July 16, 2010

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I don't get out to a lot of live theater, and I'm more of a silver-screen kind of guy anyway. However, one live theater policy I wish movie cinemas would adopt (or re-adopt) is the intermission. I went to see Iron Man 2 recently, and, of course, I was suckered into buying the large soda/large popcorn combo package. Three previews in and I managed to suck down about 60 ounces of the 96-ounce beverage. Then about two-thirds of the way through the flick, it hit me. Meanwhile, Don Cheadle is in the middle of transforming into the second Iron Man. (Sorry about the mild spoiler alert, but it's not the Sixth Sense or anything. That was just a minor detail that you probably figured out by watching any trailer. Oh yeah, Gwyneth Paltrow was dead the entire time.)

"I can't go to the bathroom now! Cheadle's got to snap Robert Downey, Jr. out of his funk!"

Had there been an intermission, I could have avoided all the restroom conflict. Everyone in the theater could have taken a break and prepared for the second half of the film.

That's one of the nice things about the MLB All-Star Game. It gives everyone - fans, players, managers -- a chance to regroup and get ready for the second half of the season. Fantasy owners get three days to evaluate their rosters without any moving parts.

The break is also a time where you don't have to worry about picking up any new injuries (for the most part that is). Just like an intermission, you can walk away for a little bit, and not have to worry about missing much, if anything.

Now that the intermission is over, and everyone's had a chance to look over their fantasy rosters, here are some injured fantasy stars that could help or hinder your team as the film that is the 2010 MLB season approaches its climatic ending.

Carlos Beltran, OF, New York Mets

Heee's Baa-aack. Finally, after months of speculation, Beltran will join the Mets and immediately start in center field. Considering that Beltran had microfracture surgery on his knee in January, it's pretty impressive to see him back on the field in July. Sure, some microfracture patients can recover in 3-to-4 months. On the other hand, this type of surgery can end an athlete's career.

Playing with a knee that isn't 100 percent and wearing a brace is definitely going to slow Beltran on the basepaths. The good news is that he will bat cleanup, at least to start, and that's a productive spot in the Mets lineup. The somewhat bad news is that he'll only play three games in a row before resting, and he'll also sit during day games after playing a night game. He's by no means a "must-start" in mixed leagues, but he should be a reliable fourth or fifth outfielder.

Additionally, Angel Pagan owners can let out a sigh of relief. Pagan will move to right field and Jeff Francoeur will be the fourth outfielder. Between playing right and filling in at center when Beltran sits, Pagan will continue to get regular playing time. Pagan was a Top 20 outfielder in the first half of the season, yet he's owned in less than 50 percent of all Yahoo! leagues. Unless your league rewards negative points for stolen bases, high batting averages, runs scored and RBIs, Pagan should be added immediately.

Edinson Volquez, SP, Cincinnati Reds

Here's the line on Volquez in his six minor-league rehab starts: 31.0 innings pitched, four wins, 28 strikeouts, eight walks, 1.45 earned run average, 97 miles per hour on the radar gun, two turtle doves and a partridge in a pear tree.

On Saturday, he's set to start for the National League Central-leading Reds. The team with the most runs scored in the NL. Volquez won 17 games in 2008, with a 3.21 ERA and a 9.46 strikeouts per nine innings.

There's no reason to be worried about his surgically repaired elbow. His velocity is up and he threw 102 pitches in his final rehab start. There may be some questions about his command (the 102 pitches were in seven innings, and only 62 went for strikes), but for your fantasy dollar, there probably isn't a better value out there right now. In close to 75 percent of Yahoo! leagues, Volquez can be added for the low price of a free agent move.

Brian Roberts, 2B, Baltimore Orioles

There were a few points in 2010 where Roberts seemed like a lost cause. Struggling with back and abdominal issues, Roberts has only played in four games. Actually, four games are four more than I can remember him playing. It now appears that the two-time All Star is only a couple short weeks away from his return.

Roberts recently told the media that he expects to be back by August 1. He started a rehab assignment this Monday. On Wednesday, he took a scheduled day off after going 5-for-6 in two games with the Orioles' rookie league squad. He's expected to make the jump to Double-A ball next week.

Fantasy owners who have held onto Roberts may finally see some production for their loyalty, just be aware that he has suffered multiple setbacks so far, and the team could be extra cautious with him moving forward. He's still floating around on 35-percent of leagues.

Troy Tulowitzki, SS, Colorado Rockies

Tulowitzki was a Top 5 fantasy shortstop before landing on the Disabled List with a fractured wrist nearly a month ago. Fantasy owners who were able to snatch up Clint Barmes have been able to weather the storm, as Barmes has hit .322 with 17 Runs and 11 RBIs in the past month.

Unfortunately, the cozy security that was Barmes is unraveling. Barmes is a pretty streaky player, and it appears his hot streak is cooling. He' 5-for-19 in his last six games and hasn't had an extra-base hit since July 1. He's still an acceptable fill-in in deeper leagues, but Tulowitzki can't get back soon enough.

On Monday, Tulowitzki announced that he thinks he'll be out between 2-to-5 more weeks. He will start taking batting practice soon, and if all goes well he could head off to a rehab assignment. The Rockies won't rush their All Star back, but at the same time, they can't be too conservative as they continue to hunt for a playoff spot. He should be back by early August.

Injury, rehab, and return news from the All-Star break.

The Royals scratched ace Zack Greinke from his start last Sunday due to discomfort in the back of his right shoulder. While the team labels the move precautionary, his fantasy owners should be on high alert. ... Chase Utley still hopes to return at the low end of his 6-to-8 week timetable. He had thumb surgery on July 1. ... Shaun Marcum (elbow) threw a bullpen session last Sunday and announced that he is ready to return to the Toronto rotation. Sunday, July 18 against Baltimore is the most likely return date. ... Jacoby Ellsbury (ribs) is still a couple weeks away from rejoining the Red Sox. The outfielder has only played in nine games this year, and just resumed baseball activities. ... Boston has more than their fair share of injuries right now. Catcher Victor Martinez will have his fractured left thumb X-rayed Thursday. Originally, he hoped to come off the DL after the All-Star break, but now it looks like the beginning of August. ... Meanwhile, his backup, Jason Varitek, will be out until mid-August with a broken foot. ... There's some good news on second baseman Dustin Pedroia's foot. On Friday, he will have another CT scan on his broken foot. If the bone has healed enough that it's not in danger of suffering further damage, he could start baseball related activities. He and the team hold out hope for a return during the Sox upcoming West Coast trip. ... Braves rookie Jason Heyward (thumb) returned to the lineup Thursday. ... Manny Acta, manager of the Indians, said outfielder Shin Soo-Choo might play before the end of the month. That is way ahead of the 6-to-8 weeks time frame originally anticipated. ... Rich Harden's gluteal strain is healing, and he could return as early as July 21. ... At this point, don't believe any report on Erik Bedard until you see the guy pitch in an MLB game. He's not expected to be ready for the upcoming series with the Angels. ... Justin Morneau did not return to the Twins lineup on Thursday, more than a week after suffering a concussion. ... Finally, the Josh Beckett watch. Beckett will start Saturday for Triple-A Pawtucket. He could pitch for the Sox as early as next Thursday.

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

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