Three to cut, three to keep

With fantasy playoffs just around the corner, everyone wants to know who's in and who's out. At this point it's perhaps easier to identify who will not be around to help your team march to victory. The combination of the severity of their injuries and the time of the season has made it apparent that some players will just need to heal to get ready for next spring. As always however, there are a couple of players waiting in the wings who just might be able to contribute when you need them the most.

Time to Let Go:

Dustin Pedroia, 2B, Boston Red Sox: Shortly after Pedroia made his mid-August return from a fracture in the navicular bone of his left foot, he exited again, this time for the remainder of the season. When we detailed Pedroia's injury in late June, there was reason for optimism that the bone would heal independently. But even under the best of circumstances that does not always happen.

Pedroia underwent surgery Friday to insert a screw into the bone which would help facilitate healing. According to the Boston Globe, Pedroia acknowledged earlier in the week that he would not want to hope that the bone would heal independently and then "get to January and get into my workouts and [not] feel good and then miss some of next year."

And thus the Red Sox -- and fantasy owners -- have lost yet another star player for the remainder of the season. The surgery now will help ensure however that Pedroia and his foot will be ready come March.

Justin Morneau, 1B, Minnesota Twins: By now everyone should appreciate just how serious concussions can be, even if initially they do not appear to be especially dramatic. Morneau is a perfect example of just such a scenario.

Morneau suffered a concussion in early July when he took a knee to the head while sliding into second base. Morneau also has a history of concussions dating back to his youth. As a major league ballplayer in 2005 he was hit in the head by a pitch and spent time on the disabled list. After this latest head injury, Morneau's experience was evident when he told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, "Everything we know about concussions is the first one can be minor, but you go out there and the same thing happens again, it can be a lot worse."

This explains why Morneau has not yet returned and may indeed be done for the season. He has not been able to fully resume activities since the injury due to persistent symptoms. As Morneau told the Star-Tribune in late July, "The problems [headaches, wooziness, etc.] really haven't been during activities. It's been a couple hours after." This phenomenon seems to have been the norm over most of the past month. On Monday of this week, Phil Mackey of 1500ESPN.com reported that Morneau had been told to stay home until Friday, suggesting at the very least that the team wanted him to rest. As of Friday, Morneau has been transferred to the 60-day DL. Given his already lengthy absence, he would technically be able to return in the second week of September but that does not appear likely. At this point the primary goal has to be that Morneau's symptoms do eventually disappear.

Ricky Nolasco, P, Florida Marlins: It was admirable to try to pitch through a meniscus tear; it just wasn't realistic. Nolasco had a tear in the medial meniscus of his right knee (his push leg). With all the demands in terms of power, balance and rotational stability placed on that leg with every pitch, it was bound to be difficult at best.

Nolasco's first outing after the injury was announced was brief. He lasted just two innings and gave up six runs. While he downplayed the effect his knee might have had on his performance, it became clear within days that the knee was going to give him trouble, perhaps indirectly by causing him to compensate elsewhere. Nolasco told the Florida Sun-Sentinel, "It's just not letting me do what I want to do." Better to get it fixed sooner rather than later.

Nolasco is planning to undergo surgery next week and will have ample time to rehab the knee completely and ready himself for next season. Fantasy owners need to remove him from their lineups if they haven't already done so.

They Could Still Help You:

Alex Rodriguez, 3B, New York Yankees: At age 35 Rodriguez was primed for that muscle strain that tends to strike male athletes in this demographic; the calf strain. So far this year it has hit Jimmy Rollins (age 31), Manny Ramirez (age 38) and now Rodriguez. While it is certainly not limited to athletes over 30, there is a tendency to see more prevalence of a calf or Achilles injury at this age. And, as with most things associated with age, it can be a little slower to heal.

Rollins came back from the DL only to go back on it after suffering a setback with the calf. The same was true for Ramirez. Will it happen again with Rodriguez? Naturally the Yankees hope to avoid that. This explains the very careful, gradual progression of Rodriguez following this injury to his left calf. An MRI in mid-August revealed only a "low grade strain" according to ESPNNewYork, but nonetheless, caution is warranted. While Rodriguez is eligible to come off the DL Sunday, there is no guarantee that he will. He has been doing baseball activities but has not yet tested the leg at full speed.

Fantasy owners should keep an eye on his status as it sounds like he is moving towards a return sometime this week. Better to have the return delayed by a few days though then lose Rodriguez for another two weeks. As Rodriguez told ESPNNewYork, "I've had no setbacks." Everyone would like for that to remain the case.

Rafael Furcal, SS, Los Angeles Dodgers: Furcal's back has been a challenge for him, the Dodgers and fantasy owners but there appears to be light at the end of the tunnel. Since undergoing an epidural injection a week ago (anti-inflammatory injection into the spine), he has experienced a good deal of relief and is expected to rejoin the team this weekend.

We detailed the issues with Furcal's back in mid-August and at the time the Dodgers were hoping he might return within a week. Unfortunately, the symptoms persisted to the degree that an injection was warranted but it seems to have helped him turn a corner. As we noted before, back problems have a tendency to flare and Furcal's position is particularly demanding. Furcal told the Los Angeles Times recently though that his back feels "totally better than before" which should be taken as a positive sign. Sure, his back could act up again but when Furcal is active, he is largely productive and worth inserting into fantasy lineups.

Ian Kinsler, 2B, Texas Rangers: Kinsler has certainly had his share of health challenges this year, most recently a groin strain that had him out on the DL. Kinsler is expected to be in the lineup for the Rangers Friday night now that he has been activated.

Kinsler's groin injury ended up being more problematic than initially thought, as was the case with his high ankle sprain early this year. Even when Kinsler returned from the ankle injury he struggled with running but he can still hit the ball. It may be the case that the compilation of injuries will continue to limit Kinsler's movement around the bases but no one is really expecting steals from him at this point. Fantasy owners can hope for some run production as a result of his bat and just keep fingers crossed that he can endure the remainder of the season.