RotoWire Partners

Diamond Cuts: Oblique Issues

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.

Felix Hernandez

The Mariners ace hopes to return this week after missing his last start with an oblique strain. Initially diagnosed as a back injury, it was later revealed that Hernandez had strained his left oblique. While the difference may seem immense, understand the core is made up of muscles in the trunk, back, and neck. An oblique injury can have an indirect effect on other muscles of the core that could spell trouble for a pitcher with a history of lower back problems.

There are two sets of oblique muscles each located on either side of the rib cage. Each set is divided into two groups, the external obliques and the internal obliques and work synergistically with the opposite groups located on the contralateral side. The thin muscles on one side contract with the other group on the opposite side to complete trunk rotation. For a right-handed pitcher like Hernandez, this means his left internal obliques contract along with his right external obliques to complete his throwing motion. Weakness on either side can easily put unnecessary stress on the non-involved side and lead to significant injuries. So even though the injury occurred opposite his throwing arm there's reason for concern.

He did complete a flat-ground session on Friday and was slated for a bullpen session on Monday. If all goes well he could be back into the rotation on Wednesday against a hard-hitting Detroit team. Given the matchup and the elevated risk of re-injury, it may be worth waiting to see just how healthy Hernandez is before plugging him back into your lineup. However if you are fighting for your league title, you may just have to take the risk and hope he's healthy enough to be productive.

Hanley Ramirez

Ramirez has been one of the top fantasy players when he has been able to take the field. However he's missed over 50 games due to an assortment of injuries and is now dealing with another hamstring issue. However his current problem is not a direct strain of the muscle, but instead tightness resulting from an impinged nerve. The hamstring muscle group is innervated by the sciatic nerve. It's the biggest and longest individual nerve in the human body and is prone to irritation in multiple locations. Most often it gets pinched between the piriformis muscle of the buttock but inflammation of the discs or muscles of the lower back can also lead to sciatic problems.

Ramirez's issues appear to be in his lower back and have plagued him off and on over the last few seasons. He recently received a cortisone injection that will target the inflamed area. A decrease in inflammation would result in a decrease in symptoms as the reason for the irritation calms down. Ramirez should be cleared to play as soon as Monday after sitting out the weekend.

Stephen Strasburg

The hard-throwing right-hander was a surprise scratch last week after experiencing tightness in the forearm of his throwing arm. Strasburg was reportedly working on a new pitch that led to the muscle tightness. The Nationals medical staff elected to hold Strasburg out through Thursday but he was schedule to throw a bullpen session on Monday. Protecting his surgically reconstructed elbow is the main motive behind the scratched start and extended rest. A large portion of the muscles of the forearm originate in the same location as his previously torn ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) and insuring no undue stress is placed on or through the joint is critical to preventing another ligament injury.

If the tightness is no longer an issue following his bullpen session, expect to see Strasburg back for at least one more start before the conclusion of the season. The Nationals have yet to be mathematically eliminated and could use their ace to keep their diminishing hopes alive.

Check Swings

Yoenis Cespedes: The reigning Home Run Derby champion is nursing a sore shoulder and did not play Sunday against the Rangers. He is listed as day-to-day and should see ample playing time this week barring a setback. Keep the hot hitting Cuban in your lineups.

Allen Craig: It doesn't appear Craig will be back in a Cardinals uniform anytime soon as doctors recommended he keep in his sprained foot in a walking boot. The Cardinals are currently focusing on the postseason so they have reasons to play it safe here. Look elsewhere for the remainder of the season.

Carlos Gonzalez: The Rockies outfielder may be on the active roster but it looks like his season is all but done. He has seen time as a defensive substitution but his injured finger continues to be a problem while swinging a bat. Surgery has become a realistic option to repair the torn ligament and CarGo is scheduled to visit a hand specialist later in the week. If you aren't in a keeper league, feel free to drop the two-time All-Star.

Jacoby Ellsbury: The speedy outfielder has begun working out but a return doesn't seem imminent. Ellsbury is currently managing a fractured navicular bone in his foot but has begun light pool work and controlled exercises. However his value remains in his ability to run and that will likely be limited, even when he is cleared to return.

Justin Masterson: Like Hernandez, Masterson is attempting to comeback from an oblique strain. While he hopes to return before the conclusion of the regular season, he is a risky play moving forward as Cleveland still has not established a firm timetable for his recovery.

Wandy Rodriguez: The Pirates have shutdown Rodriguez for the remainder of the season after prolonger pain in his forearm. He holds a large player option and should return in time for spring training.

David Wright: It may not make much conventional sense for Wright to return this year since the Mets are no longer in contention for the playoffs. However, much to the delight of fantasy owners, Wright believes he should be playing when his body is willing. Out since early August with a hamstring strain, Wright is hoping to return Tuesday. He's worth a gamble if your offense needs a boost, but keep in mind he hasn't faced a pitcher in nearly six weeks.