Notable injury issues entering 2014

Here are quick notes on injury situations to key players heading into the 2014 season. These will be updated as spring training progresses. Check out my blog throughout spring training for more in-depth analysis and video reports on some of these players.

First Base

Allen Craig, St. Louis Cardinals (left foot): Craig suffered a Lisfranc injury while rounding first base last September but was able to avoid offseason surgery. He expects to be a full participant this spring although the key will be how well he's running.

Addendum 3/31: Craig has progressed his running through the spring without incident while playing both in the outfield and at first.

Edwin Encarnacion, Toronto Blue Jays (wrist): After undergoing surgery on his left wrist in September to address cartilage damage, Encarnacion posted a photo of himself working on his swing in January. Appears on track to start the season, but will he hold up?

Addendum 3/31: Encarnacion's production this spring should alleviate concerns about any depletion of power post-surgery.

Albert Pujols, Los Angeles Angels (foot): Pujols saw his 2013 season end early as a result of severe plantar fasciitis, despite his best efforts to play through the pain. He says his left foot is much improved, but one wonders if wear and tear from so many games over the years is catching up.

Addendum 3/31: Pujols has heated up as the spring has progressed, showing no signs of any lingering issues with his foot. The question is how well his body will endure as the season evolves.

Second Base

Dustin Pedroia, Boston Red Sox (left thumb): It's no surprise that Pedroia played all season despite tearing his ulnar collateral ligament in his thumb in the very first game. Equally unsurprising is the expectation he'll be ready for spring training after having it surgically repaired in November.

Addendum 3/31: Pedroia has already shown improvement in his hitting this spring, a reflection of the renewed stability in his thumb.

Jurickson Profar, Texas Rangers (shoulder): Profar entered camp with some shoulder tendinitis but seemed to be moving past it. On March 22, however, Profar suffered a new injury to his shoulder while turning a double play. The team announced Profar will miss 10-12 weeks with a torn muscle in his shoulder, but it's worth noting the recovery time for muscle tears is difficult to predict accurately.

Addendum 3/31: Profar has officially been placed on the 15-day DL to start the season.

Marco Scutaro, San Francisco Giants (back): He must feel like it's déjà vu. Last year was injury-laden and now it appears a back issue will keep Scutaro from starting the season on time. It's never the way you want to begin and often a sign of things to come.

Addendum 3/31: Scutaro continues to struggle with his back ailment despite epidural injections and there is no timetable for his return. He will stay in Arizona for the time being and will begin the season on the DL (retroactive to March 21).


Starlin Castro, Chicago Cubs (right hamstring): Castro suffered what was described as a mild hamstring strain in early March, but he is still in recovery mode as of late March. The good news is that he is running the bases and is seeing some minor league action and the team believes he will be ready for Opening Day. The problem is the only way to feel confident about his health is if he survives the first few weeks without a setback.

Jose Iglesias, Detroit Tigers (shins): Iglesias has shin injuries that will cause him to start the season on the DL but the extent of injury and the amount of time he'll be out are unclear. According to ESPN.com's Jerry Crasnick, Iglesias will consult with a specialist at the Steadman clinic on March 18 after which more details should be forthcoming. Considering he dealt with this issue late last season and the problem persists, a quick resolution is unlikely and his absence could be lengthy.
Addendum (3/23): The Tigers have announced that Iglesias could miss the entire season due to stress fractures in both shins.

Troy Tulowitzki, Colorado Rockies (calf): Finally recovered from the core muscle surgery of 2012, Tulowitzki showed last year he could return to form. He's still somewhat vulnerable to injury, due to both his history and his position, but the calf bruise this spring isn't his fault (hit by pitch), nor does it appear especially serious.

Addendum 3/31: Tulowitzki returned from the calf bruise in mid-March and appears to be just fine heading into the season.

Third Base

Adrian Beltre, Texas Rangers (hamstring): Calf and hamstring injuries have been a theme for Beltre over the past three years. However, he's missed just a handful of games in the past two seasons combined. At 34, can he will his legs through another 150-plus games?
Addendum 3/12: Manager Ron Washington said he plans to use Beltre in a DH role more often, particularly when day games follow night games, to help preserve his health.
Addendum 3/31: Beltre missed a week in mid-March due to tightness in his left quad but said he could have played if it were the regular season. Perhaps, but is this an early omen of more lower extremity issues to come? There has to be at least some level of concern.

Miguel Cabrera, Detroit Tigers (groin): Cabrera struggled to stay on the field late last year with a groin/abdominal injury, which led to offseason core muscle repair surgery. He's back on track to start the season, and from a physical-demand standpoint, the move to first base can only help.

Addendum 3/31: His spring plate appearances proved Cabrera's power hasn't waned. Judging from the size of his new contract, the Tigers must agree.

Manny Machado, Baltimore Orioles (left knee): Machado opted for reconstructive surgery to repair his torn medial patellofemoral ligament and expects it to pay off in the long term, even if it delays his 2014 start. Whether it's April or May, he expects to start strong.
Addendum 3/12: Machado continues to exceed expectations. He has added running to first base and his confidence landing on the bag has him closer to game play. The next visit with his surgeon could result in full clearance which will then help determine how far he remains from a return to the lineup.
Addendum 3/23: Machado's restrictions related to his surgically-repaired knee were lifted after his most recent visit to Dr. ElAttrache in Los Angeles but he still has several steps to clear before he'll play in a major league game. Consequently the team has announced he will open the season on the 15-day DL. He's resumed running however and it shouldn't be long before he's ready to roll, likely at some point in April.

Aramis Ramirez, Milwaukee Brewers (left knee): After spraining his knee in spring training last year, Ramirez went on the DL twice for the injury in April and July, and tweaked it in September to end his season. It's hard to be confident given his age (35) and the lingering nature of his symptoms.


Jose Bautista, Toronto Blue Jays (left hip): Bautista recovered nicely from wrist surgery a year ago but ended his 2013 season early with a bone bruise in his hip. He was healed by November and enters the spring healthy.

Peter Bourjos, St. Louis Cardinals (right wrist): A fracture last June caused Bourjos to miss two months but the wrist never fully healed and he underwent surgery to insert a pin in September. By the way he was running around this spring, one would never suspect he'd been injured. Now if he can just stay healthy.

Michael Bourn, Cleveland Indians (left hamstring): After suffering an injury while base stealing, Bourn underwent minor surgery on his left hamstring in mid-October. The procedure should actually help avert persistent problems with scarring.

Addendum 3/31: Unfortunately, Bourn strained the same hamstring in mid-March and will open the season on the DL. The good news is the strain was minor and he's making solid progress. The team may be inclined to return him slowly, however, given his history.

Ryan Braun, Milwaukee Brewers: Braun has been on the verge of extended injury absence several times, but his first DL stint wasn't until 2013, the same year in which he served a suspension for PED use. Could this be when he starts to break down?

Jacoby Ellsbury, New York Yankees: Ellsbury's past four seasons have alternated between injury-plagued and super productive. If that cycle continues this year, well, it could be tough.

Carlos Gomez, Milwaukee Brewers (right elbow): Gomez underwent arthroscopic elbow surgery in mid-October to remove loose bodies. He is expected to be a full go this spring.
Addendum 3/12: Gomez has been solid so far this spring and the elbow issues appear to be behind him.

Carlos Gonzalez, Colorado Rockies (right finger/appendectomy): Gonzalez elected not to have surgery on his sprained right middle finger in the offseason and hopes rest has healed it. A surprise appendectomy in January may have interrupted his conditioning, but he's been cleared for full activity this spring.
Addendum 3/12: Gonzalez has been hitting well this spring, showing no signs thus far of any lingering issues with the finger.

Josh Hamilton, Los Angeles Angels (calf): Hamilton wasted no time sustaining his first injury, a calf strain in late February which forced him onto crutches for several days. He's returned to running and could play in games the third week of March. If all goes well he can still be ready by Opening Day but this is a reminder of what the risks are with Hamilton.

Addendum 3/31: Hamilton was able to get past the calf injury for some late March spring training games. The question now will be how long he can last before the injury bug returns.

Bryce Harper, Washington Nationals (knee): Harper dealt with chronic bursitis in his left knee last year and had October surgery to address the issue. He should be ready to start the season if he doesn't overdo it this spring.

Matt Kemp, Los Angeles Dodgers (ankle): Kemp struggled with multiple injuries last season -- including his hamstring and shoulder -- but the ankle is the worrisome element heading into this year. Still on a modified running program to protect the joint, it's unclear when Kemp's season will start, but it won't likely be in Australia in March.
Addendum 3/12: Kemp began running on land in early March and progressed to intrasquad games this week. While playing in Australia still appears unlikely, Kemp's progress is an encouraging sign that he may not be out as long as originally feared.
Addendum 3/31: Kemp has had no setbacks while playing in minor league games and might come off the DL as soon as eligible (April 4).

Josh Reddick, Oakland Athletics (right wrist): A nagging wrist problem affected Reddick's power at the plate last year. Arthroscopic surgery in October has him pain-free and swinging freely this spring, hoping for a bounce-back season.

Grady Sizemore, Boston Red Sox (knees): Sizemore could prove to be the comeback story of the year if his knees -- along with the rest of him -- can hold up. After two lost seasons due to microfracture procedures in both knees along with back and core muscle surgeries, Sizemore has earned the starting role in center field with his new team. While he remains an injury risk based on his history, his spring has gone better than expected and he could surprise everyone.

Giancarlo Stanton, Miami Marlins (hamstring): He spent six weeks on the DL in 2013 with a hamstring injury and despite being just 24 years old, Stanton's games played has declined progressively the past two years. Can he reverse the trend?

Shane Victorino, Boston Red Sox (thumb): Victorino dealt with recurrent hamstring and back issues throughout 2013, but he also had a nerve-related thumb problem that lingered into the offseason. December surgery addressed the issue and the team expects him for Opening Day.

Addendum 3/31: First it was his left side that threatened his spring, but it is Victorino's right hamstring that is ultimately costing him Opening Day. After an examination Monday the team made the decision to place Victorino on the DL (retroactive to March 30). Even if he ends up returning as soon as eligible, the bigger concern is that the soft tissue injuries have already cropped up for him.


Yasmani Grandal, San Diego Padres (knee): Collisions at the plate like the one that ended Grandal's 2013 campaign, which resulted in a torn right ACL and MCL, are the reason that rules change. He has made excellent strides and wants to be behind the plate Opening Day, but the team will ultimately make the call, based on how his knee progresses through spring training.
Addendum 3/12: Grandal has begun playing in spring training games making an Opening Day return a possibility. But he still has to demonstrate he can handle the workload of a full game without issue.
Addendum 3/31: Grandal got the start for the Padres on their Sunday opener but may still need to be share the workload as he builds his endurance behind the plate.

Joe Mauer, Minnesota Twins (concussion): Mauer's season ended in August due to a concussion, the result of a foul tip to his mask. He was symptom-free by October, and with the full-time move to first base this year, he should have an easier time staying in the lineup.

Devin Mesoraco, Cincinnati Reds (left oblique): Mesoraco strained his oblique in late March the way position players often do, swinging a bat. The typical recovery is several weeks and taking the proper time to heal is key to avoiding a setback. Mesoraco starts the season on the DL (retroactive to March 21) but is currently taking batting practice and could be ready to rejoin the team fairly early in April.

Geovany Soto, Texas Tangers (right knee): Soto, who had already missed time this spring as he recovered from a small surgery on his left foot, tore the lateral meniscus in his opposite knee and underwent arthroscopic surgery on March 26. The Rangers have indicated he is expected to miss approximately three months. Soto should recover fully but the demands the position places on the knees could extend the down time here (Royals catcher Salvador Perez missed three months in 2012 for a similar injury).

Addendum 3/31: Soto was officially placed on the 60-day DL to start the season.

Starting Pitcher

Brandon Beachy, Atlanta Braves (elbow): Last year Beachy dealt with ups and downs coming off Tommy John surgery and never looked like himself. An offseason scope and a few spring starts later, he's about to go visit Dr. Andrews again. Regardless of the outcome, the pattern raises concern.

Addendum: Beach underwent a second Tommy John surgery, this time with Dr. Neal ElAttrache. He will miss all of the 2014 season.

Josh Beckett, Los Angeles Dodgers (TOS surgery): The word around Dodgers camp is that Beckett is doing quite well following thoracic outlet surgery and no longer has the numbness in his fingers that bothered him last year. He's hoping for a bounceback year.
Addendum (March 23): Beckett will open the season on the DL but not because of any lingering issue from surgery. He injured his thumb earlier in March and is still recovering but the team hopes to have him back in early April.
Addendum 3/31: Beckett has made enough progress with his thumb that the team could have him back within a week.

Chad Billingsley, Los Angeles Dodgers (elbow): Billingsley had Tommy John surgery in April of 2013 and has had a textbook recovery ... so far. If it continues, he could be back sometime in May.

Addendum 3/31: Billingsley has officially been placed on the 15-day DL and continues to progress well. A May return remains a possibility.

Clay Buchholz, Boston Red Sox (shoulder fatigue): His was a tale of two seasons: a fantastic start through May followed by a labored stretch due to convergent neck and shoulder injuries. Reportedly fully recovered, Buchholz has a history that raises the questions as to whether he can endure an entire season.

Patrick Corbin, Arizona Diamondbacks (left elbow): Corbin left his March 15 spring training start with stiffness in his elbow. A day later the Diamondbacks reported an MRI showed damage to his ulnar collateral ligament. He will seek a second opinion but there is obvious reason for concern.
Addendum (March 26): Corbin underwent Tommy John surgery on March 25 with Dr. James Andrews and will miss the 2014 season.

Johnny Cueto, Cincinnati Reds (lat): Three DL stints in 2013 and mechanical adjustments were all part of Cueto's attempt to get past a significant lat strain. He says he's fine now -- and will continue with a modified delivery -- but until he endures the season, questions exist.

Addendum 3/31: Cueto has been named the Reds' Opening Day starter but an episode of discomfort in his scapula (shoulderblade) area this spring leaves the questions unanswered.

Yu Darvish, Texas Rangers (back): Darvish dealt with a nerve issue in his lower back late last season, even receiving an injection in October. The Rangers say he was pain-free by November and expected a normal offseason, but back problems can be recurrent.
Addendum 3/26: Forget the low back; Darvish's neck has been the source of his spring woes. Stiffness led to a visit with spine specialist Dr. Drew Dossett. No structural damage was reported and Darvish can resume throwing on March 29 but he has been scratched from his Opening Day start. He may not miss much time but the bigger concern is the proximity of this episode to the lower back episode from last year, especially in a high-volume thrower.
Addendum 3/31: Darvish was officially placed on the DL to start the season (retroactive to March 21) but has already resumed throwing, including a 32-pitch bullpen session on March 31. If he progresses without incident, he could rejoin his teammates at the end of the first week of the season but the above concerns remain.

Doug Fister, Washington Nationals (right lat): Fister left a spring training start on March 27 after just one inning with what was later termed a lat strain. He will open the season on the DL (retroactive to March 23) and there is no immediate timetable for a return. A minor strain could result in a few weeks' absence; if the pain lingers or he is slow to rebuild his arm strength, it could extend beyond a month. Fister had elbow inflammation earlier this spring and the back-to-back issues, even if minor, are not encouraging.

Jaime Garcia, St. Louis Cardinals (left shoulder): Garcia underwent surgery to repair a torn labrum last May after only nine starts but was throwing bullpens at the start of spring training. Soreness in his shoulder has him traveling back to St. Louis for evaluation however and Garcia is, at the least, expected to miss Opening Day.

Addendum 3/31: Garcia was placed on the 15-day DL (retroactive to March 21) but has only recently returned to throwing from a mound. Sometime in May would be the soonest possible return but Garcia has a number of hurdles to cross before then.

A.J. Griffin, Oakland Athletics (right elbow): Griffin was diagnosed with tendinitis in his throwing elbow on March 15, and the plan is to shut him down for three weeks minimum. The hope is that he recovers fully and this was just a small setback, but it will still delay his start to the season by at least a month.

Addendum 3/31: The A's officially put Griffin on the DL to start the season (retroactive to March 21), no surprise given his multiple week shutdown from throwing announced in mid-March. There is no firm timetable for Griffin's return from a flexor strain, but May would likely be the soonest he might return

Cole Hamels, Philadelphia Phillies (left shoulder): Hamels had a few bullpens under his belt but an attempt at throwing live BP left him feeling his arm was "fatigued out" and his progression has been halted. He was already likely to start the season on the DL; this delays the process indefinitely.
Addendum 3/6: Hamels had a few bullpens under his belt but an attempt at throwing live BP left him feeling his arm was "fatigued out" and his progression has been halted. He was already likely to start the season on the DL; this delays the process indefinitely.
Addendum 3/31: Hamels saw his first game action just a few days ago, throwing 30 pitches in a minor league outing. The Phillies placed him on the DL (retroactive to March 21) with biceps tendinitis. Hamels has been pleased with his recent progression but remains about a month away from a return, barring a setback.

Dan Haren, Los Angeles Dodgers (hip): Haren went many years without a DL stint but the wear and tear of his profession is catching up. His limited hip motion combined with his history of a back injury increases his overall risk, but he works harder than most to stay on the field. Unfortunately, age has a way of catching up.

Hisashi Iwakuma, Seattle Mariners (right middle finger): Iwakuma is dealing with a strained tendon that will push his throwing program back by more than a month. He'll likely open the season on the DL but, if all goes well, he could return sometime in April.
Addendum 3/12: Once doctors made the decision for Iwakuma to remain in a splint a few weeks longer, it became clear he would start the season on the DL as he'll need additional time to build up his arm strength. While there's no set timetable, fantasy owners shouldn't count on him before the middle of April at the earliest.
Addendum 3/31: The Mariners officially placed Iwakuma on the DL to start the season (retroactive to March 21) but as of March 28 he was cleared to resume a throwing program. He will need to get his spring training reps underneath him and given the extra time he spent in the splint, it would appear late April or early May is more realistic.

Josh Johnson, San Diego Padres (right forearm): Johnson's forearm complaints in 2013 were linked to bone spurs in his elbow, which he had removed last October. Unfortunately, his problems are not behind him as Johnson was diagnosed on March 22 with a flexor strain, which is expected to sideline him for over a month. While it's not season-threatening, his health issues over consecutive years raise concern about his ability to get through the rest of the season unscathed.

Addendum 3/31: Johnson has been officially placed on the DL to start the season but the Padres are hopeful he will return in May. Naturally, given his history the outlook for him going forward remains uncertain.

Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers (left teres major): Kershaw's injury is not serious, nor do the Dodgers want it to turn that direction since the muscle involved does contribute to throwing. Consequently, he will start the season on the DL (retroactive to March 23) and the decision on when to return him will depend entirely on how confident the Dodgers are that Kershaw is out of the woods. Consider this a proactive measure by a team looking at the length of the season and expecting to be competitive down the stretch.

Mat Latos, Cincinnati Reds (right elbow/left knee): Latos had October arthroscopic elbow surgery to remove bone debris and was throwing in Arizona, until he slipped and injured his knee. After meniscus surgery, his timetable is unclear but expect a minor delay.
Addendum (March 16): Latos has now logged several bullpens and a live BP without incident. He is tentatively set to appear in his first spring training game March 19.
Addendum 3/31: Latos is close to being ready to pitch in the majors but needed another couple minor league outings under his belt. Consequently, the Reds placed him on the DL to start the season (retroactive to March 21) but hope to have him join the team by the middle of the month.

Kris Medlen, Atlanta Braves (elbow): Medlen's instincts were correct about what he "felt" were correct and he is undergoing his second Tommy John surgery in four years. It's not an easy prospect to face another lengthy rehab, but teammate Jonny Venters, currently rehabbing from his second TJ procedure, can provide a roadmap.

Mike Minor, Atlanta Braves (left shoulder): The Braves announced on March 23 that Minor will open the season on the DL. The move is not entirely surprising given he came into spring training behind in his throwing program, the result of a month off in December following a urinary tract procedure. This is not terrible news, as it appears to be more a function of a late start to his routine as opposed to an undiagnosed injury. The hope is that Minor will be ready to return in late April.

Addendum 3/31: Minor has now seen his first live game action of the spring, although it was a brief appearance (due to weather, not a physical setback). He will continue to build up strength in his throwing program as he starts the season on the DL and a late April return to the majors still seems reasonable.

Matt Moore, Tampa Bay Rays (jaw): Just days after Aroldis Chapman's scary incident, Moore took a comebacker to the face in a March 23 spring outing. He was fortunate to escape with stitches to close a lacerated lip, although he is expected to undergo X-rays on March 24 to check his jaw and teeth, according to the Tampa Bay Times. Depending on the results, he could potentially still start the season on time.

Addendum 3/31: Moore was lucky to escape major injury and bounced right back to a follow-up outing this spring. He will indeed start the season on time.

Jonathon Niese, New York Mets (left elbow): Niese left his March 16 start after two innings and traveled to New York to be examined. Per ESPN New York's Adam Rubin, Niese said the pain was in the back of his elbow after hyperextending it during a pitch. The description indicated the problem was not as foreboding as it could have been and Niese has already been cleared to resume throwing. If all continues well, he could remain very close to on schedule but the situation is fluid.

Addendum 3/31: As it turns out, Niese did remain very close to on schedule. While he said his elbow felt "amazing" after a minor league outing on March 27, he will open the season on the DL. It won't last long though. ESPN New York's Adam Rubin says Niese is expected to join the Mets for an April 6 start.

Jarrod Parker, Oakland Athletics (elbow): The forearm tightness turned out to be more ominous than he thought and now Parker is slated to undergo his second Tommy John surgery. His first was in 2009 while with the Diamondbacks. While it's not what anyone would want, at just 25 years old Parker has a shot at returning to baseball in 2015.

CC Sabathia, New York Yankees (hamstring): Sabathia's 2013 season came to a close in September due to a hamstring injury. He claims he's fully recovered, and he's been able to throw this offseason, something he couldn't do last year following elbow surgery.

Stephen Strasburg, Washington Nationals (right elbow): Strasburg underwent arthroscopic surgery in October to remove debris from his elbow, which may have been responsible for his forearm tightness during the season. He is expected to participate in a normal spring training.

Addendum 3/31: It was indeed a normal spring for Strasburg as he showed no lingering effects from the offseason procedure. He will be the Nationals' Opening Day starter.

Justin Verlander, Detroit Tigers (core): Verlander underwent core muscle repair surgery in January and a month later is throwing off a mound without issue. If he continues this type of progress, he'll start the season on time.
Addendum 3/17: Verlander has continued his strong spring and has been named the Opening Day starter for the Tigers.

Taijuan Walker, Seattle Mariners (shoulder): Walker shrugged off the bursitis of early spring as nothing serious. It appears he was right. As of March 16 he has two bullpens under his belt and says the shoulder feels good. He'll still likely be delayed to start the season given the interruption but the bigger picture is encouraging.

Addendum 3/31: Walker was placed on the DL (retroactive to March 21) to open the season but has continued his strong progress with his shoulder. He could join the team in April.

Relief Pitcher

Aroldis Chapman, Cincinnati Reds: In a terrifying moment during a spring training game on March 19, Chapman took a line drive comebacker to the left eye region, sustaining facial fractures and a concussion in the process. He underwent surgery to implant a stabilizing plate two days later and the initial outlook is remarkably positive. Team medical director Timothy Kremchek says Chapman could begin throwing in as little as 10-14 days and could pitch in game conditions by late April. The fractures should heal in that timeline but regaining comfort on the mound after such an injury may be less predictable.

Addendum 3/31: Chapman was officially placed on the DL to start the season, as expected (retroactive to March 21).

Jason Motte, St. Louis Cardinals (elbow): Motte underwent Tommy John surgery last May but is already throwing well enough this spring to suggest he could return early in the season, perhaps in April.

Addendum 3/31: Motte continues his uneventful (so far) recovery from elbow surgery and is slated to pitch in actual games soon. He has been officially placed on the DL to start the season but could potentially join his teammates within a month.

Bobby Parnell, New York Mets (neck): Persistent problems with a herniated disc in his neck led Parnell to September surgery. He began throwing off a mound mid-February and appears on track to open the season as the closer.

Addendum 3/31: Parnell still appears on track to close and, most importantly, has come through spring training without a setback. Reports of his velocity remaining down however and the nature of his recent injury warrant caution. It remains to be seen whether he will continue to progress.

Bruce Rondon, Detroit Tigers (elbow): Rondon will undergo Tommy John surgery and will miss the 2014 season.