The first week of Ryan Braun’s season got off to a rotten start.
The former National League MVP had one single and one walk in his first 17 plate appearances, and that wasn’t even close to the worst news of the week. Braun admitted on Friday that his right thumb, which was a big issue for him last season prior to his PED suspension, was bothering him again.
Braun has a nerve issue in the thumb, and he admitted Sunday that he was unable to take a “normal swing” in Friday’s game when he went 0-for-5. The outfielder wasn’t enthused about the possibility of surgery when the topic was broached last year and last week sounded resigned to the fact that he’ll have to play compromised, saying he's "just going to deal with it the best I can."
Well, he took a nice first step toward doing just that Tuesday.
Braun launched not one, not two, but three homers in the Brewers’ 10-4 victory over the Phillies, taking Kyle Kendrick deep twice and Brad Lincoln deep once. The 30-year-old had been homerless in his previous 98 plate appearances dating back to last season, which was the longest drought of his career. The big night even caught Braun by surprise.
"I didn't think there was any chance I could have possibly had a day like this," he told MLB.com. "The game works in mysterious ways."
Braun’s last longball before the homerless streak started was on May 22 of last year, which was right around the time his thumb first became an issue. So while Tuesday’s showing was certainly nice to see, we shouldn’t take it to mean that the old Braun is back. Fantasy owners should hope for the best but expect diminished production from the outfielder unless the Brewers can figure out a way to combat the thumb ailment.
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Tommy John Strikes Again?
Pitchers have been blowing out elbows left and right over the last few weeks, and we could have our latest victim in the Rays’ Matt Moore.
Moore exited Monday’s outing against the Royals in the fifth inning after throwing a pitch, and it was announced by the Rays shortly after that he was dealing with left elbow soreness. The club seemed confident at the time that the ailment wasn’t serious, but the news became more dire on Tuesday.
While Tampa says the first MRI on Moore’s elbow was inconclusive, they possibly tipped their hand when they revealed the southpaw would seek another opinion later this week from the infamous Dr. James Andrews. Yahoo! Sports’ Jeff Passan confirmed the worst fears when he reported that Moore’s injury involves his ulnar collateral ligament. Passan added that it’s possible Moore could pitch through the tear if it’s small, but we all know how that usually works out.
It will no doubt be a big blow if Moore does indeed wind up going under the knife, but the Rays do at least have some depth they can tap into. Cesar Ramos, who has a 3.50 ERA over the last two-plus years for the Rays, and veteran Erik Bedard are the main two candidates to fill in for Moore for the time being. Either should be able to hold down the fort until Jeremy Hellickson (elbow) returns in late May. If Ramos and/or Bedard struggle, offseason trade acquisition Nate Karns could get a look.
Latos Scratched With Sore Elbow
Moore isn’t the only frontline starter dealing with an elbow issue, as the Reds scratched Mat Latos from Tuesday’s rehab start at Triple-A Louisville due to right elbow irritation. Thankfully, this malady doesn’t seem to be as serious as Moore’s.
"Mat threw his bullpen [on Sunday] and had some irritation in his elbow," manager Bryan Price told MLB.com. "He had some inflammation and tenderness there in the elbow and he wasn't able to get through to the point where he could pitch. We're taking the conservative route to reschedule once we get that soreness out of there."
Latos underwent surgery to remove a bone spur from the elbow last October, but there’s been no indication that this is a flare-up of that old injury. He’s on the disabled list due to surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his left knee, and he seems to be fully recovered from that operation. Tuesday’s rehab start had been scheduled to be Latos’ last, but now he figures to need at least a couple more once he’s throwing again.
"There's nothing that's been suggested that would represent it as serious as far as missing several starts or anything of that nature," Price added. "In the next couple of days, we should know a lot more."
Alfredo Simon will continue to hold down a spot in the Reds’ rotation while Latos is out. He spun seven innings of one-run ball against the Mets last week in his first start of the season.
Ross to Cut Into Pollock’s Playing Time
Manager Kirk Gibson indicated as much Tuesday, saying he’s likely to go with a combination of Ross in left field, Gerardo Parra in center and Mark Trumbo in right once he has all of his outfielders healthy. That’s obviously bad news for Pollock, who was viewed as a fantasy sleeper by many this spring with his speed and some pop.
Pollock is hitting just .179/.220/.231 through his first 10 games this season, but he was a career .303/.354/.418 hitter in the minors and is easily the club’s best defender in center field. Parra is an excellent defensive corner outfielder but isn’t as good up the middle. The move, of course, would also weaken the club's defense on a corner spot with Ross sliding in for Parra.
Ultimately, Gibson could wind up juggling his outfield combinations quite a bit, giving Pollock plenty of starts. Still, it’s discouraging news for fantasy owners that have already had to sit through Pollock’s slow start.
National League Quick Hits: Troy Tulowitzki is dealing with a minor right quad strain but will attempt to play through the injury ... Starlin Castro blasted two home runs and drove in four in Tuesday’s loss to the Pirates ... Jacob Turner has been scratched from Wednesday's scheduled start against the Nationals due to a strained right shoulder ... Ryan Zimmerman (shoulder) is hoping to return to the Nationals' starting lineup on Wednesday ... Bartolo Colon pitched seven scoreless innings in Tuesday’s win over the Braves ... Giants general manager Brian Sabean said in a radio interview Tuesday that the team has tabled extension talks with Pablo Sandoval ... Jonathan Broxton was activated from the DL Tuesday and will be used as the Reds’ closer until Aroldis Chapman (head) returns ... Brandon Belt singled and ripped his fifth homer of the season in Tuesday's win over the Diamondbacks ... Josh Beckett (thumb, ankle) will rejoin the Dodgers' rotation on Wednesday against the Tigers ... Yasiel Puig (thumb) remained out of the Dodgers' lineup Tuesday but participated in pre-game drills and will do so again Wednesday to see if he can play ... Cory Gearrin will undergo Tommy John elbow surgery ...
American League Quick Hits: X-rays on Josh Hamilton's left thumb came back clean, but he'll have an MRI Wednesday ... Adrian Beltre will fly back to Texas to be examined after leaving Tuesday’s game in Boston with a left quad strain ... Omar Infante has been diagnosed with a sprained jaw but doesn’t have a concussion after being hit in the face by a pitch Monday ... James Paxton is almost surely headed to the disabled list after leaving Tuesday’s outing with a strained lat ... Jose Abreu hit the first two home runs of his big league career in Tuesday’s win over the Rockies. Teammate Avisail Garcia matched him with two longballs of his own while also picking up two additional hits ... Corey Hart launched two homers in Tuesday’s win over the Angels ... Torii Hunter is considered day-to-day after leaving Tuesday's game against the Dodgers with a left knee contusion ... Yordano Ventura tossed six shutout innings while striking out six Rays batters Tuesday in his first start of the season ... Melky Cabrera hit his fourth home run in as many games in Tuesday's victory over the Astros ... Dexter Fowler (illness) is aiming to return to the Astros' lineup on Wednesday ... Colby Lewis is expected to join the Rangers' starting rotation on Saturday to face the Astros ...