. He began a rehab assignment Saturday, presumably to get both back in major league shape. After going 0-for-5 in his first outing and 1-for-3 in his second, it’s hard to feel supremely confident about either. Of course, that is a small sample size and part of his struggle can be attributed to his extended absence from the game. And Kemp did score from second on a single Saturday, indicating he gave the hammie a little test, and it responded well. It’s not clear just how long Kemp will remain on the DL as he tries to get himself ready to return, but he could rejoin the team later this week.
Jayson Werth, OF, Washington Nationals (day-to-day): Werth left Sunday’s game in the fourth inning due to a groin strain, a day after sitting out of the lineup with flu symptoms. According to the Washington Post, Werth acknowledged feeling dehydrated before the game began and felt it put him at risk. Werth strained his right hamstring earlier this season, attributing that injury to dehydration and cramps as well. It’s unclear whether he will end up on the DL; last time he sat out for a week, then moved to the DL when the hamstring did not improve. This injury is on Werth’s left side and does not appear directly related to his previous soft tissue ailment, but the cumulative wear and tear may be adding up. Now 34 years old, the injuries seem to be taking a toll on Werth, who, before last season’s wrist fracture, had not been to the DL in four years.
AP Photo/Morry Gash Carlos Gomez, one of this season's biggest surprises, may need a few days, at least, to recover from a shoulder injury.
Carlos Gomez, OF, Milwaukee Brewers (day-to-day): The shoulder injury Gomez suffered Sunday looked painful enough that anyone who saw it immediately thought it was serious. Gomez made a great play at the wall, but as is often the case, his body paid the price. The contact his left shoulder made with the wall left Gomez in clear discomfort. Later reports indicated Gomez had suffered a “sprained shoulder” and was considered day-to-day, a much better diagnosis than first anticipated.
However, this diagnosis is still vague. The typical “sprain” a player suffers after slamming his shoulder into a wall is to the acromioclavicular (AC) joint. (This is the injury that Seattle Mariners outfielder Michael Saunders suffered earlier this year, causing him to miss roughly three weeks.) However, Gomez's injury was somewhat different. Gomez actually got his elbow pinned behind him as he made the catch, which put his shoulder (glenohumeral) joint itself in a precarious position. According to the Brewers’ official website, Gomez felt his shoulder pop out and back in, otherwise known as a subluxation (where it slips briefly out of position but doesn’t dislocate). It’s hard to know whether the force when he hit the wall or the translation of the force up through the arm as he got jammed contributed to the injury. Regardless, Gomez, who suffered a fractured clavicle (collarbone) on the same side two years ago and required surgery to repair it, had to be relieved this wasn’t a repeat performance. Still, his shoulder is bound to be sore and swollen, which will make it difficult to move for a few days. The sooner he regains his motion, the less down time he will likely require. The Brewers aren’t talking DL at the moment, but much will depend on what happens over the next few days. Fantasy owners should not plan on having him available this week.
Aaron Hill, 2B, Arizona Diamondbacks (placed on DL April 15, expected to return Tuesday): Last week, I outlined Hill’s progression toward a return, despite the presence of a non-union fracture. He has now been officially activated by the Diamondbacks and is expected to play his first game in over two months on Tuesday. Judging from his performance during his rehab assignment, Hill has been able to function quite well despite the fact that his hand has not fully healed. The hope is that this will translate to the big leagues. While it’s always possible the hand could become problematic down the line (and he will likely require an offseason procedure), it’s also possible his discomfort has stabilized to the point where he can function just fine going forward. Only time will tell.
Pablo Sandoval, 3B, San Francisco Giants (placed on DL June 9; due back today): The left foot strain that had Sandoval limping around in early June has healed significantly, and Sandoval was activated Monday. His strong performance in his rehab outings suggested that the foot was not affecting his power swing, and he was convincing enough running the bases to quell any other concerns. Expect Sandoval in the lineup as the Giants face the Dodgers in one of the few Monday night games.
Alex Rodriguez, 3B, New York Yankees (started season on DL; due back after All-Star break): There’s no doubt that Rodriguez is making stepwise progress in his recovery from offseason hip surgery, but when that progress will translate to game play is not yet clear. Although reports from the New York Daily News indicated that Rodriguez was medically cleared to begin game play July 1, Yankees general manager Brian Cashman refuted that statement. According to ESPNNewYork, Cashman said, "He has not been cleared by our doctors to play in rehab games yet." However, it does sound as if that time is rapidly approaching. Rodriguez has been performing baseball activities such as hitting and fielding at the team’s spring training facility in Tampa. The natural next step is to incorporate the activities into game situations. It’s unclear whether he would DH initially or return to third base duties, but he is likely to be eased gradually into innings of play. As far as his timeline, Rodriguez is on target with the activities he’s been doing thus far. If all continues well, he could rejoin the team right around the initial projected return of just post-All Star break.
Asdrubal Cabrera, SS, Cleveland Indians (placed on DL June 4, could return this week): Cabrera has been gradually working his way back from a quadriceps strain and could be ready to go before the week is out. Quad strains are not unlike hamstring strains in that sometimes the only way to truly test the final phase of recovery is by returning to action. Cabrera progressed from pool work initially to land drills that incorporated hitting, fielding and, ultimately, running. At this point, it appears the Indians are satisfied enough with his progress that he may not be sent on a rehab assignment, but that also means he won’t have been tested in game situations. Sprinting out of the batter’s box down the first base line and situational running are hard to simulate, so until he survives those activities without a setback, he won’t be out of the woods.
Dan Haren, SP, Washington Nationals (placed on DL June 23): Haren has not been himself; this is something upon which everyone can agree. As for whether an injury is truly responsible for his poor performance is up for debate. Still, Haren finds himself on the DL as he attempts to sort through what has troubled him the first half of the season. Reportedly dealing with stiffness in his throwing shoulder, Haren downplayed the problem when speaking to the Washington Times. “… My shoulder’s been bugging me the last two, three starts … nothing I haven’t pitched through in the past,” Haren said. As for the move to the DL, Haren indicated the team wanted him “to get 100 percent,” but was quick to point out the shoulder was not to blame for his performance early in the year. As he told the Times, “That was more due to lack of execution, instead of an injury.”
The good news is that the “injury” sending Haren to the DL is not overly concerning, although he is scheduled for an MRI to take a closer look. Haren has had an amazing health record dating back to his college days, and until he went on the DL last year because of a nagging back issue, Haren had not missed a start in his career. Not a single start! Pretty remarkable when you consider the physical toll exacted on pitchers. After he returned from the DL, his back symptoms were fairly stable, but his performance was inconsistent, and he struggled with giving up the long ball.
When I spoke with Haren during spring training this year, he struck me as an athlete who was very in tune with his body. He was diligent about maintaining a physical regimen during the offseason to proactively fend off a recurrence of back troubles. That regimen included a focus on hip flexibility, an essential component of maintaining back strength, and so far, neither area has been a problem for him this season. (Readers may recall there was some discussion about the health of Haren’s hip when trade options were being discussed.) Unfortunately, there’s no eliminating the wear and tear pitching will ultimately place on a thrower’s arm, and it typically manifests itself in an injury at some point in a pitcher’s career. But given both his and the team’s description of what he’s currently experiencing, there’s no reason to panic about Haren’s health…at least not yet.
Clay Buchholz, SP, Boston Red Sox (placed on DL retroactive to June 9): Buchholz is eligible to be activated this week and the initial thinking was that he might start Tuesday if his Saturday throwing session went well. Apparently it did not go well enough. As ESPNBoston.com reports, Buchholz did not throw a planned bullpen, limiting his throws to flat ground only. Buchholz is still experiencing tightness in his neck and upper right shoulder area, which is not allowing him to throw at full intensity. He says he is making progress although manager John Farrell acknowledges, “…it's going slower than we had anticipated." There remains no timetable as Buchholz’s progression is completely dependent on how he responds to each outing. This ailment dates back to the AC joint soreness he experienced in May after sleeping with his shoulder in an awkward position. The neck stiffness appeared soon afterward and has lingered ever since. It’s a bit concerning that it has not yet resolved, but there have been no reports of numbness or weakness in his arm, which would suggest a more serious problem. As annoying as the slow advancement may be for Buchholz, the Red Sox and fantasy owners, Buchholz is right to wait and not try to pitch through something that could result in compensation and, perhaps, a more serious injury. In the meantime, fantasy owners need to replace him in their lineups for at least another week.
Chris Perez, RP, Cleveland Indians (placed on DL May 27, expected return this week): After being placed on the DL for the first time in his major league career, Perez is hoping to come off it this week. After being shut down with rotator cuff tendinitis in his throwing shoulder, Perez has progressed through his rehab fairly uneventfully. His shoulder has not regressed, but his uneven performance in early outings led to a bit longer time in rehab games. According to MLB.com, Perez will have another rehab outing Tuesday, but if that goes well, he should be activated shortly thereafter. This injury never had the look of something particularly serious and appears to have responded well to the brief downtime.
Rafael Betancourt, RP, Colorado Rockies (placed on DL June 1, could return this week): After reluctantly going on the DL at the start of the month, Betancourt has wisely progressed at a reasonable pace, not rushing back. As reported by the Denver Post, he underwent PRP injections early in the process and has been progressively increasing his throwing activity in the weeks since. He has now been throwing downhill for the past 10 days with increasing intensity over that period. Betancourt is hoping to avoid a rehab assignment, according to the Rockies’ official website and given his relatively short downtime from throwing, that could be a reasonable possibility. The groin issue that sent him to the DL had reportedly been present for quite some time, so this may be a situation to watch. The extended rest was clearly necessary to get him over the hump, but whether it resurfaces as the season progresses remains to be seen.
Ryan Madson, RP, Los Angeles Angels (opened season on DL, no timetable for return): The last time we discussed Madson in this space, we talked about his multiple setbacks post-Tommy John surgery delaying his big league debut. The good news is that Madson is throwing again; the bad news is that he is limited to playing catch and the possibility of a shutdown is looming. According to the Angels’ official website, manager Mike Scioscia acknowledged the prospect. "As the calendar turns, it becomes more of a possibility," Scioscia said. At the end of the day, the important thing is to protect Madson’s arm and not press him into service before he is ready. While an appearance this year is not yet ruled out for Madson, for fantasy owners who didn’t heed the advice in this column last time, it’s repeated again. Time to move along.
Every Monday, in this space, we'll provide updates on a variety of players to help you make your weekly lineup decisions. We'll specifically try to hit the players who are day-to-day, have just gone on the DL or are ready to return, so that you can better decide whether you can count on them or not.
All projected return timelines should be considered fluid.
Bryce Harper, OF, Washington Nationals (placed on DL retroactive to May 27): Last week, I said not to expect Harper's left knee (originally injured crashing into the outfield wall in Dodger Stadium on May 13) to land him on the DL if he could help it. It couldn't be helped. In fact, Harper acknowledged to reporters that he aggravated his knee with a headfirst slide May 25 and it turns out the persistent swelling and soreness was too much to overcome. On Sunday, Harper described his knee as "still swollen and crappy" yet said he hopes to start running and hitting at some point this week. The bottom line is he won't be given the green light to run if he is still experiencing swelling to the point where he continues to walk with a limp, as he reportedly was Thursday night.
There's no magic antidote for the swelling associated with bursitis; rest is perhaps the key ingredient for getting it under control. The bigger concern would be preventing this from turning into a chronic issue over the remainder of the season. Harper's move to the DL reflects the Nationals' desire to curb the problem now and he's not likely to resurface until his progress moves him out of range of the easy threat of a setback. After all, teammate and fellow outfielder Jayson Werth followed a similar pattern of being placed on the DL following a string of consecutive missed games. At the time, Werth expected to return when eligible but was held back when his hamstring continued to nag at him with certain explosive activities. Now it looks as if Werth will rejoin the team Tuesday, so at least the Nationals anticipate getting a player back as they lose Harper, but it's worth noting his absence will have exceeded a month. If Harper's progress remains slow, expect his timetable to be extended because the Nationals know he isn't wired to play at anything less than 110 percent effort, regardless of how his body actually feels.
Matt Kemp, OF, Los Angeles Dodgers (placed on DL May 30): The Dodgers' decision to place Kemp on the DL seems to be more of a proactive effort to keep his injury from worsening than a reactive response to severity. Kemp felt his right hamstring tighten up while chasing down a Mike Trout double on Wednesday and took himself out of the game, perhaps a lesson learned from last year's episode with his left hamstring. Although the injury did not appear serious, the move to the DL forces Kemp to sit out at least 15 days and rest his legs. Last year, Kemp tried to return quickly following his hamstring strain, only to suffer a setback within two days, resulting in another six-week absence. And let's face it, he has not had the best start to his season. Kemp has been struggling at the plate after coming off surgery to repair his labrum, not because the shoulder is bothering him, but he has not rediscovered his swing. While his performance has been below expectations, other power hitters have said it can take months before they feel like their stroke is effortless after undergoing shoulder surgery. The twinge in his hamstring and the forced time off may be just the thing to help Kemp restart his season. No timetable has been issued, but it appears Kemp's leg will not require much beyond the minimal two weeks. Beyond how he looks and feels in running situations, it will be worth paying attention to how Kemp fares at the plate once those rehab games get underway.
Carl Crawford, OF, Los Angeles Dodgers (day-to-day): Another outfielder, another hamstring issue. These injuries seem to be running rampant among outfielders throughout the league. Crawford, who has been quiet on the injury front so far this year after missing virtually all of last season following wrist surgery and later Tommy John surgery, left Saturday's game with a left hamstring "cramp," according to the Dodgers' Twitter account. Crawford was held out of the game Sunday. A cramping or tugging is often a precursor to something more sinister; the question is whether a few days of rest is enough to clear the issue or whether more downtime is needed. Crawford did have some issues with the same hamstring in the early part of May and sat out one game as a result. In 2011, Crawford went on the DL for a left hamstring injury and missed a month. Other than that one episode, Crawford has not dealt with significant hamstring problems. Naturally, the Dodgers would like to keep it that way. With Kemp out and Crawford potentially out for several days -- or longer -- the Dodgers have promoted top prospect Yasiel Puig to provide outfield help.
Hanley Ramirez, SS, Los Angeles Dodgers (placed on DL May 4, expected to return this week): Hamstring injuries aren't just for outfielders, as the Dodgers are all too aware. Ramirez, who strained his left hamstring just days after returning from a month-long absence following thumb surgery, suffered a serious enough injury to sideline him another month. As frustrating as this injury has been for Ramirez and everyone else, he finally appears on the brink of return. He has been on a rehab assignment this weekend (with Sunday off) and is expected to play in a game again Monday with a possible activation as early as Tuesday. The key for the Dodgers' comfort level with his return is adequate situational play to stress the hamstring and observe its response. Ideally that would include turning corners running from first to third, which also happens to be how Ramirez suffered the injury in the first place, but that particular test has not presented itself. What the Dodgers cannot afford is for Ramirez to return and re-injure himself. Obviously there are no guarantees but the team at least needs to feel comfortable they have seen enough in his rehab outings to suggest his leg is ready for prime time. It appears this will be the week they get him back, barring a setback, but the specific day he will return is not yet set in stone.
Austin Jackson, OF, Detroit Tigers (placed on DL retroactive to May 12, possible return this week): Jackson's strain was not viewed as serious even when the team placed him on the DL, but as hamstrings are wont to do, his recovery time has proceeded slower than expected. Jackson has resumed baseball activities over the past 10 days and ran the bases Saturday, although it is unclear whether he did so at full speed. The expectation is that if all goes well, he will embark on a rehab assignment shortly. Manager Jim Leyland told reporters last week that Jackson would head to Toledo for a short rehab assignment prior to being activated. This gives him the opportunity to test the hamstring in unpredictable, reactionary situations, an important final step before returning to the lineup. If the rehab assignment is uneventful, Jackson could be back with his teammates this week however the Tigers have been clear they do not want to rush him. Should his rehab start get delayed or should they decide they want him to get more games under his belt before returning, he might not make an appearance before next week.
Aaron Hill, 2B, Arizona Diamondbacks (placed on DL April 15, no definite timetable): When Hill was first diagnosed with a fracture in his left hand, the projected timetable was his absence was four to six weeks, the standard for bone healing. The problem is that the bone hasn't healed. As reported by the Arizona Republic last week, Hill has a nonunion fracture, and the choices at this point are to try to resume baseball activities gradually and see how he is able to tolerate them, or to undergo surgery. Hill is trying the former option and so far has been able to hit from a tee. The Republic notes the next step will be facing live pitching. Hill would need to work his way through a rehab assignment before considering a return, suggesting he is still at least a couple of weeks out. And that's if the hand doesn't become too painful along the way. There's no clear answer here as to when Hill might return but at least there's some encouragement that he has picked up a bat again.
Brett Lawrie, OF, Toronto Blue Jays (placed on DL May 28): When Lawrie was injured this spring, forcing him to open the season on the DL, a source in the Jays' organization expressed concern to me about Lawrie's ability to stay healthy, given how he plays (a la Bryce Harper). Everyone admires the enthusiasm but knows it comes with a bit of risk. Still, there's nothing that could have prevented Lawrie's left ankle from catching the bag and twisting as it did on a recent attempted steal. In fact, it looked violent enough that it actually brought to mind a similar injury suffered by his teammate Jose Reyes, who has now been out over a month and is still recovering. Indications are that Lawrie's sprain was not as serious, but it still will take time to get back to full Brett Lawrie mode. He is currently undergoing rehab in Florida and will miss the full two weeks, possibly more. Fantasy owners should expect he will need some extra time to push the ankle with agility maneuvers, sliding and turning corners. Don't be surprised if it requires an additional week or two.
Stephen Strasburg, SP, Washington Nationals (day-to-day): Strasburg clearly looked uncomfortable Friday night and it didn't take long for the decision-makers to decide to pull him. Originally thought to be an oblique strain, Strasburg is now reported to be dealing with a Grade 1(minor) strained lat (latissimus dorsi) muscle, the large muscle on the back that attaches to the arm and is involved in throwing. Based on how Strasburg was flinching Friday night, rolling his shoulders around in an apparent effort to loosen up, it seemed as if the ailment was not behaving like a typical oblique (the highest oblique muscles attach around the middle of the rib cage and most often players will reach for their side or lean towards one side when that's the issue) and the announcement that it is indeed his lat makes sense. As of now the Nationals say they will be taking it day by day and that Strasburg could test himself throwing a side session Wednesday. This, of course, will happen only if he is pain-free.
It's worth pointing out that Strasburg also appeared to be uncomfortable during an outing in late April. That episode was later reported to be forearm tightness and he did not miss his next start. The Nationals have to be watching him closely for all the body language that would suggest he is less than full capacity, given that Strasburg seems to hold back when it comes to discussing injury. Their worst fear would be not simply an aggravation of a lat strain that could sideline him longer, but a more significant injury to this throwing arm as a result of compensating, especially when he is only recently removed from Tommy John surgery. More information should be available Wednesday after Strasburg's scheduled throwing session.
Josh Johnson, SP, Toronto Blue Jays (placed on DL April 26, expected to return Tuesday): There's some good news finally for the Jays, or at least it appears to be. According to the Jays' official website, Johnson, out since late April with a triceps injury, is expected to rejoin his team Tuesday to face the San Francisco Giants. Johnson has made three rehab starts with generally mixed results but most importantly has not had any discomfort in his arm and feels comfortable throwing all his pitches. The Jays could certainly benefit from his presence but as manager John Gibbons said, "We need Josh to be good when he comes back. He's got to stabilize things." The rehab and offseason maintenance programs Johnson has participated in over the last two years seemed to be paying off for him when he looked strong in his spring outings. If this episode can be viewed as just a minor speed bump on the season -- and there's no reason to think Johnson can't stay healthy for the remainder of the year -- then it really could be good news for everyone, including fantasy owners.
David Price, SP, Tampa Bay Rays (placed on DL May 16, no timetable for return): At least we can see some progress in Price's throwing progression, but he still isn't throwing from the mound. Price has increased the distance at which he's playing catch to 105 feet, according to the Tampa Bay Times. He has now been playing catch for about a week with no reported setbacks and at progressive distances. Still, the vigor of throwing increases substantially when a pitcher throws downhill, something Price could start to do within the week. While the Rays continue to refrain from establishing a timetable, it would stand to reason that Price would need rehab outings prior to a return. First things first. Let's see how his arm responds when he ratchets up the effort.
Rafael Betancourt, RP, Colorado Rockies (placed on DL June 1): When the Denver Post reported in May that Betancourt had inflammation around scar tissue in his right groin area, it seemed unlikely that a few days rest would be sufficient. After all, he had been experiencing what he described as tightness and weakness in the area since April. Even the Rockies indicate he's been dealing with this issue for several years, according to the Post. Betancourt never blamed the injury for his performance but his recent struggles would suggest it has to at least be considered a factor. Now he will have no option but to take some time to see if it settles down. When he returns - and it's possible he could miss only the minimum time - perhaps it will be clearer just how much a factor the groin has been.
Huston Street, RP, San Diego Padres (placed on DL retroactive to May 30): Uh-oh. It's deja vu with Street again. Not only is he returning to the DL, a place he has spent time each of the last three seasons, but he is dealing with an injury to the same part of his body that landed him there last August. Street has a strained left calf and last year it cost him 41 days. Padres manager Bud Black and Street told reporters the injury is less severe this time. According to the Padres' official website, Street had a simple assessment: "Same calf, different spot and a different severity level," he said. Perhaps the quick decision to move to the DL will result in less down time. Last year, Street did try to pitch through discomfort but that ultimately turned to pain and a lengthy absence. Street is hopeful he will only need to rest the leg a week or so before resuming activity. Calf injuries are not unlike hamstring strains in that an athlete often begins to feel better until he tests it at full speed. Fortunately for Street, he shouldn't be faced with sprinting that often and perhaps will be able to return after the minimum time.
Every Monday in this space, we'll provide updates on a variety of players to help you make your weekly lineup decisions. We'll specifically try to hit the players who are day-to-day, have just gone on the DL or are ready to return, so that you can better decide whether you can count on them or not.
All projected return timelines should be considered fluid.
HittersCurtis Granderson, OF, New York Yankees (placed on DL May 25; expected to miss at least a month): When it comes to injuries this season, if the Yankees didn't have bad luck, they wouldn't have any luck at all. Granderson, whose season finally got under way just a few weeks ago, is now out for at least a month with another fracture.
Two hit-by-pitches have resulted in fractures for Granderson, the first a broken right radius (forearm bone) just above the wrist, and now a broken left fifth metacarpal (the long bone of the hand, at the base of the fifth (pinkie) finger). The latest incident occurred Friday night when Granderson absorbed the impact of a pitch to his left knuckle in the fifth inning. In an almost eerie forewarning of this event, Granderson spoke to the Yankees' website just weeks ago during his rehab assignment (from the first fracture) about not fearing the inside pitches. "There's going to be pitches inside, I'm going to get hit again, but you got to stay in," Granderson said. In this case, he stayed in until he was forced out, literally, because of injury.
If there's any good news here, it's that it appears this fracture, like the first, will not require surgery. Broken bones typically require four to six weeks to allow sufficient healing to permit return to play; if Granderson's finger shows good early callus formation (bone healing) and he can grip the bat effectively, his timetable should fit right in that timeframe. That said, he might have to encase his fingers, hands and forearms in bubble wrap when he steps to the plate to get through the rest of the season.
Shane Victorino, OF, Boston Red Sox (placed on DL retroactive to May 21): Victorino had been battling back spasms in recent weeks yet managed to avoid a DL stint. Not now. This time it's his left hamstring that's giving him fits, and Victorino will be forced to rest until he can run without limitation. Interestingly, Victorino's hamstring started to bother him just days after returning to the lineup following missed time for his back. If these two issues are related, which would not be surprising, this could turn out to be intermittently problematic throughout the season.
Will Middlebrooks, 3B, Red Sox (placed on DL May 24): Perhaps back spasms are contagious in Boston. Middlebrooks left Thursday's game early due to back spasms, something manager John Farrell told reporters might have begun Wednesday night as Middlebrooks came out of the batter's box. The good news is that Middlebrooks said, according to ESPN Boston, that as of Saturday he was already feeling improvement. "I do [think I'll come off the DL when eligible]," he said, adding, "I feel better than yesterday, so if I'm already making steps forward, that's where I want to be." This looks to be a minor episode.
Jayson Werth, OF, Nationals (placed on DL retroactive to May 3): When Werth was first placed on the disabled list, the thought was that he would miss the minimum amount of time. After all, when the decision was made to formally move him, he had already missed eight games and seemed to be faring better. But if there's anything we know about hamstring injuries, it's that they are among the least predictable of all soft-tissue ailments. It is often not until the athlete tests the leg with full-speed sprinting activities that lingering issues make themselves known. In Werth's case, he experienced discomfort when breaking out of the batter's box, according to Amanda Comak of the Washington Times. The persistent discomfort led to an MRI, which manager Davey Johnson told reporters was "alarming." Consequently, Werth's timetable has been extended with a new target date of June 3, according to general manager Mike Rizzo (via the Washington Post). It's worth reiterating, however, that hamstrings remain unpredictable. Let's see what Werth does this week in his workouts before counting on a Monday return.
Chase Utley, 2B, Philadelphia Phillies (placed on DL May 23): Utley's knees haven't really been a topic of discussion this season since they haven't seemed to limit him thus far. Now, however, Utley is dealing with a different type of injury issue: a strained right oblique. The Phillies report it as a Grade 1 or minor strain, and the move to the DL reflects their desire to not allow it to worsen. Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. offered a timetable of 2-4 weeks, which is certainly reasonable, adding, "We do believe and hope that Chase will be ready to play in Philadelphia within 15 days." The average missed time for an oblique strain in a hitter runs right around a month, but the most mild forms have allowed an athlete return after the minimum stay (such as Freddie Freeman earlier this season). Although there is some optimism Utley will be back after the 15 days, there's no reason for the team to rush him, especially this early in the season.
Trevor Plouffe, 3B, Minnesota Twins (placed on 7-day concussion DL May 22; expected to return Wednesday): Plouffe took a knee to the head while sliding last Tuesday and was subsequently placed on the concussion DL. Concussions are the least predictable of all injuries, but based on Plouffe's fairly swift recovery so far, it appears the Twins will get him back the first day he's eligible to return. According to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Plouffe passed his neurocognitive (ImPACT) tests Thursday and participated in cardio work Friday, which shows progression. If he is able to perform baseball-related activities early this week without any recurrence of symptoms, it appears he will be cleared to rejoin his team's lineup Wednesday.
Wilkin Ramirez, OF, Twins (placed on 7-day concussion DL May 26): Another collision, another concussion for a Twins player. Unlike the knee to the head Plouffe sustained, Ramirez was concussed making a defensive play in the outfield Saturday when he crashed into teammate Josh Willingham. According to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Ramirez was not originally on board with the DL designation, that is until he experienced queasiness during the team's flight home Sunday. Good job by the Twins, who certainly have had experience with complex concussions (think former AL MVP Justin Morneau). Now it will be a matter of waiting to see how Ramirez progresses throughout the next week.
PitchersChris Perez, RP, Cleveland Indians (placed on DL May 27): Perez is sidelined with right shoulder soreness, and he was placed on the disabled list for the first time in his major league career early Monday. He was forced to leave Sunday's game against the Red Sox early because of the shoulder, according to ESPN.com. "It kind of pinched on me and sent a little pain down my arm," Perez said. While any shoulder issue is of concern for a pitcher, this doesn't yet have the sounds of something major. It appears Perez at least needs some down time to let the symptoms settle, and he can then hopefully return to throwing. Hopefully.
Clay Buchholz, SP, Red Sox (day-to-day, expected to start at some point this week): Buchholz was scratched from his Monday start after irritating his right acromioclavicular (AC) joint (the point of the shoulder), something he attributes to falling asleep on his side with his arm wrapped around his young daughter. The impression is that this is just a simple matter of delaying his start to account for the soreness, preventing him from compensating and potentially creating another problem. According to ESPNBoston.com, the plan is for Buchhholz to play catch Monday, and he expects to pitch again later this week.
Chris Sale, SP, Chicago White Sox (day-to-day): Mild tendinitis in his posterior throwing shoulder was the diagnosis for Sale. While any inflammation in a thrower's shoulder is a cause for some concern, the Sox immediately indicated they expected Sale to return for his next start after being scratched last Wednesday. Those plans were confirmed after Sale played catch in the outfield prior to Saturday's game. Afterward, Sale said, "It felt a lot better than I actually thought it would be. Everything is on track, and I will be ready to go Tuesday." He was scheduled to follow up Saturday's session with a Sunday bullpen, and there has been no word of any setback.
If Sale returns without incident, there will be a big sigh of relief from his fantasy owners. But the specter of concern has been raised once again -- last year, there were some questions about whether he was dealing with an elbow injury in May, followed by a reported dead arm period in July -- which must remain in the back of our minds. The bigger question will be whether or not Sale can get through the remainder of the season without this turning into something more substantial.
David Price, SP, Tampa Bay Rays (placed on DL May 16): Triceps tightness originally put Price on the DL, but nobody on the Rays seemed overly concerned. Manager Joe Maddon said he did not expect Price to miss more than two or three starts. Apparently there's now reason to be at least a little more concerned. Despite Price's assertions that his arm feels "great," he hasn't yet begun to throw. According to the Tampa Bay Times, playing catch hopefully will begin within the next few days, but Price will have to proceed through a throwing progression before returning the rotation, which could take an additional few weeks. So much for him missing only 2-3 starts; now there is no official timetable. Until Price actually starts throwing with effort, it's difficult to gauge whether the slow progress is as a result of the Rays taking a conservative approach with him or because of legitimate concern over the health of Price's arm.
Ryan Madson, RP, Los Angeles Angels (opened the season on DL; no timetable for return): Every time it seems Madson is making progress in his recovery from Tommy John surgery, he seems to have some form of setback, which delays his return. The most recent incident occurred last week, when Madson developed soreness in his arm while throwing. Instead of beginning an anticipated rehab assignment with Triple-A Salt Lake, Madson has been shut down indefinitely. He is now 14 months post-surgery, and while the timetable for return following this procedure has a range of anywhere from nine to 16 months, the multiple setbacks Madson has experienced are discouraging.
Rarely is the road back to competition entirely uneventful, but Madson seems to have been pushed back with various episodes of discomfort a bit more than usual. At this point, the Angels seem to be getting solid production from Ernesto Frieri in the closer role, and it looks as if he will stay there for the foreseeable future. No doubt the Angels would like to see Madson return to the mound this year, but it has already proven to be slow going. For fantasy purposes, it's probably time to move along.
Jered Weaver, SP, Angels (placed on DL April 8; expected to return Wednesday): It's always nicer to see someone returning from the disabled list as opposed to going on it, especially when it's your team's -- real or fantasy -- ace hurler. Weaver has been out for more than a month after sustaining a non-displaced fracture of his radial head as a result of an awkward fall on the mound. His road to recovery has been uneventful, with the latter part primarily focused on building up his arm strength to the point of being able to reclaim his spot in the rotation. The Angels have announced Weaver will return Wednesday to face the Angels' neighboring rival, the Los Angeles Dodgers, and fantasy owners should have no concerns about starting him right out of the gate.
Ryan Vogelsong, SP, Giants (placed on DL May 21; expected to miss eight weeks): Vogelsong had not one break but two in his right (throwing) hand, an injury sustained while hitting last week. He underwent surgery last week which required five pins to stabilize the fractures, according to manager Bruce Bochy, and he will need time for the bone to show evidence of healing before he can resume throwing. He will then need additional time to regain throwing strength. Given the projected timeline, expect Vogelsong to be out until well after the All-Star break.
Every Monday in this space, we'll provide updates on a variety of players to help you make your weekly lineup decisions. We'll specifically try to hit the players who are day-to-day, have just gone on the DL or are ready to return, so that you can better decide whether you can count on them or not.
All projected return timelines should be considered fluid.
HittersJason Heyward, OF, Atlanta Braves (placed on DL April 21, could return this week): Heyward went on the disabled list following an emergency appendectomy, so at least there's comfort in knowing this is not going to be a recurrent problem. Now it's just a matter of when he will return … and when he'll be effective.
Heyward has been on a rehab assignment for several days at Triple-A Gwinnett, and other than some soreness that warranted a day off, his stint has been uneventful from a health perspective. It also has been uneventful at the plate, that is until Sunday, when he finally started hitting. The Braves don't have an exact date for his return, but he's expected to rejoin the team at some point this week.
The Yankees would like it if he stays healthy and stays in. There's every indication he will come back and be productive immediately, and that return could happen any day now, potentially as early as Tuesday, when the Yankees open a series at home.
Coco Crisp, OF, Oakland Athletics (placed on DL April 30, could return this week): Crisp strained his left hamstring trying to run out a ground ball in the A's seemingly never-ending Monday night game nearly two weeks ago. Fortunately, the strain appeared mild and Crisp could potentially attempt to run the bases soon, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. Obviously his tolerance of running will help determine his readiness to return -- manager Bob Melvin told reporters Crisp might not need a formal rehab assignment -- but as is always the case with hamstrings, until he runs in games without a setback, it will be impossible to tell just how healthy he is.
Chris Young, OF, A's (placed on DL April 30, could return Wednesday): The A's hope to get another outfielder with a soft tissue injury back soon. Just as Coco Crisp recovers from his hamstring, Young is working to get past a left quad strain that has sidelined him the past couple of weeks. After passing the necessary rehab clearances, Young is expected to get some at-bats in extended spring training games during the early part of the week, according to the A's official website. If all goes well, he could return when eligible on Wednesday.
Neil Walker, 2B, Pittsburgh Pirates (placed on DL retroactive to April 27, expected to return Monday): Two weeks ago in this space, I wrote about how the Pirates hoped to return Walker within days if he could swing the bat effectively. Clearly he could not, and the decision was made to place him on the DL. After beginning a rehab assignment last Thursday, it seems Walker has shown he has moved past the injury, and his return appears imminent.
Michael Cuddyer, OF, Colorado Rockies (placed on DL retroactive to May 9): Cuddyer had already missed three games with what he referred to as inflammation in his neck, related to a disc problem. Now it's clear he will be missing a few more. This is not Cuddyer's first episode of neck pain, but it appears to be the first time it has forced him on the DL. The hope is that the symptoms are limited to his neck and that it won't progress into his shoulder or arm. Rest is the best option for him in the short term, but given the variability of these types of ailments, a definitive timetable is difficult to determine. The soonest he can return is May 24, if his neck cooperates.
Jayson Werth, OF, Washington Nationals (placed on DL retroactive to May 3): This doesn't come as a huge surprise after Werth's hamstring continued to bother him despite missing the past eight games. If there is any good news, it's that it can be backdated to the last time Werth saw the field, making him eligible to return May 18. Whether he will be able to actually run at full speed by the end of this week remains to be seen. The Nationals have also indicated they believe dehydration was a factor in Werth's repeated muscle cramping.
The hope is that all will be under control and back to normal by the end of the week, although fantasy owners might want to wait until next week to insert him into their lineup.
Adrian Gonzalez, 1B, Los Angeles Dodgers (day-to-day): Gonzalez has been dealing with a minor muscular strain in his neck, recently aggravated when he and an umpire crossed paths as he was attempting to field a ground ball. An MRI revealed little of significance and Gonzalez returned to play late last week. However, he promptly aggravated it again, then sat out Sunday's game.
This is what falls under the header of "annoying" injuries, frustrating to the athlete because of the come-and-go pattern and difficult to predict in terms of behavior and severity. It does not look as if Gonzalez is in danger of going on the DL, but fantasy owners will want to check daily lineups until he is playing consistently.
Austin Jackson, OF, Detroit Tigers (placed on DL retroactive to May 12): Another outfielder, another hamstring injury. It seems to be quite the injury trend this week. Also a trend: Teams opting to send players to the disabled list for seemingly minor strains early in the season, not wanting to risk a more severe injury. That makes sense. Teams as a whole seem to be offering their players a couple of days to test the effects of rest, but if there are any lingering warning signs, they waste little time scaling the athlete back (in the form of a DL stint). The hope then is that the player will miss the minimal amount of time, and Jackson's case is no different.
Desmond Jennings, OF, Tampa Bay Rays (day-to-day): Jennings has missed a few games with a minor groin strain, but the Rays seem fairly confident they will have him back Tuesday. Jennings has downplayed the injury since it first cropped up last week, suggesting he could play if necessary. Given that it's May and not September, manager Joe Maddon opted to rest Jennings for several days. The proof that it is not anything to worry about will come when Jennings returns to action for consecutive days without incident.
PitchersZack Greinke, SP, Los Angeles Dodgers (placed on DL April 12, could return Wednesday): When Greinke was injured in the brawl with Carlos Quentin, no one knew what to expect since a clavicle fracture in the non-throwing arm of a pitcher is not exactly your everyday injury. As soon as the Dodgers announced he was undergoing surgery to stabilize the fracture, his prognosis for return actually improved, as it appeared he would not face as much down time from throwing.
Turns out that was an accurate assessment. Despite the Dodgers' (understandably) conservative eight-week projection, Greinke appears poised to possibly return this week, which would mark 4 1/2 weeks post-surgery. He has passed the point of having discomfort and pitched in high Class A ball last Friday. His velocity is up where he left off at the time of injury, and he appears from a functional standpoint to be ready to pitch in the majors. The final remaining hurdle is whether the bone has healed to the point where the team is comfortable with him absorbing contact. (The high Class A outing afforded him the opportunity to pitch with a DH in the lineup; when he returns to the Dodgers, he will need to hit, run and potentially absorb contact should there be a collision). Expect those clearing tests to be performed over the next 24 hours and a decision to be forthcoming shortly after. If the team opts to hold Greinke out of a return to the majors Wednesday, he would likely get another rehab start this week and rejoin the team next week.
Brett Anderson, SP, A's (placed on DL April 30, could return Friday): After originally spraining his ankle in mid-April, it looked as if Anderson could avoid a DL stint with some rest. But he got called into service in the A's marathon game a couple of weeks ago and it set him back, forcing the DL stint. With a pitcher so recently removed from Tommy John surgery, it's probably for the best that he allow the ankle to recover sufficiently to not threaten his throwing mechanics and, consequently, the health of his arm. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, Anderson is likely to rejoin the rotation Friday.
Ryan Madson, RP, Los Angeles Angels (opened the season on DL, could return this week): Madson's return following last April's Tommy John surgery has been delayed due to the soreness he experienced this spring. The delays aren't highly unusual, but it does bode for a gradual progression even as he returns to his major league team. Madson has been pitching in extended spring training and will begin a rehab assignment this week. He might not spend much time there, as the team could bring him up to the majors to build further endurance in that setting. As the Los Angeles Times has reported, he will not be the closer immediately upon return, and how the Angels opt to use him will likely depend on what they see from him as he resumes big league action.
It's entirely possible the team opts for another rehab start, depending on what they see during his outing this week and how Cueto feels after consecutive starts. Either way, it appears that, barring a setback, his return is not far off.
Andrew Bailey, RP, Boston Red Sox (placed on DL retroactive to April 29, could return within a week): Bailey is eligible to return from the DL on Wednesday, but the club could still opt to send him out on a rehab assignment, pushing back that return. Bailey went on the disabled list with a biceps strain, a bit more worrisome than the one that sidelined teammate John Lackey because of the location of Bailey's symptoms (higher, closer to the shoulder). As noted in this space last week, Bailey has been plagued by a series of injuries, but he started the season strong for the Red Sox. With Joel Hanrahan now out for the remainder of the season, it would seem Bailey has the opportunity to recapture his closer role from Junichi Tazawa, if he can stay healthy. Considering his history, particularly in light of this current ailment, that's a big if. Even if Bailey returns without a rehab assignment, the bigger question will be how long he can go without a potential flare-up.
Chris Perez, RP, Cleveland Indians (day-to-day): As he began to warm up Sunday before entering the game in relief, Perez experienced what the team is calling "stiffness" in his throwing shoulder. Manager Terry Francona opted not to press his luck and rested Perez instead. At this point, it doesn't appear to warrant major concern, but it does warrant you keeping an eye on the situation. Unless he's scratched again this week, consider this just a bump in the road.
Jake Westbrook, SP, St. Louis Cardinals (placed on DL May 12): Westbrook becomes the latest pitcher to hit the disabled list with inflammation in his elbow. According to ESPN's Jim Bowden, Westbrook received a cortisone injection in his elbow. Expect several days of rest with a gradual increase in activity to see if he can resume throwing. Until he reaches that point, it will be difficult to project the length of his absence.
Wei-Yin Chen, SP, Baltimore Orioles (day-to-day): After getting his team off to a good start Sunday, Chen was forced to leave the game early because of a strained oblique. He was scheduled to undergo an MRI Monday, and it would not be surprising if this results in a trip to the DL. The typical absence for a pitcher runs on the order of a month, so if it is serious enough to warrant the trip, plan on not having him available for approximately four weeks.
Will they or won't they? Whenever the due date approaches for a player to potentially return from the DL, the natural ensuing question is "Will Player X return on time?" The follow-up, if the answer is yes, is, "What can be expected in terms of performance?" The follow-up if the answer is no is, "So when WILL Player X return?"
There are no guarantees in life but that won't keep us from taking a stab at answering the above questions for a few players of note.
Jayson Werth, OF, Washington Nationals: Werth has been sidelined since May 6, when he fractured his left wrist while attempting a sliding catch. Originally projected to be out for three months, it appears Werth will hit the target almost exactly on the money. Late last week, manager Davey Johnson hinted that Werth could return Tuesday night when the Nationals begin a homestand against the Philadelphia Phillies, Werth's former club. Johnson also told the Washington Times that Werth would not be activated until he felt ready. "I'm concerned that he feels mentally that he can go out there and not get hurt running around the outfield and having four at-bats," Johnson said.
It appears Werth does not yet feel ready, but he is close. Werth is back at Nationals Park on Tuesday and taking batting practice, as Adam Kilgore of The Washington Post reported, which indicates he could be activated at any time. While Werth's performance at the plate during his rehab at-bats has been less than spectacular, it is likely more an issue of regaining his timing than anything. Werth was hitting balls out of the park during batting practice before going out on assignment, an indication he could hit the ball hard without any discomfort. His play on back-to-back days suggests no unexpected pain, although he will encounter soreness as his activity increases, which may require intermittent rest. Adjusting to live pitching after being away from the game, especially due to injury, also takes some time. Regaining confidence is as important an element as any for a hitter and Johnson is understandably allowing his player to make a determination as to when that has occurred.
Expect Werth to rejoin his team in the lineup later this week.
David Ortiz, DH, Boston Red Sox: Initially when Ortiz pulled up lame while running the bases in mid-July, the Red Sox hinted at a short absence. That absence is going to extend beyond the 15-day minimum, as Ortiz continues to experience soreness in his right heel. Ortiz is eligible to return Wednesday, but persistent symptoms mean that activation will not happen imminently. So when will he return? According to ESPN Boston, Ortiz summed it up this way: "I can't say right now exactly when I'll be ready to play, let's see how the process goes."
To be fair, that's about as honest as it gets. Clearly in a player of his age and size, with this not being his first episode of pain in the Achilles or heel area, there is concern about pushing too aggressively and ending up with a more significant injury. Symptoms sound the alarm, which drives the activity level when it comes to Achilles injuries, so as long as there is pain, the activity will be limited. The fact that he was having pain when swinging the bat as recently as Saturday and that his primary exercise is currently in the pool hints at a delay of more than a few days.
Evan Longoria, 3B, Tampa Bay Rays: He has been on a rehab assignment with Triple-A Durham since last Thursday but only as a DH. And that's the role he will retain, even when he returns to the majors, at least initially.
While manager Joe Maddon sounds encouraged by Longoria's ability to get through a handful of games without incident, it is worth pointing out that he is functioning in a limited capacity. Before beginning his rehab assignment, Longoria told reporters his left hamstring was not 100 percent, that he still felt it doing defensive drills and that he was about as "ready as [he's] going to be" offensively. According to the Tampa Bay Times, the hope is that he will get enough at-bats to be comfortable potentially rejoining the Rays' lineup and then over time, work his way back defensively.
The bottom line is that what is not being said is no one seems to be targeting a full recovery, at least not right now. In fact, Longoria noted he was told he couldn't make the injury worse by playing. While that statement is puzzling, since there is always potential to strain the muscle belly of the hamstring itself, if indeed Longoria tore a portion of the tendinous attachment, that tissue often does not heal on its own and sometimes warrants a minor procedure to remove the frayed piece. While the team has not offered any specifics on the exact location of Longoria's injury, this concept would fit with the program that is in place. Longoria's ability to return would be dictated by his ability to function in the presence of discomfort, something he seems to be able to largely avoid at present by staying away from defensive drills.
If the Rays get his bat back into the lineup, they may be willing to work with whatever they can get from Longoria given the limitations of his recovery. This is one case where a return to play does not look like the same thing as a return to full health.
Joey Votto, 1B, Cincinnati Reds: When Votto underwent surgery to address a torn left meniscus in mid-July, he was projected to miss three to four weeks. Halfway through that timetable, it's not yet clear whether he will meet that projection or not. The good news early was that he was quickly able to walk normally, without pain. But as is typical following even a relatively minor arthroscopic procedure, when it comes to resuming more aggressive activities, the process slows down.
Votto recently told the Cincinnati Enquirer that while he was running and doing agility drills, it was "not at 100 percent." He hasn't yet resumed hitting. He'll need to progress through all the straight-line activities, add corners and turns, and show he can react with quick, lateral movements and slides into base which, it's worth noting, is how he hurt his knee in the first place. That's a tall order for one week, perhaps even for two, which is why Votto is no doubt reluctant to offer up a return date. The unknown is how his knee will respond to each new rehab challenge. If any swelling or soreness occurs, the program is adjusted accordingly.
It's in Votto's -- and, of course, the Reds' -- best interest to wait until he is clearly ready to return before placing him back in the lineup. If he were to come back early, he would run the risk not only of stirring up inflammation in the joint but potentially straining one of the muscles around the knee. A forced second round on the DL could ultimately cost more time than postponing his return to play on the front end.
In honor of the festivities taking place in Kansas City today around the 2012 MLB All-Star Game, it seemed appropriate to compile a roster of All-Injured All-Stars. The qualifiers for this roster were selected from:
• Players who were chosen for this year's All-Star game but could not participate due to injury
• Past All-Stars who might have had the potential to earn another trip in 2012 were it not for the injuries that beset them this year.
The sad fact is that this was a relatively easy list to compile. Outside of one or two spots that required a stretch to meet the inclusion criteria, it was not difficult to find candidates for each position in both the American and National Leagues. Does that make this year any better or worse than previous years? I'm not sure, but it does remind us how much injuries can impact the game. Not everyone who could possibly qualify is listed. Naturally, as with the actual All-Star roster, there will be debate. But like the managers in the All-Star get to select their lineups, these are my picks, undoubtedly influenced by the number of times their names make an appearance in questions fielded during chats, podcasts, blog entries and Twitter posts.
May I present to you the 2012 All-Injured All-Stars?
1B: Ryan Howard, Philadelphia Phillies: Howard finally made his 2012 debut just before the All-Star break after he ruptured his Achilles tendon in his last at-bat of last year's playoffs. Complications following an infection slowed his recovery. The Phillies are hoping for offensive contributions from Howard -- and he has delivered a couple of hits -- but since his return, the team has yet to earn a victory. Howard is still not a daily player as he is easing back into the lineup, and even he acknowledges his leg is not likely to return to 100 percent until next year.
2B: Chase Utley, Philadelphia Phillies: Like his fellow infielder on this roster, Utley started the season on the DL and only recently returned to action. Working through chronic patellofemoral pain (pain under the kneecap), Utley underwent an intensive, focused rehabilitation program to be able to get back to baseball. It was slow and deliberate, but how long he will be able to hold up once he is playing on a regular basis is unknown. The Phillies like what they see so far; a couple of home runs, a few RBIs and, most importantly, no setbacks. If only that can last.
SS: Troy Tulowitzki, Colorado Rockies: Tulowitzki was bothered intermittently by groin pain this season, but a setback during a rehab assignment led to eventual surgery to debride scar tissue from around a nerve. Tulowitzki was projected to be out approximately 6-8 weeks following the procedure, which translates to an August return. Until he resumes baseball activities, it will be difficult to assess how close he is to seeing any game action.
3B: Ryan Zimmerman, Washington Nationals: Zimmerman has certainly been playing like an All-Star ever since receiving his latest cortisone injection in his right shoulder. The big question on everyone's mind is whether it will last. Zimmerman initially had trouble with the shoulder in April, which ultimately landed him on the DL. Even after the time off, Zimmerman continued to have discomfort and it showed at the plate. In June, there was discussion about a cortisone shot or even another DL stint. The shot seems to have done the trick, though, and hopefully when post-All-Star play resumes, Zimmerman's shoulder will still be feeling good.
C: Jonathan Lucroy, Milwaukee Brewers: Admittedly, this is a bit of a reach, but Lucroy was batting .345 when he went out with a broken hand in May and there was abundant chatter about his potential selection to the 2012 All-Star roster. Exhibit A from the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel in May: "He has five homers and 29 RBIs in addition to his gaudy batting average, putting him in the conversation for an All-Star Game appearance." Who knows what might have been? Instead, Lucroy is working his way back toward a return. He has been throwing and running, and was recently cleared to start swinging a bat, putting him on pace to return in late July.
OF: Jayson Werth, Washington Nationals; Giancarlo Stanton, Miami Marlins; Matt Kemp, Los Angeles Dodgers: Werth qualifies for the most dramatic injury after he broke his left wrist when his glove caught in the grass as he was attempting to make a sliding catch. To complicate matters, this was the same wrist on which Werth had undergone a prior surgical procedure in 2006. The initial timetable for Werth was projected at three months, but the good news is that he is expected to start swinging a bat sometime after the All-Star break. Let's see how his wrist tolerates those swings before thinking about upping his return date.
Stanton was a late scratch from both the All-Star Game and the Home Run Derby when he was removed from Saturday's game with soreness in his right knee. After undergoing surgery Sunday morning to remove loose bodies, it will be a few weeks before he is ready to return.
Kemp has missed more time this year than he has at any point thus far in his career because of a finicky hamstring strain. Known for his ability to play virtually every day over the past few years, Kemp was reluctantly forced onto the DL in the hope of preventing a more serious injury. He then had to return to the DL when the hamstring acted up in only his second game back. Kemp's timetable has been slower this time around and he was deliberately kept on a lengthier rehab assignment to force more situational running. Everything seems to be pointing to his return to the lineup this Friday when the Dodgers are back in action.
SP: Roy Halladay, Philadelphia Phillies; Chris Carpenter, Cardinals: The Phillies tie the Nationals with the most members on this NL roster, but the Phillies win in terms of the importance of the players lost to their team (no hard feelings, injured Nationals). To go along with starting infielders Utley and Howard, the Phillies lost one of their most durable and consistent starters in Halladay, who was forced onto the DL with a strained lat. Despite his denials, it seemed as though the injury was affecting him, even if in a subtle manner, since the spring and ultimately the discomfort caught up to him. Halladay has been sidelined since late May but has been steadily progressing in his throwing program. He is expected to make a rehab start Thursday, and the Philadelphia Inquirer reports that if all goes well, he could then rejoin the Phillies for a Tuesday start against the Dodgers.
Carpenter has been either very good or very injured. This year, unfortunately, it was the latter and he was plagued by weakness in his throwing shoulder since the spring. Tests confirmed thoracic outlet syndrome (which he has actually been dealing with for several years but has progressed to the point where he can no longer pitch) and Carpenter is scheduled for surgery later this month. The rehab is long and there are no guarantees, but Carpenter hopes to be able to pitch again next season.
RP: Brian Wilson, San Francisco Giants: What a difference a year makes. Last year, Wilson was participating in the All-Star Game. This year he is recovering from Tommy John surgery No. 2. Wilson struggled late last season and even had his elbow examined after it was causing him discomfort. The hope was that the offseason rest had helped sufficiently, but it didn't take long to find out that was not the case. Just two weeks into the season, Wilson was done and headed for Dr. James Andrews' office. Whether he will be available to pitch at the start of next season remains uncertain.
1B: Kevin Youkilis, Chicago White Sox: Whether it was his back injury that landed him on the DL this spring or his general malaise while in the murky Boston Red Sox situation, Youkilis was not performing up to par. The three-time All Star -- who also spent the offseason recovering from surgery to address a core muscle injury -- was not going to be making this year's Midseason Classic. It's worth noting, though, that his performance thus far with his new club has certainly been reminiscent of the Youkilis of old.
2B: Dustin Pedroia, Boston Red Sox: A partial tear of a thumb muscle is likely to blame, at least in part, for Pedroia's struggles at the plate in June. Pedroia was not voted into the 2012 All-Star Game, which may be just as well, because he suffered yet another thumb injury just last week. A diving play resulted in an injury to the volar plate of Pedroia's thumb, the fibrocartilaginous tissue deep in the joint that helps block hyperextension. He is expected to miss several weeks.
SS: None: There were no real candidates for this position based on the inclusion criteria. Something tells me this should make AL shortstops a bit nervous about the second half of the season.
3B: Evan Longoria, Tampa Bay Rays: Longoria partially tore his left hamstring at the end of April, and his return at this point is anything but certain. In June, he appeared on course, but a rehab outing was cut short when Longoria again felt discomfort in the hamstring. Since that time, there have been wavering suggestions as to when Longoria might resume baseball activities, something which has yet to occur. According to the Tampa Bay Times, manager Joe Maddon said he has no idea when Longoria can return. He then offered perhaps the most precise summation of the challenge of dealing with a partially torn hamstring: "It's a tough injury to overcome and a tough injury to battle back from."
C: Victor Martinez, Detroit Tigers: The former All-Star underwent surgery in January to repair both the lateral and medial menisci along with a microfracture procedure. His progress has been understandably slow in order to protect the delicate spots on the knee where the microfracture was performed. Based on a recent MRI and clinical evaluation to assess his progress, the Tigers have indicated the soonest (note: soonest) Martinez would return is middle to late September.
OF: Carl Crawford and Jacoby Ellsbury, Boston Red Sox; Grady Sizemore, Cleveland Indians: Just imagine what this outfield could look like when healthy. It's actually difficult to do, as these three players have dealt with extended absences over the past few seasons.
To be fair, Crawford's absence in 2011 was a virtual one; he was healthy but merely a shadow of himself. Then in the offseason, he injured his left wrist and had to undergo surgery to debride a fibrocartilage tear in the joint. A slow recovery was followed by a setback, and just when he seemed on the verge of beginning a rehab assignment, he had elbow pain. It turned out to be a partial tear of his ulnar collateral ligament. No surgery was immediately required (there is some discussion about Crawford having surgery eventually) and he recently embarked on a rehab assignment. That assignment was interrupted by a mild groin strain, and again Crawford's return date has been pushed back. The Red Sox are hoping they will have him in the second half of July.
Ellsbury was hurt early in the season on a collision, which resulted in a shoulder subluxation. He too has started a rehab assignment, and while there is no firm commitment to a date, it sounds as if he could rejoin his team by the weekend.
As for the three time All-Star Sizemore, his healthy days seem to be far fewer than his unhealthy ones in recent years. This year, he is recovering from back surgery, and there is always some question about the true health of his knees. He has actually started a running program and a rehab assignment could be in the not too distant future. No one is counting on a specific date but the Indians would love to see him back on the field at some point in the second half.
SP: C.C. Sabathia, New York Yankees; Dan Haren, Los Angeles Angels: Sabathia did not want to go on the DL for his mild left groin strain, but the Yankees did not want him to be hurt in September. And so he went. After all, better to rest a minor groin issue now than have compensations turn into a shoulder or elbow injury later. The good news is that he is doing well and is expected to return shortly after the All-Star break.
Haren has never even been on the DL until now. Considering he's pitched in the majors for 10 years, there should be a special All-Star category for that alone. Haren did admit that the stiff back that sent him to the DL has been bothering him since the spring, and he felt his performance was hindering the team. The Angels are hoping for a brief stay.
RP: Mariano Rivera, New York Yankees: Rivera, a medical marvel when it comes to pitching and baseball, suffered the unlikeliest of injuries when he tore his ACL while shagging fly balls during pregame batting practice. The 42-year-old closer quickly made it known that this would not be his exit from baseball. While no one has ruled him out from a late-season return, even Yankees general manager Brian Cashman has said he does not expect him back in 2012. No matter what the return date, the fact that he is making such good progress is encouraging.
Just as the Washington Nationals prepare to welcome third baseman Ryan Zimmerman off the DL (he is expected to return Tuesday after an episode of inflammation in his AC joint), they lose yet another starter to injury ... for months. Outfielder Jayson Werth was attempting to make a sliding catch Sunday night when his glove caught in the grass, forcing his left wrist backward into hyperextension. The added load as his body weight came down through his forearm contributed to the immediate fracture of Werth's left radius, the forearm bone on the thumb side that forms part of the wrist joint.
MLB.com reported Monday that Werth underwent surgery to stabilize the fractured radius and the timetable has initially been presented as at least 12 weeks. Standard repair of distal (meaning near the wrist, as opposed to proximal or near the elbow) radial fractures involves implantation of hardware such as a plate and screws to help position the bone for optimal healing. Consider six weeks for the bone to heal, if all goes well, followed by a gradual return to activity as range of motion and strength permit. Ultimately a rehab assignment will be in order prior to Werth rejoining his team. One of the biggest challenges following this type of injury is regaining normal range of motion following the requisite period of immobilization. The initial timetable of three months is reasonable but certainly could be modified along the way depending upon how Werth is progressing. A sooner return is highly unlikely. A lengthier absence is entirely possible.
Werth's prior wrist history, which began when he was hit by a pitch while with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2005 and eventually resulted in a 2006 surgical procedure by Dr. Richard Berger at the Mayo Clinic (the same surgeon who performed Monday's surgery, according to the Nationals) to repair a split tear of Werth's ulnotriquetral ligament, is not without importance here. While this latest injury is on the opposite (thumb) side of Werth's wrist, the wrist complex (which includes the two forearm bones-- the radius and the ulna -- their articulations with the eight small carpal bones that form the wrist and the articulations of the carpals with the metacarpals -- long bones of the hand) is precisely that, complex. Superimposing a major injury on an area that has already suffered an injury can be problematic. Although Werth clearly returned to an elite functional level from that initial injury, any alterations in his wrist motion or mechanics, however minor, can present additional challenges with a second injury in the region. Certainly Werth has to feel more comfortable with Berger performing this latest surgery, given his specific familiarity with Werth's wrist. And this is not to say Werth can't make a complete recovery; the expectation, based on the limited available information, is that he can and will. But it won't be fun.
Gonzalez tears ACL
Shortstop Alex Gonzalez has now become part of an unusual club among Milwaukee Brewers, a club whose members are relatively few but one to which no one seeks membership. That would be the torn-ACL club, and Gonzalez will join recently inducted first baseman Mat Gamel as this year's dubious honorees. Pitcher Yovani Gallardo tore his ACL back in 2008, an injury made even rarer by the fact he is a pitcher. Torn ACLs aren't as common in baseball as they appear to be in some other sports, although the potential for occurrence in any athletic endeavor always exists. Apparently this is something the Brewers know all too well.
The two infielders tore their right knee ligaments within the same week but under completely different circumstances. Gamel tore his ACL when he crashed into a wall Tuesday in Petco Park while attempting to make a play on a foul ball. Gonzalez was stealing second in Saturday's game against the San Francisco Giants when an awkward slide did the damage. Gonzalez is in the standard pre-surgery waiting period, but as the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reports, general manager Gordon Ash confirmed the end of his season, saying, "Alex is going to have surgery. It's just a matter of who is going to perform it." The rehabilitation program following ACL reconstruction is well established and both players should be physically capable of returning to their sport. The disadvantage for the 35-year-old Gonzalez, however, is that he was playing on a one-year deal with the Brewers. His options may be determined, in part, by how he progresses through this rehab.
• And stop me if you've heard this one before. Pitcher Huston Street, no stranger to the DL, has made his first visit of 2012, this time for a strained latissimus dorsi (commonly referred to as "lat") muscle, injured during a Friday night appearance. While manager Bud Black told reporters he didn't think it was anything that would require surgery, that's not necessarily revealing since most lat injuries don't. The lat is critical to shoulder function, however, and time out can range from weeks to months, depending on severity. As of now, there is no timetable for Street.
• There is some good news, though. Detroit Tigers pitcher Doug Fister will start Monday night in his return from a costochondral strain. After an impressive rehab outing last week, he should be good to go. As noted above, Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman is expected to be back in the starting lineup Tuesday. Zimmerman has been hitting the past few days without pain -- something he could not do initially -- and barring a setback should be ready after a team day off Monday. And Philadelphia Phillies ace Cliff Lee is expected to rejoin the rotation Wednesday, as he returns from an oblique strain. While Lee was not able to come back at 15 days as he originally hoped, he certainly beat the average number of days absent for pitchers with oblique injuries. Perhaps the fact it was a low-grade injury coupled with Lee's experience in dealing with some variant of abdominal issue over the past few seasons has helped him move through the process more quickly. Two pain-free bullpens have Lee convinced he's ready. Believe him.
The term "15-day DL" can be so misleading. Sure, we know once a player has been placed on this disabled list we won't see him in the lineup for at least 15 days. But it really gives us no idea as to the true severity of the injury. Some injuries simply require time beyond the allotted 15 days for sufficient healing. For many athletes, returning to play requires restoration of strength, conditioning and timing in addition to recovery from the injury itself, so that can translate to extended time.
To further complicate matters, the date the decision is made to place an athlete on the DL may not be the day the countdown clock starts ticking. A team can make a DL designation retroactive to the day following the last game in which the player appeared. Sometimes this happens when an injury that initially seemed would limit a player for just a few days turns out to be a little more problematic. It may also be used when a team wants to give a player who is progressing well a little extra time before returning to competition. In other words, a move to the DL does not necessarily indicate that an athlete's injury is worrisome.
How to make sense of it all then? Except for obvious injuries (such as broken bones or knee ligament tears) that immediately force a player to the DL, there are often clues that emerge before a team decides to place an athlete on that list. There are also hints throughout the course of an athlete's rehab that signal whether he will require additional time beyond those 15 days before returning to the lineup. We look for those clues and share them with you right here, week in and week out. After all, your fantasy roster is only as good as the guys who are actually playing.
We start this week by looking at the injuries that have befallen middle infielders around the league and ask the question, "Just how concerned should you be?"
But, alas, it did. Rollins strained his right calf muscle and subsequently underwent an MRI on Tuesday which, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer, confirmed the severity of the injury. He has been placed on the 15-day DL, but the Phillies are acknowledging up front that they expect this injury may require more time, indicating that Rollins is likely to be sidelined for two to four weeks.
Rollins is sporting a protective boot that controls ankle movement and allows the calf to rest. Since rest is a critical element of recovery, it would not be surprising to see this injury keep Rollins out closer to the four-week end of the timetable.
The calf muscle is necessary for any hitter to push off when running, particularly when driving out of the batter's box or when getting a jump on a steal. The explosive defensive maneuvers Rollins has to make at his position also place high demand on the calf. Once the initial inflammatory phase has passed, many athletes feel as if they are ready to return to competition, only to discover that explosive movements still lack power or cause discomfort. The risk at that point is that it is easy to overdo those movements and suffer a setback, turning a few weeks of recovery into potentially months. Fantasy owners and Phillies fans will need to be patient with Rollins' return in the hopes that once he's back, the injury is truly behind him.
Brian Roberts, 2B, Baltimore Orioles (15-day DL, April 10): There was concern this spring that Roberts' ailing back might prevent him from being able to start the season. That turned out to not be the case.
Less than a week into the season, Roberts suffered a different injury, an abdominal strain. He hurt himself while stealing second against the Toronto Blue Jays on Friday, and he also managed to aggravate his lower back in the process. As a result, Roberts received an epidural injection Monday, according to The Baltimore Sun, his second this year to help calm symptoms associated with the herniated disk in his back. Roberts has been advised to rest for several days to allow the symptoms to calm down. He will then gradually be reintroduced to exercise with an eventual progression toward baseball activities.
Manager Dave Trembley has already warned that Roberts is expected to be out longer than the 15 days, not surprising given the nature of his injuries. The bigger concern is just how reliable Roberts' health will be once he does return. Disk problems are notoriously chronic in nature and Roberts has really not been 100 percent healthy this year. He entered spring training with back pain and, despite making significant improvements as Opening Day neared, he clearly was not completely out of the woods. His will likely be a tenuous situation and even when he does return, fantasy owners should keep a backup stashed on their bench.
There's every reason for the team to err on the side of caution with this one. A mild hamstring strain can certainly benefit from a little extra rest. Aggravating it by pushing too fast can just as easily turn a mild ailment into a season-compromising injury. The good news for Hill owners is that the conservative approach taken by the team here may pay off down the road.
Mark Ellis, 2B, Oakland A's: Another second baseman, another hamstring injury. Ellis was hurt Sunday trying to beat out a grounder in the eighth inning. Soreness in his left hamstring kept him out of Monday's game.
On the plus side, Ellis himself said he expected to be out for only "a couple of days." According to Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle, Ellis reports that the hamstring is feeling better and he could return to the lineup Thursday. On the minus side, Ellis had some hamstring issues during the spring as well, so fantasy owners should be mindful that this may not be the last of it.
Jayson Werth, OF, Philadelphia Phillies: There were a couple of minor injuries this week that struck outfielders (more listed below). Werth injured his left hip running out of the batter's box in the fourth inning on Monday. According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, Werth said his removal from the game was precautionary. He added that he expected to miss only a few days, calling the injury "no big deal."
So far Werth's assessment appears accurate in that he is expected back in the regular lineup Thursday following a pinch hitting appearance Wednesday. The Phillies are hoping that one player to the DL this week is enough.
Remember, Young is coming off offseason surgery to debride the labrum in his throwing shoulder. He had an uneventful rehab and steady return to throwing, and had a successful first outing in the Padres' home opener. After that game, Young felt some discomfort and was sensible enough to recognize that he did not need to push it now. As he pointed out, these mini-setbacks typically happen during spring training but his just happened a little further into his throwing progression.
Caution in the early season could well be the difference in keeping Young on the mound more than off it this year. He expects to be ready to take his turn in the rotation when eligible.
Brian Fuentes, RP, Los Angeles Angels (15-day DL, retroactive to 4/6): This is one of those situations where the date is important. Although the move was announced Wednesday, it has been made retroactive to eight days prior. Fuentes, who has been placed on the DL because of a back strain, is eligible to return next week. The Angels can't be especially concerned about Fuentes' injury given the retroactive date but likely feel he will benefit from a few more days off. Fernando Rodney is the closer in the interim but it sounds as if the team does not anticipate that lasting long.
Mike Gonzalez, RP, Baltimore Orioles (15-day DL, retroactive to 4/10): Gonzalez has had a rough start to 2010; the Orioles decided Wednesday to place him on the DL. After an up-and-down spring training Gonzalez struggled early in the season, picking up a pair of blown saves. Now we learn that he has a shoulder strain. While the seriousness of his current injury is unclear, it's worth noting that Gonzalez dealt with issues in his back this spring that seemed to impact his velocity. The hope is that he has not suffered an injury as a result of some compensatory adjustments. His status is worth watching.
• Boston Red Sox outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury dodged a bullet -- but not teammate Adrian Beltre's knee -- Sunday. The collision was enough to take Ellsbury's breath away and he ended up with a rib contusion but fortunately no fractures. Lingering soreness has caused him to miss a few days but he should be able to avoid a trip to the DL.
• Colorado Rockies outfielder Carlos Gonzalez is another player dealing with "tightness" in his hamstring, leaving Sunday's game early after feeling the discomfort in his left hamstring. He has not played in the two games since. According to The Denver Post, Gonzalez was available only for emergency situations, as he could still not run the bases effectively. While so far it appears that he will avoid the DL, there are no guarantees as to when he may return to the starting lineup.
• The Seattle Mariners' Cliff Lee is hoping he will debut for his new team in early May. Lee has thrown a couple of bullpen sessions where he has looked strong and been pain-free. The next goal is a simulated game late this week. He will still need to build up his arm endurance, but so far, so good.
• Los Angeles Angels pitcher Scott Kazmir, who started the season on the DL with a mild hamstring strain, is expected to start Thursday against the New York Yankees. Nothing like jumping in feetfirst.
From my mailbag
Stephania Bell: You are certainly right about there being a lot of questions about Berkman, given the start to his season. This week there were some encouraging signs in that he has made some progress with his activity. After having persistent issues with fluid in his left knee following March arthroscopic surgery (which required having his knee drained multiple times), Berkman was able to begin some light running Monday. The key to him returning next week will be whether the swelling stays down as he continues to increase his activity. And that's a big if ...
Your question is a tough one because I'm not convinced his return will be completely smooth. While there may not be any obvious outward signs of trouble once he is able to get back in the lineup, he could be in a situation where the team opts to rest him more frequently to protect the knee. He may also have less power at the plate initially if his leg strength is not 100 percent. He may be well enough to play but it still may take him time to perform like the Lance Berkman you drafted. I'm not convinced he'll reach the targets you've set for him, so you may want to re-evaluate your bench spots.
If you have any other injury questions you want answered in the blog, drop a note in my mailbag, or stop by my Tuesday chats.