In this modern era of baseball where "Moneyball" isn't just a movie and statistics are a way of life, injuries and injury-related data remain on the outside looking in. We can look at days missed and frequency rates for particular injuries but it is near impossible to predict when an injury is going to occur and how that individual will respond. One of the primary reasons for this limitation is the high number of variables in the athlete, the involved medical staff, and the recommended treatment. Just because Kendrys Morales missed nearly two full seasons with a fractured ankle doesn't mean Stephen Drew can't and won't return at some point this year.
However, occasionally something weird will happen, providing medical experts a much clearer timeline on what to expect from an injured athlete, bringing us to the curious case of Pablo Sandoval.
Sandoval is expected to miss an extended period of time after he suffered a fractured hamate bone in his left wrist. The tiny hamate bone sits at base of the pinkie, making it extremely vulnerable to injury because of its proximity to the knob of the bat. If a bat hits the ground or a batter makes awkward contact, the hamate can be easily broken.
A fractured hamate can be problematic since it serves as an attachment site for several muscles that flex the wrist. Other complications can arise if the neighboring ulnar nerve is involved, causing a weakening of grip strength and a loss of sensation in the pinkie finger.
But here's where the story gets unusual. Sandoval is no stranger to the procedure. Almost one year ago to the day, the Giants slugger broke the hamate on his right hand and ultimately missed 41 games over the next six weeks. He did manage to return and finished the year with 23 homeruns and .315 average.
In most cases, the long-term effects of surgery to repair a hamate fracture are minimal. Multiple players including Dustin Pedroia, David Ortiz, and, yes, Sandoval himself, have all been productive following the procedure. His familiarity with the rehab protocol could be a major advantage and allow Sandoval to return ahead of schedule. I'd anticipate him missing roughly four-to-five weeks and take a slight hit in power upon his return.
The Rays will be without their All-Star third basemen for a while after Longoria suffered a left hamstring injury. For Longoria the length of his recovery will depend on two factors, the degree of the strain and the location.
Muscle strains are classified based on severity of the damage. A Grade I injury is given when micro-tearing of the tissue occurs but little to no loss of function results. A Grade II strain occurs when damage occurs to actual muscle fibers and is often referred to as a partial tear. A Grade III injury is the most severe and means the tear is complete, resulting in loss of stability and function. It has revealed Longoria suffered a partial tear of his hamstring, meaning the injury is likely considered a Grade II strain.
The second factor, and arguably the more important one, remains a bit of a mystery, as the team has not revealed the specific location of the tear. If the tear is in the muscle belly, Longoria can expect a quicker recovery than if the tear is situated in the tendon of the muscle. Tears in the muscle tend to heal quicker since muscle is highly vascularized, meaning there is plenty of available blood to help the healing process. Tendons, for the most part, do not have this luxury and need more time to heal. Furthermore scar tissue is often a complication with tendon tears, further delaying recovery.
Unfortunately replays of the injury show Longoria reaching for the back of his knee, near the location of the tendon. It's difficulty to confirm the location without direct access to his MRI but given that the Rays have stated they expect him to miss six to eight weeks, it seems likely the injury is closer to the tendon than the muscle belly. Longoria will have to fight the urge to rush back to insure the issue does not become a chronic, nagging problem. Fantasy owner should prepare for to be without Longoria for at least six weeks and shouldn't be surprised if it lasts a bit longer.
As an injury analyst there's just some players I rarely get to write about. These players exert their dominance for long periods of time, rarely needing a trip to the disabled list. Mariano Rivera is one of those guys. Groin injuries limited him in 2002 and again 2003 and several trips to the operating room were needed in multiple offseasons but none of these ailments ever seemed to really slow the Yankees closer.
When I first heard he suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in his knee I was shocked and instantly wondered if a legendary career would end so poorly. However history and other truths facts suggest it's not only possible for Rivera to return next season, but also likely. While the sample size is small, pitchers who suffer ACL tears have historically returned much quicker than most other athletes. Most recently Milwaukee's Yovani Gallardo pitched in the 2008 postseason despite tearing his right ACL six months earlier. Rivera may be 20 years older than Gallardo but the MLB's all-time leader in regular season and postseason saves does not have a history of knee injuries, improving his chances of a quicker recovery. Rivera reiterated this hope after meeting with team physicians, insisting he will pitch again. In the meantime, look for David Robertson and Rafael Soriano to each get a chance at the closer role.
While Rivera is a closer I never get to write about, the Padres are facing problems with a reliever I talk about almost annually. Street has been placed on the 15-day DL with a strained latissimus dorsi, a muscle that runs along the spine and connects on the upper arm bone, the humerus. The lat is essential for pitching since it plays a part in multiple shoulder movements and side-to-side bending and backward bending in the lower back. Pitchers and position players alike generally miss significant stretches recovering from this injury. For example, Kerry Wood missed two months during the 2010 season recovering from a lat strain and Jon Lester was sidelined three weeks in 2011. Given Street's lengthy injury history, his owners should anticipate this injury lasting longer than the allotted 15 days. Andrew Cashner has assumed the closing role in San Diego.