Joey Votto, Alex Rodriguez and Other Injured MLB Players Poised for Big Returns
With the playoffs right around the corner, teams are scrambling to shore up their weaknesses, trading for the pitchers and position players they hope will provide the final missing pieces to the championship puzzle. This is the time when legends are made, and it’s a darn tough time to go down with an injury.
What follows is a list of 13 MLB stars who have, for one reason or another, been forced to ride the pine and recuperate…and have opportunities to bring big upside to their teams as they return (and hopefully bounce back) during this playoff push.
Ian Desmond, Washington Nationals
Two weeks ago, Desmond went down with a torn left oblique muscle. He was placed on the 15-day disabled list, meaning he may be back soon. And Nationals manager Davey Johnson certainly hopes that’s the case.
Desmond, the erstwhile starting shortstop for the red-hot Nats, is posting a career-best .286 on the season to date. Until his injury, he was also providing rare power from the shortstop position, with 17 homers in 364 at-bats. That’s more than David Wright has posted this year.
The Nats, at 65-43 with a three-game lead over the second-place Atlanta Braves, will be looking forward to getting Desmond back in their lineup. And soon.
Jose Bautista, Toronto Blue Jays
After two straight years leading the AL in homers, Bautista was expected to carry the Blue Jays this year. And for awhile, he did.
But since injuring his wrist in an eighth-inning at-bat shortly after the All-Star break, Bautista has been riding the pine as the Blue Jays slip further and further out of the race.
Though Bautista is eager to return, the light at the end of this tunnel might yet remain far from sight. As reported Sunday night on MLB.com, Bautista continues to feel pain and is not expected back in the lineup any time soon.
Neftali Feliz, Koji Uehara and Mark Lowe, Texas Rangers
It started in May with Neftali Feliz. Then Uehara and Lowe went down, and two weeks ago, Lewis came next.
For some reason, strong arms in the Ranger pen and rotation keep going down with injuries. All but Lewis may be back for the September playoff push, and if they do make it, watch for the Rangers to hold off late-season surges from the Angels and the A’s in the AL West.
Lance Berkman, St. Louis Cardinals
Lance Berkman was placed on the disabled list for the second time this season by the defending MLB champion St. Louis Cardinals.
According to the Sports Xchange and Yahoo! Sports, Berkman “has had problems recovering from his surgically repaired right knee” since he underwent treatment this May.
Berkman, who has appeared in only 28 of the Cardinals’ 108 games to date, could figure to make an impact if he rehabilitates in time. As of Sunday night, the Cardinals were only 3.5 games back of the top wild-card spot—well within striking distance.
Brandon McCarthy, Oakland A's
Rookie phenom and midseason callup A.J. Griffin was placed on the 15-day disabled list on Sunday with a strained right shoulder. Griffin, with a record of 3-0 and an ERA of 2.42 in eight starts, was quickly showing himself worthy of his starting spot in the A’s rotation as the team made its surge through the standings.
His likely replacement? The man whose early-season injury made room for Griffin on the rotation: Brandon McCarthy.
Before straining his own throwing shoulder in June, McCarthy had posted a 6-3 win-loss record with a 2.54 ERA and seemed a likely All-Star Game candidate. He missed being selected, but thanks to Griffin’s injury, McCarthy may retake the mound for the resurgent A’s, Yahoo! Sports’ RotoWire reports.
Alex Rodriguez, New York Yankees
It’s been a tough year for A-Rod. For only the second time since he was 19 years old, he wasn’t selected to the All-Star Game, and now he's on the DL after fracturing his left hand.
A-Rod has been underproducing this season. A .276 batting average with just 15 home runs and 44 RBI are hardly the numbers Yankees fans have grown used to.
But the Yankees have been winning games all season long, even without him, and when A-Rod returns, he’ll have a chance to help propel the Yankees to another World Series championship.
Joey Votto, Cincinnati Reds
Despite being on the DL, Votto finds himself in possession of the NL league lead in doubles, walks and on-base percentage, just like last year. The 2010 MVP was hitting at an astounding .342 clip before tearing his meniscus last month.
With the Reds poised to win only their division title since 1995, the team would love for Votto to accelerate his rehabilitation and come back in time for the end of the season. Especially with the surging Pirates breathing down the team’s neck, expect Votto to put on his Superman cape and return to the team—and produce—as soon as possible.
David Ortiz, Boston Red Sox
This year has been the season of injuries for Boston. Carl Crawford, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Jacoby Ellsbury, Cody Ross, Ryan Sweeney, Dustin Pedroia, Josh Beckett, Clay Buchholz and others have all gone down with injuries so far this year...it seems the team just can’t catch a break.
But the most damaging addition to this list? David Ortiz, who went down two weeks ago with a strained Achilles tendon.
The Red Sox’s steady stream of injury woes have just about washed them out of the playoff picture. Even in this first year with five teams in each league making the postseason, a .500 record just won’t cut it.
Odds are good that Big Papi will do his best to return to the lineup and attempt to propel the Red Sox to a 2004-style miraculous comeback.
Will he be able to do it? Time will tell.
Jim Thome, Baltimore Orioles
The seventh-most prolific home run hitter of all time, surpassing even such luminaries as Mickey Mantle and Reggie Jackson, Jim Thome has long been used to carrying water for his teams. Even now, as a 41 year-old spot player, Thome has consistently responded to calls to produce. In just 132 at-bats this season, primarily taken against righty pitching, Thome has belted seven home runs.
He went down last week with a herniated disc—an old-guy injury if there ever was one—and there’s a good chance that this may be his last season in the bigs. But with the Orioles keeping a steady eye on a playoff berth, the team is surely pulling for Thome to recover and return.
And when he does, opposing pitchers will have to watch out.
Tommy Hanson, Atlanta Braves
One of a season full of surprises in the NL East, the Atlanta Braves continue to contend for a playoff spot. And one major reason they’ve been in the hunt all season has been 6’6” fireballer Tommy Hanson.
Hanson posted a won-loss record of 12-5 in 22 starts before being placed on the DL last week with a lower back strain.
The Braves will feel his absence. At least it gives Atlanta fans something to discuss besides the seemingly never-ending controversy over Chick-Fil-A.