Did something happen in New York last night? In case you were under a rock, New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter, just six hits shy of his crusade toward 3,000, left the game in the fifth inning with a right calf strain. Jeter underwent an MRI, and it was later described as a Grade 1 (minor) calf strain. While minor, it was enough for the team to put him on the disabled list for the first time since 2003, when he suffered a dislocated shoulder.
The biggest challenge with a calf injury is running. It gets particularly tricky a few days after a minor injury, when an athlete starts to feel better walking around, fielding and hitting. But the big test is explosive running. A shortstop such as Jeter may test it when making a big defensive play, but generally the signature move is driving out of the batter's box on the way to first, which, not surprisingly, was how Jeter suffered the injury in the first place. The muscle contracts hard to advance the weight of the body when pushing off to run, particularly during the first few steps of sprinting. The concern, naturally, is having a minor injury become something bigger.
Last year, Jeter's teammate, Alex Rodriguez, was forced onto the DL with a minor calf strain when he tried to return to play just days after the initial injury and the leg did not cooperate. He came off the DL when eligible and played the remainder of the season without incident.
• But let's turn to celebrating the return of Washington Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman. Zimmerman has been out since early May after undergoing surgery to repair a torn abdominal muscle, an injury that had been bothering him intermittently since spring training. The Nationals have to be thrilled to be getting him back. He has been hitting the ball well while on his rehab assignment; the most lingering issue for him was getting to where he could throw the ball hard without discomfort. The Nationals wisely had no desire to rush him back, knowing that the success rate following this procedure is very high if allowed to fully recover before returning to sport. Fantasy owners have to be excited as well, as his bat should quickly pay offensive dividends.
• Tuesday will also see the return of Florida Marlins shortstop Hanley Ramirez. The Miami Herald reports Ramirez was activated from the DL after Monday's game, trading places with outfielder Scott Cousins, who heads to the DL with a low back strain. In the NL West, San Francisco Giants third baseman Pablo Sandoval is expected to rejoin the lineup Tuesday as his team takes on the Arizona Diamondbacks. On Monday, we outlined the outlook for both players, including the notion that Sandoval is likely to see some time at first base.
• The Minnesota Twins have been riding an injury carousel all season long, and the news has largely been gloomy. Their fortunes might (emphasis on the word "might") be changing a bit. It appears Tsuyoshi Nishioka could return as soon as Wednesday. According to the Minneapolis Star Tribune, he told that to the Japanese media following him at Triple-A Rochester. Nishioka has been gradually working his way back to baseball since breaking his left fibula in early April. The biggest challenge in coming back from this injury is ensuring Nishioka can play the game all out, without hesitation. So far in rehab games, he has spent significant time at shortstop, and manager Ron Gardenhire indicated that would be his everyday position going forward.
• The Twins also have an eye on catcher Joe Mauer's return. It appears he could be back as soon as Thursday or Friday, according to the Star Tribune. Mauer has been out since mid-April with what was categorized as generalized weakness, and the team has not provided much in the way of detail or timetable since. His increase in innings played recently in rehab outings has hinted at his near return, but the Twins are still not committing to a firm date.
• Then there's Twins first baseman Justin Morneau. After battling lingering post-concussion symptoms since the season-ending injury last July, Morneau was able to recover and return for Opening Day. Unfortunately, he has been challenged with other injuries since. A pinched nerve in his neck, which is causing him neck pain and is affecting his left shoulder, is making playing difficult, yet he is hanging in there.
Recently his left wrist has become problematic, repeatedly swelling, according to Morneau, "whenever I use it." As the Star Tribune reports, a recent MRI showed no significant structural damage, and the plan is to keep Morneau's day-to-day status. While Morneau avoids the DL for the time being, he is certainly struggling to stay active. It's hard to imagine he gets to a point of feeling "great" anytime soon, as these types of ailments respond best to extended rest. Time will tell if he can bounce back enough to contribute on a regular basis or whether the team opts to have him take that extended rest.