On Tuesday, the Boston Red Sox confirmed the diagnosis of a low-back stress fracture for pitcher Clay Buchholz. Manager Terry Francona told reporters that the injury is to the L2 vertebra (second of the five lumbar or low-back vertebrae) and reassured everyone that this is not a career-threatening situation.
The Red Sox have made it clear they do not expect pitcher Clay Buchholz to rejoin the rotation any time soon. The transfer of Buchholz to the 60-day disabled list Sunday and the acquisition of pitcher Erik Bedard from the Seattle Mariners already had put the writing on the wall in plain view. But the Red Sox also are saying that his season is not to be written off just yet.
Up to this point, the team had been referring to Buchholz's injury as a lower-back strain with manager Terry Francona specifically calling his injury a "muscle strain." But as ESPN Boston's Joe McDonald reported, a team source had indicated that Buchholz indeed had a stress fracture in his low back. Buchholz recently consulted with Dr. Robert Watkins, who then worked with the Red Sox's medical staff and management to formulate a plan for Buchholz going forward.
That plan, according to Francona, will consist of intensive rehabilitation, as is often the case with these types of injuries (see: New York Mets third baseman David Wright), and the Red Sox will continue to monitor Buchholz's progress. Naturally, with only a couple of months left in the regular season, there is reason to doubt that Buchholz will be able to make it back to the mound this year. But there is also reason to be optimistic that he could. After all, despite the lingering presence of pain, he had been able to increase his activity in recent weeks. Although he will be forced to retreat to basic rehabilitation measures for now, Buchholz could graduate to baseball activities once the symptoms are given adequate opportunity to subside. Remember, Wright played through pain for a month, but once he took the time to recover properly, he came back strong two months later. Red Sox fans and fantasy owners will now hope for a similar outcome with Buchholz.
• Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Roy Oswalt felt good enough after his second rehab start Monday to declare himself ready to return. He is expected to rejoin the rotation this weekend. Oswalt's back is not miraculously healed; rather, he has been able to move past the last painful episode and resume pitching amid his regular exercises for maintenance. The hope is that he will be able to successfully endure the remainder of the season without a setback. Although there are no guarantees, his optimism in the past two weeks is certainly encouraging.
• The New York Yankees were without veteran shortstop Derek Jeter on Monday as he rested his bruised right middle finger that he suffered when hit by a pitch Sunday. According to the Yankees' website, Jeter had good range of motion in the finger, always a good sign, and is expected to rejoin the lineup Tuesday. Meanwhile, teammate Alex Rodriguez got some good news Monday. He has been cleared to begin working out at the team's spring training complex in Tampa and is expected to resume baseball activities Thursday, according to the New York Daily News. His original timetable of returning to play four to five weeks post-surgery to address a torn meniscus (which took place July 11) appears to still be in effect, presuming no setbacks after he increases his workload.
• We're keeping an eye on two pitchers coming off major surgery who both appear as though they're in line for a major league appearance this season, if all continues to go well.
Washington Nationals young ace Stephen Strasburg is slated to begin a rehab assignment next week after another positive simulated game outing Tuesday. Strasburg continues to show steady progress in his return from Tommy John surgery and is inching closer to a September cameo, but nothing is set in stone. Every increase in workload is carefully monitored, and if there is any reason to hold him back, the Nationals will.
The same goes for New York Mets ace Johan Santana, who is being delayed a day from making his next rehab start after his arm "didn't feel quite as strong as he would've liked," according to Mets general manager Sandy Alderson. It's not a setback but a precautionary move, according to ESPN New York, and it's a move that makes sense. Santana is returning from major reconstructive surgery on his throwing shoulder, and it is important for him to monitor closely how his body responds to each new test.
Santana threw three scoreless innings in his first rehab start last week. Despite Santana's impressive initial outing, equally important to his performance on the mound is his shoulder's response after it. Given that he felt it was a little weak, the adjustment in the throwing schedule is not surprising. The Mets still hope to have him on the mound this season, but the shoulder will dictate if, when and where that will happen.
Fantasy owners may want to consider stashing either of these players if they have room on the bench for the potential upside of a few late-season innings, but they should be prepared for a fluid situation.