Earlier this week, we talked about a young pitcher expected to return soon from Tommy John surgery: the Washington Nationals' Jordan Zimmermann, who is targeting sometime in August. Another young pitcher is making his way back from the same procedure ... and he might be rejoining his team in late July. Edinson Volquez, the Cincinnati Reds' ace in 2008, struggled with various ailments last year before his right elbow ultimately gave out.
Volquez underwent the procedure to reconstruct his ulnar collateral ligament and flexor mass in August and is looking ever-closer to a return just after the All-Star break. His rehab has proceeded fairly uneventfully (if you don't count the 50-game suspension he was handed in the middle of it for testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs) and he has recently begun a rehab assignment. That puts him on the clock for a return in the next few weeks barring a setback.
Even in limited innings during his rehab outings, Volquez has shown that his velocity is returning. He has also been striking players out left and right, a happy and familiar sight to Volquez fans. The suspension has ended (the penalty was applied while Volquez was on the DL, resulting in loss of pay but little else) so he's eligible to return to action whenever the team deems him ready.
Volquez still needs to build up his endurance and show that he can retain his command while doing so, a task that is not always easy following a Tommy John procedure. The same cautions always issued regarding expectations for a player returning from this type of injury still apply. Given how long it's been since Volquez pitched consistently, fantasy owners should anticipate some readjustment time. But the notion that he could contribute late in the season is not unreasonable. After an increased workload in 2008, the downtime Volquez's body has had over the last season and a half should be restorative.
Fantasy owners who have room to stash someone who could be helpful down the stretch may want to consider acquiring Volquez for their arsenal.
As for other players on the injury radar:
• Chris Young, SP, San Diego Padres: ESPN's Jerry Crasnick says it's the pitching that has been a major reason for the Padres' success this year. Unfortunately for him, Young has hardly been part of that good fortune so far. Young made it through a dedicated offseason of rehab to his first start without a hitch following last year's shoulder surgery (labral debridement) but soon afterward the problems began. And they haven't let up.
Young developed persistent stiffness in his shoulder and has not been able to resume regular throwing without the shoulder becoming sore. He was shut down completely in mid-May to focus on therapy alone and was transferred to the 60-day DL at that point. There are no outward signs of significant headway and Young's own confidence in his ability to get back this season appears in doubt. Young told MLB.com recently, "Hopefully I'll pitch again this year. Right now, I'm not sure."
Ouch. For a guy who has been through more than his share of injuries in the past two seasons and who has worked so hard to get off to a good start this year, this has to be exasperating. Fantasy owners should probably turn their attention elsewhere if they haven't already.
• Brandon Webb, SP, Arizona Diamondbacks: Hold on to your hats, folks. Webb is throwing from a mound again. He's only had a couple of sessions so there is still a long way to go, but this is the most encouraging news on Webb all year.
• Carlos Beltran, OF, New York Mets: He has yet to start a rehab assignment, although he continues simulated game work, including fielding. According to a Newsday report, Beltran has been spotted still running with a limp. The team is being wise not to push him back, even at DH, if he cannot run properly. Stay tuned.