Stephania Bell: Justin Verlander
April, 29, 2013
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.
HittersTroy Tulowitzki, SS, Colorado Rockies (DTD): The good news is that Tulowitzki's latest ailment does not appear to be serious; the better news is that his surgically repaired groin is doing just fine. The hot start to Tulowitzki's season has likely helped put to rest any lingering concerns about the injury that ended his 2012 campaign prematurely. Unfortunately, Sunday's game brought a different scare. Tulowitzki strained his left shoulder on an awkward slide in the third inning, forcing him out of the game. According to the Denver Post, the injury is being described as a strained rotator cuff. It appears he will only be sidelined for a couple of days to allow any inflammation and soreness to subside, and there are no plans to place him on the DL at this time.
Ryan Zimmerman, 3B, Washington Nationals (placed on DL 4/20, could return Friday): Zimmerman was placed on the DL with a strained left hamstring. While the injury was not considered serious, there are never any guarantees when it comes to these ailments. Zimmerman described it perfectly to the Washington Times: "Usually you can tell the difference between something that's bad and something that's not that bad, but with hamstrings you never know." What Zimmerman and the Nationals do know is that he has progressed well during his down time, performing running and hitting activities over the weekend. According to the Times, Zimmerman will play in rehab games Tuesday and Wednesday. If those outings are uneventful, he will rejoin the Nationals on Friday, when he is eligible to return. As is always the case with hamstrings, the only true measure of recovery is return to play without incident, but Zimmerman may be able to put that to the test soon.
Hanley Ramirez, SS, Los Angeles Dodgers (placed on DL 3/20, could return Tuesday): Ramirez injured his thumb playing in the final game of the World Baseball Classic and underwent surgery to repair a torn ulnar collateral ligament (yes, in his thumb). Credit the work the Dodgers had him do while in a modified cast -- including throwing -- with his quick recovery since the cast has come off. Ramirez regained his range of motion quickly, began hitting within days and progressed to throwing shortly afterward. He has already appeared in rehab games over the past weekend and has hit well. Granted, he's not facing major league pitchers yet, but the fact that he is ready to play both offense and defense will certainly have him beating the original target date of mid-May (eight weeks post-surgery). By how much will he beat it? The Dodgers aren't saying for sure, but April 30 is Ramirez bobblehead day at the park. Just sayin.'
AP Photo/Wilfredo LeeHanley Ramirez has been out since injuring his thumb in the World Baseball Classic championship game March 19.
Mark Ellis, 2B, Los Angeles Dodgers (DTD): Ellis pulled up while running to first base Friday and it was determined later that he had strained his right quadriceps muscle. According to the Dodgers' official site, Ellis worried initially that it might be something more serious, but as he was able to jog on it, he recognized that it was not severe. He has already been able to swing a bat and throw the ball without any discomfort and is hopeful he can avoid a trip to the DL. Of course, the big issue with a quad strain is straight-ahead running, something Ellis has not yet tested at full speed. It appears he will be given some additional recovery time of a few days but if he remains relatively symptom-free and can increase his activity, he could potentially return by the end of the week.
Kevin Youkilis, 3B, New York Yankees (DTD): Last week, we said concern over Youkilis experiencing tightness in his lower back would be justified given his history. At the time, however, manager Joe Girardi downplayed it, saying he expected Youkilis back within a couple days. Well, those two days turned into a week and after a return on Saturday when he went 0-for-3, Youkilis was again experiencing stiffness the following day. He is scheduled for an MRI Monday. Concern is officially warranted. ESPN New York's Andrew Marchand notes how this could affect a timeline for Youkilis should he need a trip to the DL. Girardi acknowledged Sunday that all backs "can be tricky" and this situation with Youkilis reminds us that it is often the case with chronic low back pain, where "management" becomes the goal, as opposed to "cure." Right now the Yankees are in wait-and-see mode with their third baseman, but it appears the team will err on the side of caution. With Alex Rodriguez out until at least the All-Star break, it would be a significant blow to lose Youkilis for multiple weeks at a time.
Shane Victorino, OF, Boston Red Sox (DTD): The tricky back is in play with Victorino as well. What looked to originally be a one- to two-day affair has now extended past a week thanks to a flare-up, and may require a longer recovery. Victorino left the game early on April 20 with back spasms and after returning to action on April 22, was forced to leave the April 24 game early when the symptoms recurred. According to the Boston Globe, Victorino's improvement has only been "slight" in recent days, and with the team heading to the harsh turf of Toronto this week, his absence could be extended. It is not clear whether this will translate to a DL stint, but that does not seem to be ruled out. At the very least, it looks as if Victorino will rest a few more days before being tested in a game outing.
Neil Walker, 2B, Pittsburgh Pirates (DTD): Those nasty spikes. Walker sustained a deep cut near the knuckle of his right index finger Friday while attempting to break up a double play, and he was forced out of the game. He received six stitches in what Walker described as "the deepest cut I've ever had for stitches," according to MLB.com. He was incredibly fortunate to escape without any damage to extensor tendons in the hand, which lie very close to the injury site. The team did not place Walker on the DL, in the hopes that he could return late this week. While he may not have the stitches out, if he can bend the finger enough to swing the bat effectively and throw accurately, he will return to the lineup. Walker is expected to test those skills Monday, and if all goes well, expect him to be back in the mix later this week.
Michael Saunders, OF, Seattle Mariners (placed on DL 4/11, could return Monday): Saunders has been recovering from a right AC sprain suffered when his shoulder encountered the outfield wall a few weeks ago. After returning to batting practice little more than a week post-injury, Saunders was able to gradually increase his throwing in subsequent days. He began a rehab assignment over the weekend, and the hope is that he will be activated Monday. As long as Saunders has shown he can make the necessary throws and bat effectively, there is no reason for lingering concerns regarding this injury. But it would probably be for the best if that right shoulder and the outfield wall can keep their distance for a bit.
Erick Aybar, SS, Los Angeles Angels (placed on DL 4/13, could return by midweek): Aybar was sent to the DL with a bruised left heel which was causing him trouble swinging the bat from the right side of the plate. He has since returned to running and hitting, all without incident thus far. Aybar has seen action in extended spring training games, but the Angels have opted to give him some more at-bats before returning him to the team. He will play in a Triple-A game Monday, but it's not yet clear whether this will be his final hurdle. The heel issue appears to be largely behind him; at least the extended rehab time allows him to test it in multiple situations. Aybar's return to the lineup is expected shortly, perhaps within the next couple days.
PitchersJustin Verlander, SP, Detroit Tigers (DTD): The Detroit News reports Verlander said he developed "a little bit of a blister" on his right thumb near his fingernail, which was enough to bring him out of last Thursday's game after seven innings. Verlander shrugged off the notion that it would compromise his next start. Despite the thumb, Verlander had a decent outing, and there is no real indication for concern, particularly given that this is something he has contended with in the past. Blisters or other forms of skin breakdown can certainly threaten a pitcher's status, depending on the severity and location. This does not appear to be one of those times.
R.A. Dickey, SP, Toronto Blue Jays (DTD): Last week we heard about neck and back stiffness giving Dickey trouble, a decidedly vague qualification. It hasn't improved -- nor have Dickey's recent challenges on the mound -- and he is headed for an MRI to try to gain some additional information. Dickey has been pitching through consistent discomfort, according to Shi Davidi of Sportsnet. There is no doubt that pain, tightness or stiffness in the neck will influence the function of the shoulder and potentially the entire upper arm. One question is whether it is an inhibition of arm strength due to pain or whether there is true weakness as a result of nerve compromise associated with the neck. More information should be forthcoming, but given the lack of improvement both subjectively in how he feels and objectively in how he's performed recently, don't be surprised if Dickey is headed for a more definitive absence.
Kim Klement/USA TODAY SportsR.A. Dickey (4.50 ERA, 1.31 WHIP) currently rates just 112th among all pitchers on the 2013 ESPN Player Rater.
Brett Anderson, SP, Oakland Athletics (DTD): Anderson sprained his right ankle on April 19, forcing him to leave a start after just one inning of work. It initially appeared as if it would be a non-issue since Anderson made his subsequent start. It was a rough outing, however, and he only lasted four innings. On Sunday, the team announced Anderson's Monday start would be skipped because of the ankle which, according to the San Francisco Chronicle, was aggravated during Wednesday's appearance. Although Anderson has indicated the ankle feels much better and he hopes to only miss the one start (his next outing would come Saturday this week), even subtle issues on a pitcher's landing leg can be enough to throw off his mechanics. With Anderson so recently removed from Tommy John surgery, there is no reason to press through an issue which should otherwise resolve quickly and risk greater consequences.
Josh Johnson, SP, Toronto Blue Jays (DTD): Sometimes players just know. After being scratched from his last start Friday due to triceps tightness and given his injury history, many were concerned as to what an MRI might show. Not Johnson. Shi Davidi of Sportsnet reported Johnson expected the MRI to come back clear. Turns out he was right. According to John Lott of the National Post, Johnson's MRI showed no ligament damage, only inflammation, and he is expected to resume his throwing program soon. While that program will likely be increased based on tolerance, it is too early to definitively say whether he will miss his next start, although it seems likely. Most importantly, on the scale of major injuries this does not appear to be a significant worry for Johnson.