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Wednesday, May 5, 2010
Mauer avoiding DL; Furcal, Rollins updates


Another week, another slew of injuries. This week, though, in addition to adding names to the injury roster, we learned that several players are going to be spending some additional time on the disabled list. Never music to a fantasy owner's ears but it's always better to be prepared.

Mauer
Joe Mauer may miss a few more games, but he probably isn't "week-to-week" as Twins manager Ron Gardenhire mentioned earlier.

Joe Mauer, C, Minnesota Twins (day-to-day): Mauer has been dealing with a deep bruise in his left heel since Friday night when a sharp lunge to first base left him in pain. It sounded dire by Sunday when manager Ron Gardenhire described Mauer's condition as "week-to-week" instead of day-to-day. Gardenhire also made it clear the Twins would not be rushing Mauer back, telling the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, this injury is "something you don't screw around with."

It now sounds like it's not as bad as it could have been. According to the Twins' website, an MRI confirmed a soft tissue injury (as in, there is no fracture) and the healing will be assessed on a daily basis. Mauer is reportedly feeling better and is running in a pool to maintain conditioning while eliminating impact that could aggravate the situation. It appears that the Twins have avoided a move to the DL for Mauer ... at least so far.

Rafael Furcal, SS, Los Angeles Dodgers (15-day DL, retroactive to April 28): Furcal has been pestered by a hamstring injury for the last week. On Tuesday, the Dodgers determined that more time was needed and the decision was made to place Furcal on the DL. The issue now is how concerned fantasy owners should be. Does the DL just buy Furcal another week of healing time or is this injury enough to keep him out significantly longer?

Before panic sets in, it appears that the answer is the former. Furcal has been progressing well with his hamstring injury but is not quite ready to resume full speed activity. As a shortstop, he needs to make explosive defensive movements. As a leadoff hitter, he is likely to be exposed to more sprinting situations. Consequently, Furcal is at far greater risk of a setback if he returns at less than full strength. Since it's May and not September, there is no reason for the Dodgers to take that chance. The move to the DL appears to have been largely precautionary. Expect Furcal to return when eligible, barring, of course, a setback.

Manny Ramirez, OF, Los Angeles Dodgers (15-day DL, April 23): Speaking of Dodgers placed on the DL for precautionary reasons, Ramirez began a rehab assignment Tuesday and the news is so far, so good. Ramirez, who suffered a Grade I calf strain, has been running without incident for several days. He is eligible to return May 9 and appears on track to meet that target.

Jacoby Ellsbury
Jacoby Ellsbury would like to be comfortable swinging the bat before he returns from four broken ribs.

Jacoby Ellsbury, OF, Boston Red Sox (15-day DL, retroactive to April 12): Ellsbury continues to recover from the pain that comes with having four broken ribs.

From last week's injury blog: Although it can take four to six weeks for a rib fracture to heal, from the standpoint of activity this is a symptom-based condition meaning whatever he can tolerate, he can do. The fact that four bones were broken, however, tells us that it will take longer to tolerate just about everything.

That statement still holds true. The Boston Globe reported that when pressed for a timetable earlier in the week, Ellsbury declined to provide one, reminding everyone that he does indeed have broken bones "and they need to heal." It may feel like forever to fantasy owners, but it's only been three weeks, very reasonable when you consider his injury.

Ellsbury did take a positive step Tuesday when, according to the Red Sox's website, he took batting practice before the team's game against the Los Angeles Angels. Let's see how Ellsbury feels the day after this new activity before we get too excited. And keep in mind, he likely will require a rehab assignment to get his body back in the groove of playing both offense and defense. He may very well be more than just a few days away from returning. The road back may continue to feel slow, but at least we are seeing some tangible progress.

Jimmy Rollins, SS, Philadelphia Phillies (15-day DL, April 13): A week ago, we pointed out that Rollins had not done any explosive movement that would really test his calf; now we know why. According to the Phillies' website, Rollins still feels discomfort in his right calf when he has to move to his left while fielding ground balls. This makes perfect sense from an injury standpoint. As he makes that initial lateral movement to make a play on a ground ball traveling to his left, he is forced to push his full body weight through that calf muscle. While it might not be bothersome in straight-ahead running, making a quick directional movement from a stationary position requires significantly more power. The discomfort Rollins feels is his calf's way of telling him that it's not healed.

Consequently, the Phillies have expanded the time frame for his return from four weeks to six. This is hardly shocking; we have said from the outset that these injuries are unpredictable and easily aggravated. The Phillies don't want him to come back only to be forced out again. The idea is to have him back for the remainder of the season. Fantasy owners should set their sights on the latter part of May.

Kerry Wood, RP, Cleveland Indians (15-day DL, retroactive to March 26): Last week we said that Wood was scheduled to begin a rehab assignment soon. He did. We also said that when pitchers face live hitters, the adrenaline goes up and the body can react. It's also a time for pitchers to work on their velocity and location. Wood had a chance to get some work in and found out what he still needed to work on before rejoining his team.

Wood may have given up six runs in less than an inning in a rehab outing, but on the positive side, he reported feeling good afterward. Wood told the Akron Beacon Journal, "that's the most important thing for me." Certainly given his injury history that couldn't be more true. Wood may require another couple rehab appearances before he retakes the closer role with the Indians but his return date appears close.

Brian Roberts
Brian Roberts' seemingly uncertain return frustrates many owners.

Brian Roberts, 2B, Baltimore Orioles (15-day DL, April 10): The quote heard 'round the fantasy world: "It could be three weeks, it could be three months" was Roberts' assessment of his situation, according to the Orioles' website. For fantasy owners wondering whether they should still hold out any hope, it's worth noting that Roberts was quick to add that he did not really think it would be three months.

Nonetheless, we have outlined here in past weeks that Roberts' back condition has the potential not only to linger, but to continue to be problematic across the season. Disc problems are notoriously difficult and this is behaving no differently. Roberts is still very limited in his activity as the team brings him along slowly. Because there are many hurdles to overcome, it is hard to establish a clear timeline. That brings frustration for players and fantasy owners. At this point, it's anyone's guess, including Roberts', as to when he'll be able to return.

Curtis Granderson, OF, New York Yankees (15-day DL, May 2): When Granderson pulled up sharply while rounding the bases Saturday and hobbled toward third base. it was obvious he had pulled something, it just wasn't clear exactly what it was. We have learned that he suffered a Grade II groin strain, and according to ESPN's Buster Olney, Granderson is expected to miss a month.

This is not dissimilar to the Grade II muscle strain that the Phillies' Rollins is dealing with, other than the exact location of the injury. Grade II, also called a moderate strain, represents the widest range of injury somewhere between a minor strain with no visible tissue damage (Grade I) and a complete muscle tear (Grade III). As we have seen with Rollins, it takes time for the tissue to heal, and the most challenging aspect of recovery is regaining explosiveness and speed, a critical component of Granderson's game. Fantasy owners should hope for four weeks, be prepared for six and know that his timetable could still fall outside of those parameters depending how his rehab goes.

Jorge Posada, C, New York Yankees (day-to-day): Posada's calf strain is being called mild following an MRI this week. According to the New York Daily News, Posada is not expected back before Friday. Let's face it, at age 38, these types of injuries are more apt to occur. The most fortunate thing for the Yankees is that the strain was not more serious, like Rollins' was. It looks like this will not land Posada on the DL, but if it doesn't progress as expected, he won't be an automatic start for the weekend series, even if it is the Red Sox. Fantasy owners need to be sure to check pregame lineups.

Etc.

Cliff Lee, SP, Seattle Mariners: If there were any lingering doubts as to how Lee would fare coming off the DL following his abdominal strain, he seems to have put those to rest. Lee pitched seven scoreless innings in his first start of the season while dishing up eight strikeouts.

Mike Cameron, OF, Boston Red Sox: Cameron seems to be progressing nicely with an abdominal strain that initially appeared as if it might require surgery. In fact, he could be headed for a rehab assignment within a week.

Erik Bedard, SP, Seattle Mariners: Bedard continues to move forward in his throwing progression, slightly ahead of schedule as he recovers from shoulder surgery. After a bullpen session Friday, Bedard was projected to move up to a simulated game this week. According to manager Don Wakamatsu, Bedard has adjusted his mechanics to place less stress on his throwing shoulder. The key will be whether he can maintain these mechanics as he begins to face hitters. The best case has him returning the end of May, but don't be surprised if it stretches a bit longer.

Mariano Rivera, RP, New York Yankees: Rivera shrugged off the stiffness in his left side as no big deal, much as one would expect. Pain on the opposite side of the trunk from the throwing arm always raises the specter of an oblique issue, but Rivera's confidence is convincing. So is the fact he threw a bullpen session before Tuesday's game. This does not appear to be something that will limit him beyond a few days.

Huston Street, RP, Colorado Rockies: As a pitcher returns in his throwing progression, one big hurdle comes when he moves from throwing on flat ground to throwing off a mound. Street overcame that hurdle Tuesday when he threw a bullpen session and experienced no discomfort in his shoulder afterward, according to the Examiner. The plan is for Street to throw in an extended spring training game next followed by a rehab assignment. If all goes well, he should be back with the team within a few weeks.

Jeff Weaver, SP, Los Angeles Dodgers: Weaver has been doing well in his simulated games and is expected to be activated Friday. Apparently the back issue he was dealing with was minor as these things go and he has recovered quickly, as expected.

From my mailbag

Cameron (Atlanta): Are any injuries really freak injuries? I mean, I realize that if a player slips on water in his kitchen and falls on his wrist and breaks it, then that is a freak injury. But, you often hear that somebody pulled their hamstring in a "freak injury." I would have to argue that it is never really a freak injury. I think these types of injuries happen for various reasons, especially in a non-contact sport such as baseball. For example, someone is carrying around extra weight and didn't put in the work in the offseason, they didn't warm up and stretch properly, they have tight quads or hamstrings that cause one or the other to overcompensate that eventually leads to a pull or strain. Or one part of the body has been severely overworked and leads to another part of the body being vulnerable. If any of those situations happen, then technically the injury could have been prevented if the athlete worked harder and took better care of their body. What say you?

Stephania Bell: What a great question! This is one of those philosophical questions where I'm not sure we really ever have a definitive answer. As you point out, the true "accident" such as slipping on the wet floor, or stepping in a lawn divot that is hidden from view, even a car accident in which there is no fault on the part of the injured party ... these could all be described as freak injuries.

At the same time, there are certainly "unusual" (as in uncommon) injuries that occur in sports that may be more likely to happen, as you point out, because of inadequate warm-up, less than ideal fitness or some other contributing factor. In medicine, we always feel that individuals with better fitness tend to recover better and faster from injury. In some cases, the more skilled individual may even be able to avoid an injury that would have felled the average person. To that end, we spend a lot of time encouraging proper fitness and, when possible, tailoring that fitness to the individual's activity. Someone who lifts repeatedly at work needs to be "fit" for that job, just as a baseball pitcher needs to tailor his exercise program to support his occupation.

Great food for thought, though. And if it encourages anyone to spend a little extra time on core strengthening or flexibility to help prevent injury, then we've accomplished something!

If you have any injury questions you want answered in the blog, drop a note in my mailbag, or stop by my Tuesday chats.