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Diamond Cuts: Two Elite Catchers Ailing

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

Phil Hughes

The Yankees have placed Hughes on the 15-day disabled list with what the team is describing as “dead arm”. Unfortunately for fantasy owners the term dead arm can mean a variety of things. Technically, dead arm isn’t an injury. In fact it isn't even really a clinical description. Instead it is a non-specific feeling of fatigue. Similar to the term "shin splints", dead arm is often used as a catchall phrase used to explain a pitcher's dip in velocity. Some MLB pitchers have even suggested dead arm is a mental issue and have compared it to the "yips" experienced by some catchers (think Rube Baker in Major League II). However, it is more important to thoroughly examine the entire kinetic chain to insure the sensation is not resulting from an injury, shoulder instability, or mechanical flaw.

The Yankees hope Hughes can rediscover his form and regain the velocity that has been missing so far this season by giving him some rest and getting back to basics. The pitching coaches and training staff have begun to focus on Hughes' arm strength and speed through the acceleration phase by having him perform long-toss drills and various strengthening exercises. There is some reason for optimism here. Cincinnati's Aroldis Chapman experienced a similar episode this year in which his notoriously fast pitches dropped from topping 100 mph to the low-90s. The Reds rested the reliever for four days before he returned in spectacular fashion, averaging over 100 mph on 14 pitches tossed in a scoreless inning. Keep Hughes stashed on the disabled list and see if he can get back to his first-half 2010 form.

Dallas Braden

The outlook isn't as rosy in Oakland, where the A's have placed Braden on the disabled list with left shoulder stiffness. Braden has been shut down completely and while he has yet to meet with team physicians, he has expressed his personal pessimistic outlook on the situation. No one knows an athlete's body like the individuals themselves. Pitchers often treat their body like a well-oiled machine and can tell when something is out of whack. Unfortunately, Braden has a history of injuries that complicate the situation. He previously underwent surgery on this same shoulder in 2006, in which a bony defect in his humerus was repaired. He also missed time last season with elbow and forearm issues. Look for more details to emerge in the next several days but don't be surprised if Braden is shelved for a significant stretch. Tyson Ross will start Friday in Braden's place and could be a decent addition, particularly in AL-only leagues.

Roy Oswalt

The Phillies (and fantasy owners) dodged a bullet and will keep their starting rotation intact as Oswalt is expected to make his Thursday start despite battling back spasms in his last outing. There was some cause for concern given Oswalt's history. His back issues started in 2007 when his season prematurely ended after he experienced pain in his left leg resulting from a bulging disk pinching on a nerve. The back flared up again in 2008 and 2009, but the current issue is not believed to be related. Instead the problem appears muscular in nature and has since loosened up allowing the three-time All-Star to throw a successful bullpen session. Plug Oswalt into your lineup for Thursday and hope the issue is figuratively behind him.

Hitters

Victor Martinez and Joe Mauer

Two guys on the top of many preseason rankings for catchers are both sitting on the disabled list as Mauer and Martinez have suffered injuries.

Martinez is nursing a strained groin that was initially injured over the weekend. Unfortunately, he aggravated the ailment on Monday and was unable to avoid a trip to the DL. The groin is not a specific muscle but instead a group of muscles known as the adductors. These muscles work in unison to move the leg inward toward the midline of the body in a motion known as adduction.

Catchers need strong adductors to successfully control the basepaths. When a catcher steps toward a base in an attempt to thwart a potential stolen base, force is generated in their lower extremities and helps deliver the ball with greater velocity. While Martinez has only been behind the plate for five games, a strained groin would also impact his performance while batting and be detrimental in his ability to serve as a DH. The groin allows for proper weight shift during a swing. If strained an athlete would be unable to generate force and properly accelerate the bat through the entirety of the swing. Look for Martinez to make a return shortly after he is eligible to come off the DL, but give him some time to test his legs and insure the injury isn't going to linger.

The diagnosis on Mauer is much trickier. The former MVP is suffering from bilateral leg weakness that the team has attributed to a viral infection. However, Mauer remains less than convinced. He recently visited with a sacroiliac (SI) specialist in Baltimore, but that visit was more of routine check up and unrelated to his current situation. The Twins' medical staff will work diligently to discover the exact cause of the issue, allowing for a better timeframe of his expected recovery window to be established. However, they can't proceed until the viral infection has run its course and Mauer has recovered physically. He has dropped a significant amount of weight and must get back into shape.

Mauer's injury problems have been well documented but even this setback is unfortunate. Hopefully, he can bounce back but it may be time for Mauer to consider switching positions. His knees have required multiple surgeries and lubricant injections, not to mention SI joint pain and muscle problems. His latest setback is likely related to the everyday wear-and-tear of his catching duties and it would be wise for Minnesota to protect the face of the franchise. In the meantime, I anticipate this latest injury to keep Mauer out much longer than 15 days as we await the diagnosis.

Mauer owners shouldn't panic because several unheralded catchers have emerged early in the season. Toronto's JP Arencibia, San Diego's Nick Hundley, and Philadelphia's Carlos Ruiz have all gotten off to solid starts and could provide suitable numbers as replacements for Mauer in the short term.

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