Matt Harrison and Derek Holland
The Rangers have plenty of pop in their offense but questions about the health of their pitching staff remain. The problems began nearly a year ago when Harrison underwent surgery on his lower back in April of 2013. The surgery was intended to relive pain and soreness stemming from a herniated disc between the L5 and S1 vertebrae in his spine. The microdiscetomy required is not uncommon amongst pitchers as former Cy Young winners Randy Johnson and Eric Gagne have undergone the procedure. Both pitchers had success following the surgery with the Rangers medical staff handling Gagne's recovery.
However Harrison's situation has been complicated by a second surgery to relieve Thoracic Outlet Syndrome (TOS) in his non-throwing shoulder. TOS occurs when a bundle of nerves known as the brachial plexus is compressed in one of several possible locations. The compression often leads to numbness, tingling, and weakness in the shoulder and arm and can potentially have a cascade effect on the back. Fortunately the Texas medical team has kept a close eye on his recovery and, despite a minor setback, he remains on track to make an early season return. He felt fine following his first spring start, a 1.2 inning appearance in which he surrendered three runs to the Royals. He admitted his off-speed pitches need work and he still seems poised to start the year on the disabled list. He's not worth drafting at the current moment but is a guy worth monitoring during the early weeks of the season. He isn't too far removed from back-to-back impressive campaigns during the 2011 and 2012 seasons and could end up being a solid filler in most formats.
Harrison's more eccentric teammate continues to make good progress through rehab and Holland believes he is nearly six weeks ahead of schedule in his recovery from knee surgery. The 27-year old lefty suffered the injury in January after tripping over his pet dog Wrigley. The fall required Holland to undergo microfracture surgery on his left kneecap to repair cartilage damage. However not all microfracture procedures are considered equal and it appears he avoided the kind that has altered the careers of Grady Sizemore and many notable NBA stars, including Greg Oden and Amar'e Stoudemire.
Microfracture is simply a term used to describe a procedure in which a surgeon uses a specialized tool to create tiny cracks in the surface of the bone. The idea is that the cracks will stimulate cartilage growth in the area, allowing for a more complete recovery. When carried out on the articulating surface of the leg bones, microfracture is accompanied by a lengthy recovery timeline. However microfracture on the patella is considered less invasive and athletes have displayed the ability to return much quicker following this operation. Holland's rapid recovery supports this trend and he should be ready to return shortly after becoming eligible. The Rangers have already designated him for the 60-day DL but this could help fantasy owners that can immediately stash him following the draft.
Jarrod Parker has been lost for the season after it was determined he will require the second Tommy John surgery of his career. AJ Griffin is also experiencing elbow pain though his injury is muscular in nature. He has officially been diagnosed with flexor tendinitis, though no ligament damage was detected. However the flexor bundle is situated in close proximity to the ulnar collateral ligament, increasing the risk for potential complications. Griffin has been ruled out for the next three weeks and will then resume his throwing program. Unfortunately this puts his availability in question and a DL-stint may be on the horizon.
Finally veteran Scott Kazmir is currently suffering from what the team is calling triceps stiffness and will not make his next schedule start. On the plus side, the elbow pain he is experiencing does not involve the ulnar collateral ligament. However if Kazmir attempts to pitch through a less than 100 percent triceps, he would open himself up to undue elbow stress and instability. Given his past expect the A's to proceed with the utmost caution.
The Tigers shortstop will be sidelined for a significant amount of time after it was determined he has stress fractures in both his shins. The shinbone is actually the tibia, one of two lower leg bones. The tibia is the most common site for stress fractures that generally occur with repetitive stress associated with running and jumping. Unless the crack is significant to warrant surgery, time really is the best form of treatment. Early rumbling have Iglesias out through the All-Star break, though a visit with specialists at the Steadman Clinic will help establish a better timeline.
There does not appear to be a clear cut favorite to replace Iglesias in the Tigers lineup. Steve Lombardozzi and Danny Worth are currently manning the position and free agents like Stephen Drew remain available.
Jacoby Ellsbury: The former Red Sox and current Yankee is nursing a right calf strain that may be the culprit behind his slow start to the spring. A calf strain can be very limiting for players like Ellsbury whose game is predicated on speed. It can limit their explosiveness at the plate and in the field and also puts strain on their other lower leg muscles, particularly the hamstrings. There's been no indication that Ellsbury will miss any regular season games but scale back your initial expectations until he's put this injury behind him.
Anibal Sanchez: Sanchez should be downgraded in all formats after he needed a cortisone injection in his throwing arm. Sanchez has a lengthy history of shoulder problems including a strain last season that cost him nearly three weeks and a labrum repair in 2007. Inflammation is often a sign of an underlying problem and is a major red flag.
Justin Verlander: The Tigers have named Verlander their Opening Day starter easing the fears of anyone still nervous about the former Cy Young's ability following abdominal surgery.