The Early Season Injury Bug
Injuries - sure they happen, but who can withstand them? Weathering the health ups and downs that invariably come with a long season is an essential component to most any winning team. When we interviewed Red Sox Assistant General Manager Jed Hoyer back in February, one of the most interesting tidbits that Hoyer offered up was the following:
When we were relatively injury-free through July, we played well. But once we started getting banged up, we fell quickly. That's not an excuse at all, because the mark of a good team is one that is deep enough to overcome injuries. In 2005, we made the playoffs without Schilling or Foulke for most of the season. In 2004, we didn't have Nomar or Trot for long stretches. Last year, we weren't deep enough in the rotation or the lineup to sustain injuries.
No excuses for Boston's play in 2006. Injuries happen and everyone should anticipate them going into the season and construct their rosters and organizations accordingly.
There has been a ridiculous spate of high-profile injuries to kick the 2007 season. Some teams are better positioned than others to fill in for their fallen. What follows is a look, from AL East to NL West, at the key injured players around Major League Baseball, who their replacements might be and what it means for the respective teams.
You're not going to believe this, but Jaret Wright is injured. Jeremy Guthrie filled in with one shaky start in which he got the win and figures to continue to do so until Wright is back from his sore shoulder. Guthrie figures to be able to provide output in Wright's neighborhood, which is much more of a commentary on Wright's mediocrity than Guthrie's promise.
*edit* As Ben noted in the comments section, Guthrie did not fill in for Wright and is not necessarily taking his place. Due to the weather and scheduling, the O's have not had to name a replacement starter for Wright.
New York Yankees
Yankee regulars Hideki Matsui, Mike Mussina and Carl Pavano have joined Chien-Ming Wang on the Disabled List, though all figure to return before the end of April. Melky Cabrera will bridge the gap just fine until Matsui returns while I think the Yanks could toss out any number of Minor League warm bodies and continue to win thanks to their lineup. Last night offered a glimpse at what the Bomber formula for victory will in all likelihood look like for a few weeks. A crappy, 5-inning effort from their starter (Chase Wright last night) and a hitting clinic by their offense. They'll be fine.
Toronto has been absolutely decimated by the injury bug, but might be in better shape than you think. Jason Frasor is a high strikeout guy with a track record of Major League success who should do an acceptable job while B.J. Ryan recovers. Adam Lind is a promising outfield prospect who, I contended, should have had a job ahead of Reed Johnson all along. With Johnson now down, Lind gets a shot. The Troy Glaus injury probably hurts the most because Toronto does not have a comparable replacement, but Glaus's injury is the least severe of Toronto's key injuries.
Cliff Lee threw three innings in an extended Spring Training game and appears to be on his way back from his abdominal strain. It's a good thing for Cleveland too, as Fausto Carmona is not the answer. Even more fortunately for Cleveland, the horrible weather rolling through the midwest lately has forced a number of post-ponements so Carmona has only seen the mound for one start. On the plus side for the Tribe, Victor Martinez is back.
Los Angeles Angels
Vladimir Guerrero was hit by a pitch in Boston Monday but is expected to return on Friday. Exhale, Halo fans.
Milton Bradley is expected to hit the shelf soon with an achy hamstring. Bobby Kielty is a clear step down from Bradley, but should be an acceptable holdover given Bradley returns within a few weeks.
Mark Prior and Kerry Wood have taken up residence on the all too familiar DL and now Alfonso Soriano is expected to miss the rest of this week with a sore hamstring. An MRI showed nothing wrong with it, which is great news for Cubs fans. In the interim, the promising Felix Pie takes over. In his first game yesterday, he doubled off of Greg Maddux and had an outfield assist.
Free Agent pick up Jason Jennings is on the 15-day DL with shoulder tendinitis. Matt Albers takes his spot in the rotation, and although Albers has been a solid Minor League pitcher, he does not appear to have the stuff to succeed in the Bigs - at least not at this point. 'Stros fans should be hoping that Jennings recovers and returns in good form.
The loss of Chris Carpenter is just devastating for the Cards. They are holding their breath as the plan right now has rest as the formula to heal Carpenter's elbow. If rest does not work, Carpenter will undergo surgery that will sideline him for an extended period of time. It's hard to imagine that St. Louis would be able to withstand a downgrade from Carpenter to Randy Keisler. Juan Encarnacion's wrist is reportedly healing up but I don't see the free-swinger making much of a difference even when he does return.
Los Angeles Dodgers
Thanks to the strong start from Luis Gonzalez and their overall outfield depth, the Dodgers have not felt the loss of Matt Kemp in any real significant way. Still, Kemp took batting practice yesterday and appears to be on pace to return when he comes off the DL. Something tells me Juan Pierre and his .242 on-base will still be manning center field when he does.
More concerning for Dodger fans is the Jason Schmidt situation. Word is he hasn't even sniffed 90 MPH with his fastball in 2007, and some scouts have said he is more in the low-to-mid 80's. So even though the loss of Schmidt hurts, you do not want him taking the mound anyway in his current form. Mark Hendrickson takes his spot in the rotation and should represent an upgrade from Schmidt's pitiful output thus far in 2007. The best case scenario for Dodgers fans is that Schmidt somehow fixes himself and returns as the effective power pitcher he has been over the years.
Josh Bard is on the 15-day Disabled List in order to nurse a groin strain. Provided he returns on time the injury should not hurt the Pads too badly but Rob Bowen is no long term solution.