Commentary

2012 preseason injury watch: 3rd base

Updated: February 16, 2012, 11:35 AM ET
By Stephania Bell | ESPN.com

As you prepare for your 2012 fantasy baseball season, injury stories from last season are undoubtedly a factor. A number of players either had their seasons end prematurely due to injury or limped into the offseason with health concerns. Now spring is around the corner, and you need to know how concerned you should be. Since the top predictor of injury in one year is injury the year before, it's hard to feel confident about anyone who lost significant time in 2011. That said, some athletes appear to be on the verge of bursting back on the scene this spring while others cast shadows of uncertainty all around them. Here's what we're hearing about some of the players with major injury concerns surrounding their names.

We'll be splitting up the injury reports by position to make it a little easier to find information about the players drawing the most attention.

Third Base

Kevin Youkilis, Boston Red Sox: Youkilis is one of many players who underwent sports hernia surgery in the offseason, and it was no secret late in 2011 that he would need it. At various times, Youkilis was reported to be dealing with hip bursitis, lower back stiffness and a sports hernia, all of which could certainly be interrelated. As the season progressed, it became difficult to watch Youkilis struggle to move around the bases. Despite his valiant attempts to continue to push through the pain, by mid-September Youkilis was out of the lineup and didn't return. While the recovery from sports hernia surgeries is well documented as highly successful, Youkilis will also turn 33 years old this spring and has accumulated significant wear and tear over the past two seasons. Interestingly, Youkilis has changed his offseason program this year. His agent, Joe Bick, told WEEI.com last fall that Youkilis planned to focus on flexibility over power. In late January, ESPNBoston.com reported Youkilis had been cleared for all baseball activities, adding that he was feeling "great, healthy." It sounds as if he can be expected to start the season strong. Unfortunately, there is no turning back the clock nor is there any dialing back of the intensity Youkilis brings, so the pattern of wear-and-tear injuries may continue.

Alex Rodriguez, New York Yankees: Rodriguez is, well, 36 years old. There's no getting around his status as an aging veteran. While it may make him more experienced, more patient and wiser, it also makes him more vulnerable to the injuries that come with playing 150-plus games a year. In actuality, the number of games Rodriguez has played has dropped below 150 since 2008 and last year it dipped to just 99 games total, with A-Rod serving as the DH in 10 of those. In 2011, Rodriguez missed a chunk of time following meniscus surgery. His guarded return was an indication of caution, designed to ensure that Rodriguez did not suffer a setback, along with consideration of the years remaining on his contract. The muscular strains have also been more frequent in recent years, another sign of the body yielding perhaps to the effects of cumulative stress. As reported by the New York Post, Rodriguez did travel to Germany, with the Yankees' permission, to receive Orthokine treatment, a variation of stem cell therapy, on his left shoulder and his right knee. Only time will tell if Rodriguez has managed to stave off the effects of time a little longer.

Stephania Bell is a physical therapist who is a board-certified orthopedic clinical specialist and a certified strength and conditioning specialist. She is a clinician, author and teacher with extensive experience in the area of orthopedic manual therapy and sports medicine.