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Diamond Cuts: Mister Fister

Jeff Stotts

Jeff Stotts works as a Certified Athletic Trainer (MAT, ATC, PES, CES). He won the 2011 Best Fantasy Football Article in Print from the Fantasy Sports Trade Association.

At long last games are upon us. The quest to the top of your league has begun and it's more than likely you already have guys stashed away on your disabled list due to injury.

Andrew Bailey

When it was reported Bailey underwent surgery to repair his ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) I'm sure there were some people out there that were devastated, thinking the Boston closer would need Tommy John. Fortunately Bailey's injury was not the UCL in his elbow but to a less infamous UCL located in the thumb.

A ligament is generally named for the two bones it helps connect, however some are named for their location in regards to the joint. This is the case for all three UCLs. The elbow, wrist, and thumb each have a UCL that runs along the same side of the joint as the ulna bone. Each ligament provides stabilization of its respective joint.

A torn UCL in the thumb is not as severe as a torn UCL in the elbow but can still be extremely problematic, especially for a pitcher. Philadelphia's Chase Utley tore the UCL in his right thumb and only missed seven weeks. Bailey's torn UCL is expected to keep him out four to five months and it wouldn't be surprising if the injury keeps him out for the season. The thumb is a key component in a person's grip and must be stable to insure a pitcher can deliver an assortment of pitches with velocity and accuracy.

To complicate the matter, Bailey has a history of injuries including elbow and forearm issues. These previous ailments won't directly affect his recovery from surgery but could pose a problem when he attempts to pitch for the first time after months of inactivity. If you drafted Bailey and haven't done so yet, quickly look to acquire Alfredo Aceves. Aceves was a bit shaky in his debut, hitting a batter and allowing an inherited runner to score.

Doug Fister

Fister's first start of the season was short-lived, lasting less than four innings. Fister exited with a rib strain and has already been placed on the 15-day DL.

Rib injuries have always be an issue in baseball, particularly with pitchers. However advancements in medical imaging and a better understanding of biomechanics has allowed for more specific diagnosis. Instead of classifying these injuries in broad terms like side strain or rib injury, we can now pinpoint the problem and categorize it as an oblique injury or intercostal strain.

Fister's injury has been ruled a "costochondral strain". This term is a little misleading because the costochondral junction is where bones of the ribs join with a specialized type of tissue known as costal cartilage. The cartilage can tear causing a costochondral separation which is a significant injury. An injury of this nature could easily keep Fister on the sideline for three to four weeks.

However this use of the term strain leads me to believe the injury is an intercostal strain, an injury to one of the muscles located between each rib. These muscles work to raise and drop the rib cage during breathing. A strained intercostal would restrict trunk rotation and make it difficult to swing a bat or throw. It isn't quite as severe as an oblique strain but is similar in the sense that it can linger.

Fister is likely out for several weeks and could seek out a specialist to determine just how long he will be shelved. The Tigers have filled Fister's sport with Brayan Villarreal.

Tim Stauffer

A strained triceps ruined Stauffer's shot at pitching on Opening Day and sent him to the DL. The triceps plays a key role in pitching mechanics, working to extend (straighten) the elbow and stabilize the joint. It inserts on the olecranon process, a bony process that also serves as an attachment site for the UCL of the elbow. A weakened triceps could place the UCL at risk for injury, making it crucial that the muscle is properly cared for to insure the integrity of the neighboring ligament. Stauffer is eligible to return April 19 but don't be shocked if he remains sidelined longer.

Nelson Cruz and Josh Hamilton

If Texas is going to make a serious run at a third consecutive World Series they will need their power-hitting outfielders to stay healthy. Both Hamilton and Cruz have missed significant stretches over the last few years and several minor injuries in the spring served as a reminder of their injury-plagued pasts.

In addition to fighting migraine headaches, Hamilton suffered a groin injury on the same side that required offseason hernia surgery. Fortunately team physician Dr. Keith Meister examined the former MVP and believes the tightness Hamilton is experiencing is not in the same area. Hamilton was in center field for Texas' first two outings, finishing 3-of-7 at the plate.

Fresh off a red-hot playoff run in which he crushed eight home runs, Cruz was hit by pitches twice during the spring, bruising his hand and elbow. X-rays on both areas were negative and the man with the boomstick isn't expected to miss any time. He joined Hamilton in the outfield and has collected one hit and a walk in seven plate appearances.

Logan Morrison

Morrison was a big question mark entering the season after his knee continued to swell following offseason surgery. He was limited throughout the spring but began to progress just days before the season began. With the knee no longer swelling after activity, Morrison was able to participate in several spring outings before being inserted into the Opening Day roster. He picked one hit in three at-bats on Wednesday before getting the day off Thursday. It appears manager Ozzie Guillen will take the conservative approach with his outfielder, giving him days off throughout the early portions of the season. The move is a smart strategy and will insure the knee is not overworked while it continues to completely heal. Missing a few games at the start of the season may be frustrating to some, but rest assured the plan is in place to insure a prolonged DL-stint will not be needed and Morrison will be available when he's needed most.