The "Matt Wieters, Designated Hitter" campaign came to a screeching halt Sunday.
Less than a week after being cleared of needing surgery on his right elbow, Wieters was placed on the disabled list due to the right elbow strain Sunday. The move came just days after Wieters returned to the starting lineup with the idea that he'd serve as the team's designated hitter for the foreseeable future as he managed the elbow injury.
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So what changed from Wednesday to Sunday? He didn't further injure the elbow, Wieters said, but, simply, the pain persisted in recent days -- despite not playing the field -- to the point that Wieters and the Orioles decided to shut it down in hopes the elbow has some time to fully heal.
"It just turned into more, 'Are we kind of starting again at ground zero every day we come back if I keep swinging every day?'" Wieters told MLB.com. "I want to make sure that we can make progress and continue to improve on it."
A less optimistic alternative also exists. If the elbow doesn't show marked improvement within the first six weeks of rest, season-ending surgery becomes a real and viable option. Hoping to give Wieters a chance to have the surgery and still be ready for next season after the nine-month recovery period, the Orioles have set a soft target date of July 1 for a decision on Wieters' fate.
"We'll take a two- or three-week period to see if we can get it managed and then if he can catch the rest of the year," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "Or if he's still having problems with it at the six week mark, we will have to think about something else. That's as frank as I can be about it. That's where we are with it."
The problem of finding a replacement for Wieters is one that plagues both his real life and fantasy managers alike. The catcher was hitting .308/.339/.500 before the injury, well on his way to posting another strong season for fantasy purposes. And as the Orioles' backstop, Wieters kept the O's from having to rely on Steve Clevenger for meaningful at-bats.
For some replacement options, Tyler Flowers, Derek Norris (more on him later), Mike Zunino, Kurt Suzuki and Dioner Navarro are all worthy fill-ins owned in 20 percent or fewer Yahoo leagues. Fortunate owners may even find Yan Gomes (51 percent) or A.J. Pierzynski (48 percent) on the wire.
Owners should stash Wieters if at all possible until his situation becomes clearer, but check back periodically over the next few weeks to see how his elbow is recovering.
Norris Goes Off Against Former Club
The aforementioned Derek Norris had the equivalent of a bad bullpen session before throwing a gem on Sunday.
It's usually those stories -- a pitcher feels awful in his pre-game bullpen session and proceeds to throw a shutout -- that get told, but Norris had a similar experience before Sunday's game against the Nationals.
“I felt like I had never stepped in a batter’s box,” Norris told the San Francisco Chronicle. “My pregame routine went so terrible, I had to leave the cage.”
Despite feeling out of sync, Norris had one of the biggest offensive days of his career, hitting two three-run home runs off Nationals starter Gio Gonzalez in the Athletics' 9-1 win. In case that storyline wasn't enough, Gonzalez and Norris were traded for each other -- as part of a bigger deal -- in 2011, a deal that's worked out well for both parties.
But it was Norris who owned the trade Sunday. After his two-homer game, the catcher is batting .385/.467/.603 with four home runs and 19 RBI on the year. The plate patience and power were touted as Norris rose through the minor leagues, so the line isn't entirely unsustainable. Mixed league owners looking for a boost at catcher could do worse, and Norris shouldn't be unowned in AL-only leagues.
Braun Eyeing Tuesday Return
Ryan Braun appears to have dodged a major bullet with regards to his oblique injury.
Obliques, depending on the severity, tend to take longer to heal than other muscle strains. So it's promising that, barring a setback Monday, Braun will be activated from the disabled list on Tuesday when first eligible.
It remains to be seen how he performs upon his return, but it's possible the injury could have been a blessing in disguise for the 30-year-old. With his right thumb still giving him problems this season, two weeks off may have afforded Braun a few weeks with little or no pain in the thumb once back in the lineup.
Even with the issues, Braun was batting .318/.361/.591 with six home runs, 18 RBI and three stolen bases before the oblique injury. Assuming he's on the lineup card, owners should have Braun back in their lineups as well Tuesday.
National League Quick Hits: Brandon Belt sustained a broken left thumb after being hit by a pitch during Friday's game against the Dodgers. The first baseman will have surgery Tuesday and is expected to be out six weeks as a result of the injury ... Another first baseman, Adam LaRoche, hit the DL as well over the weekend. LaRoche succumbed to a right quad strain that the 34-year-old hopes is just a 15-day ailment ... Juan Uribe was unable to go again Sunday due to a minor hamstring strain. The strain may soon be major enough that the Dodgers are forced to put Uribe on the DL for a few weeks if he doesn't improve rapidly ... Aroldis Chapman was in fine form in his season debut Sunday, striking out three to earn his first save of the season. He was touching 102 mph and showed no ill effects from the head injury suffered in spring ... Cole Hamels struck out 10 while throwing 133 pitches over seven innings Sunday. His efforts went for naught, though, as an Antonio Bastardo-Roberto Hernandez tandem combined to blow the lead in the ninth inning ... Robbie Erlin kept the Marlins off the scoreboard for 6 1/3 innings Sunday, striking out seven. The lefty has come around in recent weeks after a bumpy start to the season ... Mark Reynolds and Ruben Tejada were walk-off heroes on Sunday.
American League Quick Hits: CC Sabathia hit the shelf with a right knee injury. The outlook is good -- he's simply having some fluid drained from the knee -- and he should hopefully be back when first eligible ... Casey Janssen was activated from the disabled list Sunday. Given what a dumpster fire the back end of the Blue Jays bullpen has been, Janssen should be handed the closer job from day one ... One of those relievers throwing gasoline on said dumpster fire, Sergio Santos, is set to hit the disabled list with right forearm soreness ... With John Axford falling out of favor in Cleveland, Bryan Shaw earned the save for the Indians on Sunday. With Cody Allen proving valuable in a fireman role, Shaw could be the reliever to own for save chances ... Dustin Ackley homered off Jeremy Guthrie twice Sunday in the Mariners' loss. Ackley has three in two games after hitting just one all season before Saturday.
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