As the end of the season approaches, the injuries in baseball seem to be on the rise. Or maybe it just seems that way because significant players on hot teams seem to be dropping like flies.
Especially in Tampa Bay. I'm not sure what the Rays did to deserve their recent stretch of bad injury luck, but at least their fortunes have nowhere to go but up. They are not alone, though; injuries to key players have struck multiple teams. Here are the most significant ones:
Ian Kinsler, 2B, Rangers: Kinsler knew there was a problem in his left groin area during his first at-bat Sunday. According to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, the injury was manageable until his at-bat in the seventh inning, when the discomfort forced him to leave the game. The team's orthopedist, Dr. Keith Meister, believes Kinsler has a sports hernia, according to the Dallas Morning News. The second baseman is scheduled for further evaluation Tuesday with a specialist, who will no doubt try to determine whether Kinsler in fact has a hernia, either the traditional type or a sports hernia. The critical issue centers on whether Kinsler will require surgery, which would effectively end his season.
A sports hernia is present when there is a weakening of muscles in the lower abdominal wall. There also can be involvement of the adductor, or groin, muscles, and pain is typically felt in the lower abdominal area, the groin, or both. A sports hernia differs from a traditional hernia in that there is typically no visual or palpable mass. In fact, it is the absence of these findings that usually confirms this diagnosis. For all the lack of specific findings, sports hernias can be extremely debilitating. The weakening of this area makes it difficult for the body to stabilize the trunk relative to the pelvis. Running is virtually impossible, and power movements, such as kicking or lunging, can be even trickier. This type of injury is fairly common among soccer and hockey players, but it is making itself known of late in football and baseball. The good news is that sports hernia surgery is extremely effective, and many athletes return without incident within two or three months of the procedure. That said, even if he does have a sports hernia, the Rangers might take a simpler approach for now, advising Kinsler to rest the injury a few weeks to see how it responds. If he is able to do the things he needs to be able to do after that time, he could return. Even if surgery is required, it could be delayed until the offseason. We'll just have to wait and see what the Rangers decide to do with him, but there's a chance he could be done for the season.
Troy Percival, RP, Rays: Last week Percival was placed on the disabled list for the third time this season. But this time his hamstring was not the culprit. Percival has what the St. Petersburg Times is calling a cartilage injury in his right knee, an injury he suffered while trying to tag runner Mark Ellis following a sacrifice bunt. Apparently it was Percival's extra effort to reach Ellis that resulted in the injury, and Percival explained that as he walked back toward the mound, he felt "sharp pain ... and couldn't put weight on it." He said he never felt a pop, but he knew it was his knee, not his hamstring.
Percival ought to know. After all, his first two visits to the disabled list this season were as a result of an injury to his left hamstring. It seemed he was finally over that injury, but now he is dealing with yet another setback. Percival has decided not to have surgery to address the as-of-yet-unspecified cartilage injury, and he hopes to throw again in four to five days with the goal of returning in early September. The injury is to his plant leg, which not only must support his full weight during windup but also must undergo significant rotational force as he moves through his pitching motion. Percival will not be able to pitch effectively if the joint is irritated, so our hope would be that rest will resolve any pain and swelling Percival has. Since surgery, which would sideline Percival until October, was at least discussed as an option, according to ESPN reports, it remains a possibility that he could require something in the offseason. For now, Percival and the Rays are hoping the closer will be available for the stretch run.
Evan Longoria, 3B, Rays: It wasn't enough for the Ray's lineup to lose left fielder Carl Crawford for at least six weeks because of a hand injury that required surgery; Longoria joined him on the disabled list because of an injury to his wrist. However, unlike in Crawford's case, Longoria's injury news is not as bad as it could have been.
Longoria was hit by a pitch on his right wrist, and initially it was thought to be just a bruise. But as the St. Petersburg Times reported, follow-up imaging revealed a fracture of the ulna (one of the two bones in the forearm), and Longoria was forced to the DL. However, he is expected to miss only two to three weeks -- in some cases, a fracture will sideline a player much longer -- because the crack is likely small and non-displaced, which no doubt made it difficult to spot. But the Rays did spot the fracture, which is good news because the injury could have gotten worse if Longoria had continued to play. The torsional forces placed on the wrist with each swing of the bat could conceivably have stressed the bone where it was already weak, potentially increasing the defect. So all things considered, the Rays should be thankful for this (even though they might not realize it after losing three key players in the span of a week). At least fantasy owners should recognize that all is not lost with Longoria; he should return around September 1, without incident.
Maicer Izturis, IF, Angels: The Angels might be running a close second to the Rays in terms of losing key players to injury. Last week they added Izturis to their long list of wounded players. The versatile infielder is done for the season as a result of a thumb injury, an injury he re-aggravated while diving for a ground ball Wednesday night. He is expected to undergo surgery on his left thumb to repair a torn ulnar collateral ligament. Yes, folks, there is a ligament in the thumb that has the same name as the one in the elbow that is commonly associated with Tommy John surgery. Anyway, the injury to that particular ligament in the thumb results in great pain and instability, so surgery is generally a foregone conclusion. Izturis should be on track to rejoin the team in spring training next year.
Todd Jones, RP, Tigers: Jones, who had been struggling on the mound for the better part of two months, came off the disabled list last week, only to go right back on it just two days and five unearned runs later. Jones is dealing with soreness in his right shoulder, and head athletic trainer Kevin Rand told the Detroit Free Press that Jones has rotator cuff tendinitis. At 40 years young, Jones is forced to be patient with a shoulder that has seen a lot of use and is screaming out in pain. He already has gotten a cortisone shot, and at this point he plans to just continue his shoulder rehab program. But it remains to be seen how much he can help the Tigers the remainder of this season. First, he will have to be able to throw without pain, and right now Jones says that his arm "bites when it gets extended." It is not looking particularly promising for Jones at this point, and the Tigers might have to look elsewhere for relief.
Chris Carpenter, SP, Cardinals: Well, it was fun while it lasted. Poor Chris Carpenter. He worked so diligently to return from the Tommy John surgery he underwent last year on his right elbow. And he looked pretty good, too! Sure, there was some rust. But when you consider how long Carpenter was out of baseball during his elbow rehab, many things about his pitching were encouraging. Not so encouraging is the fact that in just his third start since surgery, Carpenter was forced out because of a strained shoulder.
Carpenter's discomfort was in the upper arm, in the area of the triceps, but as the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported, the news release from the team following an MRI was non-specific in confirming a shoulder strain. The team did indicate that the damage was not to the rotator cuff, nor was it to Carpenter's surgically repaired elbow. There are a number of muscles along the posterior aspect of the shoulder that could refer pain into the arm, and according to Carpenter, team physician Dr. George Paletta called it a "best-case scenario" and labeled it a Grade 1, or mild, strain. Although he has been placed on the disabled list, the team is still hopeful Carpenter will respond well to throwing from flat ground Tuesday, and he might be available to start one of the games of a key series against the Brewers next week. Of course, if he does not respond well to throwing, his return this season might be called into question. Thus, as of right now, Carpenter is a risky fantasy play for the remainder of the season.
And in the good news department ...
He's baaaaack. Yes, Kerry Wood is back from the nagging blister injury that kept him out of the All-Star Game. And he was back to saving games Friday night. It looks like he's safely back in his closing role, which is good news for the Cubs and fantasy owners in need of late-season saves.
In other promising news, Matt Capps appears to be doing well enough that he could be activated Friday. Capps, who was diagnosed with bursitis and internal rotation deficit, has been hard at work in rehab, and he reportedly has been throwing well in his rehab stints. According to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Capps says he's "still trying to find [his] delivery and things like that, which is to be expected after taking so much time off. But physically I feel real good." If all continues well, the Pirates will have him back against the Brewers this weekend.