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March 28, 2:31 PM ET
Fantasy league injuries w/Stephania Bell

Stephania Bell
  (11:02 AM)

Good morning everyone and welcome to the Friday injury chat! Almost Opening Day and there are enough injury concerns to make a lot of teams nervous - some scrambling to adjust their rosters. Let's get to your questions...

Gray (Chicago)

I am not expecting good news, but when will we hear final word on whether Escobar is officially out for the season?

Stephania Bell
  (11:05 AM)

Gray: I think you are asking the question that is on everyone's mind. What I'm hearing right now is that Escoba will return to the rehab program that he was on before he started throwing again and try to continue to work the shoulder. If however the pain lingers into mid-April and there has been no change, it sounds as if he will go to New York to meet with Dr. David Altchek, Mets physician to discuss surgery. At that point we will know for sure - if he has surgery he is clearly done for the year. It could be sooner if for any reason his pain worsens. I would have to say it's not looking too promising at this point.

Chris (Prague, CZ)

Ronnie Brown's agent said he'll be ready for the opener. Do you believe him and, if so, will Brown have the same ability to run with power and to make good cuts on that knee?

Stephania Bell
  (11:08 AM)

Hi Chris: Joining us from overseas! I think there's a very good chance that Ronnie Brown is ready to play in the opener based on the time frame for recovery and how well he is doing right now. Of course that timetable is always fluid b/c as they add activity, it all depends how the knee tolerates it. But to answer the second part of your question, power and agility are two of the LAST things to come back after ACL reconstruction, and it almost always takes playing - in games - to regain that motor skill - which is why we see players taking two years to return to form. The first year on the field becomes really an extension of their rehab. Now, that doesn't mean he can't be effective, but I would be surprised if he is the Ronnie Brown we saw right before he got hurt.

The Curse (Duhn dunn dunnnn)

What are your thoughts on Milton Bradley's progression this spring?

Stephania Bell
  (11:11 AM)

Yes - the curse that haunts me. It sounds as if Bradley is doing really well. In fact, his ACL injury was in Spetember making him only about 7 mos post-op, so to see that he even played outfield already this spring is impressive. I expect him to DH primarily early on, and as the knee gets stronger, move into outfield more. He doesn't need to worry about any curse though - he just needs to protect him from himself - no more arguing with umps.

Ricardo (Porto, Portugal)

As an Accardo owner, I was a bit disappointed to read that the Jays want Ryan pitching in the second week of April. Can Ryan be relied on after so little time has passed since his TJ surgery? How many days/weeks/months can I count on saves from Accardo?

Stephania Bell
  (11:14 AM)

Hi Ricardo: Well, they would have had him pitching the first week if he had been ready. Unfortunately this is a bit of a moving target, b/c it all depends on how Ryan's progression back goes since he developed soreness in his arm. I think the Jays will take it slow b/c they do not want to add any risk. They also want him to be able to go every other day when he officially joins the lineup. I think it will more likely be late April/early May when he returns, so you can count on Accardo until then, and then I think they may even timeshare if necessary when Ryan first gets back. But late April, early May is my expectation for Ryan.

SalPacino (CT)

I passed on John Smoltz during my draft after word came out on his injury. Now I find out that he's fine and the injury wasn't that bad. Is he just a machine that will pitch forever?

Stephania Bell
  (11:18 AM)

Hi Sal: It's tough to know how to go when there is a question mark about an injury. Look, this is how I view Smoltz's situation. He had tightness in his upper trap, which often is a sign of neck problems, not shoulder. neck problems, potentially disc problems, for which Smoltz is in the right age category btw, worry me for their potential seriousness and their potential to linger/recur. Also, Smoltz had pain in the same region last year (he even described it as the same pain), and he ended up having to make a rare appearance on the DL in order to get it to quiet down. So to me, this is a recurrence of the same symptoms already. Add to that, that he's 40 - which he doesn't want you to pay attention to, but it's a fact, body takes longer to heal. On the plus side, this guy is a gamer. He is mentally tough and has a great attitude in how he approaches this and is determined to beat it - that counts for a lot. Yes, it looks as if this episode wasn;t that serious, but I would not be surprised if it rears up again during the season and forces him to rest. And no, he won't pitch forever, but I do think he'll exit on his terms.

Ed (NJ)

Any new news on Chris Carpenter? Do you think he'll be back to help fantasy teams this year?

Stephania Bell
  (11:19 AM)

Hi Ed: Just that he is totally on track and expected to meet his target return date of July '08. Again, these are fluid timelines always, but this is definitely positive news.

Brad (Toledo)

Stephania, Is it time to start being seriously concerned about Kazmir or are they just being overly cautious? It always makes me nervous when pitchers keep getting pushed back. Thanks!

Stephania Bell
  (11:24 AM)

Hi Brad: Great question - everyone wondering the same thing. From the rehab side, I totally understand this b/c it is very typical of how these gradual returns to throwing go. But I can see why it is frustrating from a fan standpoint. I don't think the team is being overly cautious, but yes, they're being cautious. Just think - if they wait an extra week or two now, it could mean the difference between a healthy remainder of a season and a return to the DL in a month with ongoing problems. Arm issues with throwers can be that subtle and that fickle. They use not only pain, but evidence of how hard they're able to throw, command, etc to determine what the overall arm strength is and how they're looking as far as progress. If they see something suggesting even minor weakness, they will adjust the timeline, even if the athlete tells them he feels fine. It is extremely fluid, really one day to the next. I have to say, I think they're being smart. Kazmir appears to be progressing on par, but the team was concerned with strength, and wanted more time to build that up before putting him in the rotation. I'm not nervous about what I'm seeing with him.

Gary (sf, ca)

Hi Stephania, the Talented Mr. Roto hinted about some mysterious ailment to Chad Billingsley. Do you know anything about this?

Stephania Bell
  (11:26 AM)

Hi Gary: At this point, I have no definitive word on an injury to Billingsley. There are rumors to that effect however. The rumors stem from how he's throwing this spring. The first sign of injury to a thrower is often an altered velocity, loss of location control or some variation on that, not necessarily pain as people often think. My understanding is that Billingsley does not have pain, but some of his throwing issues have people concerned. And that's the extent of it as far as I know right now.

Scott (Boston, MA)

for those of us fortunate (did i really just say that?) to have rich harden right now, What can we watch for that might forewarn us of a DL stint? any signs to look for?

Stephania Bell
  (11:28 AM)

Scott: oooh - good question. Harden sure looked fantastic in Japan. He has been working like crazy to get that shoulder ready to go for this season and it seems to be paying off. As per my note on the last response, certainly if he develops any pain or soreness that's a flag. But more important would be signs of fatigue - coming out of games early, loss of command/speed, those kinds of things - that would be the more subtle hint that something could be wrong.

Mike (Boston)

Hi Stephania, Do you think Kent will start opening day, I'm having trouble finding much info on him. Do you think Hermida is a go for April 5th too. Thanks.

Stephania Bell
  (11:31 AM)

Hi Mike: Kent is still up in the air. Apparently he was able to run some sprints Monday (which he couldn't do last week, they rested him after a cortisone shot) and I have not heard of any after effects, but it is still a question mark as to whether he goes. Hermida was placed on the 15 day DL but retroactive to March 21st. Sounds like a return of 4/5 is the goal meaning he would miss just a few games

Stephania Bell
  (11:32 AM)

Sorry Mike - just to follow up on that - he has done some running and has been taking BP, so it sounds as if he is moving forward. Barring any setbacks I think 4/5 is reasonable.

Jason (Atlanta)

Following up to the Harden question, I've seen a suggestion on a blog somewhere to make him a Sunday-only pitcher. Could something like that (stretching him out to pitch 1 start a week) work to the pitchers benefit?

Stephania Bell
  (11:35 AM)

Hi Jason: Very interesting question - and we don't really know the answer. There are some schools of thought that more rest would allow better recovery, and mixed in with continued strengthening and flexibility training, it might preserve the shoulder. There are others who say that more frequent pitching helps maintain the high level neuromuscular skill that is so critical for pitchers, making them less of an injury risk (assuming they're not going super deep into a pitch count every time). We don't really have an answer. The former makes more sense to me when you have a pitcher who already has some known "wear and tear" on the shoulder b/c once the tissue starts to break down, it is what it is. It does not improve - so maintaining the health of what you've got becomes critical.

Joel (East Longmeadow, MA)

Gallardo? Full recovery?

Stephania Bell
  (11:36 AM)

Hi Joel: Yes, I expect so. He'll miss the first couple of weeks as he gets up to speed - but I don't see any lingering effects from the surgery to bother him.

Eric (CT)

Hey Stephania. What's the deal with Granderson? Is mid-April realistic for his return? How long will the injury affect his play? Thanks.

Stephania Bell
  (11:39 AM)

Hi Eric: Granderson will be splinted for a couple of weeks to allow the bone to heal (he fractured the 3rd metacarpal, bone that forms the knuckle at the base of the finger) , then they re-X-ray. If it looks to be healing well, he comes out of the splint, resumes baseball activities, and it's just a question of how quickly he is "game-ready" The Tigers felt he was in good shape at the time of the injury, he can keep up his cardio while the hand is splinted, so it shouldn't take long to get him back. Biggest concern with this injury is enough mobility in the hand to grip the bat as he needs to, without pain and without altering how he grips it. The less time he has to be splinted, the less likelihood of stiffness - so we hope that he's a fast healer. He's a young, healthy guy so I expect he'll do fine.

Dave (Defiance, OH)

Billingsley is NOT injured in any way! He's been learning two new pitches and those two pitches have been getting hit. The 'talented' (yea right) mr roto needs to do his research...

Stephania Bell
  (11:42 AM)

Dave: Billingsley has been working on his changeup - and he has been very forthright about it, he is still struggling in particular with that pitch. And that may be all we're seeing. That being said, there are reportedly some close to the team who think there may be something else going on. I guess we will find out as the season begins.

Harry (Seattle)

General question: what is cortisone and how does it help the injuries?

Stephania Bell
  (11:45 AM)

Harry: Thanks for asking - I'm sure a lot of people wonder the same thing. The big power of cortisone is as an ati-inflammatory. Injecting cortisone basically plants a bolus of heavy anti-inflammatory agent (ideally) right at the site of the problem. Inflammation is the body's normal response to injury - but sometimes the body gets stuck there. You have to move the inflammation along in order for the tissue to begin to repair itself and heal, not to mention the fact that inflammation and swelling contribute to pain. This is why people often feel better after getting an injection.

Jon (Cleveland)

Stephania, first off, thanks for doing a great job for us fantasy dorks. Secondly, who can I count on first between Kazmir, Gallardo and RJ?

Stephania Bell
  (11:48 AM)

Hi Jon: Thanks for the comment - but I guess I can count myself amongst the fantasy dorks too. I think since your question says who can you count on FIRST, I would go with Gallardo. He has the most deifnitive timetable and it is really just a matter of getting himself game ready. He does not have pain, he is merely working on endurance. Kazmir's status is in flux as mentioned earlier, and RJ is going to be on the DL a while longer. I don't read anything negative into it, and I think he is on a very appropriate timetable, but the D-backs will be cautious with him to make sure he doesn't come back too fast.

ju

Whats the deal with JD Drew's back? Is he going to play this week? Thanks Stephania.

Stephania Bell
  (11:50 AM)

Ju: It sounded like his back just tightened up (maybe only a result of this long flight) and that it's not anything serious. It did get him bumped up to first class on the way home from Japan btw. Anyway, he seems to think he'll play in an exhibition game against the Dodgers this week, so we'll see. But doesn't appear serious.

Steve (Atlanta)

Stephania, what's the deal with Liriano? He might get sent down to the minors and he isn't throwing his slider, yet. Should I be worried? What do you expect of him this year??

Stephania Bell
  (11:53 AM)

Steve: I'm not worried. Remember, it has really been about 16 months since he pitched last. Sometimes it is tough for these guys to get their groove back, not so much because of a "problem" related to their injury, but just from having been down so long, and getting the feel back in their arm. The slider is reserved for last b/c of the stress it puts on the arm, so it is really the lsat one he gets to "re-learn." Hence the problems. In the minors he can continue to work to get himself back without the pressure of the majors. I think a month or two there will do wonders for him - and when he comes back he will be solid. But he will likely have to be back for a while to be the rock star he was before. My guess? Check his numbers after the All-Star Break b/c I think then he'll be hitting his stride.

Larry (NYC)

How do you think Sheffield and Glaus will hold up this season?

Stephania Bell
  (11:56 AM)

Hi Larry: I think Sheffield will be great. Talked woth him at Tigers' camp and seeing him up close confirmed what kind of shape he's in. We talked about the rehab he did on his shoulder and how it felt. I'm convinced that that will not be a problem for him this year. As far as Glaus, let's hope this nerve decompression surgery did the trick. He has had no complaints about his foot this spring, and his average is good, although he hasn't really banged the home runs yet. I think the new surface he'll be playing on will be better for him. He should have a healthier season.

Hurricane Jeff (Byesville, OH)

Hello Stephania, Hurricane here. What are the chances of Grady Sizemore winning AL MVP?

Stephania Bell
  (11:58 AM)

OK - Hurricane gets on the board. I think his chances are pretty good if he can get his numbers up (30-30??) he's a good bet.

Mark (MD)

Your take on the status of F. Sanchez?

Stephania Bell
  (12:01 PM)

Mark: Definitely concerned. Paritcularly by the fact that he has had persistent pain, and pain this late after surgery is a worry. And that he has been all over the place - rest, push him more, he's going to be available opening day, then only pinch hit. Look - he saw Dr. Andrews who reassured him that there is nothing structurally wrong, it is just inflammation, but I just don't like the up and down nature of this.

Adam (Chicago)

Whats the word on Lidge?

Stephania Bell
  (12:01 PM)

Good. DL to give him a little more time - but he should be back by the end of the first week of April and his knee reportedly feels great, just getting some more pitches under his belt.

Dr. James Andrews (Alabama)

Stephania, would you prefer to have Tommy John surgery or microfracture surgery? Please note that I would be performing either procedure.

Stephania Bell
  (12:02 PM)

As talented as you are Dr. Andrews, I'll opt for the conservative approach and take no surgery.

Stephania Bell
  (12:04 PM)

OK Gang: Thanks for joining for the chat today. Have to run - but as always you keep me on my toes with your excellent questions. Can't wait to see what opening week brings. We'll be talking injuries on our fantasy focus radio shows this saturday (8:40 pm EST) and sunday (9:40 pm EST) and on Fantasy Insider (Sunday 11 am EST) for the latestupdates. Thanks for coming - see you next week!!