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Fantasy Baseball Injury Report: Early Season Injuries

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.

The energy and excitement on Opening Day of Major League Baseball is one of the most anticipated moments in the sports world. Unfortunately, there are numerous players unable to participate in this year’s festivities as they start the season on the disabled list. While some are lost for the season, others simply have to wait to make their 2015 debuts.

Justin Verlander
The Tigers will skip Verlander’s first start in the rotation to allow the 2011 Cy Young winner to register one more simulated outing as he recovers from a mild triceps strain. He will face live hitters Tuesday and remains on track to pitch Sunday against the Indians. I previously discussed why it was important for Verlander to take his time, but the fact that Detroit isn’t even utilizing a DL designation on the right-hander is a good sign the strain is minor. He remains an intriguing bounce-back candidate with a moderate amount of risk.

Hunter Pence
Pence has been sidelined since early March with a fractured left forearm. The three-time All-Star suffered the non-displaced break to his ulna when he was struck by a pitch from Cubs pitcher Corey Black. The terminology describing the injury is key as it helps provide clues to what we can expect from Pence during recovery and when he is back on the diamond. The term non-displaced means the bone broke but remained aligned. As a result, surgery wasn’t necessary and the probability of a smooth recovery improves. Bone tissue, unlike other tissues in the body, can return to its initial strength following an appropriate amount of time. Consequently, Pence should be able to return to normal when the healing process is completed.

His cast has been removed, and he will now take the necessary steps to regain the range of motion and strength lost with immobilization. He hopes to begin swinging a bat within the next week to 10 days and is in line to return by the end of the month. The Giants will utilize Gregor Blanco and Justin Maxwell in right field until Pence is cleared to play but hopefully opportunistic fantasy owners pounced and added a valuable outfielder at a discounted price.

Victor Martinez
Martinez is in the lineup Opening Day. However, those paying close attention to what the Tigers are saying will notice the former catcher isn’t out of the woods just yet. Martinez underwent a meniscectomy in February to remove a damage piece of cartilage in his knee. A meniscectomy has positive short-term results as the injured tissue is removed and no longer an issue. The affected individual simply has to recover from the associated symptoms and complete a rehab protocol designed to strengthen the surrounding musculature. However, once the meniscus or piece of the meniscus is removed, the long-term threat of chronic problems like osteoarthritis increases. Martinez has progressed through recovery but is still not 100 percent. Manager Brad Ausmus hinted that the team is still concerned with his ability on the base paths. Their fears were reinforced when he experienced soreness in his knee while trying to beat out a grounder to first in one of the final spring training games. It appears that he will avoid the DL but don’t be surprised if he gets regular days off to start the season. Scale back your expectations for the first few months of the season and make sure you have a suitable backup to plug in on Martinez’s days off.

Hisashi Iwakuma
Iwakuma is one of the first players to report blisters entering the season. Blisters are common in baseball, especially for pitchers. These “injuries” are often the results of friction between the skin of hands and fingers and the seam of the baseball. The constant chafing causes skin irritation and fluid to build underneath the outer layer of skin. Blisters frequently show up near the start of the year but diminish as the season progresses as the skin on the fingers adapts and becomes tough. If the player can manage the skin irritation and avoid infection, blisters generally heal quickly and are non-issues. Iwakuma adjusted to the blister in his final spring outing, opting not to throw his splitter. However, the Mariners believe he will be fine moving forward.

Check Swings

Kenley Jansen
The Dodgers' closer remains on track in his recovery from surgery to remove a bone growth from his left foot. Like Pence, the concern shouldn’t be on the injury itself but on any potential shifts in biomechanics. The feet are included in a pitcher’s complete pitching motion and even the slightest adjustment in steps or distribution of weight can negatively alter the entire kinetic chain. Jansen hopes to be back in three-to-five weeks but a conservative approach may be better in the long run. Stash him on your DL and look to add a stop gap closer like Brad Boxberger for the start of the season.

Jake McGee
Speaking of Boxberger, he remains the current Rays pitcher most likely to be utilized in the ninth inning as McGee recovers from an offseason elbow debridement. McGee needed the procedure to remove loose bodies within the joint and isn’t expected to throw to live hitters for at least a few more weeks. This shifts McGee’s possible return date to sometime in May and gives Boxberger plenty of opportunity to record a few saves, even if Tampa opts to play matchups to start the year.

Anthony Rendon
The third opinion Rendon received on his ailing left knee confirmed the findings of the first two specialists, and he will continue to receive treatment for a medial collateral ligament (MCL) sprain. While it is good news to hear that he avoided meniscus damage, the injury has already taken longer to heal than the Nationals initially anticipated. Rendon still has value but it’s an unfortunate way to start the season.

Drew Smyly
The Rays' starter reported no issues following his first time facing live hitters since early March. Smyly has been dealing with tendinitis in his shoulder but cleared the first major hurdle in recovery. If the soreness does not return, he could begin a rehab assignment in the near future and be back after a trip or two through the rotation.