Didn't we start this column last week by celebrating Josh Hamilton's comeback from a strained rib-cage muscle? He came back all right, playing just as hard, including running into walls. Now the center fielder is sitting out Tuesday with another crash-into-the-wall-induced injury; this time it's a strained right groin. No word yet as to how long the team expects him to be sidelined, although this does not appear to be as big a deal as the previous injury which forced him onto the DL. In fact, on the Rangers' official Web site, Hamilton indicated that he felt better Tuesday and hoped he could return to the lineup Wednesday. That might be a little ambitious, but it does sound as though he could return this week.
Last week we also celebrated the return of Angels ace John Lackey. Well, he only lasted two pitches in his first start Saturday. When I first heard that news I wondered what devastating injury could have befallen him so quickly in his season debut. I later found out he had been ejected after hitting a batter (after first throwing behind him) and was relieved, as Lackey fantasy owners everywhere must have been, that his early exit was not injury-related. Incidentally, he did return to pitch Monday and notched his first victory of the season. He did not pitch deep into the game, but assuming his elbow continues to feel good, it will just be a matter of increasing his endurance.
The Angels also saw the return of Ervin Santana last week who, despite being a bit rusty, survived his first outing. Santana's ability to deliver his breaking pitches, most noticeably his slider, inspired confidence that his elbow is feeling good. When Kelvim Escobar rejoins the team -- which appears to be targeted for early June if all goes well in his rehab starts -- the Angels can really feel as if they're overcoming the big injury hurdle.
And there is more good news about an ace returning. Cardinals ace Chris Carpenter is expected to return today after missing time with an oblique strain. Carpenter's oblique was not injured, as one might expect, during pitching, but rather during batting. We see pitchers with oblique injuries and hitters with oblique injuries, but a pitcher succumbing to an oblique injury while hitting is rare. Carpenter's season had been off to an impressive start after he missed nearly two full years with various throwing-arm issues including Tommy John ligament reconstruction and nerve decompression surgery. Since this most recent injury was not to his throwing arm and he was able to maintain his physical conditioning, the hope is that he will be able to pick up his performance right where he left off. Fantasy owners who remained faithful to Carpenter over the past six weeks should be well-rewarded.
Here are the other walking wounded we're talking about in the world of baseball this week ...
Carlos Delgado, 1B, Mets: Delgado tried to play through the hip injury that has been bothering him since April. But after sitting out 10 straight days and trying all forms of conservative treatment -- a cortisone injection, therapeutic mobilization to the hip (which the New York Post accurately described as his leg being "pulled to create space in the hip") and rest -- all to no avail, the surgical option became imminent.
The Post reported that Delgado underwent surgery Tuesday to address a mechanical impingement, a labral tear and a bone spur. The Mets say they expect to have him back within about 10 weeks, a timetable similar to that given to Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez this preseason and Royals third baseman Alex Gordon in April.
However, although his timetable is similar to those two, there are a couple of differences in Delgado's situation. Beyond the fact that his name is not Alex, his fielding demands are somewhat different, since he plays first base, not third. Additionally, Delgado's injury -- unlike those of Rodriguez and Gordon -- is to his lead hip when he swings the bat since he bats left-handed. How does that impact his return? It doesn't necessarily alter the time frame, but it does shift some of the emphasis of his rehab.
It is also worth noting that despite the fact this injury is dated to late April when Delgado hurt his hip sliding into third, this hip has bothered him in the past. Last year Delgado missed time with "impingement" in the same hip. Although a longer-term injury can sometimes translate into more damage within the joint, based on the post-surgical rehab time frame issued by the Mets, this does not appear to be the case. In fact, one could potentially make the case that if indeed Delgado's hip has been a limiting factor, even intermittently, over the past two years, he might be able to improve his overall performance once he's fully recovered.
A word of caution to fantasy owners. Take a look at some of Rodriguez's struggles since he has returned. He has hit some beautiful home runs, but his limited ability to connect the bat with the ball consistently exposes his lack of a true spring training. ESPN's Jayson Stark wrote this week in his Rumblings and Grumblings column that a scout recently made this observation about A-Rod's defensive play: "His defense has been terrible. He doesn't look like he could move off a dime. He's a dead-stand-up stationary third baseman right now." Presumably some of this is a reflection of Rodriguez still working his way back into the demands of the position post-surgery. In order to effectively play first base when he returns, Delgado will need to have the mobility in his hip to stretch off the bag and the strength to maintain his position. The fact that he has seen playing time early in the season should help his return to hitting, but he is 36 years old, soon to be 37. Returning to sliding along with regaining his defensive play might take longer still. Ten weeks would bring Delgado back in late July, but fantasy owners should not be shocked if that timetable is extended a bit. Stay tuned for updates.
Joey Votto, 1B, Reds: Votto's dizziness remains unexplained, and until there is some resolution, he won't be back on the field, much to the dismay of the Reds and fantasy owners alike. The trouble with dizziness is that there are hundreds of possible causes. Some of those potential causes are easier to eliminate than others, and no doubt the medical specialists evaluating Votto now are working their way through multiple tests and algorithms. According to the Reds' official Web site, Votto will continue to undergo further testing over the next few days, at which point the team will be "more prepared to discuss the cause of [his] dizziness."
Votto is in San Diego undergoing tests at the Scripps Clinic. After removing himself from Saturday's game against the Padres because of dizziness, Votto stayed in San Diego for evaluation. He has been experiencing dizziness intermittently since mid-May, shortly after a bout with the flu, which may or may not be related. It is impossible to prognosticate Votto's condition here without knowing the root cause, but it is worth mentioning that in many instances dizziness is very treatable, once the source is identified. Stay tuned.
On the mend
Red Sox first baseman Kevin Youkilis is scheduled to rejoin the team Wednesday. He has been absent from the lineup for two weeks with an oblique strain. Remember, just last Tuesday Youkilis was expected to play but aggravated the injury during batting practice and was instead forced onto the DL for some additional rest. In other words, he's been almost healthy for about a week. He should be able to jump right back in.
Jorge Posada, who has been out with a Grade 2 hamstring strain, is making strides. According to the Yankees' official Web site, Posada rates himself as 85 percent improved, despite the fact that he's still experiencing some tightness. The challenge with muscle strains is that there is no way to be absolutely certain that complete tissue healing has occurred. Although Posada has improved, he will still have to face a rehab assignment before rejoining the team. Fantasy owners should plan on at least another 10 days to two weeks.
Speaking of rehabbing Yankees, pitcher Chien-Ming Wang has looked impressive in his rehab starts. He has even indicated that he feels his balance is better since doing the strengthening work. Wang threw a bullpen session Tuesday and according to The (Newark, N.J.) Star-Ledger, Wang feels he's ready to return. The Yankees staff watched the session to evaluate Wang's command. The Yankees have not yet said out loud that they're ready to have him back, and they might opt to have him make another rehab start, but it looks as if his return is coming sooner rather than later.
Daisuke Matsuzaka, on the DL since April 15 with a right shoulder strain, could pitch for the Red Sox as soon as Friday. He certainly looks ready, striking out nine in his most recent rehab start. According to the team's official Web site, the decision has not been confirmed, but all signs point to that happening very soon.
An Associated Press report confirms that Angels outfielder Vladimir Guerrero is expected to begin a rehab assignment this week. Keep in mind that his rehab at this stage will only involve hitting and he could return to the team, perhaps as soon as Memorial Day, as a designated hitter. There is still no indication when he will be able to begin throwing.
And finally, the Dodgers' official Web site is reporting that pitcher Hideki Kuroda, who has been battling a lingering left oblique injury, passed the test of a three-inning simulated game this week and could start a rehab assignment Friday. If that progresses well, he could rejoin the team within the next ten days to two weeks.