"Expected to be ready for the start of the season."
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They're words that can inspire hope and concern for fantasy owners. On the one hand, that's a good thing, right? No matter what a player went through in the previous season, no matter how horrendous or injury-ridden his year was, a new beginning is just weeks away. Life is good.
Of course, that's not always the way it works. Teams, sometimes knowingly, mislead when discussing a player's timetable. Some teams are just overly optimistic about a player's prognosis. Other times, a player suffers an unforeseen setback in their recovery.
So it's with more concern than optimism that we learned the Tigers expect Justin Verlander to be ready for the beginning of the 2014 season after undergoing successful core muscle repair surgery Thursday. Tigers general manager Dave Dombrowski issued a statement shortly after the successful surgery Thursday morning.
"We fully anticipate Justin to participate in spring training and be in a position to compete at the beginning of the 2014 season," Dombrowski wrote in a statement.
While the Tigers' optimism is encouraging, news of the injury itself is somewhat alarming. The injury hadn't been previously reported, much less the fact that it would require surgery and a six week recovery period. Verlander reportedly suffered the injury in late December while working on his offseason conditioning.
The phrase "core muscle repair" is a bit vague, but according to Dr. Brian Rill, director of sports medicine at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, the terminology is likely referring to a sports hernia. Rill said if that's the case, Verlander's outlook for the start of the season is good.
"Professional athletes, who can really dedicate their resources to recovering from the sports hernia, the average recovery time is actually from four to six weeks," Rill told the Detroit Free Press. "It can take up to three months to get better, but that’s kind of unusual for your professional-type athlete. Honestly, he might be just a little bit behind. As far as putting him behind for potentially starting the season, I don’t think this will do that really."
The timing of the injury is unfortunate for the 30-year-old, as he could have benefitted from a healthy start to the 2014 campaign following a relatively subpar 2013 season. Last year Verlander posted his highest WHIP (1.32) and ERA (3.46) since the 2008 season, a year in which he lost 17 games. It was also the first season Verlander failed to throw a complete game since his debut season of 2005 -- and that year, he started just two games for the Tigers.
One thing notably absent from Dombrowski's release was confidence that Verlander would be ready for the start of spring training; rather, he simply said Verlander would "participate." Fantasy owners would be wise to monitor the right-hander's progress in March before expecting vintage Verlander come April.
Dodging The Blues
Verlander isn't the only one receiving positive reports these days.
Speaking to reporters Wednesday, Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti said he expects outfielders Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier, shortstop Hanley Ramirez and right-hander Josh Beckett to be various levels of ready by the start of spring training.
"We're going to take it as deliberately as possible and as cautious as possible," Colletti said of Kemp, who had shoulder and ankle surgery this offseason. "We expect him to be playing by the time we're in the midst of spring training, and he should have a chance to play a lot."
Ethier was bothered by a microfracture in his left leg that hampered him down the stretch. Ramirez played the majority of the NLCS with fractured ribs after being hit by a fastball in the first game of the series. Beckett underwent thoracic outlet surgery after just eight starts this past season but is on track to be ready to go as well.
Tanaka 'Round The Clock
With few major storylines left this offseason, Masahiro Tanaka's every move will likely come under a microscope. Since discussing Tanaka in this space last week, the 25-year-old has come to the United States and underwent a physical examination Thursday in Los Angeles.
As expected, new teams continue to be mentioned as having interest in the right-hander. It was reported that the Phillies contacted Casey Close, Tanaka's agent, and Thursday Tanaka met with officials from the White Sox while in LA. The usual suspects -- including the Dodgers, Angels, Yankees, Mariners, Cubs and Diamondbacks -- are also still fully in play for the former Rakuten Golden Eagles property.
Hot Stove Quick Hits: Congratulations to Greg Maddux, Frank Thomas and Tom Glavine for their induction to the Baseball Hall of Fame this past Wednesday ... the Yankees are among the teams monitoring the progress of Johan Santana. The southpaw continues his comeback from left shoulder surgery, his second major surgery on the shoulder ... Alex Rodriguez has discussed the possibility of accepting a reduced suspension from MLB. It's a far cry from his November outrage over the arbitration hearings ... the Tigers and Jose Iglesias agreed on a one-year, $1.65 million contract. He'll be arbitration-eligible after the 2015 season ... minor league contracts were abound -- the Rays signed Jayson Nix, the Nationals signed Jamey Carroll and the Indians signed Jeff Francoeur to minor league pacts ... after some uncertainty regarding Don Mattingly's future with the Dodgers, the manager was given a new deal that runs through 2016. Mattingly's previous deal was set to expire after the upcoming season ... Bobby Parnell (neck) has been cleared for baseball activity. Health willing, Parnell is first in line for save chances with the Mets in 2014 ... Pirates pitching coach Ray Searage is "leaning" towards believing A.J. Burnett is going to retire. If the 37-year-old does pitch next season, it'll likely be for his most recent team, the Pirates, or the Orioles.