The Milwaukee Brewers certainly aren't off to the start they hoped for, sitting at the bottom of the NL Central at 0-4. I know, I know, there are still 158 games left. No one wants to be winless through the first weekend, though. To be fair, the Brewers were dealt a series of blows in the form of injury before their season started, so the return of a couple of key players would provide a spark. So when can they expect to see their pitching ace, Zack Greinke, on the mound and one of their power producers in Corey Hart in the outfield?
Greinke threw on flat ground this past weekend, and so far the outings have been positive. The team reports that he is expected to throw again Tuesday, and if all goes as planned, he could throw from a mound by the end of the week. Throwing from a mound increases the vigor of the session, as the pitcher could throw downhill. It also represents clearing another hurdle in the rehab process, potentially signaling a more calculated timetable toward a return to play. In Greinke's case, it is not just a matter of the rib healing -- it is also a matter of increasing his arm strength to the point where he is prepared for a season of major league play. Most pitchers make use of spring training to do just that, but Greinke was forced to rest completely from throwing to allow his rib fracture to heal. Once Greinke resumes throwing from the mound, he will have to complete multiple sessions. Then, presuming no setbacks, he will move on to exhibition games. It still appears that Greinke's soonest return would come in May, but fans and fantasy owners can be encouraged that a progression is in sight.
As for Hart, he -- like many others this spring -- has been sidelined by an oblique injury and is still feeling some of the lingering effects. According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Hart is still feeling tightness on the strained left side. As manager Ron Roenicke told the Journal Sentinel, it is critical that Hart is fully healed before he enters a game situation. "There is not a timetable [for Hart to begin playing]," Roenicke said. "We have to get him 100 percent throwing and swinging the bat. We don't think it's that far away, maybe a couple of days, but he has to get over that." The Brewers certainly don't want to see a player who starts the season on the disabled list end up returning to the DL for the same injury just because he was pressed into service too soon. Hart ultimately will need some rehab games before joining the team, so fantasy owners should anticipate his absence for at least another week, perhaps longer.
The Brewers did get pitcher Shaun Marcum back to start the season despite the shoulder stiffness that was bothering him just a few weeks ago. Marcum's first outing, however, left a lot to be desired, as he allowed three earned runs and five walks in 4 2/3 innings. Naturally, speculation goes to how Marcum's shoulder issue might have contributed to his Saturday performance. He denied any problem with the shoulder, telling the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel it was "never an issue." Marcum acknowledged that he could not locate his fastball, and even Roenicke said, "He definitely wasn't himself early." Despite Marcum's early protests, the situation bears watching to see whether this was indeed a fluke or whether there is true cause for concern.
• On Monday, we talked about the success of Baltimore Orioles lefty Zach Britton, who was called up when fellow lefty Brian Matusz was placed on the DL with an intercostal strain. The Orioles now have another pitcher under the weather, as Jeremy Guthrie -- who had a strong Opening Day performance for the Orioles -- was hospitalized Monday with what manager Buck Showalter described as a "form of pneumonia," according to the Baltimore Sun.
Guthrie had been experiencing flu-like symptoms, including a high fever, which ultimately -- and wisely -- led to a visit to the hospital. The hope is that he will be on the mend soon, although Guthrie tweeted Tuesday morning, "Still feeling pretty crummy this am." He will miss his next start (and is being replaced in the rotation Wednesday by Brad Bergesen), but the team remains hopeful that he could be available by Monday. Naturally, much will depend on Guthrie's physical stamina over the next few days as he recovers, but it appears this will not be a long-term issue.
• Over in the NL West, Arizona Diamondbacks shortstop Stephen Drew's lower abdominal strain seems to be hanging around a little longer than expected. Drew initially complained of abdominal soreness in mid-March during a spring training game and was tabbed as day-to-day. But the days have turned into nearly three weeks, and the concern has to be growing. Drew did undergo an MRI approximately a week ago, and while it came back negative, that certainly doesn't eliminate the possibility that there is a real injury. Shortly after the MRI, Drew told the Arizona Republic, "... even though the MRI said everything looked good, you know your body. It was kind of a freak thing. I don't know what did it or what caused it."
Although it's impossible to assess the specifics of a player injury from a distance, it's worth noting that out-of-the-blue lower abdominal strains can later turn out to be sports hernias, which, incidentally, typically do not manifest themselves with findings on MRI. Just ask Boston Red Sox outfielder Mike Cameron, who suffered an abdominal strain in April 2010. Although he fought through the injury, his season ultimately ended prematurely, and Cameron underwent surgery in the offseason.
This is not necessarily the case with Drew. In fact, Drew says he has made progress, and he appeared as a pinch hitter in the ninth inning of Monday's game. The Arizona Republic reports that Drew says he is "probably" a couple of days from making a start, which is encouraging. But Drew has already experienced one setback along the way with this injury, so it remains to be seen how he handles the demands of explosive defensive fielding along with running the bases. One positive is that Drew reports running more sprints this week, one of the more challenging tasks in the presence of any abdominal injury, suggesting he is making strides. Fantasy owners will want to keep an eye on what Drew is able to do as the week progresses, including whether he is able to play defense as well as offense, before getting comfortable with his status.
• Finally, Florida Marlins outfielder Mike Stanton, who left the first game of the season early with left hamstring tightness and hasn't played since, was expected to return Tuesday night. It turns out he will be out of the lineup again. Of note, Stanton strained his right quadriceps in late February, so no doubt the team wants to exercise caution and prevent a more substantial injury. This seems to have been primarily a precautionary move more than anything, but it will be worth monitoring closely to see if his status changes.