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Diamond Cuts: The Captain's Setback

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.

As the calendar slowly turns from April to May, fantasy owners that drafted injured players began getting anxious about if and when they may see some return on their investment. The news has not been encouraging for many, particularly in New York, where the Yankee captain suffered a significant setback.

Derek Jeter and Curtis Granderson

Jeter had been actively rehabbing his surgically repaired left ankle throughout the spring and appeared poised to make the Opening Day lineup. Unfortunately the shortstop began experiencing pain and discomfort in the joint and was placed on the disabled list to start the season. The pain and inflammation continued and a recent follow up MRI revealed a new fracture has developed in the ankle. The key word here is new. Often setbacks occur in fractures when the broken bones fail to adequately fuse together, creating what is called a nonunion or a malunion. However this scenario, like in Jeter's situation, is often avoided with the placement of surgical hardware. The designation of the fracture as a new break, suggest the increase in stress and workload led to the development of another crack in another location.

This has obvious ramifications, as the 13-time All-Star will be forced to wait for the new break to mend, halting his rehab. The Yankees have not set a definitive timeline for recovery but he is expected to be out at least until the All-Star break. Given Jeter's age and most recent setback don't be surprised to see this linger for the entirety of the season. An active Jeter is not a healthy Jeter and the ankle will likely be an issue in the field and while running the bases. Fantasy owners should look elsewhere, unless they have a DL spot to spare. Even then it's already looking like a lost season for Jeter.

Granderson, on the other hand, continues to progress through rehab and should be able to swing a bat in the near future. He is out of his brace, a good sign that his fractured forearm is healing nicely. Granderson's physical conditioning is reportedly great, meaning he could avoid a minor league assignment when he is ready to be activated. Look for this Yankee star to make a return in early May.

Hanley Ramirez

Han-Ram's severely sprained thumb is healing nicely and the LA infielder recently had his cast removed. He remains in a splint but took part in a full workout over the weekend, completing throws across the field and, more encouragingly, displaying signs of power in batting practice. The biggest initial concern regarding Ramirez will center on his grip. The thumb plays a vital role in achieving a strong, complete grip and any limitation would affect his bat speed and his hitting power. The fact that he is hitting well while still in the splint is a good sign there is minimal loss in grip strength and he should be fine moving forward. Anticipate an adjustment period and be prepared for potential re-injury but it looks like he could return several weeks ahead of schedule. Ramirez is currently targeting a return early next week but an early May return seems a bit more realistic.

Chad Billingsley

While the Dodgers offense would get a boost from Ramirez's return to the lineup, it won't help their ailing pitching staff, particularly Billingsley. The team recently placed the right-hander on the 15-day DL after he began experiencing pain in his troublesome right elbow. The elbow was an issue in the final month of last season when he suffered a partially torn ulnar collateral ligament (UCL). Instead of opting for Tommy John surgery, he elected to conservatively treat the injury. Rehabilitation and platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injections appeared to have helped, though a finger contusion forced him to begin the year on the DL. However the recent pain and tightness is very alarming and season-ending surgery remains a strong possibility. Team physician Dr. Neal ElAttrache has yet to review his recent images but is expected to do so in the immediate future. Billingsley owners should have an answer soon and should fear the worst.

Matt Harrison

Harrison had a surprisingly effective 2012 season, appearing in 32 games and collecting a team-high 18 wins. Unfortunately 2013 hasn't been as kind as the leftie surrendered 10 earned runs in his first two starts. However it looks like an injury may be the culprit behind his struggles as it was recently revealed he has a herniated disc between the L5 and S1 vertebrae in his spine. He will undergo surgery on Tuesday to remove the herniated piece. The procedure is known as a microdiscetomy and will likely keep Harrison out until the All-Star break. The surgery isn't as intense as it sounds and the post-surgery track record for pitchers undergoing the procedure is respectable.

Former Cy Young winners Randy Johnson and Eric Gagne have undergone the surgery, with Gagne serving as the best comparison of the two. Harrison and Gagne were similar in stature with Harrison a tad taller and heavier. The Rangers handled Gagne's recovery from surgery and he pitched well in his brief time in Texas. The Rangers will not rush Harrison back especially with the impending return of Colby Lewis and Martin Perez so look for him to sit through July.

Ryan Zimmerman

For the first time in years, Zimmerman made it out of spring training unscathed. His good health didn't last long as the Nationals have placed the third basemen on the DL with a left hamstring strain. The team does not feel the strain is serious and believe he will miss the minimal amount of time. However Zimmerman does have a history of hamstring problems, missing time in 2010 and 2011. Furthermore he has been a notoriously slow healer so make sure you are prepared should the pain linger.

His injury does create opportunity for Nationals prospect Anthony Rendon. He will likely return to the minors when Zimmerman is healthy but is definitely worth a flier, particularly in deeper leagues. He went 0-for-4 with two K's in his big league debut but had a strong spring and should produce adequate numbers once he makes the necessary adjustment.