Biggest Injury Concerns Heading into MLB Spring Training 2013

Benjamin KleinContributor IIIFebruary 4, 2013

Biggest Injury Concerns Heading into MLB Spring Training 2013

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    Spring training means a fresh start for every player in Major League Baseball, but it doesn’t erase the question marks attached to those coming off of injuries.

    Several stars missed valuable time last season with a wide variety of injuries, stretching from torn ACLs to sitting out while recovering from Tommy John surgery. The biggest question surrounding these players is how they’ll bounce back.

    With some suffering from major injuries within the last couple of months—or year, in a few instances—there’s no guarantee that the players will return to form. Aggravating a past injury is always something to keep an eye on and missing considerable time could end a career for some players.

    That being said, here’s a look at players who may not be as healthy as they could be to start the 2013 season with an update on how each of them is doing.

Rafael Furcal, St. Louis Cardinals

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    Spring training is going to be extremely important for the St. Louis Cardinals and their starting shortstop, Rafael Furcal.

    Furcal hit .264/.325/.346 with 26 extra-base hits and 69 runs in 121 games last season, missing the final month of the season with an elbow injury.

    But instead of having elbow surgery, Furcal decided to just rest it instead. Jenifer Langosch of MLB.com explains where the Cardinals stand with their star shortstop and leadoff hitter:

    Information that the Cardinals have received from their medical staff indicates that Furcal’s recovery is on point. Yet, in option against surgery, Furcal can’t be certain about how well his elbow will hold up until he resumes throwing at full effort. Spring Training will provide that test.

    If Furcal fails this imperative test, the Cardinals are in immediate trouble out of the gate.

Brian McCann, Atlanta Braves

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    Brian McCann had a down year in 2012 and that was mainly due to a torn labrum in his throwing shoulder.

    McCann was limited to 121 games last season—the fewest he’s played in since his rookie season in 2005—and didn’t hit particularly well. He batted a career-low .230, but did hit 20 home runs and drove in 67 runs.

    McCann is targeting Opening Day as his return date, according to the Associated Press (h/t ESPN):

    “I’m going to have to persuade a lot of people,” McCann said. “I’m going to have to show them I’m ready to go and my shoulder is healed. I plan on doing that. I don’t know if that’s going to happen, but that’s my mindset. I want to be ready as soon as possible. I keep getting better each day.”

    Atlanta will be forced to go with Gerald Laird behind the plate if McCann isn’t ready to go.

John Lackey, Boston Red Sox

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    John Lackey has been bit of a disappointment since joining the Boston Red Sox, but he will be looking to turn his career around in 2013.

    Lackey missed the entire 2012 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery, but is expected to try and come back with a vengeance. Scott Lauber of The Boston Herald reports that Lackey as had a nice offseason:

    Reached by phone yesterday as he prepared to leave today for Fort Myers, Farrell said Lackey has lost at least 10 pounds, likely more, during the final stages of his recovery from Tommy John elbow surgery. He also expressed confidence that Lackey will be healthy and ready to pitch in spring training after missing all of last season.

    The Red Sox need Lackey to return to the form he displayed while with the Los Angeles Angels. He still has two years and $30.5 million on his contract as well as a 2015 vesting option.

    In 2012, Lackey went 12-12 in 28 starts with a career-high 6.41 ERA over 160 innings. It’s tough to imagine Lackey coming close to that ERA in 2013, but you never know coming off of major surgery. 

Ryan Madson, Los Angeles Angels

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    After missing the entire 2012 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery, Ryan Madson didn’t have the toughest time finding a new team in free agency.

    Madson, who saved 32 games for the Philadelphia Phillies in 2011, signed a deal to close for the Los Angeles Angels in 2013.

    Madson has had a good offseason and should be ready to go once spring training starts, according to Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register:

    Dipoto said the other Angels pitchers who are coming off surgery are all doing well, including Ryan Madson, who underwent Tommy John surgery last April. Madson threw off the mound for the first time on Monday, and he is scheduled to do so again on Friday. He’ll continue throwing twice a week until spring training begins.

    Ernesto Frieri served as Los Angeles’ closer last season, saving 23 games and appearing in 56 games. 

Logan Morrison, Miami Marlins

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    Logan Morrison is one of the few notable players on the Miami Marlins’ roster heading into 2013 after a very busy offseason where many stars were dealt via trades.

    Morrison, however, was painful to watch last season as he battled through a knee injury. He only managed to play in 93 games, hitting .230/.308/.399 with 11 home runs and 36 RBI.

    Clark Spencer of The Miami Herald reports that Morrison is being very cautious with his rehab and is unsure of when he’ll be able to play:

    “As far as knowing exactly when I’ll be ready, I don’t think anyone knows,” he said. “I’m optimistic in the fact that it doesn’t hurt like it did last year. There’s no pain like last year. There is no aching like last year. I don’t think I was ever 85 percent last year.”

    Even if Morrison is feeling better than he did in 2012, his impact probably isn’t going to do much for the Marlins. With a lack of talent on its roster, Miami will likely finish in the cellar of the National League East. 

Mike Napoli, Boston Red Sox

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    Mike Napoli came into the winter expecting a big deal, and he kind of got one. After originally agreeing to a three-year deal with the Boston Red Sox, something came up in his physical that the team didn’t care for.

    Napoli was later diagnosed with avascular necrosis, a condition that restricts blood flow to the hip joints, according to Nick Cafardo of The Boston Globe. Cafardo reports that Napoli is going to do his best with his new team despite the now known ailment:

    “I didn’t know I had it, so it was definitely a shock to me,” said Napoli, who is afflicted in both hips. “There’s nothing I can really do about that. I have to deal with it and put it behind me and keep myself on the field and try to help the team.”

    The Red Sox spent majority of the offseason negotiating with Napoli and he’s expected to play major role in the upcoming season—which could turn out to be his only year in Boston after officially signing a one-year deal.

    Napoli is Boston’s only first baseman capable of playing on a daily basis. If the Red Sox were confident in Mauro Gomez’s abilities, they probably would have stayed away from Napoli.

Jaime Garcia, St. Louis Cardinals

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    Jaime Garcia didn’t pitch as much as he or the St. Louis Cardinals would have liked last season, starting just 20 games. In those games, Garcia went 7-7 with a 3.92 ERA across 121.2 innings of work.

    A shoulder injury limited Garcia’s workload, but he seems to be focused on coming back strong next season. His head is in the right place, according to Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:

    “His first priority is health and the St. Louis Cardinals,” Garcia’s agent, Melvin Roman, said. “It would be an honor for him to pitch for his country but at this point in his career and at this point in his recovery he decided he had to focus on the 2013 season.”

    After a down year from Adam Wainwright and questions surrounding Chris Carpenter’s well-being, it’s essential that Garcia has a great year. This is mainly due to St. Louis’ decision not to bring Kyle Lohse back for at least another season.

    Lohse was easily the Cardinals’ best starting pitcher last season and could end up being very missed if the rest of the rotation, including Garcia, doesn’t pick up the slack.

Derek Jeter, New York Yankees

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    I can guarantee that nearly every fan of the New York Yankees’ hearts stopped when Derek Jeter went down against the Detroit Tigers in the American League Championship Series last season.

    Heck, I’m not a Yankees fan and it pained me to see Jeter in agony on the infield dirt. Jeter’s broken ankle sidelined him for the remainder of the postseason, but he is expected to be back by Opening Day.

    Anthony McCarron of the New York Daily News reports that Jeter has already resumed baseball activities:

    “He’s fine, he’s healthy and it’s now about knocking the rust off in a systematic way,” GM Brian Cashman told the Daily News in a telephone interview. “It’s the next step in the process. There’s no worries or concerns with him; he’s just closing the gap between now and opening day, just taking it through slowly.”

    The Yankees desperately need Jeter healthy for the 2013 season with a lack of talent lined up behind him. New York is definitely looking to squeeze the last bit of talent out of their future Hall of Fame shortstop. 

Carl Crawford, Los Angeles Dodgers

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    Carl Crawford was more than a bad decision for the Boston Red Sox. Signing the All-Star outfielder was easily one of the worst moves by Boston in recent memory, but it at least tried to clean up its mess last season.

    Boston traded Crawford—who had been battling elbow issues since coming over from the Tampa Bay Rays—to the Los Angeles Dodgers late in 2012. He hit just .260/.292/.419 in 161 games for the Red Sox across one-plus seasons.

    After having surgery on his throwing elbow, Crawford is still expected to be ready by the time the season starts, according to Mark Saxon of ESPN Los Angeles:

    “At no time has he felt he wouldn’t be Opening Day,” Kasten said. “That’s exactly how we feel.”

    Crawford would be the starting left fielder in a very dangerous Dodgers lineup that is expected to include MVP candidates like Matt Kemp and Adrian Gonzalez as well as several other notable players.

Mariano Rivera, New York Yankees

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    As tough as it was to see Derek Jeter sidelined, it was even tougher not being able to watch another New York Yankee great play very much in 2012: Mariano Rivera.

    The Hall of Fame closer tore his ACL during batting practice before a game in May against the Kansas City Royals. John Harper of the New York Daily News reports that Rivera is on pace to be on the mound fairly soon, though:

    On Saturday Mariano Rivera pronounced him “95 percent” recovered from major knee surgery, and declared that he’ll be 100 percent by the time the Yankees open their season on April 1.

    Rivera is going to play a key role for the Yankees in 2013, something he’s done extremely well over the course of the career. But his reliability is definitely questionable after such a bad injury.

    The Yankees don’t have much of a backup plan if Rivera doesn’t return to form after letting last season’s closer, Rafael Soriano, walk in free agency.