Injury Updates: Rehabbing Stars Whose Return Could Shift the AL East Balance
So far this season, there has been no tighter division in all of baseball than the AL East, as the top and bottom teams are separated by three games and everyone has a winning record.
There has also been no division hit with more significant injuries than the AL East, as all five teams are missing at least one key player who could make a huge impact moving forward once they return.
So here is a quick look at the notable players in the division currently on the disabled list and an update of how their rehab is progressing.
LF Brett Gardner, Yankees
Injury: Strained elbow
Expected Back: Next week
Gardner has been on the disabled list for nearly two months with an elbow injury, as Raul Ibanez has shifted from DH to left field and Eric Chavez has assumed the every day DH duties in his absence.
RP David Robertson, Yankees
Injury: Strained oblique
Expected Back: Next week
After Mariano Rivera went down with a season-ending injury, the Yankees were dealt another blow when ace setup man David Robertson was shelved with an oblique injury.
Robertson threw a bullpen session on June 2nd and didn't suffer any setbacks, and he could begin a rehab assignment soon that should only consist of one or two appearances. He could be back sometime next week.
LF Nolan Reimold, Orioles
Injury: Herniated disk in neck
Expected Back: Unknown
Given an outright starting job for the first time in his career, Reimold was enjoying a breakout season though his first 16 games with a .313 BA, five home run, 10 RBI line.
However, he has not played since April 30th, as a neck injury has kept him sidelined. He has yet to resume baseball activities (via Rotoworld) at this point, and while he no longer has pain in his shoulder and arm there is still some tingling and he remains out indefinitely at this point.
RF Nick Markakis, Orioles
Injury: Fractured hamate bone
Expected Back: One-three weeks
Placed on the disabled list on June 1st, Markakis actually injured his wrist roughly a week earlier when it got caught behind him sliding into second base (via The Baltimore Sun).
Depending on how rehab goes, and provided there are no setbacks, Markakis should return sometime in June. If you'll remember though, this is the same injury that derailed Phillies rookie Domonic Brown's rookie season last year as he struggled to bounce back from it, so it's something to monitor moving forward.
3B Evan Longoria, Rays
Injury: Partially torn hamstring
Expected Back: Two weeks
Injured on the final day of April, Longoria missed all of May with a partially torn hamstring as the Rays lost their offensive catalyst.
He was originally expected to miss six to eight weeks, but he'll likely begin a rehab assignment (via Tampa Bay Online) early next week and return the following week as the Rays could certainly use his bat back in their lineup as they continue to battle in the tough AL East.
RP Sergio Santos, Blue Jays
Injury: Shoulder inflammation
Expected Back: Two weeks
Acquired in the offseason to step in as the Blue Jays closer, Santos struggle to a 9.00 ERA with two blown saves over his first six appearance before hitting the disabled list.
He threw a bullpen session back on June 2nd and was not expected to face live hitters until sometime next week (via Sportsnet). If all goes well, a quick rehab start could have him back in Toronto by mid-June.
The combination of Francisco Cordero and Casey Janssen have filled the role in his absence, but a healthy Santos would mark a huge upgrade.
LF Carl Crawford, Red Sox
Injury: Sprained ligament in left elbow
Expected Back: Mid-July
Crawford originally hit the disabled list to rehab from offseason wrist surgery, but has remained there due to an elbow injury.
He is scheduled to begin a throwing program on Friday (via the Boston Herald) and while he has already been taking batting practice, throwing will be the major hurdle for him to overcome.
If all goes well, he could be back around the All-Star break and with the Red Sox playing much better after a terrible start he'd certainly give them a boost.
CF Jacoby Ellsbury, Red Sox
Injury: Separated right shoulder
Expected Back: Early-to-mid-July
While Crawford is set to begin a throwing program, Ellsbury has already been throwing, as well as running the bases and hitting off of a tee (via MLB.com)
So far he is right on schedule to make a return in July and getting back last season's AL MVP runner-up will be a huge boost.
RP Andrew Bailey, Red Sox
Injury: UCL surgery on right thumb
Expected Back: All-Star break, possibly sooner
Bailey was cleared to start throwing two weeks ago, as he has begun taking steps to get back into baseball shape after undergoing thumb surgery this spring (via Hardball Talk).
Alfredo Aceves (14-of-17 SV, 5.02 ERA) has held down the closer role in his absence, and there is no question the team will benefit greatly from having a healthy Bailey take over as closer.