Stephania Bell: Kevin Slowey
April, 12, 2008
By Stephania Bell, ESPN.com | ESPN.com
Wow! The hits just keep on coming. And I'm not talking about offensive power, at least not on any of my fantasy teams. I'm talking about the hits teams are taking, real and fantasy, as a result of injury early in the season. Is there any team that has not succumbed to the injury bug yet this year? Not as far as I can tell. Some seem to be particularly unlucky, but maybe teams like the Angels and the Rays are just getting all of their injuries out of the way early. No doubt that's what they are hoping is the case. I'm just the messenger. Let's take a closer look.
Jorge Posada, C, New York Yankees: "Dead arm" sounds like a scary condition. But don't let it scare you. I actually wrote about this in our fantasy draft kit and described it as a condition that most often affects pitchers, which is still true. Certainly a catcher is throwing the ball fairly frequently during the course of a game and is subject to suffering from this ailment as well. Posada, who himself said on the Yankees' official Web site that he felt as if his arm was "dead," indicated that he has suffered from this condition in the past, including earlier this year in spring training. The issue is one of fatigue, and the complaint most often, as was the case with Posada, is an inability to throw because the arm feels weak, not painful. Recovery is fairly quick, and usually simply requires a few days of rest. An MRI was reassuring in that it reportedly showed no structural damage, and Posada already has returned to the lineup as a designated hitter. The Yankees likely will give Posada some more time before he resumes throwing, primarily to ensure that this does not turn into something more serious.
Elsa/Getty ImagesPosada at least can hit right now.
Mike Lowell, 3B, Boston Red Sox: Lowell is now a member of the disabled list thanks to a sprained left thumb sustained Wednesday while fielding a ball. The injury is to his non-throwing hand, but nonetheless, he needs to be able to get his hand into his glove, and needs to grip a bat effectively, both of which would be limited by pain and swelling. Lowell admitted that the thumb felt worse the day after the injury than he initially thought it would, and the team placed him in a thumb splint to help rest the joint and the soft tissue around it. The time frame for Lowell ranges from two to four weeks, and the variability in an athlete's response to swelling and functionality after a hand injury makes it difficult to be more precise. Keep in mind that it is not just the ability to return to play, but the ability to be productive that usually takes a bit longer with these cases.
Matt Garza, SP, Tampa Bay Rays: The Rays are hoping ace Scott Kazmir is on the mend in short order because they just placed another teammate on the disabled list. Garza left Tuesday night's game with what the team is referring to as "radial nerve irritation." Garza reportedly told the team that he was experiencing numbness in his right hand and had trouble gripping the ball. The radial nerve travels through the back of the upper arm and across the top of the forearm toward the hand. Overstretching of the nerve, or tightness of the muscles through which it passes, can cause irritation, and in Garza's case, there may have been some of both. Garza has had discomfort of this type before but, as he told the St. Petersburg Times, he always has been able to pitch through it. Many pitchers are tight in their forearm musculature, especially because it is well-developed. Interestingly, during Tuesday night's outing, Garza fielded a ground ball hit back his way, and in the process fell forward such that his right wrist got folded up underneath him. It just so happens that this is exactly the position that could place an excessive stretch on the radial nerve. Although we can't say for certain, Garza did exit the game shortly thereafter, complaining of discomfort and demonstrating a lack of ball control. A combination of tight musculature, and a quick abnormal stretch, could very easily provoke symptoms similar to what Garza described. The team has indicated that Garza will not be allowed to throw for several days in order to let the inflammation settle, and then he will be re-evaluated in two weeks. Since Garza has had similar symptoms in the past, the Rays no doubt want to be sure that this does not become severe and chronic. Translation: Extra rest if he requires it. Assuming no setbacks in his rehabilitation, Garza likely will return in late April or early May.
Justin Duchscherer, SP, Oakland Athletics: First Harden (out on the disabled list with what is now being called a subscapularis strain), then Duchscherer. The Athletics must be wondering what they need to do to catch a health break for their starting rotation. Duchscherer felt a pull in his right biceps during Friday night's game, a particularly unfortunate circumstance because he had been pitching well. An MRI confirmed the presence of inflammation at the biceps, which surprised Duchscherer because he had described the pain as "mild," according to the Athletics' official Web site. The A's, however have learned to take no chances where their starters are concerned, and decided to rest Duchscherer a bit longer by placing him on the disabled list. The biceps is especially important in the pitcher's anatomy because it attaches to the labrum. A pitcher's torn labrum most often requires surgery, and that would spell an end to a season. Resting him and quieting the biceps now may go a long way toward preserving his throwing arm, so the move is completely reasonable. The good news? Duchscherer has already thrown from 80 feet without experiencing pain and will be eligible to return April 20, assuming he continues to progress well.
Francisco Rodriguez, RP, Los Angeles Angels: As if the Angels needed another injury in the pitching department. The latest Halo to suffer a setback is K-Rod, he of the not one, but two, bad ankles. Rodriguez had trouble with his left ankle last year after contending with a crumbly pitcher's mound. Apparently, according to a report in the Los Angeles Times, the ankle continued to bother him during the winter, although the Angels insist he had no trouble with it during spring training. Saturday, however, Rodriguez twisted the right ankle coming down the dugout steps, and it continued to bother him Monday. An MRI revealed no major soft tissue injury (ligament or tendon) which provided a bit of a silver lining, but nonetheless, with his ankles as sore as they were, the Angels wanted Rodriguez to rest for a few days.
Jeff Gross/Getty ImagesK-Rod has been KO'd by some weak ankles.
The concern here is that the ankles, which each provide a full weight bearing base of support for Rodriguez at different points in his pitching motion, must be strong for him to pitch effectively. As manager Mike Scioscia told the Los Angeles Times, "We don't want to put him at any undue risk." The concern becomes that Rodriguez could injure himself further, and in a worst case scenario could injure his throwing arm if either ankle gives out on him while pitching. The hope at this point is that after a few days rest, Rodriguez will be able to throw a bullpen, or perhaps even make a game appearance this weekend. It is of concern, however, that the left ankle has some lingering symptoms from last season, and fantasy owners should consider that this may be the type of thing to crop up again during the season.
Rafael Soriano, RP, Atlanta Braves: Soriano experienced some elbow soreness after pitching last weekend, and the Braves wasted no time moving him to the disabled list. One of the reasons the decision was made to impose a period of forced rest on Soriano is that he had similar symptoms during spring training. Soriano's symptoms are actually above the elbow, near where the triceps muscle (large muscle on the back of the arm) attaches. The team is calling Soriano's condition elbow tendinitis according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and it sounds as if this muscle group could be the culprit. Soriano has had his share of elbow woes, having undergone Tommy John (ulnar collateral ligament reconstruction) surgery and missing most of 2004 and all of 2005 as a result. The good news here is that Soriano's discomfort does not appear to be located near the area of reconstruction, and tendinitis issues are much likelier to resolve than ligament sprains or joint problems at the elbow. It sounds as though the Braves are taking a cautious approach with their closer, which will no doubt benefit him and the team in the long run. Soriano will be out until at least April 22, but the hope is that this will not be a season-long problem.
Dontrelle Willis, SP, Detroit Tigers: Willis, who had a walk-filled first outing to start the season, was hoping to right the ship Friday. That was not to be. Despite the best efforts of the Chicago grounds crew, rain in the area may have contributed to a slippery mound. Willis started by walking leadoff batter Carlos Quentin, then slipped on the mound while facing the second batter, Orlando Cabrera. Willis' front leg stretched out in front of him as he transferred his weight during ball release, forcing his right knee into hyperextension. Willis reached for the back of his leg in obvious discomfort. Although Willis remained in the game through Cabrera's at-bat (another walk), he clearly appeared to be struggling as he faced the next batter, Jim Thome. Willis was removed from the game, and we will now wait to see what the future holds for him.
Derek Jeter, SS, New York Yankees: Jeter has not played this week since straining his quadriceps muscle. There is still a chance that he could make an appearance this weekend, but according to the Hartford Courant, manager Joe Girardi says that is "doubtful," meaning Jeter could sit out until next week. Despite the enticement of the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry, it is important that Jeter's minor strain does not become major, and the team will exercise patience.
Jimmy Rollins, SS, Philadelphia Phillies: All good things must come to an end. And so it goes with Rollins' streak of 230 consecutive games played. Rollins sprained his ankle on Tuesday night when making a directional change to get back to second base. Rollins has been out of the starting lineup for three straight games, but it does not appear that this injury will send him to the disabled list. According to Rollins in a quote on the Phillies' official Web site, the ankle bothers him when going "left to right," and that is a big part of his defensive game. Don't be surprised if he makes an appearance this weekend, but check the lineups daily, as the team could decide to hold him out until Tuesday if cutting remains a problem.
Francisco Liriano and Kevin Slowey, SP, Minnesota Twins: Finally, there is some good news to report: The return of Liriano has arrived! The Minnesota Star Tribune is reporting that Liriano will start Sunday for the Twins in place of the injured Kevin Slowey, who is being placed on the disabled list with soreness in his biceps. Liriano, who will make his major league return after undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2006, has struggled somewhat in the minors. It is normal for pitchers to take some time to regain their velocity and command after this procedure, so his struggles are not a concern from a health perspective. And just wait until he gets more time under his belt. By July, Liriano's numbers should be on the upswing. Meanwhile, Slowey, who left his first start with pain in his biceps, is improving, although he is still experiencing some lingering soreness. This downtime will give Slowey an opportunity to recover fully, and it helps make room for Liriano.
I know. I know. It appears never-ending. Where there are sports, there are bound to be injuries. And so it will go throughout the season. Keep checking back, and we'll keep updating you. Right here at ESPN.com. On Fantasy Insider (ESPNews, 11 a.m. EST). On Fantasy Focus (ESPN Radio, 9 p.m. EST). And wherever else those injury nuggets crop up. Have a good weekend, and may your fantasy teams go injury-free!