The shoulder is a complex joint. It is specifically designed to allow for high degrees of mobility in multiple directions. To achieve these numerous movements, various muscles act on the humerus and scapula. Most fantasy owners are familiar with the rotator cuff, the group of muscles primarily responsible for internal and external rotation, but very few recognize the other muscles that play a vital role in shoulder action while delivering a pitch. To better understand these unheralded muscles let's look at several pitchers nursing injuries to these areas.
Shortly after being named the Blue Jays closer, Francisco began suffering from inflammation in his right pectoralis muscle and tightness in his right biceps. The biceps and pec muscles are generally associated with body builders, but both muscles are significant contributors in pitching.
The pectoralis major makes up a majority of the chest, but few people realize it forms the anterior border of the armpit and connects to the humerus. This allows the pec major to bring the arm down toward the midline of the body in a motion known as adduction. (Imagine lowering your arm while making a snow angel or making the "Angels" signal from "Angels in the Outfield"). This insertion point also allows the pecs to contribute in internal rotation.
Located near the insertion site of the pec major is the biceptial groove. In this channel the tendon of the long head of the biceps enters the glenohumeral joint while forming the lateral border of the armpit. The biceps is a two-headed muscle that bends the elbow and turns the hand over in a motion known as supination. Both the biceps and pec work synergistically to complete the various phases of pitching mechanics. Based on their proximity, an injury to either muscle can irritate the other. Tightness in the biceps could very well have led to the inflammation of the pec or vice versa.
Fortunately, Francisco underwent an MRI that turned up no structural damage. The diagnosis was confirmed during a recent visit with Dr. James Andrews. However, the Blue Jays anticipate Francisco will begin the season on the disabled list. Octavio Dotel would seem like a logical choice to assume the closer role, but the right-hander is working himself back from a hamstring strain. Instead Jon Rauch is line to pick up any saves available at the start of the season.
The latissimus dorsi is a broad flat muscle located on the back. However, like with the pectoralis, its location is deceiving. The lat actually runs up the back and inserts on the humerus, just opposite of the pectoralis major. It also aids in adduction and internal rotation and works in conjunction with the rotator cuff muscles to slow the arm when it is violently whipped forward during pitch delivery. Peavy spent the offseason exhaustingly rehabbing a complete tear of the lat, in which the tendon had to be reattached to the bone.
He was slowly rounding into form before catching a flu bug in spring training. However, determined to stay on schedule, the former Cy Young winner convinced the club to allow him to pitch 5.2 innings despite the illness. The move may have been a poor one as Peavy is now dealing with tendinitis in his rotator cuff. It is likely the inactivity caused by the flu, an increased workload and a still-improving lat muscle each played a factor in the cuff inflammation. The situation is a definite setback for Peavy and should force him to the disabled list to start the season. Expect the White Sox to proceed with extreme caution from this point forward, making Peavy a risky fantasy addition to begin the year.
The San Francisco closer is another pitcher afflicted with a non-shoulder issue. Wilson is currently dealing with a strained left oblique. The obliques do not directly effect shoulder movement but instead work to rotate an individual's trunk. Located on either side of the rib cage, these thin muscles contract along with the opposite side to complete trunk rotation. For Wilson, a right-handed pitcher, his left internal obliques contract along with his right external obliques while pitching. He will need to make sure the injury is completely healed before attempting to return to action because the obliques have a tendency to be easily aggravated. The high-energy reliever hopes to ready for Opening Day, but fantasy owners should scale back their expectations early on and understand a trip to the DL remains possible.
Morales missed the deadline imposed by manager Mike Scioscia and will begin the season the disabled list. Unfortunately, the surgically repaired left ankle isn't the primary culprit behind Morales' slow recovery. Instead, inflammation in the same foot has slowed the first baseman. The pain and soreness is located in his big toe and the ball of his foot and developed at some point during rehab. The athletic training staff will now focus on controlling the inflammation while continuing to strengthen the ankle joint. The foot soreness is definitely a step in the wrong direction but could actually prove beneficial in the long wrong. Instead of hurrying back and playing at less than 100 percent on Opening Day, Morales' fate has been decided, and he can focus on getting completely healthy.
In the meantime prospect Mark Trumbo has quietly put together a solid spring and should open for the Angels at first. A groin injury has limited him lately, but he has still managed to hit .340 with five homers and 13 RBI. Trumbo has the makings of a sleeper with the chance to hang with the club at DH should he perform well.
Like Wilson, the Yankees outfielder is dealing with a strained oblique. Granderson may not have to worry about pitching, but he does need to rotate his trunk in the batter's box and while making a relay throw from the outfield. As mentioned with Wilson, oblique injuries tend to linger, and it would be in the best interest for all involved if Granderson insured the injury was behind before returning to action. Keep an eye on his availability in the final days of spring training and have a suitable backup in mind should Granderson be unable to go come Opening Day.