Two guys that could impact the big league roster in 2010 are first baseman Jeff Larish and second baseman Scott Sizemore. After undergoing surgery on his wrist late in the season, Larish is well on his way to getting back to full strength. At present, Larish is continuing his rehab two days a week, while hitting three days a week, and working out four days a week. There has been little trouble along the way for Larish, and he appears completely on track to be going all-out in spring training.
Sizemore's injury has been far more publicized, after breaking a bone in his lower leg/ankle during the Arizona Fall League. Sizemore has been progressing as expected thus far, leaving behind his crutches earlier this month, and likely exiting his walking boot by the end of December. Typically, an injury like that to Sizemore should heal in plenty of time to be ready for spring training in February and March. The only question remaining will be his level of strength at the start of camp. Most people I have spoken with close to the situation believe Scott will be ready to take the starting slot at the keystone on Opening Day.
Three other injured position players appear to be on their way back as well. Outfielders Kody Kaiser and Kyle Peter, and first baseman Chris Carlson are all making progress this off-season. Carlson underwent surgery during the season to help kick start the recovery for his severely fractured left wrist. On a bun play, Carlson was awaiting a wide throw from the catcher, and he collided with the runner, injuring his wrist.
After two months of immobilization, Carlson recently started working out again as a part of his rehab. In a conversation earlier this week, Carlson indicated he was hoping to begin swinging a bat again after the New Year. Wrist injuries of this nature can often linger as it takes an extended period to regain the strength in the lower arm. Carlson will likely be back on the field during spring training, but he may not be slugging prodigious home runs until sometime later in the season.
Kaiser and Peter both went down with major shoulder injuries at about the same time this summer with Lakeland, and both required major surgery in hopes of continuing their careers.
In a conversation Thursday, Peter indicated that he had recently extended his throwing program out to 90-feet, and hopes to be out to 120-feet before his one-week break for the Christmas holiday. The current schedule for his rehab from labrum surgery has him back on the field without restriction by the start of spring training. While the injury was different for Kaiser (biceps tendon and rotator cuff), he is on a similar timeline as Peter.
On the pitching side of things, the progress is varied among the four injuries detailed in this article. Cody Satterwhite's season was cut just short at Erie by shoulder stiffness, and while his participation in the Arizona Fall League was cancelled as a result, he is reportedly fine and expects to be at full strength this spring.
After getting off to a roaring start in Lakeland last summer, left-hander Duane Below saw his season come to an abrupt end as he needed Tommy John surgery to repair a torn ligament in his left elbow.
Below's rehab has gone exceptionally well, and he returned to the mound on Tuesday for his first bullpen session since the surgery. Both his Tuesday and Thursday bullpen sessions spanned six minutes, and saw him throw only fastballs, but all reports out of Lakeland are positive at this point.
TigerTown Pitching Coordinator Greg Sabat was very impressed with what he has seen so far; "You can't even tell he was operated on. He looks great right now!"
After initial speculation that Below might be limited to start the 2010 season, all signs point to his being ready to join a full-season rotation right out of the gate.
Right-handed reliever Scott Green had a disappointing end to his first full season in the professional ranks, missing the tail end of his Florida State League season after undergoing surgery to repair a torn labrum.
The timeline for Green's return to the mound and ultimately game action, is still uncertain, as he is currently continuing to expand his range of motion and build strength back in the shoulder.
Green is no stranger to the injury bug, having already overcome Tommy John surgery and testicular cancer, and most feel he will persevere and get back on the mound at some point in 2010. Prior to the injury, Green was a hard-throwing reliever with set-up/closer stuff, including a filthy cutter. The obvious hope is that his stuff will return to its previous level, and he can get back on a track toward the big leagues.
The final pitcher that ended the season on a sour note was right-hander Nick Cassavechia. After a promotion to West Michigan, Cassavechia quickly succumbed to a right elbow contusion that had been bothering him for weeks. It turned out that Cassavechia's delivery was causing the injury, as the bones in his elbow were colliding with each other, causing significant pain. After some rest and rehab, Cassavechia indicated his arm feels good, and the injury has given him renewed desire to implement the mechanical changes requested by the Tigers' staff.
As it stands now, only one of these injuries is likely to keep a player from taking the field next spring, that being the shoulder injury to Scott Green. The Tigers had plenty of injuries in 2009, and fortunately most of them seem to be healing properly, and in many cases, quickly.