July 09, 2010

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After being hammered by two weeks of Book of Eli DVD ads, I broke down and rented it last weekend. It's one of those flicks where the trailer makes you think, "Ehh, that looks OK, but hasn't Hollywood beat the post-Apocalyptic theme to death already."

Anyway, it's two hours of decent action with some Mila Kunis sprinkled in; so not too shabby if you're looking for mindless entertainment. There's one scene where Denzel Washington walks down the middle of the street in a crime-infested town while Gary Oldman's evil minions relentlessly shoot at him. Washington somehow emerges unscathed.

Many fantasy owners probably feel a bit like Washington as the All-Star break approaches. If they can just dodge the injury bullets for one more week, their players will finally get a chance to nurse their bumps and bruises for a few days. And also like Washington, who believes he is protected by a higher power, many fantasy owners find themselves praying to someone or something as their players work through these final games.

Kevin Youkilis tweaked his ankle Tuesday, but returned to the starting lineup Wednesday. Bullet dodged.

Aramis Ramirez missed a couple games when his injured thumb flared up over the weekend, but came back and hit a pair of homers in his next game. That shot was a little closer, but still missed.

Chicago White Sox starter Jake Peavy left his Tuesday start after an inning and a third with soreness in his back. His owners just barely dodged that bullet ... or maybe not. Peavy's injured right latissimus dorsi muscle quickly escalated from precautionary to probable 15-day disabled list trip to season-ending surgery. The injury is to the same muscle that Red Sox ace Josh Beckett aggravated while rehabbing his lower back injury. The difference is that Beckett's injury was a strain, while Peavy's latissimus dorsi is actually detached. This is a pretty rare injury, so Peavy will see a couple doctors, including Dr. James Andrews and Dr. Lewis Yocum, before he goes under the knife. As of Thursday morning, season-ending surgery was the most likely result.

This injury could not have come at a worse time for Peavy owners, as the former Cy Young Award winner allowed only seven earned runs in 37 2/3 innings pitched since the beginning of June.

Peavy owners should consider targeting Beckett. The Red Sox ace had a terrible start to the season before landing on the DL, but a lot of his struggles can be attributed to the back injury. On Tuesday Beckett threw a simulated game and he will pitch a Triple-A game this Sunday. The Red Sox plan to give Beckett at least two minor league starts before bringing him up to the big league club. He could be back by July 21.

Seattle's Erik Bedard is another buy-low Peavy replacement. However, Bedard looked a lot better last week at this time. Scheduled to make his first start of the season on Tuesday, Bedard experienced some discomfort in his shoulder following a bullpen session last Saturday and had to push his debut back ... again. He's still available in more than 50 percent of fantasy leagues, and should be back shortly after the All-Star break. (To see where Bedard and others rank, make sure to check out the RotoExperts Xclusive Edge Rankings.)

Maybe better than either of these two replacements is ...

Edinson Volquez, SP, Cincinnati Reds

Volquez will make one more rehab start before joining the Reds, which means he won't be back until after the All-Star game. It's been a turbulent couple years for the talented right-hander. He missed nearly all of 2009, underwent Tommy John surgery, and then got nailed with a 50-game suspension for performance enhancing drug use in April of 2010. Fortunately, Volquez served his suspension while on the DL, so it won't affect him once he's activated. He struggled with his command in a rehab start last Sunday, but he's been pretty impressive in his five rehab starts, posting a 1.88 ERA with 19 strikeouts and five walks. His velocity has also been solid. He's available in more than 80 percent of fantasy leagues, and has the potential to be a top tier starter.

Yovanni Gallardo, SP, Milwaukee Brewers

Gallardo owners took a hit this week, although it appears the first-time All Star will be able to come off the DL as early as July 20. The right-hander strained his left oblique in the third inning of his July 4 start. Based on the way the team doctors have described the injury, the DL move is simply a precautionary measure. With the All-Star break, the stint will only cost Gallardo one start. There's no reason to pick up his Brewers replacement, Doug Davis, even though Davis will face Pittsburgh at home this Friday, and he has a 3.44 career Earned Run Average at Miller Park.

Clay Buchholz, SP, Boston Red Sox

Sidelined since June 26 with a strained left hamstring, it looks like Buchholz could be ready to take the mound on July 16. On Wednesday, Buchholz threw a 44-pitch bullpen session. He will have to continue to pass agility drills, but it looks like the Sox and his fantasy owners will have him back next week. For those managers in AL-only leagues, Felix Doubront is at least temporarily still with the club, although he will probably work out of the bullpen once Buchholz returns.

Shin Soo-Choo, OF, Cleveland Indians

It wouldn't be 2010 if we didn't have one more thumb injury before the All-Star game. Choo sprained his thumb while diving for a ball last Friday and has been placed on the 15-day DL retroactive to July 3. If the thumb requires surgery, Choo will be out six-to-eight weeks and would probably be back by September at the earliest. On Tuesday the Indians received good news when a doctor informed them that Choo could avoid surgery, which would allow him to come back sooner. Choo will wear a splint for the next week to ten days, and then be re-evaluated. This is a big blow to Choo's fantasy owners. The outfielder was posting solid numbers in five categories, so finding a comparable replacement will be nearly impossible. Angel Pagan is close to Choo in everything except home runs and he's only owned in 39 percent of leagues. The concern with Pagan is that he could lose his center field spot to Carlos Beltran when Beltran returns.

The Mets are saying that Beltran will be back July 15, their first game following the All-Star break. The plan is to have him play back-to-back games and then sit out the third. As productive as Pagan has been, it would be surprising to see him out of the lineup completely. He'll likely find plenty of playing time spread around the three outfield spots.

Other Choo replacements to consider, if they are available, are Aubrey Huff and Josh Willingham.

The All-Star break will help many of these players down the road to recovery.

It wasn't too long ago that Jordan Zimmerman was considered the future of the Washington Nationals' rotation (they have some new guy now). Tommy John surgery slowed the 24-year-old's progress, but it appears he's nearing a return. Zimmerman made his first rehab start of 2010 on Saturday, and while he only threw 25 pitches his velocity was in the mid-90s. He could be back by September. ... Braves rookie Jason Heyward (bone bruise, thumb) could resume batting practice this weekend and as of Thursday morning had not been officially ruled out of the All-Star Game. The outfielder should be back immediately after the break. ... Luckily for the Red Sox, when catcher Victor Martinez hit the DL with a broken thumb, Jason Varitek was ready to jump in. Varitek was batting .263 with seven homers in only 95 at-bats, so he was also a solid fantasy replacement as well. That warm and fuzzy situation only lasted a few games. Varitek is now on the DL with a broken left foot and will not be back for six to eight weeks. Martinez is eligible to come off the DL for the team's July 15 game, but it's unclear whether he'll make it back right away. If you're desperate for a catcher, Chris Iannetta has been red hot lately, with a homer in each of his last three games along with six RBIs in that time frame. He's available in almost every league. ... Philadelphia second baseman Chase Utley believes that he can get back in the starting lineup before the estimated eight week recovery period is up. Utley sprained his right thumb and underwent surgery to repair it last Thursday. ... Tigers reliever Joel Zumaya is out for the season after fracturing a bone in his elbow on June 28. ... Toronto starter Shaun Marcum will throw a bullpen session this Saturday and then relax during the All-Star break. The Blue Jays placed him on the DL last Friday after he experienced discomfort in his elbow. The best-case scenario is a July 18 return date. ... Asdrubal Cabrera will begin a rehab assignment shortly after the All-Star break. The Indians are hopeful to have him in the lineup before the end of July. ... John McDonald of the Blue Jays accidentally kneed Twins first baseman Justin Morneau in the head on Wednesday. Morneau is day-to-day with a mild concussion. He missed Thursday's game, and he could miss the All-Star Game as well, but that should be the extent of his absence. McDonald's knee is fine.

Need accurate and up-to-date daily and weekly player rankings? Check out RotoExperts' Xclusive Edge Rankings.

Have injury questions? E-mail Nate at natepigott@rotoexperts.com or follow him on Twitter @RotoExpertNate.

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