10 notable injuries worth watching

Wow! It's hard to believe that May is almost here. Seems like we were just ringing in the New Year and trying to figure out whether to refer to it as "Two Thousand Ten" in the pattern of years past or "Twenty-Ten" like the hip kids we want to be. I don't know about everyone else, but I'm struggling to get used to the sound of either one.

Here's what else is hard to get used to: We're only in the fourth week of the season and the disabled list is deep enough to field a new baseball division. Fantasy owners are well aware of this fact as they try to scour the waiver wire to complete their rosters. I'm struggling to find someone whose team has not been affected by injury.

In this merry-go-round of lineup adjustments, it's important to consider who might be on the verge of returning and who might need a little extra time in the rehab department. There's no time to waste, so we bring you the quick hits version of the injury blog.

Here are 10 players whose injury status may impact your lineup in the next week, or at least your waiver wire activity.

Cliff Lee, SP, Seattle Mariners (15-day DL, April 4): The best part about Lee's rehab is that it has been relatively uneventful. Once he was able to move past the pain of his abdominal strain, Lee has progressed steadily. From his bullpen sessions to his simulated games to his recent rehab start, Lee has looked solid. He is scheduled to make his 2010 (that's Twenty-Ten) season debut Friday, beating the projected first-week-of-May return by a day. And he doesn't even have to worry about that five-game suspension he received during spring training; that's been dropped. Given his consistent recovery, fantasy owners should feel comfortable plugging him in right away.

Jacoby Ellsbury, OF, Boston Red Sox (15-day DL, retroactive to April 12): Initially it appeared that Ellsbury had escaped major injury when he collided with teammate Adrian Beltre's knee in mid-April. Apparently, that was not at all the case. Despite negative X-ray results immediately after the injury, a later CT scan (which was undertaken when Ellsbury failed to show any significant progress) revealed four hairline fractures. While the CT results really don't do much to alter Ellsbury's treatment, they sure do validate his pain!

Although it can take four to six weeks for a rib fracture to heal, from the standpoint of activity, this is a symptom-based condition, meaning whatever he can tolerate, he can do. The fact that four bones were broken, however, tells us that it will take longer to tolerate just about everything. Ellsbury hit off a tee Tuesday, but that's a far cry from the speed and torque required for a true swing. As manager Terry Francona stated on the Red Sox's website, "We're just trying to increase the intensity every day." Don't be surprised if it takes Ellsbury another couple weeks to get his groove back.

Kerry Wood, RP, Cleveland Indians (15-day DL, retroactive to March 26): Get ready to move over, Chris Perez, Wood is knocking on the door. Wood, who missed the start of the season because of a strained latissimus dorsi muscle suffered during spring training, is nearing a return. Wood had a bullpen session Tuesday, is scheduled for another Friday, and according to the Indians' website will then have a simulated game followed by a brief rehab assignment. That would bring Wood back to the team within two weeks, assuming all goes well, which is right around what we projected three weeks ago. The Indians have indicated that Wood will assume the closer role upon rejoining the team.

It's worth remembering that when pitchers face live hitters, the environment changes. A little adrenaline translates to a little more effort on the delivery and the body sometimes reacts. Maybe the command is a bit off, maybe there's a little more post-throwing soreness than usual, any of which could potentially influence the timetable. That said, the Indians appear to have kept Wood on track (remember when their medical staff said this would keep him out for a minimum of six weeks?). Expect to see his season debut around mid-May.

Brian Roberts, 2B, Baltimore Orioles (15-day DL, April 10): If you were wondering whether you should continue to hang on to your second base fill-in knowing that Roberts has already exceeded the 15-day minimum requirement of the DL assignment, the answer is a definitive yes. However, the news for Roberts just got a little worse. As if his herniated disc-related symptoms weren't enough, the Orioles reported on their website that Roberts was scheduled to undergo an endoscopy Thursday after recently experiencing stomach pain along with flu-like symptoms.

Although he was cleared for light exercise recently, he was not anywhere near ready to perform baseball activities. This latest setback certainly won't expedite things. Let's hope for Roberts' sake that there is nothing more serious going on. In the meantime, fantasy owners need to plan on an indefinite substitution in their middle infield.

Jimmy Rollins, SS, Philadelphia Phillies (15-day DL, April 13): By now everyone knows that Rollins suffered a calf strain before the Phillies' home opener this month. The question is, how long will that calf strain keep him sidelined? The strain appeared serious enough from the outset to suggest that he would need more than the 15 day minimum to recover. Our initial projection here of approximately four weeks still appears to be reasonable.

Although Rollins is doing some light running and taking batting practice, he certainly has not done any explosive movement that would really test the calf. He will continue to be progressed gradually, and according to the Philadelphia Daily News, the Phillies will refrain from announcing a specific timetable. This is a wise move as these injuries are very unpredictable and easily aggravated. Once he is able to run full speed, we should have a better clue as to when he might be nearing a return.

Manny Ramirez, OF, Los Angeles Dodgers (15-day DL, April 23): Hey, while we're talking calf strains, we might as well include Manny. Not to worry. His injury is not as serious as the one Rollins suffered. Ramirez has a Grade I calf strain, meaning the injury is minor enough that there is no significant tissue damage visible on MRI. Inflammation in the area still indicates a problem and it is certainly a condition that can easily worsen. In other words, pushing through it could result in more extensive injury to the muscle, which would translate into more missed time. There's no need to chance that outcome this early in the season, so Ramirez is proactively resting. The good news is that fantasy owners can expect Ramirez to return when eligible.

Brad Lidge, RP, Philadelphia Phillies (15-day DL, March 26): Return alert! It looks as if Lidge will be back in the Phillies' bullpen this weekend after another successful rehab outing Tuesday. Lidge believes he is ready to return on all fronts. He has no pain, his command is solid and his elbow and knee issues appear to be behind him. According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, Lidge is expected to rejoin the team Friday when it hosts the New York Mets.

Jorge De La Rosa, SP, Colorado Rockies (15-day DL, April 28): The Denver Post reported that De La Rosa was placed on the DL with a torn flexor band but will not need surgery. De La Rosa injured the middle finger of his throwing (left) hand during his last outing and initially it was thought to be just a bone bruise. An MRI revealed the extent of the damage. It sounds as if De La Rosa tore a pulley in his finger, one of the ligamentous bands that help to anchor the flexor tendon (a tendon, which as the name implies, helps to flex the finger, obviously a critical function for grip and control). The pulleys are essential to proper function of the hand. It appears that De La Rosa's hand will be rested in an effort to let the tissue heal; if he were to try to press through, this he could end up being a season-ending injury that would require surgery. Stepping away now is a better option, but expect it to take on the order of many weeks, as in more than a month, for him to return.

Nelson Cruz, OF, Texas Rangers (15-day DL, April 27): As soon as his hamstring "cramp" turned into something that forced an early exit from Monday's game, it seemed as if Cruz was headed for the DL. Indeed, that was the decision. There was no need to turn this into a significant season-long injury, as the hamstring issue was just not going away. The hope will be that with forced rest, Cruz will be able to return when eligible.

Ian Kinsler, 2B, Texas Rangers (15-day DL, retroactive to March 26): When your projection as to how healthy you'll be upon return is less than ideal, as Kinsler's was, fantasy owners have to be a little nervous. Kinsler told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, "When I return to play, I don't think I'll be 100 percent. But I want to get on the field." To be fair, that comment was made a week ago, but the questions about just how well his ankle will support him remain.

Kinsler suffered a right high ankle sprain in early March and these injuries are always more difficult to recover from than anticipated. Kinsler did steal a base in his last rehab outing, which is encouraging, and he is expected to be activated Friday. Fantasy owners should temper expectations as it may take him a while to return to form. It will also be worth keeping an eye on how his ankle responds to the stress of daily play.

From my mailbag

Arthur (Long Beach, N.Y.): I am in a 10-team mixed league with one DL and four bench spots. I am comfortably in first place (thank you, Mr. Halladay), but sense imminent danger based on a shallow bench. I am carrying both Carlos Beltran and Brandon Webb on my roster. Based on projected value and severity of injury, which player would you recommend keeping? I recognize this is partially based on my roster mix, but if you were drafting today, which player would you choose? Thanks for the fantastic columns.

Stephania Bell: Arthur, thanks so much for writing. Let's get right to the point: You are in that location they call somewhere between a rock and a hard place. While I'm still holding out hope that Beltran is able to return this season, there has been some speculation that he won't. Beltran traveled to Colorado last week to visit his surgeon and was not cleared to run. According to the New York Daily News, he was fitted with a custom brace for his ailing right knee while in Colorado, which in and of itself is not a bad thing and may help his progression. I thought all along that a May return would be premature in light of both the nature of Beltran's injury and the date of his surgery. We have to remember that even post-surgery, he does not have a "perfect" knee and his best chance of being successful is returning in a slow, deliberate manner. No one is saying with any certainty when he will return because this is a day-to-day evaluation, but June appears to be the soonest possible target.

Webb, on the other hand, is still playing catch with no clear-cut targeted return date. It's worth noting that there is no clear explanation as to why he's had so many setbacks, which is most problematic for me. Before we can even begin to consider a return time, we have to see Webb successfully throw off a mound. His prognosis is more questionable in my mind, simply for the fact his problem is ill-defined.

I'd stick with Beltran and then cross my fingers.

If you have any other injury questions you want answered in the blog, drop a note in my mailbag, or stop by my Tuesday chats.