Starting on the DL
Every season there are a number of players who start out on the disabled list. Some are still recovering from early offseason procedures while others incurred some type of injury during spring training. But it seems as if the number of key players starting off this season on the disabled list has mushroomed, with the starting pitching rotations being particularly affected. Today we take a look at National League players who were noticeably absent from their team rosters on Opening Day and evaluate the likelihood of them making an appearance in the near future and what we should expect when they do show up.
Brad Lidge, Philadelphia Phillies: Lidge underwent offseason surgery to address a cartilage injury in his right knee and was originally on track for an Opening Day appearance as the Phillies' new closer. Then in late February while throwing batting practice, Lidge caught a spike in the mound, resulting in a torn medial meniscus (fibrocartilage disc on the inner aspect of the knee joint). The good news from the Phillies' medical staff was that the tear was small, most of the meniscus was preserved (good for long-term knee health) and the previously operated-on portion of the knee (where the original cartilage injury was located) looked fine. Lidge has made a nice recovery from this second procedure, and has been gradually increasing his throwing program with the emphasis on restoring his velocity and increasing his endurance. He has been pitching in Clearwater, Fla., and it is uncertain exactly when he will rejoin the team according to a report in the Philadelphia Inquirer. His most recent outing in Clearwater was less than stellar, so it would not be a surprise to see him extend his minor league appearances through the weekend and then meet up with his teammates.
Scott Eyre, Chicago Cubs: Eyre began the season on the disabled list because of inflammation in his left (throwing) elbow. According to the Chicago Cubs' official Web site, Eyre has a bone spur in his elbow that has been there for several years. Recently it has become more inflamed and painful, so Eyre took a cortisone shot to try to settle the symptoms down. The plan called for him to rest the elbow, then gradually resume a throwing program, with the goal being to rejoin the team's bullpen within a week or two. This still appears to be the plan, so expect Eyre to resurface soon. There is always the possibility that the symptoms recur, with the worst-case scenario being that the pain becomes disabling enough that the spur itself needs to be addressed, but there is no immediate cause for concern.
Randy Johnson, Arizona Diamondbacks: Johnson is making yet another return from yet another back surgery, his third to be precise. Working in his favor this time around is the extra recovery time before the start of the season, the experience of having been through it all before and the patience he and the Diamondbacks are showing in bringing him back slowly. Johnson started the season on the DL, but has now been assigned a scheduled start date of April 14 in San Francisco, according to the Diamondbacks' official Web site. Johnson still has "the arm of a 25-year-old" according to GM Bob Melvin and he can still deliver strikeouts. This spring the Diamondbacks were particularly happy to see the return of Johnson's slider, a pitch he can use to decrease the reliance on his fastball. Although he has already shown that he can put the speed back on the ball, the ability to mix up his pitches so that he doesn't have to throw as hard as often may go a long way in preserving Johnson's health across the season.
Yovani Gallardo, Milwaukee Brewers: The Brewers' young ace injured the left lateral meniscus (fibrocartilage disc in the lateral or outermost compartment of the knee joint) in February, resulting in surgery for him and much anxiety for the Brewers organization and fantasy owners. All in all, the surgery was relatively minor and Gallardo, only 22 years old, has given every indication that he is on the road to full recovery. In fact, Gallardo has been impressive thus far in his return and in the past week has pitched five scoreless innings. The Brewers placed Gallardo on the 15-day DL to start the season to afford him more rehab starts as well as time to increase his pitch count. A few missed days here translates to less risk down the road, a worthwhile tradeoff for the Brewers.
Mark Prior, San Diego Padres: Mark Prior has not pitched in the majors since 2006. He is expected to make his return, barring any setbacks, as soon as June of this year. Prior underwent surgery in April 2007 to address damage in his rotator cuff and labrum. Prior has been throwing bullpen sessions and, more recently, began facing live batters. His next stop will be the minor leagues, perhaps by the end of the month. The team placed him on the 60-day disabled list as a routine measure given his rehabilitation timeline. On the plus side, Prior is still relatively young (27), he has been through extensive, detailed rehab and is back in his hometown (which happens to be home to a pitcher-friendly park as well). He does, however, have a tendency to place his elbow high above his shoulder at lead foot contact (when his front foot hits the ground), placing the shoulder joint under additional stress, but if he modifies this, it could significantly enhance his overall durability. This may be Prior's best chance for a solid season in three years.
Nomar Garciaparra, Andy LaRoche and Tony Abreu, 3B, Los Angeles Dodgers: It's no secret that third base for the Dodgers has a hex on it. At least not now. The Dodgers cannot seem to find someone to stay healthy enough to hang around at this position (except maybe Blake Dewitt, who got the Opening Day start after playing no higher than Double-A ball in his career thus far). Garciaparra was hit by a pitch, which ultimately resulted in a small fracture, on the same day LaRoche tore the ulnar collateral ligament in his thumb. LaRoche's injury required surgery and will cause him to miss two months at least. Garciaparra has to allow the swelling to go down and the pain to subside before he can effectively swing the bat and grip the ball. Keep in mind, Garciaparra has had prior problems with this wrist, which could tack some extra healing time onto this episode. Meanwhile, Abreu is coming off of sports hernia surgery in the offseason. Normally this is a fairly straightforward recovery process, but Abreu has been plagued by various muscle strains (gluteus and, most recently, groin) since the operation. These muscles are all tied into the region that was addressed surgically, so it appears that Abreu still has some healing and strengthening to do. He too began the season on the disabled list, but given his ups and downs across the spring, his return timetable is unclear. Stay tuned.
New injury worries
New York Mets ace Pedro Martinez is on the disabled list with what the team is calling a "mild hamstring strain." His projected timetable is four to six weeks, although the combination of this latest setback with his age and injury history suggests that it will, in fact, be longer. For more details on Pedro's injury, click here.
Seattle Mariners closer J.J. Putz gave the team a scare Monday night when he complained of pain in his rib cage area after delivering a pitch in the ninth inning. Putz later underwent an MRI and was given a diagnosis of mild costochondritis, inflammation of the junction where the rib and the cartilage that anchors it to the sternum (breastbone) meet. Putz has been placed on the 15-day disabled list and barring any setbacks, this time frame appears reasonable for him to return. For more details on the injury to Putz, click here.
The Detroit Tigers have their hands full with injury woes and it's not yet one full week into the season. Curtis Granderson started the season on the disabled list with a broken third metacarpal bone and now two more of his teammates threaten to join him.
Third baseman Miguel Cabrera was scratched from Thursday's contest because of a pulled left quadriceps muscle (the large muscle on the front of the thigh). According to an ESPN report, manager Jim Leyland said Cabrera "could hit but he can't run," so he did not want to use him. Leyland went on to add that Cabrera had some trouble with the quad during the winter months and that it was still sore during the spring. Not only is Cabrera's absence from the lineup not good news for the Tigers, it is also troublesome that his quadriceps muscle issue is perhaps not entirely acute. Winter and spring are not nearly as taxing as the regular season, and if Cabrera could not fully improve during the more restful offseason, this could be a sign that the quadriceps will give him trouble intermittently throughout the rest of the year. As for Friday, Cabrera is back in the lineup as a designated hitter, but there is no immediate timetable as to when he might return to the field.
Designated hitter Gary Sheffield tore a tendon in his ring finger as he tried in vain to turn a single into a double on a slide in the eighth inning of Thursday's game against Kansas City. According to an ESPN report, Sheffield said he was unable to straighten the finger after the injury and also reported losing feeling in the finger for a period of time. Although Sheffield initially indicated that he would try to play through the pain, he is out for Friday's game, but it appears that he may not miss much more time. In fact, according to a report on mlive.com, Sheffield will not go on the disabled list and could return as soon as this weekend. As expected, he will have the finger splinted, but given that the injury is at the tip of the finger, he should be able to hit. It remains to be seen whether there will be an adjustment period for him as he returns to hitting, given that he will be likely outfitted with some protective padding, but I suspect that won't last long and he will be effective in short order.
Check back later in the week as we look at who are the key American League players that started out on the disabled list and anticipate their return. Let's hope for a healthy weekend of baseball and best of luck in all your fantasy leagues!!