Yu Darvish and Jurickson Profar
Last week I detailed the injury woes of Rangers pitchers Matt Harrison and Derek Holland. Now with the start of the season on the horizon the team is dealing with two additional problems. Ace Yu Darvish is dealing with a stiff neck that has already ended his spring. The Rangers hope he will be ready for Opening Day but have already begun a contingency plan in case he can't go. The problem with injuries to the neck muscles is they are always functioning. They help move the head through the various ranges of motion and also help support the weight of the head. They do so voluntarily and involuntarily and any limitation to the area can have a cascade effect on an individual's ability to remain stable during simple movements. Pitching is clearly not a simple movement but a complex action that requires the recruitment of multiple muscle groups. Even the smallest limitation at the neck could be a big problem. Look for Darvish to skip his first start of the season receiving treatment in an attempt to keep him off the disabled list.
On the offensive side of the things the Rangers weren't as lucky. Second basemen Jurickson Profar will be out at least 10 weeks with a small tear in his right shoulder. Profar has been limited for the majority of the spring with tendinitis in the same shoulder but his latest injury is unrelated. Profar tore his teres major muscle, a muscle located on the posterior aspect of the shoulder blade. Its primary function is to rotate the arm inward and bring it toward the midline of the body. It also plays a key role in shoulder stabilization as it connects directly to the humeral head within the glenoid cavity. The teres major is active during the late stages of the cocking phase of throwing as well as the acceleration phase and follow through. Teres major injuries are common in pitchers though Profar's injury occurred while attempting to turn a double-play.
Fortunately for Profar the outlook for this injury is positive. A study in 2009 examined isolated teres major and latissimus dorsi tears in ten big league pitchers. Nine of the 10 players returned to pitching after three months of non-operative treatment. Since Profar doesn't subject his shoulder to the same level of stress as a pitcher, a return in 10 weeks seems possible. Stash Profar on the DL and wait this injury out. In the meantime the Rangers have said they will look internally to fill his spot. Josh Wilson, Adam Rosales, and prospect Rougned Odor are all possibilities.
The Blue Jays shortstop suffered an injury to his left hamstring, a bad sign at this stage of the season. Reyes has dealt with calf and hamstring injuries throughout his career, severely limiting his games played. The hamstring muscle group is a two joint muscle that plays a part in hip and knee movement. It is vital in explosive movement and works with the quadriceps muscle group to accelerate and decelerate the knee while running. Any weakness caused by a strain directly inhibits the athlete's abilities, particularly speed. With this in mind it is easy to see how a player like Reyes, whose game is predicated on speed, can be severely hampered by a hamstring injury. Furthermore hamstring injuries are notoriously slow to heal and are often easily aggravated.
The Jays are calling the strain minor but that doesn't offer much comfort. During the 2011 season Reyes suffered a Grade I (minor) strain to this same muscle. The Mets placed him on the DL and he returned to action 17 days later. His return didn't even last a month as he aggravated the area and returned to the DL where he remained for three weeks.
Reyes' current locale muddles the issue as well. The turf of the Rogers Centre in Toronto is very unyielding and can complicate the recovery process of lower extremity injuries. Visiting teams will often rest players with minor leg ailments when they visit Canada to avoid playing on this firm surface.
A DL-stint seems imminent though the team remains optimistic he can avoid it and be available for Opening Day. However given his injury history and home field, the level of inherent injury risk involved with Reyes is too high for me to consider taking him in any format.
Michael Bourn: The Indians have already decided Bourn will begin the season on the DL after a troublesome hamstring injury continues to linger. Like discussed with Reyes, hamstring injury are very problematic for guys who rely on their speed. He hopes to be back after the minimum 15 days.
Aroldis Chapman: Chapman suffered one of the scarier injuries of recent memory after he took a line drive off his face. He suffered a concussion on the play and broke several bones in his face. The fractures required surgery to mend and the reliever is expected to miss two months recovering. Chapman has displayed no signs of emotional trauma following the incident which should help ease his transition back from rehab to the mound.
Cole Hamels: All reports on Hamels continue to be positive and it looks like the biceps tendinitis that has bothered him since February won't keep him out for longer than a month.
Hisashi Iwakuma: Iwakuma's rehab for the strained tendon in his middle finger continues to progress and he recently began playing catch. However the finger injury is still restricting his range of motion and his grip remains limited. A firm timeline for his return has yet to be established but consider it a good sign that he's finally showing improvement.
Matt Moore: Moore was yet another pitcher to take a comebacker off the face though he managed to avoid serious injury. X-rays taken of his jaw were negative though he did suffer a laceration to his lip. He will be able to continue his normal routine and will be available to make his first start of the season.