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Monday, August 22, 2011
Wilson, Rollins hurting; Oswalt returns


• It was nice to see Philadelphia Phillies righty Roy Oswalt have such a successful outing this weekend. Remember in June when Roy Oswalt expressed so much frustration with his ongoing back troubles that he thought his career might be over? That moment seemed like a distant memory Sunday when Oswalt looked like, well, vintage Oswalt tossing eight shutout innings and fanning nine in the process. Oswalt showing he indeed has quite a bit left in the tank.

• Another pitcher who is making strides is Atlanta Braves ace Tommy Hanson, currently on the DL with inflammation in his throwing shoulder. Hanson was able to play catch Saturday and is scheduled for a light bullpen Monday. The return to throwing off the mound is always a big test as it increases the stress on a pitcher's arm. If the session goes well, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports Hanson could make a rehab start Saturday. The key for Hanson, who currently stands at 130 innings pitched this season, will be taking it slowly to guard against setbacks.

Wilson
Brian Wilson has 35 saves this season, but his WHIP is a subpar 1.49.

• Meanwhile, San Francisco Giants closer Brian Wilson was placed on the 15-day DL with elbow inflammation. Wilson paid a visit to Dr. Andrews last week (the Giants were in Atlanta to play the Braves and Andrews was close by in Alabama) and was reassured that structurally the elbow was sound. Initially, it sounded as if Wilson would only miss a few days but the move to the DL should not have anyone panicking just yet. First, when Andrews has serious concern about a player's elbow health, he often recommends extended rest and rehab of at least four weeks (like the Oakland Athletics' Brett Anderson, who did just that but ultimately needed Tommy John surgery). Second, the DL remains a roster management tool and this case allows the Giants to shore up their bullpen. On Sunday, John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle reported via Twitter that manager Bruce Bochy indicated Wilson could return at the end of the 15 days. Better to get some more rest now and not force Wilson into what could become a more serious issue.

• The Chicago White Sox's Carlos Quentin has a sprained left A-C (acromioclavicular) joint, the result of a diving catch Saturday against the Texas Rangers. The A-C joint, at the tip of the shoulder, is where the collarbone (clavicle) meets the acromion, or point of the shoulderblade, and is bound together by ligaments. When those ligaments are injured, it is termed a sprain. When the sprain is severe enough to cause major ligament disruption, the bones can move apart from one another or "separate," hence the term separated shoulder, which is often used to describe more significant A-C injuries. An interesting note on Quentin. X-rays were reportedly negative of his shoulder, yet the MRI revealed the sprain. This would suggest that the damage is not severe. If the ligament damage was severe enough to result in true separation, the deformity would be visible on X-ray, even though the ligaments themselves are not. The MRI, however, can visualize soft tissue as well as inflammation in the area, confirming the diagnosis of an A-C sprain.

Even a minor A-C injury can be painful, making it difficult to lift the arm. Even though the injury is to Quentin's non-throwing shoulder, the biggest challenge will be using his arm when swinging the bat. Quentin acknowledged as much when he told the Daily Herald, "as a hitter I think your front shoulder is more important." The key early is to control pain and inflammation so that Quentin can regain the necessary range of motion to use his arm properly. Maintaining strength around the shoulder to the best degree possible while the injury winds its course will also be a focus.

St. Louis Cardinals veteran shortstop Rafael Furcal must seriously wonder who or what is out to get him now. After breaking his left thumb in early April on a headfirst slide and then straining an oblique in June (resulting in another month away from the game), Furcal suffered a freak injury while on the road with his new team, the St. Louis Cardinals, this weekend. It wasn't even an injury sustained during the course of playing baseball. According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Furcal suffered a "severe thumb sprain" when he stumbled as a wooden step leading to the batting cages at Wrigley Field broke. In an effort to brace his fall, Furcal's thumb was twisted resulting in the injury. The bad news? This injury is to his right (throwing) hand. The good news? Well, it's not the same thumb he broke this spring. And maybe, if things really do happen in threes, his 2011 injury woes are now over. As to when he'll be able to return, there's no immediate answer as much will depend on how soon the pain and swelling subside and when Furcal can regain his grip.

Jimmy Rollins
Jimmy Rollins is fourth among shortstops on the Player Rater this season.

• Philadelphia Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins' calf has stayed healthy this season but he was forced to leave Sunday's game early with a groin injury. Manager Charlie Manuel indicated he did not know when or how Rollins sustained the injury, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer. However, Rollins underwent an MRI on Monday and tweeted afterward that he had a grade 2 strain and would be headed to the disabled list. As a shortstop, Rollins relies on quick lateral movement more than most, so a significant groin injury could be problematic.

• Teammate Placido Polanco is saying he expects to be activated from the DL on Monday. Polanco has been out most recently with a sports hernia and told the Philadelphia Inquirer he feels stronger after the rest. It will be interesting to see how Polanco fares once he returns to baseball. Many athletes try to play through this injury -- some are even successful for a while -- but often ultimately find themselves resorting to surgery. Exhibit A: Mike Cameron who fought valiantly through an early season injury last year while with the Boston Red Sox but increasingly struggled to run until the injury forced him out. Exhibit B: Washington Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman, who tried to play after suffering the initial injury during spring training but was forced to undergo surgery when it worsened. It's understandable that Polanco wants to try to play through it, given the timetable for recovery almost matches what's left of the regular season. But it will be challenging, especially in light of his recent issues with a bulging disc in his lower back.

• There was some excitement within the New York Mets organization Saturday after Jose Reyes did some running in the home park. Manager Terry Collins told the New York Post that Reyes looked "terrific." After his successful outing, Reyes spent Sunday running soft turns, "hugging the outfield grass" according to ESPN New York's Adam Rubin, in preparation for turning corners. The next big test is expected to come Monday when Reyes will increase the output while running the bases. If all goes well, a rehab assignment could be in short order and according to Rubin, Collins says Reyes will head to Double-A or Triple-A for that assignment. Bear in mind that Reyes' latest DL stint came just two weeks after he returned from the prior one (for the same injury) and no one wants history to repeat itself again. While it's impossible to guarantee a successful return, it seems likely the Mets will want to have Reyes repeatedly test the leg at a fairly high level before he rejoins the team.

• Speaking of hamstrings and setbacks, Texas Rangers third baseman Adrian Beltre knows a thing or two about such matters. Beltre injured his left hamstring in July, suffering a Grade 1 strain which was expected to sideline him for two to three weeks. He was nearing a return right around the three week mark. Then he tried to run the bases (there's a reason it's one of the final tests). It went well the first time, but in his second effort Beltre felt the familiar grab in his hamstring and was sent back to square one. Now, it's time for him to test the hamstring again. According to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Beltre is expected to run the bases Monday if cleared by the Rangers' team physician. There has to be a little anxiety around this activity not only for him but for the team as well, given the previous result. Expect a gradual progression to continue even if this activity is successful.

• And finally, the jury is still out on Florida Marlins shortstop Hanley Ramirez, on the DL with a left shoulder sprain. Ramirez has been able to work out (throwing, running) but has not been swinging the bat. The injury is to his lead shoulder (see Carlos Quentin above), the same shoulder he previously had operated on following the 2007 season to address a torn labrum. It remains to be seen whether he will be able to overcome this latest injury to return to the Marlins this season.