31 March 2005

The Walking Wounded - National League

Spanning the globe, to give you a constant variety of...actually, not much. This is Boy of Summer. We do baseball here. If you want Variety, go buy a magazine.

Continuing my two-part series on Important Injury Issues, let's look at the Senior Circuit.

Arizona Diamondbads

Diamondbacks. Sorry, force of habit. Actually, Arizona's not in terrible shape injury-wise. Two potential closers in Jose Valverde and Greg Aquino are dealing with shoulder and elbow troubles, respectively, with the former recently placed on the 15-day DL.

Alex Cintron's nursing a hamstring pull, which might not be so bad for the D-Backs, as his 665 OPS was better than only Craig Counsell among qualified the 21 MLB shortstops who got more than 502 plate appearances last year. What's that? You say Counsell is Cintron's replacement? No, the Diamondbacks couldn't be that stupid, could they?

Atlanta Braves

Newly-aquired OF Raul Mondesi is day-to-day nursing a hammy, and probably won't be very good even with two halthy wheels. Far be it from me to argue with something that John Schuerholz and/or Bobby Cox dreamed up, since they've been right about almost everything for nearly a decade and a half, but isn't relying on Raul Mondesi to supply offense a little like relying on Venezuela to supply oil? I mean, it's great when you can get it, but the situation is so unstable that only a fool would bank on it long-term. Tune in this October when Mondesi wins the "Comeback Player of the Year" Award and Travis wins another "Would You Like Some Fries With Those Words?" Award.

Chicago Cubs

Pick your poison. You want a former NL Rookie of the Year who led the majors in strikeouts in 2003 with shoulder problems? Meet Kerry Wood, who should start Opening Day, but who knows when thereafter. You want a perennial Cy Young candidate with elbow problems? Meet Mark Prior, who will pitch for the first time in nearly a month this Saturday, albeit against minor-leaguers. A closer hit in the hand with a line drive? Joe Borowski is expected to miss six weeks with a broken bone in that hand. Speaking of closers and former Rookies of the Year, Scott Williamson's elbow troubles continue to haunt him and the fans of whichever team he's playing for. This team's hopes hinge on its pitching staff, especially Wood and Prior, and thisngs aren't exactly starting out well.

Cincinnati Reds

The Reds don't have any big injuries currently, but it's early yet, and Ken Griffey's still on the roster.

Colorado Rockies

The Rockies/Rookies aren't expected to do much this year. Shawn Chacon is apparently coming back from a hamstring injury and pitched well in an exhibition game last week, although you would almost think that the fact that he pitched well is an indication that he's still not healthy. Chacon provided the ultimate proof of how silly the save rule is, racking up 35 "Show Up In the 9th"s while going 1-9 with an ERA of 7.11. Thank you, come again! As long as him hamstring heals properly, Chacon will return to surrendering game-winning homers as a starter rather than a reliever.

Florida Marlins

Florida's offense depends on Juan Pierre, and Juan Pierre depends on his speed, which could be severely compromised if his calf strain turns out to be any kind of long-term concern. He's day-to-day.

Thankfully, Florida's pitching does not depend on Ismael Valdez, who is a (very distant) 5th starter on this team, and therefore will have a few weeks to get over some kind of virus that kept him on the sidelines at the start of spring training.

Houston Astros

Lance Berkman tore his ACL playing flag football this winter, but should be back in mid to late April. Jeff Bagwell's shoulder still isn't right, requiring a cortisone shot last week. It probably will plague him, and the 'Stros' playoff hopes, for most of the season. Roger Clemens may be the best pitcher of his generation, but the dude is 42 years old, and 42-year old hamstrings don't usually heal very quickly. This team is getting old and injury-prone quickly, and I haven't even mentioned Andy Pettitte's perpetually gimpy left elbow.

Los Angeles Dodgers

Pitching has typically been the Dodgers' bread and butter, and their notable injuries are naturally mostly to pitchers. Odalis Perez is making progress with his tendinitis, as is swingman Wilson Alvarez*. Brad Penny, with his own biceps injury, is somewhat farther behind in his progress, but is headed in the right direction. Scott Erickson, who has less cartilige in his pitching elbow than I have in my coffee cup right now (I hope), has won the 5th starter's job, but don't expect that to last long. Erickson hasn't pitched a full, healthy season since 1999.

Outfielder Jayson Werth had a broken wrist but is getting back to hitting and should be back soon after Opening Day.

Milwaukee Brewers

No major injuries, just day-to-day bumps and bruises for Junior Spivey and Dan=main Miller.

New York Mets

Pedro martinez may be a future Cooperstown enshrinee, but he's also the riskiest $54 million spent this winter. No other player has as much upside or as much downside associated with his contract, and Pedro's lower back strain this spring may be a harbinger of disaster for the Mets and their new management team. The ill-advised aquisition of Victor Zambrano continues to haunt this team as well, though Zambrano did OK last week in an intrasquad game. Now if he can just keep from walking 6 batters per game in the regular season...

Philadelphia Phillies

The Phils phace a touph phight with a pitching staph that's not phrequently both phit and ephective. OK, enouph with that.

Vicente Padilla's on the DL with tendinitis in his pitching triceps, which currently stands as Philadelphia's biggest injury concern. Both center field candidates, Kenny Lofton and Marlon Byrd, are dealing with minor leg injuries, and 1B Jim Thome has a sometimes stiff back, which would quickly become the team's greatest concern if it turns out to be more phrequent. Sorry, frequent.

Pittsburgh Pirates

The Pirates had a stroke of luck getting Jason Bay and his sweet stroke from the Padres for Brian Giles, providing them their first Rookie of the Year ever. Bay hurt his wrist this winter, but seems to be returning from that injury fine. Relief man Salomon Torres has some neck issues, but unlike Ryan Vogelsong, it's not whiplash from watching all those home runs he surrenders.

San Diego Padres

The Fathers hope to show the rest of the NL who it's Daddy is this year, but they need centerfielder and leadoff man Dave Roberts to be healthy. To that end, they'll let him start the season on the DL to rehab his groin injury and make sure he can run full speed upon his return. Roberts' only asset is his speed, so it's best for all involved to make sure he has it when he returns. They have a name for .250 hitters with no power and no speed: Coach.

San Francisco Giants

You know about Barry Bonds and his third knee surgery. (That must be a side effect of steroids, as most people I know only have two knees...) Bonds may be out a month, or two, of three, or all season, or he may be done entirely. In all likelihood, he'll be back by the end of May at the latest. If he takes any longer than that, the Giants have no chance in the NL West.

Leadoff man and 2B Ray Durham is also returning from a groin injury (What is it with NL leadoff men and their groins?), but should be OK, having gotten back into the lineup this week.

St. Louis Cardinals

Matt Morris anchored perhaps the least spectacular starting rotation ever for a team that won 105 games last year, but if his sore shoulder doesn't heal soon, his consistency will be missed. With Mulder, Suppan, Carpenter and Marquis, Morris will have a few weeks before they need a 5th starter.

Washington Nationals

For a guy who's only 26, it sure seems like Tony Armas has been injured a long time, doesn't it? He hasn't ever pitched 200 innings in a season, and he hasn't qualified for and ERA title (162 IP) since 2002, and just barely at that. A groin injury this spring has him back on the DL, suggesting that 2005 will not be the year he snaps out of that funk.

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