Robinson Cano, Nelson Cruz, and Josh Hamilton
A recent slew of hand and thumb injuries in the MLB have emphasized the importance of grip for positional players. The effects of these types of injuries are understandable in pitchers who need full control of the intrinsic muscles of their hand and wrist to throw the various pitchers in their arsenal. However the effects of batting aren't quite as obvious.
In baseball, players perform two varying types of grip, the power grip and the precision or throwing grip. The power grip is also referred to as the clubbing grip and is utilized when batting. As its name suggests, the power grip is essential in generating a large application of force. If limited for any reason, whether it is swelling or pain, the individual's ability to produce dynamic force is hampered.
In Seattle, the Mariners were without the services for Robinson Cano for four straight games as the second basemen recovered from a left hand contusion. The bruise and the associated symptoms caused Cano problems with his grip and Seattle has openly admitted they are being conservative with their treatment. He did manage to return to the lineup Monday but keep a close watch on his effectiveness over the next seven to 10 days.
Nelson Cruz, the major league leader in home runs and RBIs, is in a similar situation and could miss some time due to a hand injury of his own. Cruz was struck by a wild pitch early in Sunday's win over the Astros. X-rays on the area were negative but that doesn't mean the situation should be ignored. Like Cano, the injury will likely affect his grip, decreasing his ability to hit the long ball. The Orioles did get a day off Monday, giving Cruz some additional rest before he returns to Texas to face his old team. Hopefully the scheduled time off will allow him to play Tuesday but don't be surprised if he sits a game or two. He has to be in play if he's healthy enough to take the field but scaling back your expectations for the next week or so may be the best approach.
Finally, the Angels are set to active Josh Hamilton on Tuesday after a minor setback in his rehab from a torn ligament in his left thumb. The former MVP suffered a bone bruise on the same digit during his rehab assignment but was able to make it through two games after an extended break. The thumb is a chief component of the power grip and stability and strength within the joint is key. Hamilton's ability to hit for average this year has been a pleasant surprise and I'm interested to see if the injury effects his approach at the plate.
The Reds first baseman hopes to start a rehab assignment within the next few days. Votto has not played since May 16 when he suffered a quadriceps strain on his left leg. According to reports he experienced a noticeable strength deficient. The quadriceps is often quick to atrophy when immobilized or limited and a major portion of rehab is spent rebuilding what was lost. It is particularly important for Votto to make sure his knee musculature is strong and moving fluidly since he has previously suffered a meniscus tear in the same knee. If the rehab assignment goes well he has a chance to return by the end of the week.
Jose Abreu: The White Sox activated their emerging star on Monday and hope the inflammation in his left ankle is no longer an issue. Abreu had been battling a case of posterior tibial tendinitis but the condition improved in the minimal amount of time. Get him back in your lineups and hope the issue is no longer a factor. It didn't appear to be a problem Monday as he finished 1-for-4 with a two-run shot off of LA's Clayton Kershaw.
Carl Crawford: A sprained ankle sent Crawford to the DL but it appears his stay there will be brief. He's already hitting off a tee and could be activated in the minimum of time. The real question seems to be whether or not Matt Kemp can reestablish himself in Crawford's absence. If Kemp is productive in left field, Crawford may not have an every-day spot waiting for him upon his return.
Billy Hamilton: The Reds speedster missed Sunday's outing against the D-backs, resting a sore throwing elbow. The injury occurred on a long throw from the outfield to third base. Cincinnati doesn't seem overly concerned here and an extra day of rest on Monday should help. Even better the injury isn't to his legs. Lower extremity injuries can be particularly limiting for players dependent on their speed.
Carlos Santana: Cleveland is planning on getting their catcher back Friday as he continues to make progress through the MLB concussion protocol. Santana has performed on-field activities including taking ground balls. As long as his symptoms do not return and he is able to pass his neurological exams then Santana will be eligible to be activated.
Mark Teixeira: The Yankees slugger needed a cortisone injection on his chronically inflamed wrist and remains day-to-day. The fact that the wrist is still a major issue despite offseason surgery is a serious cause for concern. The doctors continue to insist that he did not suffer a new injury, suggesting Teixeira never completely recovered from surgery. With the issue still lingering, it's hard to have much confidence in the former All-Star and I'm not sure I'd roster him given the dip in production and the associated risk.
Mike Trout: Trout is expected to play Tuesday after sitting out back-to-back games with upper back stiffness. The injury appears to be a minor issue but, based on Trout's likely high price tag, any ailment should be treated as serious until proven otherwise. Look for the emerging superstar to avoid the DL but don't be shocked if Los Angeles elects to rest him for one more outing.