Injury updates: Braun, Kemp, Stanton, more

Every Monday, in this space, we'll provide updates on a variety of players to help you make your weekly lineup decisions. We'll specifically try to hit the players who are day-to-day, have just gone on the DL or are ready to return, so that you can better decide whether you can count on them or not.

All projected return timelines should be considered fluid.


Bryce Harper, OF, Washington Nationals (placed on DL retroactive to May 27): Last week, Harper was officially placed on the DL (backdated to his last appearance); this week he’s hoping he can come off of it. That sounds a little optimistic given that Harper is traveling to Pensacola, Fla., to pay a visit to Dr. James Andrews for a consultation. That appointment was scheduled when Harper’s irritated knee appeared to be making no progress. In recent days, he seems to have turned a corner according to the Washington Times. Harper had been running in the pool but the Times reports he stopped that activity and the discomfort has subsided. Still, Harper will be evaluated by Andrews Monday after which more information should be forthcoming. As of now, it’s worth keeping an eye on his activity this week to see if he is cleared to do more intense workouts. But if running in the pool was bothering him, it’s hard to imagine running on land will be smooth sailing out of the gate.

[+] Enlarge

Matt KempKirby Lee/USA TODAY Sports

Matt Kemp's hamstring woes are just part of the Dodgers' many problems.

Matt Kemp, OF (placed on DL May 30), Hanley Ramirez, SS (day-to-day), Carl Crawford, OF (placed on DL June 2), Los Angeles Dodgers: The Dodgers’ collective hamstring woes are the ultimate example of how difficult these injuries are to manage. After missing five weeks following thumb surgery, Ramirez returned for a few days, then missed another month with his hamstring strain. The team wanted to be very careful about bringing him back, especially with Kemp and then Crawford suffering similar, albeit lesser, injuries of their own. This is how I described the Ramirez situation last week: What the Dodgers cannot afford is for Ramirez to return and reinjure himself. Obviously there are no guarantees but the team at least needs to feel comfortable they have seen enough in his rehab outings to suggest his leg is ready for prime time.

Well, Ramirez was back only one day before experiencing tightness in his left hamstring. Although he was out of the starting lineup for several consecutive days, he did make pinch-hit appearances. Ramirez is getting repeat imaging on that leg however, given that it remains bothersome. This was exactly the situation the Dodgers were trying to avoid. Ramirez played in a handful of rehab games exhibiting nothing that would hint at his being less than ready to return. Still, as we often say, until an athlete has returned to his prior level of play for a few weeks without incident following a hamstring injury, it’s difficult to exhale and believe the problem is truly behind him.

And Ramirez is not the only one. When Kemp was first injured roughly 10 days ago, there was some initial thought he might not even require a DL stint, given his hamstring symptoms were so minor. It looked as if 15 days would be more than enough time to recover. Apparently not. The Dodgers’ official website reports Kemp’s right hamstring bothered him enough during pregame workouts Sunday that he does not look to be ready to return. The team originally anticipated having him back Friday; now it’s unclear just when a return could come. Manager Don Mattingly offered this: “We're not where we need to be with him. We do know that he's not 100 percent." Whether Kemp is apprehensive given his recent injury woes and struggles at the plate or whether there is more significance to the injury is unclear.

In the meantime, fellow outfielder Crawford was officially placed on the DL last Monday (retroactive to June 2) with a hamstring injury Mattingly characterized as “fairly significant” after it had originally been described by the team as a cramp. It certainly looks as if his absence will extend beyond the 15-day minimum.

At this point there is no real timetable on ANY of these players. The team has to be hoping that Yasiel Puig, whose brilliant performance since being called up at least provides a temporary distraction from the injuries, remains immune to the hammie bug.

[+] Enlarge

Ryan BraunJamie Sabau/Getty Images

Ryan Braun's thumb is the short-term concern for fantasy owners. There could be long-term ones on the horizon.

Ryan Braun, OF, Milwaukee Brewers (day-to-day): It has not been a good week for Braun on multiple fronts, including the injury department. Braun has had a thumb ailment which has been giving him intermittent trouble over the last month. On Sunday, he was removed from the game in the third inning and his words hinted at perhaps more extended time off. After the game, Braun told reporters he should have taken steps to address it sooner. "From the very beginning, I should have taken more time off and gotten it right," said Braun. "But I just continued to try to fight through it, play through it. It's at the point where it doesn't feel very good.” No specifics have been revealed as to the nature of Braun’s thumb injury other than “soreness,” making it difficult to ascertain just how much time it could cost him for it to completely heal. Braun has indicated on prior occasions that he has made adjustments to his swing but clearly it hasn’t gone away. The timing may be right for a DL move.

Austin Jackson, OF, Tigers (placed on DL retroactive to May 12, could return soon): Last week it sounded as if Jackson might return but I did caution it could get postponed. The Tigers opted not to send Jackson on a rehab assignment until he progressed further with his running, something he did to the team’s satisfaction last week, according to MLive.com. Now the Tigers are officially sending him out on assignment with a specific plan that will have him increase his activity over several days. While the team is allowing for flexibility in his rehab appearance schedule based on how the hamstring responds, Jackson could potentially return to the big league club by late next week.

Giancarlo Stanton, OF, Miami Marlins (placed on DL April 30, could return Monday): When Stanton went down with a hamstring injury, it immediately looked serious. A June return seemed most plausible. After missing multiple weeks and a seemingly (yet understandably) slow rehab process, suddenly Stanton’s imminent return feels a bit hurried. Stanton only just embarked on a rehab assignment last Tuesday and got off to a slow start at the plate but was able to play on back-to-back days. Because of inclement weather, Stanton lost a couple of game opportunities in the middle of the week. The Palm Beach Post reports Stanton could return Monday, according to manager Mike Redmond. While Monday was floated as a potential target when Stanton entered a rehab assignment, the missed days because of weather seemingly would have delayed his return. According to the Post, Redmond indicated Stanton could return because Casey Kotchman might be unavailable because of sore ribs. Surely the Marlins would not activate Stanton unless they thought he was out of the woods with the hamstring. Or would they? The Dodgers’ recent challenges with players returning from hamstring injuries even on a conservative timetable would be a warning. Stanton may return Monday and he may ultimately return without incident but it seems like a big “if.” Given how serious his injury looked when he originally went down while sprinting to first base, it’s going to take some convincing -- as in a few weeks of no setbacks -- before the specter of potential reinjury fades.

Pablo Sandoval, 3B, San Francisco Giants (day-to-day): Last week, we talked about Sandoval’s vague diagnosis related to his foot and that he was quite literally day-to-day. On Saturday, Sandoval aggravated his foot injury during his first at-bat and did not play Sunday. The natural next question is whether this setback will lead to a turn on the DL. According to the San Jose Mercury News, manager Bruce Bochy said, “The DL is a possibility.” Sandoval, who is in a walking boot, has an injury on the outside of his left foot, according to the Mercury News (although it is still unclear which structure then is compromised). Sandoval is not tiny and between the torsion through his foot when swinging the bat and the pounding it absorbs while running, the demands are fairly high. A more extended absence may be in his future.

Will Middlebrooks, 3B, Boston Red Sox (placed on DL May 24, likely return this week): Middlebrooks expressed optimism from the outset that he would return when eligible, or close to it. After some solid outings at Triple-A Pawtucket, it appears his return is near. According to the Providence Journal, manager John Farrell has made it clear what his role will be when he does rejoin the lineup. "Will's our third baseman," Farrell said. The team has not indicated precisely when Middlebrooks is expected to return but fantasy owners should keep an eye on any potential roster move. His uneventful recovery from this episode of back spasms -- and his performance at the plate during his rehab games -- warrants inserting him in fantasy lineups immediately upon return.

Jedd Gyorko, 2B, San Diego Padres (day-to-day): Gyorko exited Sunday’s game in the middle of the 10th inning with what the team is referring to as soreness in his right groin. He apparently suffered the injury just prior to sliding into second base, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune. Although Gyorko hoped it wasn’t severe, Padres manager Bud Black was less clear. “We’re not sure what it is,” said Black, “a strain, a pull, a cramp. But he had to come out of the game.” Gyorko is likely to undergo further evaluation Monday to determine whether a DL stint will be necessary. Awkward slides or missteps heading into slides have proved to be problematic for several players this year, a reminder that seemingly benign maneuvers can still result in injury. Fantasy owners should prepare for at least a couple of missed days for Gyorko, if not a little longer.


[+] Enlarge

Stephen StrasburgScott Cunningham/Getty Images

Stephen Strasburg's DL stint may be very short-lived.

Stephen Strasburg, SP, Washington Nationals (placed on DL retroactive to June 1, expected return June 16): Last week we discussed the nature of Strasburg’s injury and the concern the Nationals likely had about him compromising his shoulder if he played through it. That concern translated to a formal DL-designation for Strasburg later in the week after soreness kept him from attempting a Wednesday bullpen session. The reported non-severe nature of the lat strain also proved to be true as Strasburg was able to complete a throwing session just three days later. If all continues well with his program this week, Strasburg will make his next start on June 16, the first day he is eligible to return.

Clay Buchholz, SP, Boston Red Sox (day-to-day): A couple weeks ago, it was an irritated AC joint after sleeping awkwardly that forced Buchholz to miss a start. After a successful return outing, Buchholz left his subsequent start prematurely due to tightness in his neck. Are the two related? It’s hard to say with any degree of certainty. Certainly the neck and the shoulder are closely integrated in the throwing motion, but these can still be separate issues. Nonetheless, one of the concerns when Buchholz was dealing with the AC soreness was whether he was compensating for the shoulder. In an effort to prevent any significant change in his throwing mechanics, Buchholz was scratched from one start, then delayed for his next start. He seemed to be past the issue with his shoulder, but it’s certainly possible that subtleties from one injury contributed to how he was throwing. The close timing of the two injuries also hints at some relationship, even if a specific cause-and-effect mechanism is difficult to determine. In any event, Buchholz has indicated he will take every measure to ensure he’s fully healthy before attempting a return but for right now it does not appear that will involve a move to the DL.

Alexi Ogando, SP, Texas Rangers (placed on DL retroactive to June 6): Ogando returned from the DL for one start … and then went right back. After missing a month with biceps tendinitis, Ogando is back on the DL with what is simply being termed right shoulder inflammation. The concerns are fairly obvious. Back-to-back moves to the DL for a pitcher with a shoulder injury is never a good sign. More concerning is what it might mean from a structural standpoint. Often a diagnosis of biceps tendinitis (at the shoulder) signals a problem with the labrum, given their interface at the shoulder. An MRI in mid-May when Ogando hit the DL the first time reportedly revealed no structural issues, although the nuances of what is observed on imaging may be subtle. This is not to suggest his season is necessarily threatened but it wouldn’t be surprising if he is sidelined for a bit longer this time to help guard against yet another setback. The bigger question long-term may be how his role is modified, if at all, when he returns.

Daniel Hudson, SP, Arizona Diamondbacks (on DL to start season, no timetable for return): In what may be the sad news of the week when it comes to injuries, Hudson reportedly suffered another tear in his ulnar collateral ligament (UCL), according to the Diamondbacks. Hudson was 11 months post-Tommy John surgery and was in the phase of rehab starts as he prepared to return to the majors. After feeling discomfort in his throwing elbow following his first rehab start Tuesday night, subsequent evaluation revealed the injury. The Diamondbacks have indicated they are exploring all medical options, but Hudson will first consult with Dr. James Andrews. While the initial news sounds dire, it is worth waiting to see the results of his consultation before presuming the worst-case scenario of yet another procedure.