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Diamond Cuts: Situational Rest

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.

With teams dropping out of the playoff chase, don't be surprised to see players to start dropping as well. Teams with nothing to play for will be motivated to protect their injured stars while giving younger talent a chance to make an impression at the highest level. For fantasy owners preparing for the playoffs can be a huge headache. Now, more than ever, keep a close on the injury report to determine who is heading to the disabled list and if a noteworthy prospect could be activated in their place.

Pitchers

Scott Baker

The Twins currently sit 10.5 games back and seem poised to become the first team to start shutting veterans down. Baker has been placed on the DL for the second time in less than a month with a flexor strain in his elbow. The flexor muscle bundle originates at the medial epicondyle of the upper arm bone, the humerus. Minnesota should be inclined to play it safe with Baker because the ulnar collateral ligament (UCL), the ligament repaired in Tommy John surgery, is also located in this spot. Timing is everything on an injury and a significant one to Baker's elbow could cost him the remainder of this season and all of next year. Unless the Twins make a serious push I can't see them rushing Baker back out to the mound a second time. Fantasy owners should wisely look to the waiver wire.

Hitters

Brian McCann

While the Twins are falling out of the race, the Braves sit atop the Wild Card standings and need their veteran catcher to return to help fend off the Diamondbacks and Cardinals. McCann, on the DL with a left oblique strain, has begun taking batting practice and participating in some catching drills. The four-time Silver Slugger reported no pain following batting but keep in mind he's a switch hitter. He uses different oblique muscles on both sides of the plate and may have to take fewer swings on a particular side. Furthermore, McCann must be able to quickly spring to action and make a hard, fast throw to properly protect the base path from potential steals. Should he return soon, it may be wise to insert your speed demons that are opposing the Braves until he proves he can consistently throw runners out.

McCann could start a minor-league rehab assignment as soon as Friday and potentially be activated Sunday or Monday. He has been to valuable to bench but don't be shocked if he struggles out of the gate as he adapts to playing his position following the injury.

Jose Reyes and Adrian Beltre

Hamstring injuries are nagging two veteran players that have been key contributors for the majority of the season. Reyes looked like the Reyes of old, swiping 34 bases while batting .336. However, a strained left hamstring has sent him to the DL for the second time in the last six weeks. A recent MRI revealed the latest injury was in a different location but the situation brings up memories of 2009. Reyes rushed back from a partial hamstring tendon tear in the opposite leg and the severity of the tear worsened and moved into the belly of the muscle.

While Reyes was able to return for a brief stint between injuries, Beltre suffered a setback in his rehab just days before being eligible to return. He came up lame while rounding the bases over the weekend and a MRI revealed he irritated the Grade 1 hamstring strain in his right leg.
The hamstring muscle group is susceptible to injury and re-injury because it is plays a dual role in leg motion. It serves as an accelerator and decelerator during running and helps generate high amounts of force necessary for explosive movements. These jobs take a heavy toll on the muscle and can easily cause damage to tissue not yet 100 percent. Scar tissue and adhesions can build up, limiting a player's strength, range of motion, and speed.

Texas has made up for the loss of Beltre by shifting Michael Young to third but the Rangers need Beltre back in the lineup to protect guys like Young, Josh Hamilton and Nelson Cruz. Beltre will receive several more days off before returning to strengthening exercises. He is expected back in three weeks.

Reyes is in a much more difficult spot than Beltre. Poised to become a free agent at season's end, Reyes could risk a big paycheck if he attempts to come back this year and aggravates the leg once again. The Mets, interested in bringing Reyes back, will likely weigh all their options before he is allowed back on the field. Unfortunately fantasy owners are left in a tight spot, as it appears an extended stint on the DL is likely.

Daniel Murphy

Reyes' teammate is less fortunate as Murphy will miss the remainder of the season with a Grade 2 tear of his medical collateral ligament (MCL) in is left knee. Murphy suffered the injury when Atlanta's Jose Constanza spiked him in an attempt to break up a double-play. Unlike the better-known anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), a MCL can heal without intervention and Murphy will avoid surgery. The injury is familiar to Murphy, who missed the majority of 2010 with a MCL tear in the right knee.

Both MCL sprains have come while Murphy was attempting to turn a double play. Originally a third basemen, Murphy has been moved around the diamond in order to keep his bat in the lineup. Unfortunately, his natural instincts at second base have left him more vulnerable to injury than a seasoned second basemen who understands how best to position his legs on and around the bag. Earlier this year Minnesota's Tsuyoshi Nishioka, a converted shortstop, suffered a fractured fibula when he fielded the base improperly. For athletic players like Murphy and Nishioka, learning the particulars about a position can be more important than relying on instinct and athletic ability. Expect Murphy to take this to heart when he returns in 2012.

Alex Rodriguez

With the rumors regarding shady poker games still hovering overhead, Rodriguez has completed the first week of his rehabilitation involving baseball-related activities. Rodriguez, recovering from July surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his right knee, is hoping to begin a rehab assignment over the weekend before returning to the Yankees at some point next week. The key for A-Rod will be how the knee responds to the vigorous stresses placed on and through it during activity. Initial signs have been positive and hopefully Rodriguez can bounce back in time to help patient fantasy owners.

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