Rarely does a long-term injury have a straightforward recovery, as recent developments for Nick Lodolo and Oneil Cruz have reminded us. Lodolo was well into a rehab assignment for a stress reaction in his tibia when tests revealed another stress reaction in that same tibia. Cruz was hopeful of returning in August when he first fractured his fibula in April, but here it is almost September and he's not even comfortable running yet.

At one time, they were high-priority IL stashes. Now, their chances of returning this season are virtually nil. Lodolo has officially been ruled out, in fact, but Cruz is still ranked here. If even he can crack the top 40 despite the long odds, how many of these players are genuinely worth the trouble?

The number is dwindling, which means I probably won't address the topic again this season, but I did want to take this last opportunity to highlight a few long-term absences that may still end in a payoff. Three starting pitchers in particular -- Kyle Wright, John Means and Mason Miller -- are far enough into the rehab process that they could come back and handle a conventional workload for several turns.

It doesn't mean they will or that they'll succeed with what they're given. Again, we should know better than to presume that by now. But you don't lose anything by filling an open IL spot with them.

Too valuable to drop, period
Bo Bichette Toronto Blue Jays SS
strained quadriceps - no timetable given, but it doesn't sound like a long-term issue
Mike Trout Los Angeles Angels CF
fractured hamate bone - off IL one day before returning with continued soreness, taking 10 days to rest
Matt McLain Cincinnati Reds SS
strained oblique - obviously has potential to be multi-week injury, but Reds are hopeful he makes it back
Nathan Eovaldi Texas Rangers SP
forearm tightness - also dealing with side tightness but still throwing; Rangers may rush him back
Joe Musgrove San Diego Padres SP
shoulder inflammation - began playing catch over weekend but still "a ways away," says Bob Melvin
Josh Naylor Cleveland Guardians 1B
strained oblique - beginning rehab assignment this week, could return this weekend
J.D. Martinez Los Angeles Dodgers DH
strained groin - set to begin rehab assignment, could return next weekend
Lars Nootbaar St. Louis Cardinals CF
groin contusion - taking part in baseball activities, likely to return at some point this week
Also really difficult to drop
Ryan Helsley St. Louis Cardinals RP
forearm tightness - expected Friday but may need some time to regain closer role
Jake Fraley Cincinnati Reds RF
stress fracture in toe - on rehab assignment, but injury will eventually require surgery
Jonathan India Cincinnati Reds 2B
plantar fasciitis - still not running on flat ground but early September remains timeline
Josh Jung Texas Rangers 3B
thumb surgery - no updates since undergoing the procedure in early August, which doesn't inspire confidence
Yu Darvish San Diego Padres SP
bone spur - return hasn't been ruled out, but it wouldn't be surprising if it eventually is
Kyle Wright Atlanta Braves SP
strained shoulder - second rehab start did worse than first, likely needs a couple more
Matt Chapman Toronto Blue Jays 3B
sprained finger - no timetable yet but presumably won't keep him out long
Still a priority on some level
Henry Davis Pittsburgh Pirates RF
strained hand - doesn't sound serious but plagued him long enough to hamper production
John Means Baltimore Orioles SP
Tommy John surgery - went 4 1/3 innings in latest rehab start but won't necessarily start when he's back
Mason Miller Oakland Athletics SP
sprained elbow - scheduled for one more rehab start, hasn't worked past three innings yet
Walker Buehler Los Angeles Dodgers SP
Tommy John surgery - will throw 1-2 innings in rehab debut Sunday, needs to build up to four before returning
Shane Bieber Cleveland Guardians SP
elbow inflammation - not to the point of throwing off a mound yet, which puts return in question
Marcus Stroman Chicago Cubs SP
rib cage fracture - damage is to cartilage area, no timetable for return
Byron Buxton Minnesota Twins DH
hamstring tightness - playing center field on rehab assignment, should return soon
Kris Bryant Colorado Rockies RF
fractured finger - having splint removed Tuesday, hoping to return in a couple weeks
Jarred Kelenic Seattle Mariners LF
fractured foot - out of walking boot and could go on rehab assignment soon, mid-September possible
Anthony Rizzo New York Yankees 1B
concussion - facing live pitching again, but manager Aaron Boone calls him "week to week"
Stashing is purely a luxury
Joey Votto Cincinnati Reds 1B
shoulder discomfort - likely just a short stay on IL, with return as early as next week
Chase Silseth Los Angeles Angels RP
concussion - initial tests showed no concussion, so this seems like an abundance-of-caution absence
Ranger Suarez Philadelphia Phillies SP
strained hamstring - no rehab assignment scheduled, expected to return Sunday
Triston McKenzie Cleveland Guardians SP
sprained elbow - not far behind Bieber, but Guardians figure to be more cautious with him
Edwin Diaz New York Mets RP
patellar tendon surgery - completed first bullpen session Sunday and still aims to return in late September
Oneil Cruz Pittsburgh Pirates SS
fractured fibula - recently halted running program because of continued soreness, which likely ends hopes
Nestor Cortes New York Yankees SP
strained rotator cuff - went back on IL after one start Aug. 5, still a couple weeks from throwing
Alex Kirilloff Minnesota Twins 1B
strained shoulder - on rehab assignment, likely back at some point next week
Michael Conforto San Francisco Giants RF
strained hamstring - Grade 2 strain will likely keep him out until at least mid-September
Starling Marte New York Mets RF
strained groin - away from team for physical therapy, seemingly little incentive to bring him back
Erik Swanson Toronto Blue Jays RP
spine inflammation - will be shut down for 10 days, should spend only a brief time on the IL
Steven Matz St. Louis Cardinals SP
strained lat - just had MRI to determine if he can ramp up again after two weeks off
Matthew Liberatore St. Louis Cardinals SP
back tightness - on rehab assignment, could be activated next time through
Cal Quantrill Cleveland Guardians SP
shoulder inflammation - expected back this week after going 7 1/3 in latest rehab start
Trevor Rogers Miami Marlins SP
strained lat - injury is to non-throwing shoulder, playing catch but has long way to go
Chris Paddack Minnesota Twins SP
Tommy John surgery - going multiple innings in sim games, could make a couple starts late