MLB fantasy injury report

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The two most hilarious aspects to sports video games are the auto-generated draft pick names and the injury lists. How great is it to hit the 2011 offseason in Madden and scout guys like "Jordan Peyton" or "Walter Aromashodu." It seems every computer generated rookie is a combination of past and present player names. Cracks me up every time.

Even better is the injury list. Did you ever scan over the MLB 2K10 injury report at midseason? There always seems to be a disproportionate amount of one particular injury, like hip bursitis or elbow dislocation.

Lately, the real 2010 Major League Baseball season feels like some parallel bizzaro video game universe. How many guys have hit the DL with a thumb injury? Everyone's favorite post-hype sleeper Alex Gordon started the Year of the Thumb, and last week it claimed a handful of new victims.

Guys like the Yankees' Brett Gardner have played and played well through the pain, while players like Aramis Ramirez have struggled and found their way to the Disabled List.

Too bad the fantasy season doesn't have a reset option.

Jason Heyward, OF, Atlanta Braves

The headfirst slide has been the culprit in many a thumb injury. Heyward's damaged thumb goes all the way back to a headfirst slide on May 14. Just looking at the basic stats is enough to see that the star rookie has been struggling with the injury. On May 14 he was batting .299 with eight homers and 28 RBIs through 33 games. In the 38 games since, his average dropped to .251 and he has only hit three homers with 17 runs driven in. The Braves put him on the 15-day DL effective on June 27, and he will not be back until after the All-Star break. The injury is considered a deep bone bruise, and the thumb will be in a cast until July 5. Because it is only a bruise, as opposed to major structural damage, he should be able to make a full recovery and be ready for the second half of the season.

With Heyward out, and centerfielder Nate McClouth recovering from a concussion, Gregor Blanco will get most of the starts in centerfield. Blanco hit .500 with three runs scored in the Braves midweek series against the Washington Nationals. If you're desperate, Blanco can fill in for Heyward during the next week, he does have some speed. But there are probably better options on the Fantasy free agent market.

Chase Utley, 2B, Philadelphia Phillies

Like Heyward, Utley injured his thumb on a headfirst slide. Unlike Heyward, Utley's injury is going to take a little more than rest to heal. MLB Network's Peter Gammons broke the news that Utley will undergo surgery on his right thumb and miss five to six weeks. New York hand specialist Dr. Andrew Weiland evaluated the sprained ulner collateral ligament on Thursday and it appears that the All Star will not return until mid-August.

If the loss of Utley wasn't enough, the Phillies also placed third baseman Placido Polanco on the 15-day DL with elbow soreness. This is going to produce a ripple effect across the Fantasy playing field. Polanco and Utley were batting second and third for the Phillies, and the team has shuffled the batting order since the injuries. Jimmy Rollins dropped from leadoff to third; Shane Victorino moved from the bottom half of the order to the leadoff spot. The once balanced batting order now looks extremely top heavy, and Raul Ibanez's already diminishing fantasy value takes an even bigger hit. Of the three guys who will replace Polanco and Utley, third baseman Gregg Dobbs has some value in NL-only leagues (he does have some pop in his bat), while Wilson Valdez and Juan Castro should be avoided altogether.

Utley owners need to act fast to find a replacement. The second base free agent pool is drying up quickly, especially now that Boston's Dustin Pedroia is gone for six weeks with a fractured bone in his left foot. Tampa Bay's Sean Rodriquez is still available in more than 80 percent of Yahoo! fantasy leagues, and he hit .295 with four homers, 17 RBIs and six steals in June. Pittsburgh's Neil Walker is also an attractive replacement for Utley, Pedroia or Polanco. He's available in more than 90 percent of leagues, and he's eligible at 2B and 3B. In 28 games since being called up, he's hitting .295 with 15 runs scored. Right now, Walker is being held out of action due to a concussion. He's going to be re-examined in Pittsburgh on Monday.

Victor Martinez, C/1B, Red Sox

From bruised, to sprained, to fractured, the thumb injury has come in all shapes and sizes lately. Martinez's fractured thumb will not require surgery, and he's expected to return as soon as his 15-day DL period ends (stint began June 28). Fantasy owners could do a lot worse than adding Martinez's Red Sox replacement, Jason Varitek. He's batting .263 with seven home runs in 34 games. Additionally, as RotoExperts Associate Editor Brad Rysz mentioned in his T.I.P.S column this week, Ronny Paulino has been on fire lately and is only 14 percent owned.

Carlos Santana, C, Indians

If he's still available, Santana is a great fantasy replacement for Martinez; unfortunately he also has a case of thumbitis. Santana jammed his left thumb last Friday, but X-rays were negative and the injury hasn't held him out of any games. He's actually been on a tear since hurting his thumb, with a six-game hitting streak, two homers and five RBIs.

For now there's no reason to worry about the young catcher, but with the injury being on his glove hand, there is always a chance that he could aggravate it trying to catch a foul tip or a misplaced heater.

Aramis Ramirez, 3B, Chicago Cubs

Since coming off the DL June 25, Ramirez, the poster child for the thumb injury brigade, has shown signs of breaking out of his season-long slump. Ramirez has at least one hit in each of his last five games, and is hitting .317 during that stretch. He appears to be more comfortable at the plate and could be in line for a decent second half. Remember, he's only 32-years old and averaged 30-plus homers and more than 100 RBIs per season from 2004-08 (Also hit .317 with 15 homers in 82 games last year). He should be snatched off the waiver wire if he's still available. It's only a matter of time before he starts climbing up the RotoExperts Xclusive Edge Rankings.

The waiting is the hardest part for some of these injured players

It's not his thumb, but Brett Gardner returned to the Yankees' lineup after missing two games with a bruised wrist. ... Seattle pitcher Erik Bedard will make what is expected to be his final rehab start Thursday for Triple-A Tacoma. The team would like him to throw 85 pitches, and if all goes well he could be back in the Seattle rotation on Tuesday. ... Franklin Gutierrez left Wednesday's game and was scratched from the lineup Thursday. The Seattle outfielder is battling flu-like symptoms and is expected to return by the weekend. ... Rays outfielder Carl Crawford is still dealing with soreness in his left shoulder. He started in back-to-back games on Tuesday and Wednesday for the first time since aggravating the shoulder June 23. Crawford said it may, "Take a while before it starts feeling better." ... In his first start since going on the DL with a groin injury, the Dodgers Chad Billingsley pitched six innings and allowed two runs on five hits. ... Braves closer Billy Wagner couldn't pitch last Saturday due to a sore ankle, but he picked up a save on Wednesday. He's going to battle through the injury, but Pat Moylan or Takashi Saito could see a few save opportunities until Wagner is 100 percent. ... After a six inning Triple-A rehab start last Sunday, Rockies starter Jorge De La Rosa will make one more rehab appearance before joining the MLB club. ... The Mets will soon go from scrambling to find a viable centerfielder, to having to choose between two. Angel Pagan returned to the lineup Tuesday after missing five games with muscle spasms. Carlos Beltran (knee) is playing well during his rehab assignment and could be back shortly after the All-Star break. It's unlikely that Angel Pagan will lose his starting spot when Beltran returns, especially since Beltran's knee will limit his mobility. ... Cleveland Indians' shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera (fractured left forearm) hopes to start a rehab assignment after the All-Star break. He could return by late July.

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