With spring training coming to an end and the season getting underway in Japan, we will finally start to see if the aches and pains felt by some players will linger into the regular season and if a trip to the disabled list will be necessary. Let's start by looking at the players already slated to start the season on the DL.
A strained latissimus dorsi will force Morse to the DL as the team plans to play it safe with their up-and-comer. The lat originates at various points along the ribs, hips, and back and runs along the thoracic region of the spine before inserting into a small groove in the upper arm bone, the humerus. The muscles is responsible for multiple shoulder movements including extension, internal rotation, and bringing the arm away from the body in a motion known as horizontal abduction. It also contributes to side-to-side bending and backward bending in the lower back. Due to its expansive size, a lat injury can be classified as a back or a shoulder muscle depending on the location of the strain. The Nationals have listed the injury as a shoulder injury, meaning the issue is likely closer to the shoulder blade than the spine, and would explain why he's having problems throwing but not batting. He has undergone a platelet-rich plasma (PRP) infusion designed to accelerate the body's natural healing process and should be available by mid-April.
It's déjà vu all over again for the Phillies as a knee injury will force their All-Star second basemen to start on the DL for the second consecutive season. Last year Utley sat the first 46 games of the season with pain and inflammation in his right knee. The source of the problem was a degenerative condition known as chondromalacia.
Chondromalacia occurs when the cartilage within the knee begins to soften or breakdown, usually on the underside of the kneecap. As the smooth cartilage degenerates, motion at the knee is compromised and the kneecap is unable to efficiently glide along the surface of the knee joint. As the cartilage continues to erode, the underlying bone becomes exposed and damaged, resulting in pain and inflammation in the effected individual. If the damage is significant enough, surgeons may elect to utilize microfracture surgery in an attempt to repair the damaged cartilage.
The issue Utley is now facing is once again chondromalacia, but now it is affecting his left knee. He has visited with a variety of specialists that advised him it is not mandatory he undergo surgery. Instead he will focus on rehabbing and strengthening the knee and attempt to minimize the forces placed through the knee and damaging the cartilage. The whole scenario is eerily similar to last season and I'd suspect Utley misses a similar amount of time. Expect a mid-May return and an increased amount of risk for the remainder of the season.
Upton will begin the season on the DL with a back injury. The problem began when Upton collided with teammate Desmond Jennings. Since the collision Upton has been experiencing lower back pain and tightness. While you never want to be without the services of guy like Upton, I wouldn't be overly concerned with at this time. It looks like the move is designed to protect the outfielder and eliminate any pressure to rush back before the injury is completely healed. He'll be eligible to return after just three games and a few games early on should help insure his availability for the long term.
The Yankees surrendered Jesus Montero to the Mariners for Pineda in hopes of bolstering the pitching staff. Unfortunately Pineda has not resembled the dominant pitcher that emerged in the first half of last year and will start the year on the DL. Pineda suffered through a rough outing on Friday and then began to feel posterior shoulder soreness. A MRI ruled out muscle and ligament damage, instead revealing inflammation surrounding a tendon. The diagnosis of tendinitis isn't as serious as a torn labrum or a torn muscle, but it still serves as red flag for potential issues moving forward. If his mechanics do have a flaw, like some reports suggest, or his added weight has become an issue, the inflammation could be an indicator that his shoulder is being taxed. The Yankees will want to pinpoint the problem to insure that the injury does not have a cascade effect. The team plans on completely shutting him down for 10-15 days and it seems likely he will spend time at the minor league level rehabbing. It's too early to tell how much of an impact Pineda will have in 2012 but I'm less optimistic than I was before spring training began.
The spring has been rough on closers as both Joakim Soria and Ryan Madson have been ruled out for the year after suffering ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) injuries. Both pitchers will require season-ending Tommy John surgery. The Nationals feared the same may be true for their young closer but it appears Storen's elbow injury is less severe. A MRI taken revealed no structural damage, indicating the ligament was intact. The team is describing the injury as elbow inflammation and expects to place Storen on the DL for the beginning of the year. Any kind of elbow injury is a concern for pitchers, particularly in the area of the UCL. The site also serves as the attachment point for a group of muscles known as the flexor bundle. Keep it close eye on how Washington handles his pitching load. The early reports are encouraging and as long as no setbacks occur, Storen should be back on the mound by the middle of April.
The Giants pitcher will in fact start the season on the DL with a back injury but don't let that early designation fool you. A back strain suffered while lifting weights limited his time on the mound throughout spring training. Fortunately San Francisco's schedule works in his favor and the team will not need a fifth starter until April 15, the day he will be eligible to return. He will make a Triple-A start before then, allowing him extra time to shake off any rust.