Under The Knife: Mariners take safe approach in easing back Hernandez
Mariners don't feel Felix Hernandez back is serious but breaking pain cycle hard
Phillies are allowing Chase Utley to direct his rehab process, which is progressing
Victor Martinez close to resuming baseball activities but August return still likely
Instead of an intro, I want to let you in on a secret. Dan Wade and I are working on a couple different things that we hope to show you soon. Sometimes, regular reports are a dancing monkey, keeping you reading and interested so that when we do debut the kind of research that can really make a difference, rather than just helping your fantasy team, you're here to read it. Enjoy the monkey today because we're going to blow your mind soon. Powered by The Beach Boys' new album, on to the injuries:
The Mariners did the smart thing by holding Hernandez out of his scheduled start. His back was still acting up on Monday, when he was scheduled to do his side work. It made for an effective "deadline" -- miss the side, miss the start -- and Hernandez didn't seem to fight the decision. The medical staff doesn't think this is serious, but the pain/spasm cycle is a difficult one to break at times. The big worry beyond the immediate is that Hernandez loses some flexibility and changes his mechanics, leading to an increased injury risk. The medical staff has a couple days to work before the M's will need to make much of a move, so expect some more clarity by the end of the week.
Utley took part in an XST game, one of the last ones in Florida for a couple weeks. It's the first indication that Utley is making real progress, beyond the fielding and hitting he's been doing over the course of the last month. Utley, like last year, is a real black box. Last year, he came back quickly once he deemed himself ready. Wasting at-bats on rehab doesn't make sense again this year. There are no indications whether Utley is ready to take his place, as well as no indications of what he'll need to do to prove that he's ready. It looks like the Phillies are letting him self-direct this, which makes sense on some level. Utley has been in charge of this process all along, so why change now?
The Tigers thought Martinez was done for the season. There's no question that the Prince Fielder signing was sparked in part by the injury to Martinez. It was only after that when the Tigers found out that the ACL wasn't quite as torn as everyone thought, that Martinez wouldn't need a full reconstruction. Instead, he had a microfracture surgery, which puts him in more unknown territory. There's still some question as to what exactly was done beyond the micro, but there's definitely a chance that Martinez is going to return this season for the Tigers. Martinez could be cleared to start baseball activities as soon as next week, though he's already throwing. Martinez could be in line for a return as soon as August, but any sort of expectation (including the ERD above) for him is unadulterated speculation. As easy as it is to dream on a Tigers lineup with Fielder, Martinez and Miguel Cabrera, we can't count on it just yet.
The Angels have had a hard time keeping their catchers healthy this year, something that has to be vexing to Mike Scioscia. Scioscia's durability isn't a teachable skill, apparently, though you'd think he'd be able to recognize it. Wilson is the latest to go down. After taking several fouls off his mask, Wilson felt "woozy." The Angels pushed him to the 7-day DL, a move that's essentially required once a player is diagnosed with a concussion. Wilson was a fill-in, himself, so if Hank Conger proves both healthy and productive (Conger is coming off an elbow injury that made Wilson the call-up when Chris Ianetta went down) then Wilson could easily find himself back in Salt Lake City.
This one sounds a lot more scary than it is. Niese was originally scheduled to have a procedure during the All-Star break that will correct his irregular heartbeat, but late word from the Mets indicates that this will now be taken care of in the offseason. Niese has had a couple episodes on the mound where his heart begins to race, a condition that is easily correctable. The procedure, called cardiac ablation, will thread a catheter into his heart and then destroy the part of the heart that is causing the arrhythmia. Yep, still sounds scary, but medical science is doing amazing things with hearts, such that Niese won't miss a start or have any real issues once he comes back.
Jeff Francis was cut loose by the Reds after Francis hit his release date without a call-up. The Reds rotation is decent enough without him, so it's a risk they were willing to take. Francis could end up back with the Rockies, where he originally injured his shoulder. Francis, like Brandon Webb, was just never able to get back to level after shoulder surgery. Much of the speculation about cause has focused on the "power sinker," which could put more pressure on the shoulder than other pitches. A sinker sounds like it would break down, but it actually breaks down and in. Think of it like a reverse slider. Because of that, the pitching arm has to pronate early, releasing the ball with the thumb turning down. It's a similar motion to the screwball, a pitch that's all but gone in baseball. The fact that Francis and others haven't come back from these shoulder surgeries makes Johan Santana even more of an interesting case. Teams will be watching to see how (and why) he holds up, though he's already been more successful than that entire bunch combined.
The draft went about to expectation in regards to the injury risks. Lucas Giolito dropped to the Nats, a team that certainly understands injured elbows ... Joe Mauer is expected back in the Twins lineup on Friday after missing a couple games with a sore thumb ... Chipper Jones could be back in the Braves lineup by this weekend. There have been whispers that another injury would lead to his retirement, but be clear that Jones wants to go out on his own terms. That means a run of health might lead to a retirement as well ... Desmond Jennings was activated by the Rays and back in the leadoff spot Tuesday. He should be activated in all formats ... Carlos Santana cleared all his concussion tests, had one rehab start, then was back in the Indians lineup on Tuesday. He went 0-4 as the DH ... Adam Jones was back in the lineup, but the increase in swing-and-miss has me a bit concerned about the wrist in the short term ... Jason Bay went 0-3 at St Lucie (A). He's expected to be activated, but his results in rehab have been poor ... Roy Oswalt made it through his first minor league outing and is on schedule for the next. One scout on hand told me that he thinks Oswalt is ready, aside from stamina ... Geovany Soto could head out on a rehab assignment by the weekend. He's a likely candidate to be traded once he proves he's healthy ... Scott Rolen is hitting off a tee. I'm sure it's just coincidence that the Reds have backed off looking at Kevin Youkilis and Chase Headley ... Brad Lidge's first outing at Potomac (A) didn't go well, but he'll need better results and back to back outings before he's activated. A long game in Washington might have the Nats needing some bullpen help sooner however. ... Brett Anderson is back throwing after he had a mild setback in his Tommy John rehab. He's on track for an August return ... Just to clarify, being "behind schedule" means nothing for a player. The public schedule and the team or the doctor's schedule are often two separate things. The public schedule, usually discussed here, is simply noting a change in expectations or being behind the average for that type of injury. Fantasy players should take the information seriously. Players themselves? Not so much.