The Oakland A's are about to get a boost to their lineup and defense. Ramón Laureano, Oakland's centerfielder and lineup anchor, may return as early as Wednesday. He has one more test to pass before being activated from the injured list (IL_.
What is left for Laureano's rehab?
Laureano suffered a hip injury on May 27th, the last game he has played this season. He was not immediately placed on the IL, but after a couple of days, it was clear his injury would not resolve in a matter of days. On June 1st, Oakland placed Laureano on the IL with a hip strain.
The hip contains 17 different muscles, so to call the injury a hip strain is vague. It is likely Laureano strained a hip flexor, either his rectus femoris or psoas major. Being a mild strain, the exact muscle doesn't matter much. The rehabilitation will be the same.
Most grade I strains take roughly 2-3 weeks of rehabilitation before high-intensity activity can be resumed. Laureano is on track for that timeline.
He has taken batting practice the last 4 days, which is a good sign as swinging a bat requires rapid contract of the hips to generate power. While not a strict power hitter, Laureano has good pop in his bat, swatting 11 home runs in 48 games this season. Hitting major league pitching requires precise timing. Any hesitation due to pain or discomfort will have disastrous results.
The final step in rehab is the most challenging for the hip flexor: sprinting. According to the A's, Laureano will run the bases on Tuesday. If all goes well, he will be activated for the final game of the Oakland As' - Los Angeles Angels series.
Sprinting is the most challenging task for the hip flexors as it requires substantial force generation, placing high levels of strain on the muscle. That is why it was left for last. Running the bases is even more challenging than sprinting in a straight line. It requires rapid change in direction and rapid acceleration and deceleration when traversing the bases.
While Laureano's base-stealing slowed substantially after the first two weeks, he is still a threat to steal another 10-15 bases this year. The A's want to ensure he can run on the bases and rapidly change direction without hesitation. The same is true for outfield work.
As a centerfielder, Laureano covers the most real estate on the baseball diamond. He needs to run at full speed to chase down fly balls. Again, no hesitation allowed.
At this stage of rehab, Laureano will have performed plyometric and power training. He may have even completed straight-line sprints. Game simulations are a different animal.
It's not just about returning to the games but staying healthy is the overall priority. The Oakland A's are currently leading the AL West. They have maintained high-quality baseball without Laureano but that doesn't mean they won't benefit from his return.