Any regular visitor to my blog knows I love to start with some good news. Given that new or recurring injuries are a weekly staple, it's a great feeling when I can counter with news that a guy is getting healthy and coming off the DL. Maybe it's because I feel like the Grim Reaper most of the time, bringing news of the injured to distraught fantasy owners week in and week out. And if we've learned anything this year, it's that no one is safe from the injury bug. Occasionally, though, the sun does manage to shine and athletes exceed expectations in their recovery from injury.
This week is particularly special because I've been looking forward to this announcement since John Smoltz signed with his new team. After enduring a lengthy but steady rehab following offseason shoulder surgery, the veteran righty has finally been assigned a date to debut as a member of the Red Sox. Circle June 25 on your calendar, boys and girls. Smoltz is set to rejoin the rotation when the Red Sox face the Nationals. It will be exciting just to see him back on the mound. While it's worth tempering expectations early on (after all, he is 42), I believe that the acquisition of Smoltz will prove to be a brilliant move by the Red Sox and that he will indeed be the comeback story of 2009. OK. I put it out there. Now we just have to watch and see what happens.
Oh yes, I know, there are new injuries to discuss. Here are the guys we're paying attention to in the injury world this week ...
Jake Peavy, P, Padres: By now the bad news on Peavy's right ankle has spread far and wide. Peavy could miss 8-12 weeks with a partial tear in his posterior tibialis tendon, according to team athletic trainer Todd Hutcheson, quoted in the San Diego Union-Tribune. My colleague A.J. Mass and I discussed Peavy at length right after the announcement was made, both in terms of what the injury actually is and what it means for Peavy's trade prospects.
Here's the bottom line for fantasy owners: Move on for three months. In the very best-case scenario, Peavy returns after the All-Star break, although an August or even September return is more likely. Any delays or setbacks between now and then could lessen the chance of a return. In the worst-case scenario, if the tendon does not show signs of healing when Peavy is re-evaluated in a few weeks, the prospect exists that surgery could be warranted. That is clearly a less desirable, last-resort type of option, but until we hear that Peavy is making progress, it remains a possibility.
Given that Peavy's ankle has already been slow to heal, despite the fact that he reported feeling better since the initial injury, you can bet that the medical staff will proceed conservatively with his long-term health in mind. In other words, don't bank on Peavy beating the recovery timetable issued by Hutcheson, no matter how optimistic the team wants to be. The good news here is that if the tendon heals properly, whatever the time it takes to do so, Peavy should be able to return to form.
Grady Sizemore, OF, Indians: After resting his elbow for the better part of a week, Sizemore had a repeat MRI on Monday to help assess his progress. Apparently the Indians liked what they saw, since Sizemore was allowed to resume baseball activities this week. Sizemore did some light throwing and took some light swings in his first such activity since going on the disabled list May 31.
Now you know I like good news, but there are reasons not to get over-excited just yet. According to the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Indians head athletic trainer Lonnie Soloff indicated that Sizemore was suffering from synovitis, which is inflammation of the synovium, the smooth tissue layer that lines the joint. This condition can certainly be the type of thing that can flare up repeatedly. According to the Akron Beacon Journal, Sizemore himself said, 'There's a chance it could get worse. It could linger all year."
General manager Eric Wedge summed up the situation best when he said, "As we continue to ramp up with him, we'll know more." In other words, there is not much surprise that Sizemore feels better after completely resting the arm. The bigger question is whether the inflammation will recur as he starts to use the arm or whether he can keep it at bay through the remainder of the season.
The next big test comes this weekend. According to MLB.com, Sizemore will take batting practice and throw from his position this weekend. If he passes the test (read: no pain), then he can begin working his way back toward being ready to play. If Sizemore does experience pain, an arthroscopic surgical procedure likely awaits him. Fantasy owners need to keep their insurance options available for a while as it is simply too early to gauge this one.
Torii Hunter, OF, Angels: The outfield walls seem to be fighting back against the players who hit them hard this year. Josh Hamilton has been to the DL not once, but twice (including surgery!), after running into walls. Rick Ankiel's neck and shoulder were on the losing end of a battle with a wall. Hunter is the latest to be punished by a wall while attempting to make a play, suffering bruised ribs Monday night. Fortunately for Hunter, X-rays taken of his right rib cage (where he contacted the wall) were negative, indicating no fracture.
Not that that lessens Hunter's pain. Any rib injury is painful. Just ask Hamilton, who ended up on the DL despite early resistance to the idea. Hamilton, who also suffered a soft-tissue rib injury, pointed out that in addition to baseball activities, breathing hurt. Until the pain and inflammation settled, Hamilton was incapacitated. According to AP reports Hunter was in a rib brace Tuesday, which is designed to help limit his overall rib movement. Minimizing movement allows the soft tissue to heal by preventing muscle fibers from getting overstretched. It's virtually impossible to eliminate all rib motion, however, since sneezing, turning, even breathing all result in movement at the rib cage.
Hunter's targeted return of Friday suggests the injury is not serious, but it may very well require additional time in order for him to move as necessary to play his position.
Coco Crisp, OF, Royals: Crisp was finally placed on the DL with what the team is calling a rotator cuff strain in his right (throwing) shoulder. Crisp has been bothered by a sore shoulder since late May, but several days of rest intermittently have failed to alleviate the problem, so the team decided to give him an extended break. According to the Royals' official Web site, manager Trey Hillman was hoping that a recent six-game break -- four absences because of the shoulder, plus an additional two to attend his great-grandmother's funeral -- would be enough to allow Crisp to return at full strength, but that has not been the case. Crisp has reportedly struggled most with batting from the left side of the plate and with throwing.
From the sound of things, Crisp may require some extended time away from baseball activities, focusing on rehab alone to clear his symptoms. Given that six days of rest was not sufficient, expect Crisp to rest longer before resuming hitting and throwing, meaning he may not be ready to return at the 15-day mark.
Ervin Santana, P, Angels: Uh-oh. Santana, who missed time at the start of the season with a sprained ulnar collateral ligament in his throwing elbow, was scratched from his Tuesday start with tightness in the same elbow. After lasting just 4 2/3 innings in his last start, should fantasy owners be concerned?
There's definitely reason to be concerned, but this may not quite signal the demise of Santana's season. Santana told the Los Angeles Times that the pain he's experiencing, which actually has been described as forearm tightness, is not in the same area as his original symptoms. "That was on the inside of the elbow. This is on the outside. I know I'm going to be OK." It's good to know he's confident.
Apparently manager Mike Scioscia has confidence as well. "If I hadn't seen him throw as well as he did in Detroit and hadn't seen his stuff pick up like it has, I wouldn't be as comfortable with where he is," Scioscia said. Nonetheless, Santana is under the very watchful eye of the medical staff as they evaluate next steps. Even if the symptoms are different, the fact that he is feeling discomfort in his throwing elbow/forearm so soon after his return is somewhat worrisome. The Angels hope Santana will be able to start June 23, but if he is unable to go at that point, he could be facing a return to the DL.
On the mend
• Last week we said A's pitcher Justin Duchscherer's back had calmed, allowing him to resume his rehab activities. So much for that. Turns out Duchscherer's spine is behaving like many spines do and is flaring up again. Rehab has again been put on hold until the symptoms settle.
• The St. Petersburg Times reports that Rays lefty ace Scott Kazmir is expected to make a minor league start Wednesday. Kazmir has been feeling good and thinks his mechanics are under better control. In fact, he sought out advice from friend and former Mets pitching coach Rick Peterson as to which drills would help him maintain his improved mechanics. Several rehab starts should give him a chance to test out his improved quadriceps muscle and delivery. Although there has been no specific date given, if the rehab outings go well, Kazmir could rejoin the team by the end of next week.
• Asdrubal Cabrera's left separated shoulder is feeling better. He is now taking practice swings and doing some fielding activities. According to MLB.com, the Indians should have a better idea of when he'll be able to return by the end of this week.
• Royals third baseman Alex Gordon continues to make steady progress toward his return to the lineup after right hip labral surgery. He has taken some swings this week against live pitching, according to the Kansas City Star, and has returned to light jogging. Gordon is also fielding ground balls, which ultimately may be one of the more challenging activities for him to resume full force. The team still appears to be targeting a return near the All-Star break. I suspect it won't come until after that, but the good news is that Gordon's rehab is going according to plan.
• Finally ... Angels pitcher Kelvim Escobar has been placed on the DL ... again. Somehow this seems like a good move strategically. Escobar did experience some challenges when he rejoined the rotation in early June, and the Angels had indicated he was headed to the bullpen. With Escobar experiencing some fatigue in his surgically repaired shoulder and the Angels needing to add another starter in place of Santana this week, the DL move appears to be a good option. As the Los Angeles Times reports, manager Mike Scioscia said he would be "very surprised" if Escobar was not in the bullpen next Monday, the first day he is eligible to be activated.