Stephania Bell: Zack Cozart


[+] EnlargeAdrian Beltre
Ronald Martinez/Getty ImagesAdrian Beltre entered Monday's action third on the Player Rater among third basemen this season.
Texas Rangers third baseman Adrian Beltre suffered his second muscle strain of the season, and this one has landed him on the DL. Beltre pulled up lame, reaching for the back of his thigh, while running to third base in the fifth inning of Friday's game. He underwent an MRI the following day and the team announced he had suffered a Grade 1 strain of his left hamstring. The Rangers have projected his absence at two to three weeks. All things considered, this doesn't sound as serious as it could have been given Beltre's description of what he felt Friday night. According to ESPN Dallas, Beltre said, "It felt like a really hard grab. It felt like it was going to tear my leg, but it didn't get to that point." Beltre reportedly has not suffered a hamstring injury severe enough to send him to the disabled list in his past, but he did have a mild (right) calf strain earlier this year. That injury happened in the spring and Beltre did not miss any regular season action. His legs have been remarkably durable throughout his career and treating this injury cautiously makes sense for Beltre and the Rangers.

• And the kid was getting off to such a great start! But that stellar start was interrupted for Cincinnati Reds shortstop Zack Cozart when he suffered a hyperextended left elbow while trying to make a catch at second base Saturday. As Cozart extended to catch the ball, his arm met Atlanta Braves baserunner Nate McClouth and was forced in a direction it does not normally go. Cozart summed it up aptly, telling reporters, "It didn't look that good and didn't feel good." He has since been placed on the 15-day DL. Cozart was clearly in pain at the time of the injury and walked off the field gingerly supporting his arm. Fortunately, X-rays were reported negative, but the pain and swelling often associated with this type of injury should not be underestimated. The hope is that the actual damage to soft tissues in the elbow (ligaments, joint capsule) is minimal to preserve stability of the joint. The first order of business is to protect the joint (Cozart is now wearing a brace and compression sleeve according to the Reds' website) and address inflammation while allowing the soft tissue to begin healing. As symptoms allow, he will be encouraged to increase his motion and will gradually work his way back toward baseball activities. Just how long that takes will be dependent on how Cozart's elbow cooperates.

Alex Rodriguez could rejoin his teammates in the second week of August. At least that's what New York Yankees general manager Brian Cashman told ESPN's "Baseball Tonight" crew Sunday. Cashman said that Rodriguez is looking good following surgery to address a torn meniscus in his right knee, and is riding a bike and doing pool workouts. Cashman noted that Rodriguez still has a slight limp, not uncommon at this point, but it does tell us that he's not ready to progress to running just yet. Perhaps most significant in Cashman's comments was when he pointed out that the team could potentially push Rodriguez to return sooner, but why? He confirmed what we've been saying all along, that the team is employing a conservative approach in Rodriguez's rehab. This makes perfect sense given that the team has a hefty vested interest in the long-term health of their third baseman, one which far outweighs the potential risk in pressing him back into competition a few days early.

• His counterpart in the National League, the Braves' Chipper Jones, is expected to make his return Monday just over two weeks removed from a similar (meniscus) surgery on his right knee. Many have asked why Jones could return more quickly, but it's always difficult to compare recovery times -- even following similar procedures -- in two different athletes. There are many variables that come into play, most notably the extent of the injury and subsequent surgical procedure (including size, location, pattern of the tear), the condition of the knee joint itself (reflecting any past trauma, injury), the player's overall health history (remember, Rodriguez underwent surgery on his right hip two years ago, while Jones' recent ACL repair was on his opposite knee) and ultimately the player's own recovery rate. Jones has always been one to push his limits physically and is known to be tough when it comes to injury issues. Still, at 39 years old, given the mileage on his wheels, this is an impressive return. Now the team has to be hopeful that he will not have any setbacks from here forward.

• The Boston Red Sox get Jon Lester back on Monday following a DL stint for a lat strain. Lester has said he considers the injury to be behind him but is expected to be limited to approximately 80-90 pitches when he faces the Kansas City Royals. As manager Terry Francona told reporters, "He's going to go out there and fire and try to win. And that's good, but we've got to keep an eye on him."



[+] EnlargeRoy Oswalt
Jeff Curry/US PresswireRoy Oswalt last pitched in the majors on June 23.
Roy Oswalt looks to have turned a corner and is expected to start a rehab assignment this week. According to the Philadelphia Daily News, Oswalt will be throwing for Triple-A Lehigh Valley on Wednesday and should be good for about 60 pitches. Following that outing, the team will decide whether he needs another rehab start or whether he can rejoin the Phillies. Oswalt is not out of the woods by any means.



By this point, everyone is aware that Oswalt has been battling chronic low back pain associated with bulging discs. He has had back pain and leg pain to varying degrees over several years and has received multiple courses of treatment including a series of spinal injections. Oswalt noted that the most recent injection really helped him bridge a hurdle in this latest pain episode and he has been able to increase his activity ever since. Nonetheless, this is a scenario of ongoing management of a condition as opposed to completely "healing" and putting the issue in the rearview mirror.



Although the goal for Oswalt is to return to his prior level of function and not be thinking about his back before each outing, he is undoubtedly taking precautions in the form of watching his body mechanics and performing regular stretches and strengthening exercises in an effort to stay on the right side of this issue. This is still a far better outlook than the one Oswalt initially projected, sounding as if his career might be finished, after his last start in June was interrupted due to severe back pain.

• Finally, J.J. Putz looks as if he'll be returning to the mound Tuesday for the Arizona Diamondbacks, according to their official website. Putz has been out since the first of July with what the team referred to as elbow tendinitis, which may have contributed to his late June struggles. Putz has had several episodes of missed time because of his elbow although this latest incident was thought to not be particularly serious. He may not return to his closer role immediately, but if he pitches well out of the gate, it may not take long.

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