Second Half Outlook for Injured Aces

July 13, 2018 | insideinjuries | No Comments injured starting pitchers

Stephen Strasburg WAS: shoulder inflammation

  • Injury Date: June 9
  • Expected Return: Friday, July 20

When Strasburg first landed on the DL last month, the Nationals hoped it would be a short stint on the DL, but from the beginning we gave him a longer Optimal Recovery Time of 3 weeks. That’s when he should have been cleared to start to throw again (which is exactly what happened). Many pitchers don’t take enough time off to allow the shoulder to fully heal, but Strasburg did. He has since progressed to a rehab assignment and is expected to get the start in the Nationals first start after the All Star break.

Strasburg’s Injury Risk remains high despite reaching his ORT. This is because any arm injury to a pitcher continues to be a concern even after is has healed. Strasburg also has a very concerning injury history that includes Tommy John surgery and many other elbow problems, neck tightness, a back strain and an oblique strain. We are currently showing an Above Average Health Performance Factor, so he should play well when activated. The bigger question is how long he can go without suffering another injury.

Shohei Ohtani LAA: partial UCL tear

  • Injury Date: June 8
  • Expected Return: may not pitch again this season

When the Angels signed Shohei Ohtani during the offseason, Inside Injuries warned that his prior mild UCL sprain was a major red flag. Sure enough he has already caused more damage to the ligament. An MRI earlier this month showed a grade 2 strain, indicating a partial tear. His recovery becomes much more complicated because he is both a hitter and a pitcher. The Angels have decided to use him for now as just a DH, but they still remain hopeful that he can return to the mound later this season.

Unfortunately this is unrealistic. Ohtani should be shut down so he can undergo Tommy John surgery, which is inevitable at this point. It’s not a matter of if, it’s when. They could elect to try to have him hit through the end of the season and then have him undergo surgery during the offseason, which would cause him to miss all of 2019. His elbow is a ticking time bomb, and yes, hitting can make it worse. It doesn’t place the same amount of stress on the elbow but it certainly doesn’t help. Ohtani may have some success at the plate if he keeps trying to hit through the elbow injury, but he won’t be effective if he pitches again this year.

Noah Syndergaard NYM: right index finger sprain

  • Injury Date: May 25
  • Expected Return: Friday, July 13

Syndergaard faced a much longer recovery than most people expected following a ligament strain in his right index finger. This lengthier timeline was no surprise to Inside Injuries since we gave him a five week Optimal Recovery Time. We knew his injury was more serious than most expected due to the MRI results and the fact that he tried to start throwing only four days after injury. He quickly suffered more swelling following a game of catch.  Now, five weeks post injury, he is expected to rejoin the Mets’ rotation on Friday night.

While Syndergaard’s Injury Risk remains High (as is often the case with an injury to a pitcher’s throwing arm/hand), his Health Performance Factor (HPF) is Above Average. He has had enough time for his finger to heal, and it shouldn’t prevent him from pitching well. Thor looked sharp in his final rehab outing last weekend. Expect more of the same from Syndergaard the rest of the season, if he can stay healthy.

Yu Darvish CHC: triceps strain

  • Injury Date: May 20
  • Expected Return: August?

Darvish initially landed on the DL back in May with a triceps strain, but he suffered a setback in June that was diagnosed as elbow impingement. He received a cortisone injection and was shut down from throwing again, this time for a few weeks. The Cubs are being very cautious with their starter because he has now had multiple problems with his pitching arm. These types of injuries tend to pile up as pitchers overcompensate following the initial injury.

Now the Cubs are bringing him along slowly, and if all goes well he could return to the rotation sometime in August.  His Injury Risk remains very High, though, and he has a concerning injury history that must be taken into account. Not to mention the Cubs have $126 million invested in him. A return too soon could end up costing him the season.

Michael Wacha STL: oblique strain

  • Injury Date: June 21
  • Expected Return: late July?

Wacha was off to a strong start in the first half of the season, posting an 8-2 record and a 3.2 ERA. But a poor start on June 15 was followed by an even worse outing on June 21 when Wacha left after just four innings with a left oblique strain. An MRI showed a “moderate” (grade 2) strain, which our analytics show comes with an Optimal Recovery Time of at least five weeks.

This is a very serious injury that is easily re-aggravated and is notoriously slow to heal. The Cardinals haven’t given any sort of a timeline to return to the field, but the absolute earliest he should begin a rehab assignment is the last week in July, and even that is a stretch.

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