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Diamond Cuts: Back to the DL

Jeff Stotts

Jeff Stotts

Jeff Stotts works as a Certified Athletic Trainer (MAT, ATC, PES, CES). He won the 2011 Best Fantasy Football Article in Print from the Fantasy Sports Trade Association.

The baseball season is a grind. Often when an injury occurs early in the season, it can become a season-long issue. Throughout the season several players have yo-yoed back in forth from the active roster and the disabled list with injuries that they cannot seem to shake.

Pitchers

Jeff Francis

The Colorado left-hander is on the disabled list for the second time with shoulder tendinitis, specifically biceps tendinitis. Francis has been fighting shoulder pain and soreness for a while now and the Rockies believe the pain is related to the arthroscopic shoulder surgery that forced him to miss the entire 2009 season. Biceps tendinitis affects the tendon of the long head of the biceps as it attaches to the labrum of the shoulder joint known as the glenohumeral joint. The tendon enters the shoulder by way of a bony indentation in the humerus known as the bicipital groove and helps stabilize the humeral head while pitching. However, this location makes the tendon vulnerable to impingement and inflammation.

The repetitive overhead motion associated with pitching places excessive amounts of stress on the tendon increasing the likelihood of injury and prolonging recovery time from a previous injury. The Rockies made it clear they have not officially shut down Francis and may allow him to pitch again this season if he responds well to the extended rest. However fantasy owners would be taking a calculated risk by keeping Francis and his 4.56 ERA on their rosters for the remainder of the year.

Hitters

Jacoby Ellsbury

More bad news for one of the biggest disappointments this year as Ellsbury is once again on the disabled list. Last year’s stolen base leader has another fractured rib and will likely miss the remainder of the season. Multiple rib fractures have limited Ellsbury to 18 games this season with his latest setback following a collision with Rangers pitcher Tommy Hunter. This season has been a major bust for fantasy owners who used a high pick on Ellsbury but an extended period of rest and rehabilitation should allow the ribs to completely heal. Expect the speedster to be ready for a bounce back 2011 season.

Nelson Cruz

The Rangers outfielder is currently on the disabled list for the third time this season with a hamstring strain. His initial stint on the DL came in late April after suffering a strained right hamstring. He returned in early May but was back on the DL two weeks later with a strained left hamstring. Three weeks later Cruz returned to action, hitting .316 including eight home runs over Texas’ last 45 games before aggravating his left hamstring injury while legging out a triple in a recent game against the Red Sox.

Several factors may be contributing to Cruz’s continual hamstring problems. Hamstring strains commonly occur in athletes with an imbalance in strength between the quad and the hamstring. An athlete with weak hamstrings cannot equally counteract the contraction of the quad making the hamstring muscles more susceptible to strains and tears. Also once a strain has occurred, it is important that athlete allow the injury to completely heal before returning to avoid it becoming a chronic issue. Cruz may have felt healthy enough to return but the finals stages of the healing process were likely ongoing.

While some inflammation was discovered, a recent MRI did not turn up a tear in the muscle. Cruz has admitted he is in little pain and didn't want to go on the disabled list. However, the Rangers are eyeing the playoffs for the first time in 11 seasons, and like they have done with Ian Kinsler, the club is being overly cautious. Expect Nelly to be back in the lineup when he is eligible to return on August 30.

Derrek Lee

A nagging back injury has limited Lee throughout the season and will force him to miss several more days. The Chicago (soon-to-be Atlanta?) first baseman has been diagnosed with a bulging disc in his lower back. Between the various vertebrae of the spine lie intervertebral discs. These discs act as shock absorbers for the various stresses placed on the body and held stabilize the spine. Occasionally, these discs will shift or bulge causing pain and mechanical problems. Furthermore the bulge can impinge and compress various nerves in the spine causing pain and potentially peripheral weakness in the legs and arms.

Lee has said the back primarily causes pain when he is in the field playing defense but isn’t a cause concern when he is at the plate. He has since received an epidural injection designed to relieve the pain and aid with the inflammation. The injury comes with terrible timing as Lee was swinging a hot bat, hitting four home runs in three straight games. Fantasy owners who have been patient with Lee up until now should wait out this latest setback, however, it is hard to place a lot of trust and confidence in a veteran enduring his worst offensive season in 11 years.

Chipper Jones

The 2010 season is officially over for Jones as he underwent reconstructive surgery to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in his left knee. The veteran suffered the injury while leaping to make a throw to first. The surgery went well and Jones hopes to be healthy enough to return for the 2011 campaign. Generally, ACL surgery carries a six-to-eight month window of rehabilitation and recovery before an athlete can return to play. However, even after they have been medically cleared, it may take a full year for the graft to be at 100 percent.

Spring training for the 2011 season is seven months away so it isn’t out of the realm of possibility that Jones could return. However Jones will be 38 years old, approaching 39, and entering the 18th season of his career. It will be interesting to see if the veteran can endure the grueling rehab ahead of him and be healthy enough to be an everyday contributor. In the mean time, the recently activated Martin Prado will take over at third base and bat third in the Atlanta lineup. Prado looked sharp in his return on Tuesday, going 3-for-5 with a double, two RBI, and three runs.

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