Biggest MLB Injury Concerns with Spring Training Approaching
As we have flipped the calendar to 2013 and have hit frigid temperatures across the Midwest, we need to remember that spring training is right around the corner. Pitchers and catchers are set to report to their respective spring training facilities from Feb. 10-12, with position players reporting less than a week later.
That said, there’s an abundance of key players hoping to make a comeback after sustaining injuries either last season or during the offseason.
Here's a rundown on what player injuries concern me the most.
Los Angeles Angels
Ryan Madson was supposed to be the Cincinnati Reds’ closer last season, but never had a chance to do so. Madson missed the entire 2012 season after tearing a ligament in his right elbow—his pitching elbow.
A year removed from pitching, the Angels came calling. And last November, the two sides agreed on a one-year contract. According to an article on ESPN.com, Madson (who is said to be well ahead of schedule in his recovery) expects to be the Angels closer in 2013.
“I feel like if I can throw the ball like I’m capable of, I expect to have that role,” Madson told the Associated Press and ESPN.com. “I expect to come to spring training and earn the job.”
Madson spent his first nine seasons in the big leagues with the Philadelphia Phillies, where he posted a mark of 47-30 and an ERA of 3.59. As the Phillies closer in 2011, Madson recorded 32 saves, 11th-most in the National League during the regular season.
Six-time National League All-Star and Atlanta Braves starting catcher Brian McCann told MLB.com about Brian McCann" href="http://mlb.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20130114&content_id=40955016&vkey">MLB.com’s Mark Bowman that he’s ahead of schedule in his rehabilitation and is optimistic about returning quicker than expected.
“Being three months out of surgery, I feel like I’m ahead of schedule,” McCann told Bowman. “I feel better each day and I’m very encouraged by the signs that I have received recently.”
The positive signs McCann has had give him a great chance of being in the lineup on Opening Day, according to Bowman's article.
“If all goes well, it’s going to be hard for me to sit and watch the team on Opening Day, if I’m feeling good,” McCann told Bowman.
McCann, an eight-year veteran, saw his offensive production decline in 2012. Having played 121 games— the fewest since his rookie season in 2005—McCann amassed just 101 hits, 20 home runs and 67 RBI, also the fewest since his rookie season. McCann also posted a .230 batting average, .300 on-base percentage and .399 slugging percentage in route to losing to St. Louis in the Wild Card play-in game last season.
First baseman Corey Hart will be out until May, when he undergoes arthroscopic surgery on his right knee, according to The Sporting News. (Update: Hart is currently seeking a second opinion, h/t TSN.)
For Hart, it will be the second surgery in as many offseasons on his right knee.
“Corey can’t pinpoint it to one specific episode,” Brewers assistant general manager Gord Ash told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “He was doing his offseason workouts and the knee started to swell up. So, we’re a little stumped on that front.”
Hart, a two-time All-Star (2008, 2010) has become a vital key to the Brewers offense since the departure of former first baseman Prince Fielder, who signed with Detroit last winter.
Hart played 149 games for the Brewers in 2012 and scored 91 runs while posting 30 home runs, 83 RBI and a .270 batting average.
The Cardinals entered the offseason by passing up on acquiring a shortstop via free agency. Instead, St. Louis has taken a big gamble on the health of 14-year veteran and three-time All-Star Rafael Furcal.
Furcal, who was an important part of the Cardinals 2011 World Championship team, was placed on the 15-day disabled list on Aug. 31 with a strained right elbow (h/t ESPN.com).
According to CBSSports.com, Furcal had an MRI on his right elbow in November of 2012 and came away in full health.
Furcal is signed through the 2013 season, marking the end of his two-year deal with the Cardinals.
If Furcal can remain relatively healthy both in the field and at the plate, the Cardinals should receive some quality offensive production. In 2012, Furcal hit .265 with five home runs and 49 RBI.
About midway through last season, the Rangers’ starting rotation suffered a big blow when starter Colby Lewis went down with a forearm injury. Lewis ended up needing season-ending surgery, prematurely ending his 2012 campaign.
Lewis has been recovering well. According to SportsOverdose.com, he could be set to return to the Rangers rotation in May, weeks ahead of an earlier projected return date.
“It’s tempting when things are going well to keep pushing,” Rangers general manager Jon Daniels told Gerry Fraley of the Dallas Morning News. “We want Colby to come back once and get him back for good.”
Lewis started just 16 games in 2012, crafting a 6-6 mark with an ERA of 3.43. If Lewis remains healthy for all of 2013, the Rangers could be tough to beat.
There may be a new take on pitchers shagging fly balls during batting practice—at least with the New York Yankees.
After future Hall of Famer and Yankees closer Mariano Rivera tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee while tracking down a fly ball during batting practice before an early-season game against Kansas City in 2012, New York's season was in jeopardy.
But the Yankees overcame the loss of their closer, winning the AL East by two games over Baltimore and their American League Division Series (also over the Orioles) before being swept by Detroit in the American League Championship Series.
Now, the Yankees hope to have a similar outcome in 2013. But they want Rivera to be an active part of it.
“Oh, yeah, I don’t see why not,” Rivera told Anthony McCarron of the NY Daily News in December 2012. “We have at least three months, four months until that point. I’ll be ready.”
Rivera’s teammate and third-baseman Alex Rodriguez may not be ready for Opening Day, however.
Rodriguez underwent surgery on his hip in early January and will be sidelined at least until the All-Star break in July.
According to the NY Daily News, Rodriguez’s surgeon, Dr. Bryan Kelly, told the Yankees that he found less damage in Rodriguez’s hip than previously expected. This may indicate that Rodriguez will have few complications during his lengthy recovery.