Spring Training is probably twice as long as it needs to be. The players universally arrive to camp already in peak physical shape, such that a player who comes to camp out of shape is mocked and derided and roundly questioned.
But the owners like selling tickets and the players like all the off days so, for now, it is a six-week odyssey. All anybody in uniform wants from Spring Training is survival. Just head north (or west) in one piece and the spring is officially a success.
It doesn’t ever work that way because baseball is hard and dangerous with a small “d.” Every slide is perilous, every grounder could be the one that takes a funny hop and breaks a finger or an orbital bone.
This weekend, the list of players unable to escape spring’s clutches grew longer. It seemed one after another, big names fell. If not big names, than names featuring prominently in the hopes and dreams of fans and club officials.
Blown-out arms are tough to pin on Spring Training as an entity. Tears or strains in the elbow that end up requiring Tommy John surgery are the cost of doing business in the world of pitching. You can manage workloads and correct mechanics and sacrifice woodland creatures all you want, but some guys are just going to get hurt. These wounds are more reminiscent of the final grains of sands slipping from the top of the hourglass to the bottom rather than cruel happenstance — a matter of time, not station.
The game must soldier on, of course. The world doesn’t stop because Patrick Corbin is upset.
Absolutely heartbreaking press conference just finished up with Patrick Corbin. Could tell how rattled he is by what’s happened.
— Nick Piecoro (@nickpiecoro) March 16, 2014
So let us run down this weekend’s walking wounded.
Patrick Corbin, Arizona
As you can probably assume from the above tweet which includes the words “Patrick Corbin” and “heartbreaking”, the forearm strain the caused Corbin to leave a Cactus League start this week is in fact much more serious.
Corbin’s first diagnosis included Tommy John surgery, so the Dbacks left-hander will seek a second opinion this week, hoping for better news.
It’s a blow for the 23-year old, who was terrific in 2013. He pitched 200 innings of 3.41 ERA ball, good for three Wins Above Replacement. Corbin was scheduled to start one of Arizona’s two games in Australia.
The other man scheduled to make one of those starts, Trevor Cahill, also finds his early season in doubt after jamming his knee running the bases. Each blow is significant for AZ, as their quest to win 83 games comfortably takes a big hit. Looks like another season with 81 victories, the Desert Delight as it is otherwise known.
Jonathon Niese, NY Mets
There is no official verdict on Niese’s status but he left a spring start and winged it to New York for an MRI with the Mets team doctor. Like Corbin, Niese is an effective left-hander suitable for the middle of any team’s rotation. Which makes him a shoo-in to start Opening Day for the Mets.
The Mets might be making noise and preparing to make a run in the NL East, but not until 2015 at the earliest. By then Matt Harvey will be back, Noah Syndergaard should be seasoned enough and Zack Wheeler will hopefully harness his powerful arsenal.
With all that firepower, an effective pitcher like Niese is the perfect compliment. If he heads under the butcher of Birmingham’s knife, the Mets will have a tough time filling his spot, especially at his deeply discounted rate (Niese signed a five-year, $25 million deal with the Mets ahead of the 2012 season.)
It could well be nothing but these are the Mets and this is the spring weekend of sorrow (not to mention the second health worry of Niese’s spring), so let’s all just assume the worst.
Jose Iglesias, Detroit
Remember the “baseball is hard” thing from earlier? Let me remind you: baseball is hard. Jose Iglesias is a phenom with the glove and the perfect compliment to most of Detroit’s other infield options.
But he also lives with a painful shin condition which apparently exploded into something worse this spring, as reports suggest the Cuban shortstop has stress fractures in both tibias.
Not only does this put the start of his season in doubt, it raises questions about Iglesias participating in the Tigers 2014 season at all. What???
This puts the Tigers in a pretty significant hole. Any offense Iglesias provides is gravy considering the brilliance of his play at short. The Tigers brought him in to anchor their defense, which should be better with Miguel Cabrera moving back to first and Ian Kinsler taking over at second. But the drop-off from Iglesias to Eugenio Suarez figures to be steep, as the drop-off between Iglesias and just about anybody is huge.
After these more serious injuries, there was the vast assortment of bumps and bruises which typify any baseball weekend. Ryan Doumit spent some time behind the plate for the Braves and promptly took a foul tip off the finger, though x-rays were negative.
A strained hamstring here and sore hands there, but most fall under the “if it was the season, I’d be playing” umbrella. Is Spring Training too long? Yes, it certainly is. But the three major injuries listed above don’t go away if camp opened on March 1st. An ounce of prevention beats a pound of cure, except when “prevention” is luck and “cure” is prayer.
One of these guys used to play for the Detroit Tigers. As you can see above, they’re sort of in the market for a new shortstop. The Mets need a shortstop. The Yankees and Blue Jays each need a reliable second baseman.
One of these guys signed a four-year deal with the best team in the National League. One of these guys is coming off a PED suspension.
One of these guys is considering waiting until June before signing a contract to play baseball in 2014.
2010-2103, two not-so-randomly selected ballplayers
One of these guys has draft pick compensation attached to his name. Guys which one!
“Mediocrity has made the Diamondbacks angry”
The lede of the year comes from a slightly searing editorial by Rockies beat writer Troy Renck after the Rox and Snakes got into a beanball war…in Spring Training.
Long story short – the Arizona Diamondbacks are a joke. Read the full piece here and try not smile.