Good news for Beckett, Tulo, Choo, Roberts

Hey, look who's coming back! Isn't it nice to have an injury update lead with guys returning to your fantasy roster instead of the ones you'll need to replace?

That isn't to say it's all sunshine and roses this week. Manny Ramirez owners have to be a bit frustrated as he heads to the disabled list for the third time this season because of a right lower extremity injury (this time it's his calf). And Justin Morneau owners have every reason to be concerned; he's on the DL indefinitely while he deals with the aftereffects of a concussion (and not his first concussion).

That's enough of that. Didn't I say we were leading off with positive news? Here are updates on four key fantasy options all set to return:

Josh Beckett, SP, Boston Red Sox: Beckett has not been available to fantasy owners since May because of a back strain, but that is about to change, as he will return Friday to face the Seattle Mariners on the road.

Fantasy owners may be wondering what to expect from Beckett after an extended absence. While no one knows for sure, there are some promising signs from an injury perspective. The primary positive sign is that Beckett has not complained of pain or discomfort in his back since mid-June. The timetable represents his steady progression from catch to long toss to bullpen sessions and finally rehab outings. The fact that for more than a month he seems to be past the point of symptoms and more focused on building endurance and fine tuning his pitches is encouraging.

While back problems are always at risk for recurrence, the longer an athlete goes without an episode, the more confidence one can have in his return. Although Beckett told the Boston Globe that he doesn't feel "sharp every pitch" as he still works on location, the downtime has allowed him to focus on mechanics in a way that may ultimately prove beneficial.

The Red Sox likely will limit the number of throws in his early outings as he continues to build endurance through competitive play, but fantasy owners have reason to be optimistic that a rejuvenated Beckett could provide a second-half spark.

Shin-Soo Choo, OF, Cleveland Indians: When Choo sprained his right thumb in early July, the best news that he and fantasy owners got was that he would not need surgery (unlike the Philadelphia Phillies' Chase Utley, who is just out of his post-surgical cast.) Translation: Choo's healing time would be quicker. But by how much?

It was estimated that he could miss several weeks, depending on how quickly the ligament tissue repaired itself. Apparently, it has done quite well, because it appears Choo will be able to rejoin his team Friday after a brief rehab assignment, according to MLB.com. Choo had already been swinging a bat and doing outfield drills, both good indicators that the thumb is not presenting much of an issue for him. The injury was to Choo's glove hand, so throwing the ball was never a concern. As is often the case with thumb injuries, though, his ability to control the bat could be. His quick progression to a brief rehab assignment suggests that he is doing quite well and this is just a pre-major league action tuneup.

Brian Roberts, 2B, Baltimore Orioles: Wow! Two weeks in a row with positive news for Roberts in this column!

Last week we celebrated Roberts going 3-for-3 in a rookie league game after being out since April with back pain. Roberts continues on his positive path and has now moved to Double-A ball. It appears, if all continues well, that he could rejoin his team next week, making his own recent target of August 1 a reality.

Fantasy owners are right to remain cautious when it comes to Roberts. He has already proven that there is a likelihood of recurrence when it comes to low back problems, although his ability to increase his activity of late is certainly encouraging. Given that fact, it is also likely that the Orioles will limit his appearances and ease him back into play gradually.

Troy Tulowitzki, SS, Colorado Rockies: When Tulowitzki suffered a left wrist fracture in mid-June, we outlined all of the factors that could affect how long he would be out of action. In early July, the Rockies' website reported that Tulowitzki received a good report from the doctor and that his wrist was healing "as well as expected." When Tulowitzki revealed that he had already picked up a bat and begun swinging it by early July, it was a clue that he was indeed on a good pace to return on the early side of projections.

As Tulowitzki heads to a rehab assignment Wednesday, the possibility exists that he could return to the majors next week, potentially edging out a six-week absence if all goes well. The key will be how well Tulowitzki does at the plate. The injury is to his non-throwing hand, so fielding should not present a challenge. At the plate, however, not only does he need to demonstrate a return of power with his grip, Tulowitzki has to show that the impact of the ball against the bat does not cause discomfort -- vibration is one of the sensations that bone is most sensitive to. There's also the matter of getting over any lingering apprehension since the wrist that absorbed the blow from the pitch is the one closest to the mound when Tulowitzki, a right-hander, stands at the plate.

Fantasy owners may have caught a break in Tulowitzki's case, no pun intended, but they should recognize that even if he's able to return, it may take a little extra time for him to regain his form.

And finally ...

The Milwaukee Brewers get Yovani Gallardo back in their rotation Thursday for a road start against the Pittsburgh Pirates. Gallardo, who suffered a left oblique strain before the All-Star break, was lucky to have only a minor strain. On average, an oblique injury will sideline a pitcher for six weeks. That said, the Brewers have already indicated that they plan to give Gallardo extra rest whenever there is an opportunity in an effort to protect his health going forward. Fantasy owners will want to keep an eye on the Brewers' schedule for that reason.