The term "blessing in disguise" usually gives me heartburn. Because more often than not the "blessing" is a not so gentle reminder that something wasn't working in the first place.
For example, try telling a Philadelphia Flyers fan that losing in the Stanley Cup finals was a blessing in disguise because the front office will realize how close they are and will acquire players to fill their needs. I doubt that Flyers fans will appreciate your attempt to comfort them.
Fantasy managers, who lose struggling players due to injury, do not want to read something like, "Aramis Ramirez's trip to the Disabled List will be a blessing in disguise, because it will give the struggling third baseman a chance to rest."
No, a true blessing would be if Ramirez could have hit better than .168 through 47 games this season. The only benefit from this injury is that Ramirez no longer has to occupy a bench spot, and can be placed on the fantasy DL. It's hard to just drop Ramirez outright (he's still owned in 70 percent of Yahoo! leagues). He's only 31, and he's a third baseman whose average usually hovers around .300 with 30 home run power.
Ramirez's thumb will keep him out until late June, and Jeff Baker will get most of the starts at third. Baker's numbers aren't fantastic, but they are better than what Ramirez was doing. Quality third base free agents are few and far between, but a safe addition is Houston's Jeff Keppinger, who's available in over 80 percent of leagues and is eligible at 3B, SS and 2B. (Check out where Baker and Keppinger rank in the RotoExperts' Xclusive Edge Rankings.)
I'm not sure that a lot of Ramirez owners feel blessed.
Brett Gardner, OF, New York Yankees
Thumb injuries seem to be all the rage lately, and Gardner joined the party on Wednesday. While X-rays on Gardner's thumb were negative, he will undergo an MRI on Friday, which will limit him to pinch hitting duties on Thursday. Everything seems very minor at this point; however, there are a couple scary aspects to this injury. First, it's the same thumb that he fractured last season, causing him to miss 40 games. He admits that the thumb has given him problems off-and-on throughout 2010, but the pain usually subsides the next day. Not this time. Gardner left Tuesday's game with soreness, and woke up in pain on Wednesday. Second, X-rays didn't show a fracture, but Ramirez's thumb isn't fractured and it has negatively affected his ability to grip a bat.
Consider Gardner red flagged for the next couple of weeks. Even if he doesn't hit the DL, the injury might hinder his grip on the bat. Fantasy managers may want to make sure they have a competent backup outfielder on the bench.
Grady Sizemore, OF, Cleveland Indians
Sizemore's injury story this season began like Gardner's, as a cautionary tale. Obviously, an injured thumb is much different than knee problems, but nobody really expected Sizemore's season to end. However, after microfracture surgery on Friday, Sizemore's '10 season is over. Not only that, but his status as a fantasy keeper took a major hit.
Let's be clear, there have been athletes who have had successful careers after micro fracture surgery. The NBA's Amar'e Stoudemire comes to mind. Therefore, this doesn't necessarily mark the end of Sizemore's elite athletic ability. Yet, the odds are stacked against him coming back and returning to his pre-'09 form right away. Therefore, it's safe to drop Sizemore in keeper and dynasty leagues.
Jacoby Ellsbury, OF, Boston Red Sox
Sticking with the speedy American League outfielder theme, Ellsbury got a second opinion on his ribs from Dr. Lewis Yocum this week. Dr. Yocum recommended more rest for Ellsbury, and it could be another two weeks until he returns. Ellsbury originally injured himself on April 11 (it was so long ago that the 2010 NBA playoffs hadn't even started yet). It seems like every week I report that he is close to returning, only to learn something new immediately after this column posts. At this point, don't believe anything until Ellsbury is not only activated, but until he's played five or six games without discomfort. [Editor's note: After this column was submitted further fractures were discovered. The timetable shouldn't change drastically, but it does explain the continued pain.]
With Sizemore out for the year, Ellsbury resting and Gardner's status up in the air, fantasy owners may need a short-term source of steals. I've always advocated Sizemore's Cleveland replacement, Trevor Crowe. The guy has seven steals in 25 games, and is available in nearly every fantasy league. Also, watch Pittsburgh's Jose Tabata. Tabata had 25 steals for Triple-A Indianapolis, and stole a bag in his first game with the Pirates. He's available in more than 95 percent of Yahoo! leagues.
Huston Street, RP, Colorado Rockies
Another frequent mention in this column, Huston Street is finally closing in on his return. Street, who went on the DL with a shoulder injury and then strained his groin while rehabbing his shoulder, will throw in back-to-back Triple-A games on Thursday and Friday. Barring any setbacks, he'll be activated from the DL either Sunday or Tuesday. Street's return doesn't necessarily mark the end of Manny Corpas' days as a closer. As the great Ron Shandler from Baseball HQ said during this week's Xperts Edge radio show, Street probably won't be up to full strength for at least a month. At the very least, Corpas will get an occasional save opportunity. If Street struggles, Corpas will get more opportunities. Hold onto him.
Miguel Montero, C, Arizona Diamondbacks
There is a reason why Montero was drafted in nearly 100 percent of fantasy leagues. So I'm not sure why he is currently available in more than half of those leagues. Montero is expected to join the Diamondbacks this weekend, and if you can still grab him off the free agent wire, do it. His knee is healthy, and according to Arizona manager A.J. Hinch, he's only dealing with general baseball soreness due to his extended spring training and Triple-A rehab assignments. This may be your last chance to get a pre-season Top 10 catcher for free.
Jon Rauch, RP, Minnesota Twins
I don't like to sound the injury alarm on a player unless there is a significant reason. So I'd like to apologize if I created any panic with my opinion on Rauch last week. His hamstring injury and decreased performance scared me a little bit, but since June 4, he has picked up two saves in two opportunities and the hamstring seems to be a thing of the past.
Injuries are a blessing in disguise for a team's training staff who would be out of a job if everyone were healthy. Here are some players keeping physical therapists busy this week.
The road to recovery for Angels first baseman Kendry Morales began Thursday when he underwent surgery on his broken left ankle. At the earliest, Morales can make it back by the end of August, but we will not know for sure until sometime after the surgery. ... Blue Jays outfielder Travis Snider is experiencing some pain in his injured wrist and is still a couple weeks away from returning. Before landing on the DL, Snider was tearing it up in May with three homers, 10 RBIs and two steals. He's a free agent worth adding to the fantasy watch list. ... Another young outfielder nearing a return is San Diego's Kyle Blanks. He is due back next week, and is an OK fantasy option for teams that are high on batting average but low on power. ... The Pittsburgh Pirates are being extremely cautious with catcher Ryan Doumit after he complained about headaches earlier in the week. Doumit has a history of concussions and a foul tip of the mask created some concussion-like symptoms. He should be back Thursday or Friday and long-term effects are not expected. ... The Tigers were being careful with Magglio Ordonez after he suffered an oblique strain earlier in the week. He's expected to return to the lineup Thursday. ... People anxiously awaiting the return of Orioles second baseman Brian Roberts will have to keep waiting, maybe until 2011. Roberts had to stop all baseball activities and undergo more testing on his ailing back. More will be known after doctor's get test results. ... After the Red Sox shut him down for 10 days, Josh Beckett (back) is scheduled to throw a side session on Saturday. It will be at least a week until he throws off a mound, and until he does, I'm not going to make any return predictions. ... Texas outfielder Nelson Cruz is expected to come off the DL next Tuesday. His hamstring isn't 100 percent, but he's headed for a rehab assignment this weekend. ... Chipper Jones' finger injury is healing slowly, and the Braves star is still playing through the pain. He's probably a bench option until he shows signs that his finger isn't bothering him (In other words, bench him until his batting average hits .250 and he hits a couple dingers). ... Carlos Beltran has played extended spring training and has taken live batting practice within the last week. There's still a long, unpredictable path for recovery, so don't expect him back before the All-Star break. ... Surgery on Justin Duchscherer's hip went well. His 2010 season is in the bag, but this is good news for his return in 2011. ... The Mets Alex Cora will see most of his time at second base while Luis Castillo recovers from a bruised heel. Cora is a must add in 30-team NL-only leagues.
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