Stephania Bell: Rajai Davis
April, 29, 2011
By Stephania Bell | ESPN.com
As we head into the weekend, it's a good time to take a look at who might be rejoining their team within the week. It turns out fantasy owners with a hole to fill could have some more options at the ready as May rolls around.
• On Monday, we talked about Milwaukee Brewers ace Zack Greinke nearing his season debut with his new team. According to the Brewers' website, Greinke is expected to make another rehab start for Triple-A Nashville on Friday, and if all goes well, will join the team afterward. He would then likely make his first major league start of the year Wednesday against the Atlanta Braves. It is worth monitoring how Greinke's Friday outing goes, as that could determine his ultimate return date. While his rib fracture has healed, he has been working on restoring strength in his throwing arm after missing all of spring training.
AP Photo/Morry GashZack Greinke is close to the end of his delayed spring training preparations to get his arm ready for the regular season.
• The Tampa Bay Rays and fantasy owners everywhere are salivating at the prospect of having slugger Evan Longoria back in the lineup. The star third baseman is expected to return Tuesday after missing nearly a month with a strained left oblique. Longoria began a rehab assignment with the Double-A Montgomery Biscuits on Thursday, going 1-for-4, with that one hit being a home run in the third inning. The pace at which Longoria has been brought along from his injury was designed with the goal of him coming back at full strength with minimal re-injury risk. Equally important to his successful return is Longoria's confidence in his body's recovery, so that he doesn't hold back or guard himself at the plate. Apparently that process is already working itself out. Longoria told the St. Petersburg Times after Thursday's game, "The more swings I took in that [third-inning] at-bat, the more confident I was it wouldn't bother me." If he keeps this up over the next few days, Longoria should be in good shape to face big league pitchers next week.
• Keep an eye on Cincinnati Reds pitcher Homer Bailey. Bailey, who has been out since spring training with impingement (which literally translates to "pinching") in his throwing shoulder, had a nice rehab outing last Sunday at Triple-A Louisville. Bailey delivered 5 1/3 scoreless innings, but the Reds chose not to activate him just yet. According to the Reds' website, the team would like him to get to 85-90 pitches before activating him. Pitching coach Bryan Price noted that it's not just the total number of pitches, but also the total innings that matter. "Even if he gets his pitch count, the concern is how many times you get the arm hot, let it cool down and regenerate it the next inning," Price said. "We'd definitely like him to have six up and downs before we consider activation."
If all goes well during Bailey's next rehab outing, which is planned for Saturday, it's possible he could be activated in the coming week. While any pitcher with an impingement issue carries some risk going forward, especially since Bailey has a documented tear in his supraspinatus muscle (one of the four rotator cuff muscles) that was discovered when he missed time last season, Bailey has said all along that this episode felt different. He certainly has demonstrated improvement since the symptoms developed this spring, but only time will tell how well Bailey's shoulder will hold up.
• If it's speed you're looking for, you might be able to find it with Toronto Blue Jays outfielder Rajai Davis, who was slated to rejoin the lineup Friday when the team visits the New York Yankees. Davis injured his right ankle in the Blue Jays' home opener, then aggravated the injury days later, leading to the DL stint. Although he didn't steal any bases during his rehab games, it sounds as if his ankle hasn't limited him in any way. Maybe he's just saving up for his fantasy owners.
April, 12, 2011
By Stephania Bell | ESPN.com
• If you took the under on Josh Hamilton making it through the first 12 days of the season without injury, unfortunately for the Texas Rangers, you can count yourself a winner. According to the Rangers' website, Hamilton exited Tuesday's game after just one at-bat with what the team is calling a strained shoulder. In the course of running the bases, Hamilton slid headfirst twice, first on his RBI triple, then again as he attempted to score. Hamilton was called out at home and did not return in the second inning. Whether this is just a one- or two-day affair or something more significant remains to be seen. Stay tuned.
• Speaking of the danger of headfirst slides (something we discussed last year in the wake of all the thumb injuries, such as Chase Utley and Jason Heyward), Los Angeles Dodgers shortstop Rafael Furcal was brutally reminded of it when he broke his thumb Monday night sliding into third. Furcal is likely to be out at least six weeks, never mind regaining his form at the plate. It almost seems unfair. After the significant back and hamstring injuries Furcal has overcome in his career, to suffer yet another major injury this early in the new season seems cruel. The Los Angeles Times reports that Furcal was considering retirement after this latest blow. More than likely, that was the frustration speaking. After Furcal visits with a hand specialist, we will no doubt get a clearer picture of his plans. No matter what Furcal ultimately decides, the Dodgers will miss him immediately and fantasy owners will need to replace him for at least a month, perhaps two.
Kelley L Cox/Icon SMIRafael Furcal, who was already dealing with wrist issues, broke his thumb on this slide on Monday.
• We're seeing injuries from top to bottom, and while upper extremity injuries will kill power at the plate, bad wheels will definitely kill speed. Just ask Toronto Blue Jays outfielder Rajai Davis, who is a new member of the April DL fraternity. Davis rolled his right ankle in the Blue Jays' home opener, the typical mechanism for an ankle sprain. On Sunday, Davis aggravated the still ginger ankle, and thus it became clear he would need more down time. Now he officially has at least two weeks for rest and rehab, and hopefully the injury will not linger beyond that time.
• Ankle issues certainly have been problematic for a couple of players this spring. Magglio Ordonez, who underwent season-ending surgery for a broken right ankle in July, has dealt with intermittent soreness (not uncommon after surgery) this spring. On Monday, however, Ordonez left the game early with what was called tightness in his Achilles tendon. The Detroit Free Press reported Tuesday, however, that an MRI revealed "fluid buildup in the bursa behind his right ankle." As Tigers athletic trainer Kevin Rand told the Free Press, "It's just the stresses that he's going through as he's putting greater stress playing here in the regular season." Rand called Ordonez's situation day-to-day, and the team is not setting a specific timeline for his return. While the uncertainty might be frustrating for fantasy owners, it is neither unusual nor is it unrealistic. Following surgery, ankles are often prone to increased swelling, particularly with initial increases in activity. As the body acclimates, those responses tend to subside. At 37 years old, Ordonez might need a little extra time.
• Meanwhile, Los Angeles Angels first baseman Kendrys Morales has not progressed as swiftly as hoped from left ankle surgery last summer. Morales has struggled with running, and when he tried to press this spring, he developed new pain in the ball of his foot. After successful running efforts on the treadmill, Morales is again scheduled to test the ankle by running on the field, according to the Los Angeles Times. Ground running leads to base running, and once Morales can handle that, the Angels can start thinking about his return. The progression might yet take a couple of weeks and would necessitate some rehab games to test Morales in all dimensions. He is not likely to be ready for competition until sometime in May.
• Oh boy. The news is not good for Oakland Athletics pitcher Rich Harden. The San Francisco Chronicle reports Harden has been shut down from throwing, pre-empting what was expected to be a soon-to-come rehab assignment. Although Harden is no stranger to injury, in 2008 and 2009 he showed himself to be fairly durable. In 2010, injuries again became an issue while Harden was with the Texas Rangers, and now 2011 has not started well for him. In fact, it hasn't started at all. Don't hold your breath; this could be a lengthy wait. Meanwhile, Andrew Bailey -- the guy the Athletics ideally would have in the closing role -- threw 20 pitches off a mound Monday, according to the A's website. Bailey, who has been out since the start of the season with a forearm strain, is slated to throw another bullpen this week on his way to a rehab assignment. If all goes well, he could return at the end of the month.
• Mat Latos got his first start of the year Monday night. The most important postgame note came from Latos, who told the San Diego Union-Tribune, "Everything felt fine. My arm felt fine." Hooray. Now let's hope it holds up across a long season.
• Zack Greinke is scheduled to throw live batting practice Tuesday. If that goes well, he'll throw another. According to MLB.com, then would come a rehab assignment. It's still looking like the first week of May is the most likely return date, perhaps a touch sooner if Greinke shows he's ready.
• Ubaldo Jimenez's cracked cuticle has healed. He is expected to make an appearance in an extended spring training game Wednesday. Jimenez is eligible to return to the Colorado Rockies on April 17.
• The fractured fibula Minnesota Twins second baseman Tsuyoshi Nishioka suffered Thursday in a takeout slide will not require surgery. There is still a lengthy recovery period; there will be several weeks of bone healing followed by reconditioning to return to the sport. While he won't need a cast, his weight bearing will be limited early. The rate at which he can progress will depend on his comfort level and the healing of the fracture. Expect Nishioka to miss at least a month and probably closer to six weeks before he can return to game play.
• Adam Dunn almost made the timetable he projected for himself after his appendectomy. Dunn, who had surgery Wednesday, is back in the lineup Tuesday, making it exactly one week since he last played. As a designated hitter, Dunn does not have to resume the rigorous duties of tracking down balls in the outfield and can catch some rest when the Chicago White Sox are in the field, but he still has to swing the bat, sprint and potentially slide without incident. St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Matt Holliday was back to full duty in nine days, so Dunn's return within a week isn't a complete shock. Nonetheless, it's a testament to relative health and good shape, along with the advances of modern medicine, that these two have been able to return so quickly. Fantasy owners everywhere are grateful.