Opening Day is quickly approaching and it's about the time for injured players to start ending up on the disabled list. The timing is key as fantasy owners scramble to find a suitable replacement to help their team remain competitive during the critical early stages of the season.
Hanley Ramirez and Chase Headley
The most impactful injuries thus far occurred in the championship game of the World Baseball Classic when Ramirez suffered a torn ligament in his right thumb. The Dodgers shortstop underwent surgery to repair the tear Friday and is expected to remain shelved for at least eight weeks. The timeline is almost double the amount of time San Diego's Headley is expected to miss after he broke the distal tip of his thumb in the WBC, primarily because of the location and the nature of the injury. Headley's injury did not involve any ligaments, meaning once the bone heals he should be quick to return. Bone often heals quicker and easier than connective tissue and the stability of Headley's thumb should remain intact. Ramirez's outlook is not as positive since he the supportive ligament tore and required surgical intervention. The integrity of the complex thumb joint was compromised with Ramirez's injury and will be more impactful on his ability to grip. Headley owners can anticipate a quicker return for their player and shouldn't be as worried about any long-term hindrances. The same can't be said for Ramirez who will likely need the full eight weeks to recover and could face some early struggles upon his return.
The Yankees seem resigned to start the season without Mark Teixeira, Curtis Granderson, and Jeter. Jeter's surgically repaired ankle remains sore and the team is preparing to place him on the 15-day DL. The decision is disappointing but not surprising as Jeter remains just over five months removed from surgery. Other players including Scott Sizemore and Kendrys Morales needed much longer to recover from similar injuries. However Jeter appears ahead of those aforementioned names in his recovery and the team shrewdly managed his spring time minutes allowing for the impending DL trip to be backlogged. Jeter is likely to return April 6 and would only miss four total games should the soreness dissipate. Jeter owners already invested have to be prepared to hear about the ankle for at least another month or two as the Yankee captain will continue to work his way back even after returning to the starting lineup.
The Cardinals closer will start the season on the DL after experiencing tightness in his right forearm following a spring appearance against the Mets. A MRI revealed a mild flexor strain forcing the team to shut him down indefinitely. The primary concern surrounding a flexor strain involves the origin point of the muscle bundle. The flexor bundle attaches at the medial epicondyle, the same location of the ulnar collateral ligament (UCL). The UCL is the ligament that is repaired in Tommy John surgery. There has been no indication Motte has any structural damage in the area but the issue is worth monitoring now and further down the line. Mitchell Boggs inherits the ninth inning and could be a good source of saves for fantasy owners that struck out in the draft.
Pitchers aren't the only ones facing elbow problems as the highly touted Eaton will miss the first six-to-eight weeks of the season with a sprained UCL in his left elbow. He will not need surgery but, as we have seen with players like Carl Crawford and Rafael Furcal, a UCL sprain can still be problematic. Fortunately position players can bounce back quicker than pitchers, largely because they put far less stress on the injured area. As long as the sprain is minor and the ligament is not partially torn, the estimated timeline seems fair and Eaton should be back in early May.
Kung Fu Panda has been fighting a troublesome elbow throughout the spring and is a likely candidate to start the season on the DL after soreness ended his most recent attempt to throw. Sandoval's specific injury involves the ulnar nerve. The ulnar nerve runs along the inside aspect of the elbow and is actually what hurts when you bang your "funny bone." The path the nerve follows is poorly protected and has little room for growth, leaving the nerve itself vulnerable to injury. If the neighboring muscles or connective tissue in the area become swollen or inflamed the resulting increase in pressure can affect the ulnar never causing pain and weakness in the forearm. If the nerve itself then becomes inflamed, the condition becomes known as ulnar neuritis or cubital tunnel syndrome, precisely the condition currently bothering Sandoval.
Finding and fixing the cause of the pressure is the key focus of rehab and recovery. In most scenarios, altering muscle patterns or treating injured muscles or tendons can help relieve the pressure. Unfortunately in Sandoval's case a bone spur in the area appears to be the source of the problem. A bone spur will not simply disappear and often surgical intervention is the best option for long term relief. The Giants have not discussed surgery at this time but it may be brought up after Sandoval's most recent setback. The 2012 World Series MVP underwent a CT scan and x-ray Sunday that did not reveal any new issues but with the season days away I suspect Sandoval starts the year on the DL. He will be able to maintain his conditioning, which has always been an issue, but obviously for those who have yet to draft downgrading Sandoval's status is a must.
The newly anointed Captain America was forced from the World Baseball Classic after suffering an intercostal strain. The intercostal muscles sit between each individual rib and are responsible for elevating and depressing the rib cage during breathing. Furthermore the injury acts similarly to an oblique strain, limiting trunk rotation. Fortunately a strain of the intercostal muscles generally has a quicker recovery rate.
Wright has already passed the first checkpoint in his rehab and has begun swinging a bat. If the associated torque doesn't result in any lingering issues, Wright would then advance to the field where he would test the injured ribs while throwing from third base. Look for him to attempt fielding in the next few days. If that goes well, it will serve as a good sign he will be in the lineup for Opening Day.