Ranking the Most Debilitating MLB Injuries of April
The Los Angeles Dodgers started the 2013 season in an enviable position—they had veteran starters in abundance.
Their mettle is now being tested, as that abundance is now a shortage.
The Dodgers announced on Tuesday that starting pitcher Chad Billingsley will undergo Tommy John surgery on Wednesday, ending his season. It was another setback for a team that's already seen its share early on. The Dodgers will be tested for sure.
Teams can use injuries as a rallying cry. When first baseman Joey Votto went down with a knee injury after the All-Star break last season, the Cincinnati Reds were 33-16 during his absence. A number of players stepped up at different times to help pick up the slack.
Whether or not the Dodgers can mimic last year's Reds team remains to be seen—they have a few other injury concerns as well.
Billinglsey's season-ending surgery isn't the only debilitating injury to occur this month. We'll take a look at several other serious injuries and rank them accordingly in terms of the strain it places on their team.
10. Ryan Zimmerman: Washington Nationals
Washington Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman was already dealing with the lingering effects of an injury before another unrelated one occurred.
Zimmerman had surgery during the offseason to clean up his right shoulder. He had been dealing with lingering pain throughout the 2012 season.
He was still dealing with his recovery early in the 2013 season, making several throwing errors that could clearly be directly attributed to his healing shoulder.
Zimmerman is now dealing with a left hamstring strain that put him on the disabled list on Saturday. He was hitting just .226 at the time but with 11 RBI in 15 games.
He's not expected to be on the DL much past the date he's eligible to return, so it won't have a devastating effect on the Nationals. It could in fact be a good thing, as the Nationals get to see what top hitting prospect Anthony Rendon can do in Zimmerman's absence.
9. Brett Myers: Cleveland Indians
Any time a pitcher complains of elbow pain, a red flag is raised.
In the case of an older pitcher with a lot of miles on the arm, it's even more alarming.
Such is the case with Cleveland Indians pitcher Brett Myers.
Myers was struggling prior to the injury with an 0-3 record and 8.02 ERA in four appearances. The Tribe replaced him with Corey Kluber. They have both Daisuke Matsuzaka and Trevor Bauer at Triple-A as possible replacements as well, should Myers' elbow issues turn into something more serious.
Considering how Myers was throwing before the injury, it doesn't exactly kill the Tribe other than causing some depth issues.
8. Johnny Cueto: Cincinnati Reds
Cincinnati Reds ace Johnny Cueto put together an outstanding 2012 season (19-9, 2.78 ERA) and appeared primed to take off in the 2013 season as well.
Cueto was breezing along in his third start of the season against the Pittsburgh Pirates, allowing just one run on two hits in 4.1 innings. However, he strained a muscle in his back, forcing him out of the game and onto the disabled list. It had been originally feared that he had suffered a triceps injury, but a closer look revealed the back strain instead.
Cueto is already throwing again and reported no pain when he threw off flat ground on Monday. He'll continue throwing as long as they pain stays away with an eye towards getting back to the mound as quickly as possible.
Tony Cingrani replaced Cueto on the roster and has been excellent thus far, allowing just three runs on 10 hits in his two starts.
Cueto has had injury concerns in the past, but the good news is that the prized wing wasn't the issue this time. The Reds are certainly breathing a sigh of relief over that news. With injuries to key players such as Sean Marshall and Ryan Ludwick, the last thing the Reds needed was more bad news.
7. Ryan Ludwick: Cincinnati Reds
After a stellar 2012 campaign in which he hit 26 home runs with 77 RBI, Cincinnati Reds left fielder Ryan Ludwick signed a two-year, $15 million deal to continue bashing in the middle of the batting order.
Unfortunately for Cincinnati, that bashing won't occur until sometime around the All-Star break.
Ludwick's aggressive baserunning on Opening Day led him right to the disabled list. He was attempting to go from first to third on a wild pitch, but he landed awkwardly on his right shoulder.
Ludwick's absence has been felt in the lineup. Replacements thus far are hitting just .211 with two home runs, seven RBI and a .253 OBP. Chris Heisey has been the main culprit, hitting just .176 with a .200 OBP.
It appears the Reds will continue dealing with Ludwick's absence internally, but no one is stepping up to fill the void at this point.
6. Jason Motte: St. Louis Cardinals
The St. Louis Cardinals will find out next week whether or not their closer is done for the season.
Jason Motte was placed on the disabled list at the beginning of the season with right elbow inflammation. He wasn't allowed to throw after an MRI in early April revealed no signs of healing.
Motte will be reexamined next week, and if the results show no improvement, he could be headed for Tommy John surgery.
Meanwhile, the Cardinals bullpen hasn't exactly stepped up in his absence.
Mitchell Boggs carries a 12.46 ERA into play on Wednesday with two blown saves. Flame-throwing right-hander Trevor Rosenthal has been just okay with a 3.86 ERA.
Recently, however, Edward Mujica has answered the call, picking up three saves in the past week. Mujica has a 1.13 ERA in his eight appearances and appears to have taken a clear hold on the role as ninth-inning specialist.
Still, the Cardinals' 5.37 ERA is second-to-last in the National League. Mujica's new role creates new problems for the bullpen behind him, and manager Mike Matheny will be left to redefine roles.
5. Matt Harrison: Texas Rangers
After signing a new five-year, $55 million deal, Texas Rangers left-hander Matt Harrison was undoubtedly looking forward to his role as a prized member of the Rangers rotation.
He's still prized, but for now he's practicing patience.
Harrison struggled through his first two starts, posting a 0-2 record and 8.44 ERA. He was also dealing with general fatigue in his legs. An examination revealed a herniated disc in his back that had been causing the issues in his lower body.
Surgery corrected the problem, but Harrison is likely lost to the team until the All-Star break.
Thus far, however, the Rangers rotation has responded in resounding fashion, rallying to post the third-best ERA in the American League. Yu Darvish, Alexi Ogando and Derek Holland have been excellent, and Nick Tepesch and Justin Grimm have both provided outstanding support at the back end as well.
The Rangers also have reinforcements coming shortly. Both Colby Lewis and Martin Perez are expected to begin throwing live batting practice this week. The added depth will certainly be a bonus in Harrison's absence.
4. Jered Weaver: Los Angeles Angels
Some injuries occur when you least expect them and in ways that no one saw coming.
The Los Angeles Angels certainly felt that way regarding Jered Weaver's injury.
Weaver, coming off his first 20-win season, was felled in his second start of the season, when he fell to the ground trying to avoid a vicious comebacker off the bat of Texas Rangers first baseman Mitch Moreland.
Weaver fell on his left elbow attempting to get out of the way, fracturing it in the process. He is likely out until mid-May at the earliest.
It was a huge blow to a starting rotation that already had several question marks, especially concerning the back end.
Jason Vargas gave an encouraging performance on Tuesday night against the Texas Rangers, allowing three runs on seven hits in seven innings. But overall, the Angels' 5.10 ERA from their starters is certainly disconcerting.
In addition, the inability of starters working deep has had a major effect on the bullpen. The Angels only had two of their Opening Day bullpen members available for action on Tuesday: Scott Downs and Ernesto Frieri.
The pressure is on for the Angels in Weaver's absence, and while there have been signs of life recently, they'll need to pull together and step it up even more in the days and weeks ahead.
3. Chad Billingsley: Los Angeles Dodgers
The Los Angeles Dodgers received news they were hoping not to hear on Tuesday.
In spite of their efforts to treat starting pitcher Chad Billingsley's right elbow aggressively with platelet-rich plasma injections, he's headed for surgery anyway.
With Tommy John surgery scheduled for Wednesday, the injury has the Dodgers scrambling for answers. Starter Zack Greinke is already on the DL—so too is Chris Capuano.
Ted Lilly is starting on Wednesday for the first time since last May, and Stephen Fife was somewhat shaky in his first start of the season on Monday.
A team that has the biggest payroll in baseball and once had an abundance of starting pitching is now just trying to survive.
2. Zack Greinke: Los Angeles Dodgers
Los Angeles Dodgers starting pitcher Zack Greinke made a major statement with his first start of the 2013 season, allowing just two hits in 6.1 innings in his new role as the No. 2 starter.
Unfortunately for Los Angeles, that statement was short-lived.
Greinke's next start was shortened by a vicious shoulder block by San Diego Padres left field Carlos Quentin. Angered at being hit by Greinke with a pitch, Quentin took off, lowered the shoulder and charged, breaking Greinke's left collarbone.
The injury immediately put a burden on the Dodgers, who had traded Aaron Harang to the Colorado Rockies just five days earlier.
The subsequent losses of Chris Capuano and Chad Billingsley have certainly further added to the woes for the Dodgers.
Greinke isn't expected back until mid- to late-June at the earliest. Manager Don Mattingly, already on the hot seat as he works with a roster loaded with expensive players on the last year of his contract, isn't all that concerned with the latest developments.
In comments to reporters prior to Tuesday's game against the New York Mets, Mattingly put a happy face on.
We’re disappointed with Chad, we’re getting Teddy back tomorrow, we think Cap is going to back quickly. We’re still in pretty good shape and we’re going to get Zack back. We got a flood of it pretty quick. We just have to move forward from this.
Getting Zack back will indeed be huge, but the Dodgers need to hold on with everything they have until then.
1. Jose Reyes: Toronto Blue Jays
Shortstop Jose Reyes was clearly enjoying life north of the border.
Reyes' first 10 games with the Toronto Blue Jays provided plenty of promise for the future. He was hitting .395 with five stolen bases, injecting new life at the top of the batting order.
His fifth stolen base brought that hope crashing down.
Reyes' awkward slide into second base in the sixth inning against the Kansas City Royals on April 12 led to a severely sprained ankle.
Munenori Kawasaki has taken over in Reyes' absence, but the difference is stark—he's hitting just .207 in 11 games.
In addition, replacement leadoff hitters are hitting just .182 in his absence. The Blue Jays are struggling to score, averaging just over three runs a game and batting only .226 as a team.
It's clear the Blue Jays miss their new leader and their spark plug.
Doug Mead is a featured columnist with Bleacher Report. His work has been featured in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, SF Gate, CBS Sports, the Los Angeles Times and the Houston Chronicle.
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