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Under The Knife: Longoria nearing return, though on a limited basis

I keep looking at various Olympians and thinking why some team doesn't take a chance on some of them. They have obvious athletic gifts, solid work ethics, and there are some clear overlaps. Fast is fast, and while Usain Bolt isn't likely to end up the next Herb Washington, what about someone like Justyn Warner? Warner didn't make the 100 meter finals, but his 10.09 would translate pretty well to baseball's more common 60 times. The Blue Jays could sign him relatively cheaply and have their own Billy Hamilton (minus the fielding and baseball experience.) What about a long jumper, who could become a fence-climbing home run stealer? A javelin thrower who could try his hand with a smaller projectile and no run-up? Baseball is seldom a game of innovations, but at the same time, it's a game that loves finding small advantages. When the Olympic torch goes out, MLB could do well to learn from the development, science, and maybe even buy some of that talent.

Powered by a nice test drive of the Scion FR-S this weekend, on to the injuries:

The Rays could have Longoria back by Tuesday, though the key is having him for the long haul once he's back. The hamstring hasn't been tested much during his rehab stint in Durham (AAA), with regular rest and playing DH only. That's by design, as there are rumblings that Longoria could be limited to DH for at least a while, if not the rest of the season. Longoria played on Sunday ahead of an exam with the Rays medical staff and brain trust. The results of that exam, as well as some behind the scenes meetings on just how to deal with his limitations, will determine whether he's activated. Joe Maddon assessed it at 50-50, but it's a bit better than that. Weekly league players should hold off on him, since there is some recurrence risk and he will rest more in the first couple weeks he's back.

Could a HBP really throw off the hard work of a surgeon? That question is one without a real answer, though the anecdotal evidence with Berkman leans towards "yes, it can." It's not so much the actual trauma, but the related pain, inflammation and the inevitable cascade. The slightest changes are adjusted to by the body, sometimes in ways that end up even more injurious. The body is designed for survival, not for optimal sports performance. Berkman's oft-repaired knee spiraled to the point where he needed at least a month off after a HBP. The swelling is both the cause and the effect here, so while the Cards' medical staff couldn't get the swelling out while Berkman continued to play, a couple weeks could be just the thing to get him back on the field. Berkman will become less risky when rosters expand, which is just about when it looks like he'll be back.

I don't pretend I'm always right. But it doesn't take any sort of clairvoyance to know that when a catcher comes up with plantar fasciitis, it's not going to go well in the short term. Ruiz has fought through injuries but this latest is one that he just couldn't fight through. A torn muscle in the foot doesn't sound like good news, but a strain is something that heals in a more predictable fashion than dealing with the lingering issue of plantar fasciitis. It's unclear if Ruiz is dealing with a the strain instead of the inflammation or the strain as well as the inflammation, but either way, missing the next six weeks at minimum takes the shine off a career year. With the Phillies selling off players and admitting they're not contenders, they may decide to shut down Ruiz if it doesn't look like he'll be back for meaningful time. It will already be tough for him to catch any rehab time, since the minor league regular season ends in early September.

The initial reports on Garza were that the triceps strain was as minor as it comes. As the week has gone by and Garza missed a start as well as having two poor side sessions, it's clear there was more to it. One source minimized the injury, asking if I was being spun, which admittedly happens, especially around the trading deadline. I won't detail the conversation or the results, but I evaluate the information I am given and endeavor to make sure that you always get the best information. Garza heads to the DL after those side sessions showed he wasn't ready now to start again. It's a retro move, so he could be back before long, but with the Cubs moves, the biggest motivation is to have him back in time to make a potential waiver deal possible before that deadline passes.

Bonifacio is a lot more important to fantasy players than he is to real baseball, being one of the few true speed threats and carrying multiple position eligibility. The worry has always been with his legs and the ability of his bat to carry him. This season, it's been his thumb that's the problem. A severe sprain necessitated surgery that cost him a month and a half, but it only took a couple weeks before he re-injured the same thumb. The initial worry was that he'd undone the fix and would need more surgery, but it appears that it's merely a moderate sprain and that the surgery held. Bonifacio is still going to miss significant time, but it could be as little as a couple weeks. His 30 steals are probably still enough to keep him high in many drafts next season.

A fractured back sounds bad, but Friedrich isn't facing the kind of danger that his teammate Juan Nicasio faced with his cervical fracture. Friedrich has a very small fracture of the vertebrae, much in the same way that several other players have had over the past few seasons. The best comp is Clay Buchholz, who lost much of the 2011 season but has come back to be physically solid. Friedrich's injury was a cascade injury, the result of him altering his delivery after being hit on the leg by a comebacker. He wasn't protected by the Rockies' modified four-man rotation, or by observation, or by any sort of biomechanical data. Instead, the Rockies didn't know until his back was broken -- quite literally -- and his arm was lost to them. If that's not a cry for a better system, I don't know what is.

No, Justin Gatlin isn't going to play baseball, despite my suggestion above. The bronze medalist in the 100m is a convicted doping offender, though he still hasn't admitted to the use of testosterone. Gatlin served his suspension and returned to the sport, getting a third* chance that most baseball players haven't received, even those who were just are suspected of use and even those that may have used before PEDs were even banned in baseball, such as Mark McGwire. The interesting point is that Gatlin ran a 9.85 for Olympic gold in 2004, during the period where he was found to be using. In the London final, he finished with a 9.79. My question is if Gatlin can be just as fast without steroids -- and he has not tested positive for any banned substance since returning from suspension -- isn't the lesson that we should take away that PEDs don't work? I've long felt that we've done a disservice by giving PEDs some mystic power. Gatlin's gift to us might be in proving they're not worth the risks. (* Gatlin was also suspended in 2001 for use of amphetamines.)

Josh Beckett will make his next start on Wednesday, against the Rangers. Don't think that matchup is coincidence ... The Red Sox aren't detailing what the "minor leg injury" that kept Jacoby Ellsbury out was, but one source told me it was a bruise. He was back on Sunday and showed no ill effects ... Andrew Bailey isn't where he wants to be yet, but he's hitting 93, making his pitches, and moving up to a high minor affiliate this week. He could be in Boston by next week ... David Ortiz will have an anti-inflammatory injection in hope of getting past a plateau in his Achilles rehab ... Johan Santana will go about 45-50 pitches in his rehab start at Brooklyn (A). Combined with some side work, the Mets will have him at 90-100, so that they're sure he's ready to come back and throw normally for the Mets. The first part worked as planned, going three solid innings ... AJ Griffin left his start after just an inning with shoulder tightness. A quick MRI showed no serious damage, but the A's won't risk things. He'll shift to the DL ... Michael Cuddyer hits the DL with a strained oblique. The Rockies don't think he'll miss much more than the minimum ... Brett Lawrie is expected back on Tuesday, but rib injuries tend to linger, so be careful of putting him right back in the lineup ... Troy Tulowitzki is making progress, taking grounders and working on lateral movement. He's at least two weeks away, though the Rockies are still thinking about shutting him down ... Ted Lilly was scratched from a rehab start. With the trades the team has made, he may be shut down ... Jeff Niemann will head out on a rehab assignment mid-week. He will have a spot in the rotation when he returns ... Brian Roberts had surgery on his hip's labrum. Several players have come back from this without issues, so Roberts could return if he wished in '13 ... Josh Hamilton's admission that he's been struggling with the effects of tobacco withdrawl is interesting. His is both a physical and a spiritual issue, given that he's said there's more issue with his "disobedience" than with the symptoms. It's hard to say how those physical symptoms would affect his hitting, but the hope is that the other controllable issues can help him help the Rangers again.

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