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Diamond Cuts: Injury Plagued Cards

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.

Pitchers 

Chris Carpenter

Just one day after teammate Adam Wainwright underwent season-ending Tommy John surgery on his elbow, Carpenter limped off the mound with a strained left hamstring. Lower leg ailments may not seem like a huge problem for pitchers but they can drastically affect their mechanics.  
Pitching is divided into five stages: windup, early cocking, late cocking, acceleration, and follow-through. The windup and early-cocking phases allow for the build up of the energy and stress that is released during the late-cocking and acceleration phases. While focus is primarily placed on the movements in the shoulder and elbow, let’s instead concentrate on the lower extremities and see how the muscles of the leg play a critical role in a pitcher properly delivering a pitch.  

Carpenter suffered a strained left hamstring, meaning his lead leg or kick leg is the affected leg. During pitching, the end of the early-cocking phase and the beginning of the late-cocking phase coincide with the lead leg making contact with the ground. As the arm begins to enter the acceleration phase, the lead leg is extending. The hamstring is active during this phase because the muscles are primarily responsible for knee flexion while aiding in hip extension. 

As the pitcher drives his arm and body forward to deliver the pitch, his momentum transfers from his back leg to his lead leg where it now serves as a lever arm for the high amounts of force generated to deliver the pitch. Here the motion is a closed-chain activity, meaning the hamstrings play a role in extension of the knee and must be able to fire properly to help support the pitcher. A strained hamstring could limit that ability and lead to other issues, particularly in the shoulder and elbow. If the lead leg cannot properly transfer the high amounts of force being produced, excessive stress could be placed on the ulnar collateral ligament in the elbow and the muscles of the shoulder and possibly lead to injury. 

Carpenter admitted to already feeling better but will likely miss his next scheduled turn in the spring rotation.  Given his past history of injuries, the former Cy Young winner should be downgraded slightly and even more so if the injury lingers and requires him to miss an extended period of time. 

Infielders 

Chase Utley

The Phillies have shut down Utley for an indefinite period of time with patellar tendinitis in his right knee. The patella, or kneecap, is a sesmoid bone and floats within the conjoined tendon of the four quadriceps muscles located on the anterior aspect of the thigh. Above the kneecap, the tendon is known as the quadriceps tendon while the inferior portion near its insertion site on the tibia is referred to as the patellar tendon. This is the location of Utley’s inflammation.
The quad muscle group carries out knee extension and is crucial in running and jumping. Tendinitis often results due to excessive force placed through the tendon that occurs during these activities, particularly with a sudden increase in workload. The tendon becomes irritated and inflamed resulting in pain.  

Utley is only experiencing pain with running and with various aspects of fielding but is still able to work on hitting. With Opening Day still a month away, this injury is nothing to get too worked up about. Yet. Should the issue linger and require anti-inflammatory injections or surgery, Utley’s value would take a hit. However it is likely the Phillies are just playing it safe with their star and allowing him to properly recuperate prior to the start of the regular season. Utley remains a top second baseman especially when you consider that aside from Robinson Cano, the other elite second basemen including Dustin Pedroia (surgical screw in foot), Ian Kinsler (ankle and groin issues), and Rickie Weeks (wrist issues), have all had injury concerns in recent seasons. 

Adrian Beltre 

The Rangers are playing it safe as well liming the activity of their big offseason acquisition as Beltre recover from a right Grade I calf strain.  
The calf is a muscle complex made up of the gastrocnemius and soleus muscles. Together these muscles work to point the toes in a motion known as plantar flexion. They also play a key role in jumping and running, particularly during acceleration.

Beltre does not seem overly concerned and even went as far to say that he could probably play through the injury if it was the middle of the season. Instead, Beltre will be limited in his activities for another week to 10 days.  

However, even though Beltre may not be worried, fantasy owners would be wise to be apprehensive. Calf strains are notoriously tricky injuries and often affect other areas of the body, particularly the hamstrings. For example, Jimmy Rollins and Manny Ramirez both missed significant time last season while dealing with calf and hamstring issues in the same leg, and there are several good reasons that lead us to believe the problems are connected.  

To begin, the origin of the calf complex is in close proximity to the insertion site of the hamstrings. Additionally both muscle groups work synergistically to bend the knee. Based on their location and slight co-dependence, it is easy to see how an injury or imbalance in one muscle group could directly alter and weaken the other. While there is no guarantee Beltre will be bothered by hamstring problems, he has increased the likelihood of one occurring.  

Third base isn’t quite as deep as it has been in the past so lowering Beltre in your rankings would be wise. If you do elect to invest in Beltre consider adding Michael Young or another proven veteran as third-base eligible insurance later in the draft. 
Outfielders 
 
Shin-Soo Choo

Choo reported mild soreness in his left elbow and was held out of the spring training opener. He underwent a subsequent MRI that revealed no structural damage. The injury is worth monitoring since Choo underwent Tommy John in the same elbow in 2007, however the Indians do not believe the current soreness is related to his previous surgery. Instead they will limit his throwing over the next few days and place him on a throwing program intended to gradually increase the workload placed on his throwing arm. He remains a top-10 outfielder entering the season.

Follow Jeff on Twitter @RotoWireATC.

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