Injuries Besiege Baseball This Spring, How Will They Affect the Season?

It’s a time when players come to test out surgically repaired knees and elbows.  It’s a time when ice baths and deep tissue massages are far from a player’s thoughts.  It’s spring training, and it’s a time when players are working on their form and first testing themselves after injuries from the previous season.  This spring, though, it seems injure have been lurking in every park, standing behind the pitcher’s mound, sitting on the bench, and following players home.  There has been a rash of injuries this spring that will impact the season going forward.

So far this spring, we’ve seen the following key players injured (in no particular order):

Chipper Jones
Chris Carpenter
Chase Utley
Joba Chamberlain
Ryan Madson
Joakim Soria

There are plenty more, but for the sake of time, I want to keep the list as these players so I can cover the impact of their injuries.  I’ll continue in the same order as I listed the players above.

Daniel Shirey-US PRESSWIRE

Chipper Jones

Jones injured his left knee when he slipped during batting practice on 3/22.  Jones tore the meniscus in his knee and will have surgery tomorrow.  He should be sidelined for a few weeks.  Jones is hoping to be back for the team’s home opener.  However, he’s 40 years old.  He recently had surgery on his right knee last season, and is already facing retirement.  The Braves won’t rush him back, and Jones won’t want to rush back.  He wants to be able to play out his final season as healthy as possible.

The impact of this injury should be minimal to the Braves.  Jones managed to hit .275/.344/.470 last season with 18 home runs in 126 games played.  It doesn’t seem as if this injury will keep him off the field too long, and he should be able to put up similar numbers.

Chris Carpenter

This is a big blow for the Cardinals.  On Friday, the Cardinals announced that ace pitcher, Chris Carpenter, had nerve irritation in his pitching shoulder and was experiencing weakness.  Carpenter experienced pain earlier in spring from a bulging disc in his neck.  The team has yet to release a time table for Carpenter’s return to game action, but it seems as if he will miss the rest of spring training.

The Cardinals suffered a much more severe loss last season in Wainwright.  Wainwright was lost for the entire season, while it seems Carpenter will return.  However, due to Carpenter’s age, his return is not guaranteed and neither is his effectiveness.  The Cardinals have a new manager, they are without Albert Pujols, and they are facing an N.L. Central with a competitive Reds team and defending division champion Brewers team.  Carpenter’s loss could certainly cost the Cardinals some games early on, and they will have to make a push mid-season to keep pace in the division.

Chase Utley

Utley’s injury is not so much a spring training injury as it is a degenerative condition.  The fact is, though, he has not played at all this spring when many thought he would be ready to go.  Utley has chronic tendinitis in his knees and while the team thought he’d be ready to go for Opening Day, Utley has now left camp altogether.  He should return to camp, but he is not going to be ready for Opening Day.

The Phillies thought their middle infield was in good shape and traded away Wilson Valdez.  That move may come back to haunt them.  With an ailing Chase Utley, the team’s second base situation is far from enviable.  Depending on how long the Phillies must keep Utleuy shelved, they may find themselves in trouble considering the improvements of the other teams in the division and the team’s ever-decreasing offensive prowess.

Joba Chamberlain

Chamberlain takes the cake for most gruesome spring injury.  He suffered an open fracture of his right ankle while bouncing on a trampoline with his son.  The injury caused substantial blood loss and of course required surgery.  While some in the Yankees organization are putting up an optimistic front, it will be surprising if Chamberlain pitches this year.  Some question how the injury will affect his career going forward.

With Chamberlain likely out for the season, the Yankees lose a dominant presence in the bullpen as well as an emergency arm if they need a starter.  Chamberlain, for all the caution the Yankees took with him, has experienced a multitude of injuries, but when healthy, he has been strong.  The loss will certainly hurt the Yankees, but New York relies mostly on their hitting, not always their pitching.

Ryan Madson

The Reds took a huge financial hit with Madson.  After giving him a one-year deal worth $8.5 million, Madson has blown out his elbow and will undergo Tommy John surgery.  The injury hurts the Reds, but it also hurts Madson.  He all but had a 4-year, $44 million deal worked out with the Phillies when they burned him and chose Jonathan Papelbon instead.  Madson will work on making his returned with someone next season.

The Reds will not have the cash to go out and find a big-name closer.  Even if they did, there aren’t any available.  Their bullpen took a major hit with the Madson injury, and it will certainly cost them in the form of some additional blown saves.  Unless the team finds a capable replacement within, they will lose anywhere from 5-15 saves with Madson gone.

Joakim Soria

Also in the Tommy John surgery club is Joakim Soria.  It was announced last week that Soria had elbow

Matt Kartozian-US PRESSWIRE

damage.  He took a few days to make his treatment decision, but ultimately there was only one choice: Tommy John surgery.  He will be on the shelf for the entire 2012 season, and his future is unknown as it’s not clear he will be able to stay in Kansas City.

The Royals, building toward the future, were counting on Soria to lead them in the pen.  Now, without their closer, the rest of the bullpen will have to pick up the slack.  The Royals may not have been a competitor this year, but saddled with the Soria contract and no Soria in the bullpen, certainly hurts Kansas City’s future plans.  They will have to operate with what they currently have rather than go out seeking a replacement.  The injury will cost the Royals a few games, but likely won’t make much of a difference in their year-end outcome.

Some of the rest

The above players represent just a sample of those who have been injured this spring.  A.J. Burnett suffered facial fractures during batting practice.  Scott Sizemore suffered a torn ligament in his left knee.  Beyond them, there are injuries among role players, fringe major leaguers, and potential 40-man call-ups that have shaped this spring.

Injuries are part of the game, but this spring seems to have seen more injuries than most.  That’s probably not the case.  It’s probably as simple as there being just more injuries to well-known players.  No matter the case, teams will have to adjust to these injuries and refocus their season without some of these players.

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Topics: A.J. Burnett, Chase Utley, Chipper Jones, Chris Carpenter, Joakim Soria, Joba Chamberlin, Ryan Madson, Scott Sizemore, Spring Training

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