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Brandon Morrow was not through even one inning of work Monday night before he was through for the night. The culprit? Morrow's left side, specifically an oblique abdominal muscle, which sounds as if it is injured enough to send him to the DL. Further tests for Morrow were planned for Tuesday but Toronto Blue Jays manager John Farrell sounded resigned to a lengthy absence for his pitcher. "I think at this point, it's safe to say it's probably substantial in terms of what he's dealing with right now," Farrell told reporters after the game. Farrell went on to call the loss of Morrow for any period of time "unfortunate," given his significance to the team.
Based on what we know about the average length of time for a pitcher to be absent when diagnosed with an abdominal strain, Morrow could be looking at more than a month, depending on the severity of the injury. So far this season, the Detroit Tigers' Doug Fister, the Philadelphia Phillies' Cliff Lee and the New York Yankees' David Robertson have all hit the DL with abdominal injuries. Robertson has been out for a month and is hoping to return late this week, Lee returned after a three-week absence, and Fister is looking to return Wednesday from his second DL stint after aggravating the injury that kept him out for nearly a month in April. This is not one of those things a guy can just play through; perhaps that is why the Jays seem to be prepared to be without him for a while. In fact, the team announced Tuesday that it will place him on the disabled list Wednesday.
The Phillies have announced Chase Utley will begin a rehab assignment Tuesday, which means the countdown clock toward his return to the majors starts ticking. Position players have 20 days after being placed on a rehab assignment before they must be activated in the majors. Should Utley suffer a setback at any point during that time frame, the clock will stop. He would then have to refrain from participating in any minor league games for seven days. After that, a new 20-day clock could begin. Based on the current clock, Utley will need to be activated by July 2. This would allow for several games prior to the All-Star break, which would then give Utley another few days' reprieve.
Utley is set to begin his rehab assignment as a designated hitter. He has not yet played the field, and this is likely to be the biggest test for his ailing knees. The defensive stance places the most load on the undersurface of his patella (kneecap), the area affected by chondromalacia (softening of the cartilage surface). There's a reason this is the last element to be integrated into his game. So far, hitting and running the bases have not caused him any difficulties in his extended spring training appearances, and the hope is that adding in the fielding will also go smoothly. Still, it remains a test. And it's not just how he feels after a single outing, but how he responds when he starts stringing together consecutive games that will determine whether he is ready to return to the majors. This remains an issue of ongoing management, so even though his return would appear imminent, there are hurdles to cross before the Phillies can feel confident in his availability.
In what represents the next phase when it comes to vigor of throwing, Washington Nationals closer Drew Storen has begun throwing from a mound. He made his first outing Friday, which went well, leading to a second mound session Monday.
Storen has been out since undergoing surgery to remove a bone chip in April. After an extended period of rest, he has gradually progressed through a throwing program to the point where he is now throwing downhill. But as noted by the Washington Times, Storen still is not throwing at 100 percent effort, as dictated by the process in order to ease a pitcher back following injury. Storen acknowledged the challenge in holding back, saying, "It's definitely an adjustment to not let it go 100 percent from the start. But I like I said before, I'm seeing improvement." If that improvement continues as his throwing program progresses, Storen hopes to return around the All-Star break.
Los Angeles Angels ace Jered Weaver took a big step in his recovery when he threw 30 pitches from a mound Monday, about halfway up the mound, according to ESPN Los Angeles. In other words, he tested his body at about half the slope. Weaver is scheduled to throw from the rubber Tuesday to test the full downhill angle. He has been on the DL with a lower back strain, specifically reported as inflammation around a disc in his back. The tall hurler with the hard delivery is next scheduled to test his body with a simulated game if the mound session goes well. The team is hopeful he could return by the middle of next week if he continues to progress without incident. Given that his injury looked so disabling when it happened in late May, his swift recovery thus far has been encouraging.