No Way Jose

I thought dudes with spider web tattoos on their elbow were supposed to be tough
Photo Credit: slgc

Fantasy Baseball’s top Shortstop (and top five overall player) Jose Reyes has been shelved with a strained hamstring and your favorite physical therapist will give his masterful take on it. I’ll also touch upon two hobbled Phillies in Placido Polanco and Shane Victorino as well as the latest Twins player to bite the dust, Scott Baker (there’s a new one every damn week). And for the deep leaguers out there (and foot fetishists), I’ll also discuss Charlie Blackmon. I promise I’ll do better than my Pujols prediction (seriously, that guy is a T2000 or something), so let’s get after it.

Jose Reyes has been diagnosed with a grade 1 left hamstring strain. If you own him on your fantasy team you’ve probably been diagnosed with clinical depression after hearing “Reyes” and “hamstring” in the same sentence (if you owned him last year you’re probably still on Prozac and/or suicide watch). Reyes has been nothing short of spectacular this season as he plays for a new contract (or perhaps a ticket out of NY?), and it’s reported this injury will sideline him at least three weeks, however I expect a bit longer.

This is a good news and bad news situation. The good news is that a grade 1 strain, as I’ve explained in prior posts, is the least severe form of muscle strain and the typical recovery time for a hamstring can be anywhere from one to four weeks depending on the location and sport/activity involved. It’s also good news that the injury occurred in Reyes’ left hamstring as it was his right hamstring that caused so many problems for him last season. The bad news is that hamstring injuries are notorious for lingering and being easy to re-aggravate (Nelson Cruz, Reyes last year among numerous examples), and while this is Reyes’ left hammy, he’s already shown us in the past with his right side that he’s slow to heal in this area and susceptible to re-injuries. Reyes’ explosive and speed-based style of play also makes this injury tricky to manage, and for Reyes to be Reyes he’ll need his hamstrings to be 100%.

So how do I see it playing out? I think Reyes will miss about a month (four weeks), which is a bit longer than projected but certainly much less time than he missed last year. Knowing it’s a grade 1 strain and knowing that this is not his right side make me optimistic he can return without any additional setbacks. As with any muscle injuries, it’ll be critical that Reyes is not rushed back to action to soon. If he or the team try to push too hard to get him back on the field, it’s likely he’ll re-injure the hamstring and miss even more time (or cause more significant damage). With rumors swirling that the Mets are conducting secret negotiations on a long-term deal for Reyes, the last thing they want to do is rush him back and risk a major injury. Even if the Mets intend on trading him, his asking price will be lower until he’s healthy. No matter how you slice it, getting him healthy will be the top priority for all parties involved. So again, barring blatant stupidity while rehabbing from the injury (certainly possible with the NY Mets), I would expect Reyes back in about a month, and he should be firing on all cylinders. You got the stones to try and buy low on him?

Placido Polanco has been dealing with an ailing back since May, and while he hasn’t yet hit the DL, news surfaced today that he’s been diagnosed with a bulging disc in his lower back. While it’s commendable that Polanco has manned-up and played through the injury, it’s pretty obvious that he’s not helping himself or his team (real or fantasy) by continuing to play. I’ve discussed bulging discs before in my take on Roy Oswalt, so I’ll spare the lengthy description again, but I will reiterate that disc bulges can vary in severity and different people respond in different ways: what causes debilitating pain or function loss in one person can be totally symptom free in another.

Polanco’s bulging disc is a major concern for me after hearing some of his symptoms. Much like Oswalt (and Justin Morneau), Polanco is has experienced not only pain but neurological (nerve) symptoms such as numbness, tingling and motor (strength) loss. This would indicate to me that the disc bulge is either directly compressing the nerves coming out of his spine or is inflaming the soft tissue around these nerves and thus irritating them. This will not get better if he continues to abuse the area by playing. He needs to rest and allow things to settle down and then undergo a rehab course focused on core stabilization exercises and perhaps some directional preference maneuvers to help mobilize the disc back to where it belongs. Conservative treatment could take anywhere from 2-6 weeks, and if that fails he’ll be looking at surgery.

As of this writing the team hopes Polanco can play this weekend (and the All-Star game next week). That’s completely foolish. It’s not like this guy is tearing the cover off the ball, he’s hitting .216 since early May and has been missing games here and there ever since. Common sense dictates that they bite the bullet and DL the guy. As a fantasy manager, you can only hope Polanco and Phillies come to their senses and shut him down until his symptoms subside. If he’s given proper rest and rehab, there’s a decent chance he can recover to the point of being the above average player we’re used to seeing. If he continues to play hurt it’s likely his production will remain sub-standard and he risks further injuries. We’ll see if common sense prevails or if everyone in Philly truly is a moron.

Shane Victorino was recently DL’d with a grade 1 sprain of his right thumb. Victorino was selected in the final fan vote for the All-Star game, but obviously he won’t make the trip. Again, a grade 1 sprain (sprain refers to ligaments, strain to muscles) is the least severe grade, so a 2-4 week recovery can be expected here. The Phillies contemplated whether or not to actually place the Flyin’ Hawaiian on the DL, which under normal circumstances would suggest it’s very mild injury and thus a good sign; however, this is the Phillies we’re talking about and as we’ve seen with Polanco you have to be wheelchair bound to land on the DL as a position player in Philadelphia. While thumb injuries have a reputation for reducing a player’s hitting power, Victorino’s sprain is of the mildest variety, and barring a setback or misinformation in regards to the injury severity, I don’t foresee any lingering issues here. I’d expect Shane back in 2-3 weeks, meaning shortly after he’s eligible to return.

Scott Baker, the 109th Twins player to hurt himself this year, has been shut down temporarily with a mild flexor strain in his pitching elbow. If that injury sounds familiar, it’s because it’s pretty much the same diagnosis Jose Contreras had earlier this year. Contreras hit the DL for a month originally, then came back for a few weeks and promptly re-injured his forearm. Once again, I’m pretty sure I told you Jose Contreras’ season might be lost way back in April (you know I love to say I told you so!). As of this writing, the Twins are calling it a mild strain and they are hopeful Baker will only need to skip in his next start, get a few extra days with the All-Star Break and be back by his next turn in the rotation.

I find this line of thinking extremely optimistic, especially with the Twins luck with injuries this year. Yes, if the strain is as mild as reported, it is possible Baker will be just fine. It’s not out of the ordinary to have some muscle soreness throwing a baseball for a living, and a week or so off might be just what the doctor ordered. The Contreras situation does however show us how forearm strains in a pitcher’s throwing arm can be much more serious and the potential for significant time missed is very high. Baker of course is about 40 years younger than Contreras and that always helps, but tread cautiously here. If I owned Baker and he is able to recover fairly quickly and return to the mound with the same effectiveness he’s shown recently, I’d look to deal him. Baker is no stranger to arm troubles and I simply don’t trust him. Yes, he’s now officially on the Don Brown Do Not Trust List ®, which is often a kiss of death, just ask Chase Utley, Josh Johnson, Adam Wainwright, Brad Lidge, Brandon Lyon, Francisco Liriano, Grady Sizemore…etc. My Twins homerism hopes he’ll be fine, my stunning intellect thinks he might not be. Let’s go homerism!

Finally, Charlie Blackmon, the white version of what Dexter Fowler was supposed to be, will no longer be hitting leadoff in Colorado after fracturing his foot. I haven’t been able to find specifics regarding what he fractured exactly, but the team is reporting that Blackmon will miss at least 6-8 weeks, and surgery is a possibility. That last part is the kicker here. If surgery is being entertained already, you can bet the fracture is either large and/or in a tricky spot, such as on or near a joint surface. With Blackmon’s youth on his side, perhaps a speedier recovery is possible, but you can bet the Rockies will not rush him back. Pull out a calendar and you can see for yourself, Blackmon won’t be back until mid to late August at the soonest, and if he doesn’t show adequate healing along the way he’ll go under the knife to presumably fixate the fracture with plates and screws and such, and that would cost him the season. Even in a deep league I would have no problems cutting Charlie outright. Foot injuries tend to heal slowly and can be much more serious than you think, just look at Jason Kubel (didn’t I warn you about him too?). Even if Blackmon returns this year, do you think he’ll be stealing bases with the same frequency or effectiveness? Probably not.

Hopefully you learned a few things today and remember, as always, if you have any additional questions feel free to throw it in the comments section and further the conversation or shoot me an email if you’re the private type. Have a nice weekend!

Don Brown is the resident Physical Therapist here at SoR. He takes care of all our knife wounds and shares his expertise on the injuries of the sporting world. For any further questions or comments, he can be reached at

Past Injury Analysis
J.Morneau, R.Oswalt, S.Choo, J.Sanchez, R.Madson [Mor-Nooooooo!]
T.Hanson, J.Lowrie, D.Barney, A.Craig, J.Johnson, B.Lyon [Hurtin’ Hillbillies]
M.Prado, J.Morneau, J.Kubel, K.McClellan, A.Soriano, B.Belt [Prado is Dirty]
Buster Posey, Wandy Rodriguez [Busted]
Josh Johnson [JJ Sleeps with the Fishes]
Chipper, Sizemore, Beachy, Wright and Lackey [Glass Twins]
J.Broxton, B.Lyon and D.Aardsma [Unholy Trinity]