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June 6, 2011

Collateral Damage

Avoiding June Swoons

by Corey Dawkins and Ben Lindbergh

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Many might be surprised to hear that May is the month with the most injuries during the regular season. Cold weather in April and fatigue at the end of the season are both overshadowed by the sheer number of injuries that occur during May. Once June rolls around, the players are comfortably into their everyday routines, but not yet fatigued enough to succumb to the grind. It's these middle months of the season that set up healthy stretch runs and playoff appearances.

David Wright, NYN (Low back stress fracture)
With the Mets long shots to make the postseason this year, the team was hoping for some positive news to come out of Wright’s test-taking last Friday. Unfortunately, it appears that the best-case scenario for his return is now early July, or roughly six weeks from the day he went on the disabled list.

Stress fractures of the low back take time to heal in the active population because of the extension and/or rotational forces involved. If there is a true fracture present, which is possible (and visible via CT scan), the injury may never be considered fully healed, but the pain, inflammation, and general discomfort in the area can decrease to the point where Wright can return to playing. However, the area could become inflamed again and require another trip to the disabled list. The Mets and Wright should aim for the All-Star break to stay on the safe side.

Rafael Furcal, LAN (Left oblique strain)
They say you can never go home again, but it took a mere two weeks for Furcal to return to the disabled list, where he’s spent much of his time over the last several seasons. His back has been the main culprit, but this time it’s his oblique acting up. The Dodgers haven’t reported any recovery timetable, but Furcal’s periods of inactivity aren’t likely to get any shorter as the 33-year-old shortstop ages.

Brandon Belt, SFN (Left wrist fracture)
Now that Brandon Belt has a cast on his left arm, Buster Posey isn’t the only valuable young player missing time for the Giants. Belt was plunked on Tuesday, causing a hairline fracture that should put him on the shelf for some time. Belt doesn't think the injury will cost him a month, and depending on which bone is fractured, he could be right. Most minor fractures take four to six weeks to heal, including those in our database, so we don't expect Belt to be out nearly as long as Posey.

Vicente Padilla, LAN (Neck pain)
Padilla is officially on the disabled list for forearm soreness, but it's continued neck pain that is really limiting him at this time. A bulging disc in his neck caused him to miss almost all of last August and September and seems to be flaring up again. We've talked about the symptoms that people experience with disc injuries, and also how they tend not to heal on their own—at least not at Padilla's age.

If the pitcher’s neck pain persists, he can progress through the conservative regimen of physical therapy, oral medication, and possibly epidural injections before considering surgery. There isn't a true timetable for his return from the disabled list, but given Padilla's injury history over the last couple of years, he's at great risk for a recurrence of his neck and arm pain once he's activated.

Jordan Schafer, ATL (Sinus fracture)
Schafer became the latest victim of a bunting accident, but his wasn’t the usual injury. Instead of the broken fingers that we normally see from failed bunt attempts, Schafer fractured one of his sinus bones after fouling the ball off the right side of his face. He was back in the lineup Sunday night and lucky that he didn't also suffer a concussion.

Paul Konerko, CHA (Left wrist surgery–loose body)
Loose bodies can be extremely painful and limiting, but they are generally also easy to remove. Often a result of spurs and general degenerative changes, they can float around for a while before causing problems. Konerko's surgery took out the piece causing the inflammation, and he was back in the lineup on Sunday after missing only three days. This was such a small procedure that it should not negatively affect his production.

Flesh Wounds: Evan Longoria gave the Rays a scare after leaving Saturday’s game with tightness in his left side, but he is supposed to be in the lineup today... Doug Slaten's elbow inflammation is bothering him to the point that he was forced to go on the disabled list... It wasn’t elbow inflammation, but shoulder inflammation that put Matt Daley on the DL... Kris Medlen cut his bullpen session short with soreness in his surgically repaired elbow, but it doesn't seem to have been anything more than normal breaking up of scar tissue... Jake Peavy left his start yesterday with a right groin strain, and there's a good chance that he’ll end up on the DL... Dexter Fowler will take some swings today to see if he needs to go on the disabled list for a strained abdomen... Luke Scott is still trying to play through a partial labrum tear in his right shoulder... Lance Berkman received a cortisone injection for his troublesome wrist and should be in Tuesday's lineup.

Corey Dawkins is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Corey's other articles. You can contact Corey by clicking here
Ben Lindbergh is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Ben's other articles. You can contact Ben by clicking here

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