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Diamond Cuts: Back to Square One

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

Clay Buchholz

With Daisuke Matsuzaka recovering from Tommy John and Josh Beckett battling a stomach bug, the news that Buchholz would be placed on the 15-day disabled list was the latest blow to the Red Sox's patchwork rotation. A sore lower back that forced him to miss his most recent start has bothered Buchholz for some time now and the Red Sox elected to take the conservative approach. The injury does not sound serious and fantasy owners should be used to Buchholz being treated with kid gloves.

The extra roster sport also allows the Sox to better evaluate one-time prospect Andrew Miller, who pitched 5.2 innings in his 2011 debut against the Padres. He surrendered three earned runs on seven hits, while striking out six. Miller's next start will come against a good offense, when the Sox travel to Philadelphia to take on the Phillies.

Tommy Hanson

The Braves seem to be following the lead of the Red Sox and will play it safe with their young ace. Hanson has been placed on the 15-day DL with shoulder inflammation linked to tendinitis. A MRI revealed no structural damage but it remains important that the Braves pinpoint the root of the problem so the injury does not become something more serious. Fantasy owners have to be disappointed as the injury comes on the heels of a dominant 14-strikeout performance against the Astros. However, a brief trip to the DL now is much better than having to shut down Hanson near the end of the season. Hanson is already reporting improvement in the shoulder and could be back as early as next week.

Hitters

Albert Pujols

The foundation of the fantasy baseball world was rocked Monday when it was revealed Pujols would miss a significant stretch of time with a fractured left wrist. The three-time MVP suffered a distal fracture of his radius after Wilson Betemit collided when Pujols at first base. A CT-scan revealed a non-displaced fracture that will require Pujols to wear a soft splint for the next four weeks and prevent him from performing any baseball-related activities. His progressive rehabilitation will begin with range of motion exercises, before moving on to strengthening exercises. The rehab will finally shift toward functional rehab, preparing the wrist for the various activities required in baseball. The club is anticipating a four-to-six week recovery window but don't be surprised if it takes longer.

Even when he is able to return, expect a dip in power from Pujols. The wrists, primarily the bottom wrist, provide extra force in a hitter's swing. Snapping the wrists in a fast motion allows the bat to move quicker, providing additional power in each swing. Pujols will need time to rediscover the timing of this motion and any residual effects from the injury could cause serious problems. Pujols would be wise to listen to the advice of Derrek Lee, who cautioned the slugger about rushing back. Lee, who endured a similar injury in 2006, needed in additional stint on the DL after his initial injury because he came back too soon.

On the bright side, the injury could have been much worse. The fracture did not move, meaning surgery will not be required to fixate the bone. Furthermore, none of the tiny carpal bones were fractured or dislocated. These injuries can be tricky to deal with and delay recovery even longer.

The Cardinal will shift Lance Berkman to first and move Jon Jay into the outfield to adjust for Pujols' absence. They could also get a boost from the impending return of David Freese. Freese has been sidelined since early May with a fractured metacarpal bone in his left hand. He has started his rehab assignment with Triple-A Memphis and could be back with the Cardinals by next week.

In the meantime, fantasy owners scrambling to find a replacement for their top pick should consider adding Seattle's Justin Smoak or Texas' Mitch Moreland. In 18 games this month, Smoak is hitting .277 with four home runs and nine RBI. Moreland is also performing well in June, hitting .279 with three homers in 16 games, including a monster shot to the upper deck in Arlington.

Carl Crawford

Like Pujols, Crawford has been a reliable first-round pick for the past several years. However, a strained left hamstring has sent the speedster to the DL for just the second time in his career and could have lingering effects. Hamstring strains are problematic injuries, particularly for an athlete dependent on speed. The hamstring muscle group is needed to accelerate and decelerate the legs during running and is often subjected to quick, explosive motions. Fortunately, an MRI revealed a Grade I injury, the least severe of all strains. However, the Red Sox are a team that understands the issues that come with an injury of this nature. Fantasy owners should anticipate Crawford getting managed they same way as Buchholz with the Sox protecting their investment for the long-term by providing ample recovery time. The team has yet to release a definitive timetable; making it evident they will not rush him back.

If you are in need of speed until Crawford returns, take a look at Oakland's Coco Crisp or Houston's Jason Bourgeois. Both have the green light on the basepaths, having each stolen five bags so far this month.

Hunter Pence

The Astros' outfielder is likely out until the weekend as he manages a left elbow sprain. The injury occurred when the joint was hyperextended, overstretching the connective tissue and muscle in the area. Despite reports that the elbow did not involve ligament damage, a sprain of any kind is indicative of a ligamentous injury. Sprains, like strains, occur at varying degrees and while a Grade I sprain may not be reported as a ligament tear, keep in mind damage has been done on a micro-level. Pence will attempt to play over the weekend if the lingering soreness diminishes, but a trip to the DL remains an outside possibility. Any move would be retroactive to June 18 allowing for an early July return.