Troy Tulowitzki, SS: It's no secret that the Rockies recently lost their hottest hitter to a wrist fracture. The question everyone really wants answered is exactly how long he will be away. This is where it gets complicated. Injury scenarios are rarely straightforward, but when it comes to broken wrists, hands and fingers on hitters, they can be especially challenging.
In Tulowitzki's case, it is expected to be at least a six-week absence for the star shortstop, but it's more than a case of just getting Tulowitzki back in the lineup. The real question is when the pre-injury version of Tulowitzki will resurface. In the absence of clairvoyance, there are several things that fantasy owners should keep in mind over the next few weeks for planning purposes.
Most fractures take approximately six weeks to heal. In the case of small chips or cracks, the healing can be quicker, and some individuals heal at faster rates than others. Until the bone demonstrates adequate healing, it must be immobilized so that the broken parts fuse. Move the bones too quickly and you end up with a "non-union," or non-healing fracture. While immobilization is necessary for bone healing, it causes other problems, primarily stiffness in the adjacent joints and atrophy of the muscles that are not able to work during that time. Those problems must then be overcome once the bone is healed in order to achieve full recovery.
The key to determining how long a player will take to return to form begins with how long the immobilization period is. Without knowing the precise medical details regarding Tulowitzki's fracture, it's impossible to say at this point how long that will be. What we can say is to pay close attention to when he is able to start moving his injured wrist and hand. For instance, if he is immobilized for only 3-4 weeks, there is much less stiffness and weakness to deal with than if he has to be immobilized for six weeks. Regaining full range of motion and strength in the muscles responsible for gripping and turning the bat are key for a hitter to regain his stroke. The longer the immobilization, the longer that process takes.
Manager Jim Tracy issued a very telling comment when talking about Tulowitzki's overall timetable. According to FoxSports.com, Tracy stated, "It will be every bit of six weeks. He has to get to the point of being healed and pain free before he can resume baseball activity." And Tulowitzki's strength coming back will be largely dependent on just how long it takes for him to be cleared to resume those activities.
In my estimation, fantasy owners are looking at a best-case scenario of a return in two months, but they should be prepared for him to miss longer than that. And, like I said, the sooner he's able to get moving, the more optimistic the outlook.
Jorge De La Rosa, SP: De La Rosa has a tentative return date set, and it's right around the corner. At the moment, he hopes to rejoin the rotation July 7 after an absence of more than two months.
As I wrote back on April 29, De La Rosa has been dealing with a torn flexor band on the middle finger of his pitching (left) hand. The critical element in his recovery was allowing enough time for the soft tissue to heal before resuming the stress of throwing. After all, the injury originally happened during routine pitching, so the Rockies did not want a repeat offense.
De La Rosa's recovery has been fairly steady, and he has been throwing for about a month now, moving from catch sessions with protective tape on the finger to hard throwing without any support. The progressive intensity of adding breaking balls to the mix has been tolerated well. On Wednesday, the Rockies lefty threw four innings without incident in a rehab start, one that included a variety of breaking pitches designed to test the finger.
The goal is to build up his endurance and ensure that there are no problems in the time leading up to his return. According to the Rockies' official website, De La Rosa has two more rehab starts, interspersed with two bullpen sessions, ahead of him before his target return date. All appears in order for him to return in the first week of July.
Huston Street, RP: It was great to see Street make his big league debut this week after missing the first four months of the season with shoulder inflammation, followed by a groin injury. Street was initially told that he would be eased back into the closer role, which was no doubt good for him both mentally and physically. Without the game on the line, it is slightly less stressful getting re-acclimated to pitching in the majors, and makes it less likely that a pitcher will overdo it in a single outing. Players will often say that the adrenaline of the moment results in them throwing harder; if the moment isn't quite as dramatic, it's easier to maintain control.
That said, it appears the Rockies quickly felt Street was ready to handle the stress. On Thursday, manager Jim Tracy brought Street into a tie game in the 10th inning to face the Boston Red Sox. Unfortunately for Street, the two-run homer he gave up to Dustin Pedroia ended up being the game-winner, but in the big picture, Street getting his feet wet in a pressure situation might be more important.
Fantasy owners should feel encouraged about the fact that Street's shoulder has essentially been feeling good since mid-May. If it weren't for the groin strain, he would have returned from the DL several weeks sooner. On the plus side, having to hold back a bit because of the groin injury might have given his shoulder a little extra cushion. Now he just has to regain his comfort on the big stage.
Jimmy Rollins, SS: Rollins rejoined his team this week after two successive, lengthy DL stints as a result of a calf strain. OK, so his first outing of the week was forgettable, as was much of his second. But when it counted on Wednesday night, Rollins delivered a walk-off home run that had Phillies fans praising his return.
So does that mean he's out of the woods? Not exactly. Rollins told the Philadelphia Inquirer that he had an MRI performed before he returned to Clearwater for a rehab assignment, and the calf was not quite picture-perfect. "They said it was looking better, so that told me they're probably seeing something, but it's not as bad," said Rollins. Expect that to translate to intermittent rest as a means of trying to ensure that Rollins does not suffer a setback that would force him to the DL for a third time this year.
The team has indicated they will be cautious, and to that end, it gave Rollins a day off Thursday. A day game following a night game does not allow for much recovery time, so those situations would be the most likely scenarios in which Rollins will rest one of the two games. Fantasy owners with daily lineups will want to track this closely, as it likely will be the pattern for a while.
J.A. Happ, SP: The Phillies cannot be too "happ-y" with how long it is taking Happ to get his velocity back after a bout of soreness in his throwing (left) forearm. Officially the injury has been termed a forearm strain, inflammation of the flexor-pronator muscle group which has kept him out since late April. Originally the team expected him back within weeks, not months, but his continued struggles with velocity and overall command have delayed his return.
The good news is that since mid-May, Happ has repeatedly indicated that he is not experiencing any pain in his throwing forearm. Nonetheless, the long layoff has no doubt contributed to his challenges in re-establishing his velocity, so the team has continued to extend his rehab starts accordingly. Happ has another rehab outing scheduled for Tuesday, according to the Philadelphia Daily News. This outing will be important, as the timetable is approaching where the Phillies will need to make a decision as to whether to activate Happ, cease his rehab starts or send him to the minors. Stay tuned.