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Buster Posey, San Francisco Giants. From Feb. 16: The image of Posey getting drilled at the plate with his leg twisted underneath him last year is etched into the minds of those who saw the injury happen (or one of the seemingly infinite replays that followed). In fact, Posey's injury was so dramatic it sparked philosophical discussion throughout the sport about whether catchers should invite or avoid collision as part of their job duties (most fantasy owners would universally scream "Avoid!"). Now imagine having to come back to the scene of the accident, as Posey will have to do, to return to your job. Posey must not think about how his leg and ankle were rearranged last time he was behind the plate, just one component of his lengthy rehabilitation, albeit perhaps one of the most difficult. As far as the physical rehab following his injury, Posey has steadily remained ahead of schedule, impressing the Giants' medical staff along the way. In May, Posey underwent surgery to insert screws and repair ligament damage, then underwent a follow-up procedure in July to remove the hardware. After regaining range of motion and strength in his ankle, along with restoring a normal gait, Posey progressed to light throwing and hitting off a tee by the fall. In January, he added sprints to his conditioning work and is gradually expected to add more baseball-specific components to his regimen.
|Buster Posey's recovery from his serious ankle injury has progressed nicely this spring.|
Kendrys Morales, Los Angeles Angels. Feb. 16 update: Morales is coming off a second ankle surgery last May, a surgery that became necessary when Morales failed to progress to the point of returning to run this past season. Morales' original injury was in May 2010, the now-infamous celebratory walk-off grand slam that resulted in a severe left ankle fracture when Morales landed awkwardly at home plate.Angels team physician and noted orthopedist Dr. Lewis Yocum offered this quote in the Los Angeles Times last May when it was announced Morales would have a second surgery: "The doctor will address any of the pathological changes he sees," Yocum said. "This will help him get range of motion as well as diminish the amount of arthritic change in the joint." The recovery time for the procedure was estimated to be a minimum of six months. Morales has been progressing with his rehab efforts in Arizona, and in January, he was cleared to begin light baseball activities and running "on his own power," according to MLB.com. Morales has been taking batting practice and certainly appears to be ahead of where he was at the same time last year. That said, there are still hurdles to cross, including running sprints and turning corners, to prove the ankle will endure the load. And there's this other guy the Angels brought in to cover first base, Albert Pujols. But Morales could serve as a DH, presuming he can hit with power (which requires transferring load and torsion through that left ankle, especially when hitting from the right) and navigate the bases without hesitation. How Morales is able to increase his workload through spring training will give a better idea of how the Angels might be able to use him. It looks encouraging at first glance, but the bigger test for the recovering ankle joint will come in the form of repeated work over a period of time. March 28 update: Morales has now shown that he can do something he could not last year: run. In his first game appearance of the spring on March 22, Morales went 2-for-3. More importantly, he ran from first to third base on a hit, showing he could turn the corners. He has been able to hit from both sides of the plate, another good sign for the ankle, and appears on track to serve as the Angels' DH when the season begins. It's worth noting that there remains some question as to how his ankle will tolerate an increased workload. The Angels likely will ensure that he continues to get intermittent days off to help protect him.
|Justin Morneau (post-concussion symptoms) has gotten back into the swing of things this spring.|
Chase Utley, Phillies. Feb. 16 update: Utley's 2011 season didn't begin until June. Even then, it was uncertain whether he would last the season. Impressively, Utley held up for the remainder of the year, leading many to think he was "over" the knee injury which delayed his start.Not quite. Utley has degenerative changes in his patellofemoral joint and those changes are not reversible. During the time Utley was not able to play last spring, he dedicated himself to a rehabilitation program designed to offload that area under the kneecap as much as possible. He was eventually able to return to running the bases and playing defense (swinging the bat was never an issue), but at times he appeared slightly uncomfortable and he certainly wasn't snagging any extra bases.
|Chase Utley, 33, is sidelined indefinitely due to pain in his left knee.|
Miguel Cabrera, Detroit Tigers: Cabrera suffered a facial laceration and small fracture under his right eye when a ground ball he was attempting to field in a spring game bounced up and hit the edge of his sunglasses. It looked frightening, and could have resulted in an injury that would have cost Cabrera weeks, if not months. Fortunately, that was not the case; after just more than a week away from baseball activity, Cabrera was cleared to return. He expects to be ready for Opening Day.David Wright, Mets: Wright sustained a partial tear of his rectus abdominis muscle (the six-pack abs), which has sidelined him for the bulk of spring training. The location of the injury was relatively high in the muscle and slightly to the left, not in the lower part of the muscular attachment often associated with sports hernias. In fact, the location of Wright's discomfort initially hinted at an oblique injury, and ultimately, the recovery could turn out to be very similar. The Mets took the cautious approach with Wright, primarily to guard against any setback that could threaten his status for the regular season. Given Wright's history of a stress fracture in his back, abdominal function and strength is particularly critical. After ramping up his baseball drill work, Wright made his spring debut Monday. Presuming no lingering soreness, he will continue to get game play under his belt with an Opening Day start on the horizon.
Carl Crawford, Boston Red Sox. Feb. 16 update: It came as a bit of a surprise in January when the Red Sox announced Crawford had undergone surgery on his left wrist. The procedure was described as an arthroscopic debridement (a "cleanup" type procedure done via a scope), and while no specific timetable for his recovery was given, general manager Ben Cherington said he expected Crawford to play the "bulk" of the season.But wrist injuries in power hitters certainly generate concern given how much torque is generated as the bat is twisted at speeds exceeding 70 miles per hour. It is that torque which likely played a role in Crawford's injury in the first place. As ESPNBoston.com's Gordon Edes noted, Crawford's surgery was on his TFCC or triangular fibrocartilage complex, a cartilage structure (and its supporting ligaments) within the wrist. It is sometimes referred to as the meniscus of the wrist since it has a similar role in both load transmission and providing stability within the joint. A tear can lead to a catching of the tissue within the joint that causes pain and prevents normal motion. It was that pain when trying to swing the bat that led Crawford to the surgery. Surgical debridement procedures of TFCC tears smooth out the damaged tissue and generally lead to a good outcome. Crawford certainly seems to be moving in the right direction. When spring training started, manager Bobby Valentine indicated he did not expect Crawford to be ready by Opening Day. Crawford, however, has made Opening Day a goal and has been taking part in virtually all baseball activities, including fielding, throwing and running the bases. Recently he was cleared to start swinging the bat and, as of this writing, he has had several days of taking aggressive swings in the cage. According to ESPNBoston.com's Joe McDonald, Crawford says his wrist feels good. His status remains day-to-day as the medical staff monitors his wrist to see how it responds to the increasing workload. While it is too soon to say whether he will meet his target of Opening Day, Crawford does appear to be progressing at a solid pace. In the absence of any setbacks, his availability in early April is looking like a possibility. March 28 update: Crawford's aggressive swings early this spring didn't go as well as Crawford had hoped, and inflammation in his surgically repaired wrist forced him to scale back his activity. After a couple of weeks of no swings, Crawford was allowed to resume a monitored program, and so far he has been progressing well. He will not be ready by Opening Day, however. He instead will stay in Florida for extended work with the medical staff, likely accompanied by a progression into minor league game action. There has been no timetable issued for his return, and naturally it will depend on how he responds to each level of increased activity. Giancarlo Stanton, Miami Marlins: Stanton took a pitch off his left wrist on March 11 -- fortunately the injury was a bruise, not a break -- but that's not why he has not played since. Stanton also has been dealing with pain and inflammation in his knee, which prevented him from being able to run. After evaluation did not turn up anything significant, Stanton was given a week of rest. He has since been cleared to resume baseball activity and has played in minor league games. As long as there are no further setbacks, Stanton appears to be on track for Opening Day. Corey Hart, Milwaukee Brewers: Hart underwent meniscus surgery on his right knee in early March and was projected to miss about a month. He has been doing well in his recovery, but might not quite be ready for Opening Day. According to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, Hart should get minor league game action during the last week of spring training. The decision as to whether he will be ready for Opening Day may come down to the wire, but there is no reason to rush Hart, given the length of the season. Even a delayed start would not likely mean extensive missed time. Better to ensure there are no complications down the road.