Aaron Hicks is no stranger to this, unfortunately.
Hicks will likely begin the year on the injured list after receiving another cortisone shot in his lower back on Sunday, the second such this spring. Hicks conceded on Sunday that the second series of the regular season is probably the earliest he might be ready to go.
“They’re hoping this [second cortisone shot] flushes it out. I don’t feel it when I’m walking. It’s only when I start ramping it up,’’ said Hicks.
Hicks hasn’t played in a Grapefruit League game since March 1. The second series of the regular season would open on April 1, meaning if Hicks were placed on the IL he’d likely be out until at least the end of that series.
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Although the issue doesn’t sound like it will be a lasting one, if it does require a short IL stay it would make the seventh straight season Hicks has missed time with an injury. The oft-injured outfielder has made nine trips to the disabled list in past years.
In his stead, the Yankees have a few options to get by. The most interesting is once-top prospect Clint Frazier, who is finally healthy himself this spring and holds the most upside of their replacement options. Tyler Wade could also be an option as a utility type bench bat.
When healthy, the 29-year-old Hicks is a dynamic fantasy player who had a career year in 2018. Hicks batted .248/.366/.467 with 27 homers, 11 steals, 79 RBI and 90 runs scored in 137 games with the Yanks.
Folty Feeling Fine
While Hicks remains on the sideline, one Braves starter got off the sidelines and back into the action on Sunday.
Mike Foltynewicz, who has been out since last month after feeling right elbow soreness, threw a side session Sunday. He’ll be re-evaluated on Monday, at which point a timeline could become clearer.
“He’s going to have to throw some live BPs and start from the get-go, similar to what he did the first day he pitched, and then go from there,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said.
He’s already been ruled out for Opening Day, even with Sunday’s progress, and at this point a return in mid-April appears to be a best-case scenario.
“We’re going to build him back up,” Snitker said. “We can’t take him into the season throwing 70 pitches. We have to build him back up.”
In his absence, the Braves have no shortage of options to make a few starts, with Kyle Wright appearing to be in the lead for the fill-in gig. Touki Toussaint seems to have the other starting job behind Julio Teheran, Sean Newcomb and Kevin Gausman.
As we continue to move closer to Opening Day, pitchers have begun to round into form with some stellar performances in recent days.
Perhaps the most impressive likely came with the least fanfare Sunday, as Trevor Richards fired six no-hit innings in a Grapefruit League start against the Cardinals. Richards didn’t issue a walk, either, while striking out six in the dominant effort, leaving him with a 1.86 ERA, 0.62 WHIP and 20 strikeouts through 19 ⅓ innings of work this spring.
A start that certainly garnered more attention came Sunday afternoon in Arizona, where Madison Bumgarner limited the Royals to just one run over 6 ⅔ innings of work. The southpaw struck out six as compared to zero walks, and MadBum has now turned in two promising starts in a row as we approach late March.
On Saturday, it was a couple household names who made statements as Max Scherzer and Chris Sale worked over the Cardinals and Braves, respectively. Scherzer allowed a run while striking out nine over his six innings, and Sale fanned seven over four shutout frames in his start.
The day was also kind to Jon Gray. The Rockies starter punched out eight batters across five innings, and in 17 ⅔ innings this spring Gray has a 2.55 ERA, 0.68 WHIP and 22 strikeouts as he looks to prove 2018, not his breakout 2017, was the fluke.
National League Quick Hits: Clayton Kershaw (shoulder) will throw live batting practice in a few days. Kershaw used all of his pitches during a 38-pitch bullpen session Sunday and is ready to face hitters next. There's still no timetable for when the left-hander will appear in a game. He will begin the season on the injured list but should make his season debut sometime in April if things continue to progress in a positive direction ... Bryce Harper (foot) served as the Phillies' designated hitter on Sunday. Harper had to leave Friday's game after being hit on the right foot by a pitch, but tests came back clean and he wound up only being sidelined for one day. Harper was hitless in three at-bats Sunday and is 0-for-8 with four walks and a hit by pitch so far this spring ... Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said Sunday that Corey Seager (elbow, hip) will be ready to play on Opening Day. Seager isn't going to play in a single Cactus League game, but he will play in all three of the "Freeway Series" games against the Angels and will be ready to roll Opening Day on March 28 versus the Diamondbacks. It's an unorthodox spring that he's had as he comes back from elbow and hip surgeries, but it looks like Seager will be ready for fantasy owners from the jump … Max Muncy (wrist) took a full round of batting practice Sunday. It's the first time he's done so since he injured his right wrist last week. Muncy also resumed throwing, as well, and looks to have a good shot to return to Cactus League action before camp breaks. If that happens, he should be cleared for Opening Day … Braves manager Brian Snitker conceded Sunday that it's unlikely A.J. Minter (shoulder) will be ready for Opening Day. Snitker had expressed optimism previously that Minter would have time, but the reliever remains limited to flat-ground throwing for now as he works his way back from tightness in his pitching shoulder. It's unclear when he might be cleared for mound work. Arodys Vizcaino will be the Braves' closer to begin the season … Matt Carpenter was scratched from the Cardinals' lineup Sunday due to back tightness. Manager Mike Shildt insists that it's "nothing serious" and that Carpenter is "going to be fine." That may very well be true, although the infielder has dealt with some back/oblique issues in the past and any injury this close to Opening Day is noteworthy ... Mike Soroka (shoulder) was scheduled to throw live batting practice Sunday. It was the first time he's faced hitters since he was shut down last month with renewed soreness in his right shoulder. Soroka won't be ready for the start of the season and doesn't figure to be a rotation option for the Braves for a while, but this is obviously a step in the right direction for him.
American League Quick Hits: Multiple outlets report that the Indians have signed Carlos Gonzalez to a minor league contract. Jon Heyman of MLB Network reports that Gonzalez will get a $2 million deal with $1 million possible in incentives. Bob Nightengale of USA Today notes the deal has an opt-out in April if Gonzalez is not on the 25-man roster. The 33-year-old has not been the same type of player that we saw earlier in his career, but he does offer some offensive upside. He should have a chance to be a starting corner outfielder for the Indians in 2019, but it could be in a platoon role, with CarGo getting most of his starts against right-handed pitching … Shohei Ohtani (elbow) hit in the batting cages off a coach throwing overhand on Sunday. He is also doing some more throwing. It's another step in his recovery as Ohtani works his way back from last October's Tommy John surgery. While he will miss the first month of the season, Ohtani could be ready to serve as the Angels' designated hitter at the beginning of May if all goes well … Tommy Pham (shoulder) will return to playing the outfield on Monday. Pham has been limited to designated hitter duties as he goes through shoulder-strengthening exercises, but he's ready for outfield duty again. "I'm throwing like (Kevin Kiermaier) right now," Pham joked Sunday. "If you guys see my arm you'd think KK threw that ball” ... Andrew Heaney (elbow) resumed throwing on Sunday. He will, however, begin the season on the injured list, which is not a surprise at this point. Heaney also dealt with elbow issues during spring training and the first couple weeks of last season and was ultimately fine after that, although we can't necessarily count on that happening again. The left-hander is obviously a risk for fantasy owners … Joey Gallo is dealing with a mild right groin strain and isn't expected to return to action until later this week. Gallo has already missed three straight games with the ailment. The Rangers are optimistic that the slugger will be ready for Opening Day, although that has to be considered up in the air at this point considering it's only 11 days away … Jon Heyman of MLB Network reports that the Yankees have made a contract offer to Gio Gonzalez, but "there's a gap" between the offer and what Gonzalez is requesting. Heyman notes that while there's "not a great deal of optimism" at the moment, "there’s at least reason to think both sides might want to come together." Unfortunately for Gonzalez, he wouldn't seem to have much of a bargaining position at this point, as the 33-year-old is coming off a down season and hasn't seemed to attract much interest on the free agent market. The Yanks could use a rotation placeholder with Luis Severino (shoulder) and CC Sabathia (heart, knee) slated to begin the year on the injured list, although it's unclear how close Gonzalez is to being game-ready … Justin Upton (knee) will make his Cactus League debut on Tuesday. Upton has been nursing patellar tendinitis in his right knee all camp, but he has hit in minor league games recently and will hit and play the field on Cactus League play Tuesday. While the veteran outfielder won't be getting his usual number of plate appearances this spring, he will be fine for Opening Day, barring a setback … X-rays revealed on Saturday that Yankees OF prospect Estevan Florial has a non-displaced right wrist fracture. Florial crashed into the center-field wall on Saturday, and the team sent their top prospect for X-rays for "precautionary" reasons. The 21-year-old is assuredly going to miss time, but it's not known yet how much the switch-hitter will miss … Orioles optioned OF Austin Hays to Triple-A Norfolk. Hays made it a difficult decision for the O's by putting together a .351/.385/.892 batting line with five home runs and 13 RBI this spring. However, he missed a large chunk of 2018 due to injury and still hasn't played in Triple-A, so Baltimore will give him some more seasoning (while also delaying his service time clock). Hays should be starting in the Orioles' outfield at some point this season and will be an intriguing fantasy option when that day comes.