The Braves pitcher has struggled in his last nine starts, posting a bloated 4.93 ERA and recording just two wins. He recently revealed he has been suffering from elbow discomfort and inflammation that may be the cause of his erratic play. The Braves and Lowe have ruled out an injury to the ulnar collateral ligament that has already ended the season for Nationals rookie Stephen Strasburg. Instead, Lowe explained that the swelling is located at the back of his elbow and could be the result of tendinitis. He also stated the inflammation is impeding on a nerve and causing weakness in his hand. Based on this information, it is likely the particular nerve affected is the median nerve.
The median nerve travels along the posterior aspect of the elbow and innervates the muscles that flex the fingers and wrist. Compression of this nerve can cause weakness in the fingers and hand similar to the symptoms Lowe is reporting. Pitchers suffering from median nerve injuries have difficulty gripping the ball particularly while throwing two-seam fastballs and breaking pitches like a curveball or slider. Lowe has received a cortisone injection in an attempt to treat the ailment.
Cortisone is an anti-inflammatory drug and not a pain-reliever. However, an athlete will often experience pain-relief following an injection as the reduction of inflammation alleviates the associated symptoms. Atlanta is hopeful the injection will provide Lowe with enough relief to properly grip a ball and throw without pain. He is expected to make his next start on Friday against the Marlins. Fantasy owners who have remained patient with Lowe should stay the course and see if the injection helps. However, should Lowe miss a start or continue to be plagued by inconsistency it would be wise to consider other options.
An achy right knee is once again bothering the Rangers slugger and forced Hamilton to receive a second lubricant shot for the area. A lubricant injection is utilized most often in people suffering from arthritis or osteoarthritis. These ailments negatively affect both the smooth cartilage of the joint and the body’s natural lubricant known as synovial fluid. When cartilage in a joint breaks down or synovial fluid dries up, the joint is unable to move as smoothly as normal resulting in pain and stiffness. To combat these adverse reactions, a synthetic lubricant known as synvisc can be injected into the area. Synvisc mimics healthy synovial fluid allowing for the joint, in this case the knee, to properly move and absorb the various amounts of stress placed on it. Furthermore the drug has shown to exhibit anti-inflammatory properties as well and helps prevent further cartilage break down.
Hamilton received his first injection in April but the effects appear to be wearing off as he recently began feeling discomfort while at the plate. The Rangers limited Hamilton to the designated hitter spot in their recent series against the Royals and plan on finding the MVP-candidate more days off to rest the knee. Like Lowe, Hamilton has also considered a cortisone shot to aid in the inflammation. However, he has already received two cortisone injections this year, the most recent coming in early August. While the balky knee is troublesome, it would be unwise to bench a guy batting .359 with 31 homers and 95 RBI. Instead have a suitable backup available for when Hamilton is given the occasional day off and hope the latest lubricant injection allows the slugger to remain productive. Newly acquired Jeff Francoeur could be a viable option as an insurance policy to Hamilton.
The return of Kinsler should ease the offensive load for Hamilton as the second baseman is slated to return Wednesday from a groin injury. Kinsler has been out since July 27 nursing a strained left groin. The injury was not considered serious when it initially occurred but the strain failed to improve after the original 15 days expired. Several MRIs revealed lingering inflammation and the first-place Rangers elected to play it safe with Kinsler. Fortunately, his most recent MRI showed significant improvement and allowed him to resume baseball activities before setting out on a minor league rehab assignment. A strained groin directly affects a player’s ability to move laterally and quickly accelerate while running the bases or leaving the batter’s box following a hit. As a result the Rangers will be less likely to give Kinsler the green light while on the base path and he shouldn’t be counted on for stolen bases. However his .298 average and location in the Texas lineup should provide struggling fantasy teams with a boost down the stretch and into the playoffs.
The Twins continue to play without the former MVP as he continues to battle symptoms related to a concussion sustained in early July. Most recently the Twins' medical staff instructed Morneau to stay at home until Friday. Concussions were detailed earlier this season when Atlanta outfielder Nate McLouth was sidelined 33 games with a concussion and concussion-related symptoms. However let’s review.
A concussion occurs when trauma to the head results in a disruption of normal brain function. Physical and cognitive functions like memory, balance, vision, and hearing can be temporarily interrupted. The length of the symptoms varies with the severity of the concussion. Some symptoms may clear after a day or two while others will linger for an extended period of time. Often symptoms will disappear in daily activity, but will return with exercise and exertional activity. This appears to be the issue with Morneau. He has been able to take batting practice and participate in cardio exercise but experiences some fogginess at the end of activity.
Concussions are a serious injury and should be handed with extreme caution. If the medical staff continues to restrict Morneau’s activity there is sound reasoning behind the decision. The Twins are likely playoff bound giving them even more motive to rest the first baseman and hope the symptoms subside in time for the postseason. However, this latest setback may be the basis for fantasy owners to consider dropping Morneau if a DL spot is unavailable on your roster.
Jeff Stotts is a Certified Athletic Trainer, MAT, PES and the Injury Analyst for Rotowire.com. You can follow him on twitter @RotoWireATC.