While it seems inevitable that injuries occur in Major League Baseball, there have been quite a few players who have become the walking wounded already.
With just three weeks to go until Opening Day, many general managers are already busy on the phones, trying to come up with backup plans and alternative solutions in order to compensate for the loss of their star players.
While some of the injuries may just be for the short term, others are much more serious and have much more far-reaching solutions. Some of the teams involved can get by with a bench player, while others will be frantically searching for a longer-term suitable replacement.
In either event, it’s certainly a lousy way to start a season, especially when that injured player may have been a key piece of the lineup.
Bleacher Report will rank the top 10 stars who have suffered injuries thus far during spring training, and we will gauge the importance of that player’s loss for each team.
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New York Mets starting pitcher Johan Santana, still recovering from surgery last September to repair a torn labrum, is back throwing again. However, Mets fans shouldn't get too excited.
While Santana has started a throwing program, he is not expected back in the lineup until somewhere around the All-Star break.
“I’m not going to go out and do something crazy,” he said. “We’re going to go one step at a time. I’m feeling good and then we’ll go from there," Santana told the New York Times.
With both Chris Capuano and Chris Young bouncing back from surgeries themselves, the Mets can ill afford to see any more setbacks regarding their starting rotation.
The newly named Los Angeles Angels first baseman Kendrys Morales may start the season on the disabled list, as he is continuing his rehab from the broken left ankle suffered during last season’s walk-off-celebration-gone-bad incident on May 29.
Angels manager Mike Scioscia has denied reports that Morales will start the season on the DL, saying that Morales, who officially changed his name from Kendry back to his given name of Kendrys, should have enough time to get the required number of at-bats needed before Opening Day.
If Morales is unable to go, prospect Mark Trumbo may very well be given the opportunity to display his talent and power. Trumbo is hitting .367 thus far during spring training with three home runs and six runs batted in.
Detroit Tigers reliever Joel Zumaya has been a key figure in the Tigers bullpen over the past five seasons for manager Jim Leyland.
While Zumaya has missed time over the past four seasons to various injuries, he was recently checked out by specialist Dr. James Andrews after experiencing lingering pain in his right elbow, and Andrews instructed Zumaya not to throw for at least two weeks.
Zumaya has certainly suffered from a variety of ailments over the years, and doctors have been particularly frustrated by the swelling in the elbow, which has prevented a proper diagnosis.
Zumaya will undergo a strengthening program during the two-week layoff, and doctors are hoping the rest will reduce the swelling and allow them to properly assess the ailing elbow.
In the meantime, Leyland does have options. Joaquin Benoit will handle the setup responsibilities for closer Jose Valverde, and Ryan Perry will step up to become the seventh inning man for the Tigers.
Center fielder Carlos Beltran of the New York Mets has been felled for the better part of the past two seasons by an arthritic right knee. However, now it’s his left knee causing issues.
Beltran has been shut down by the Mets after suffering from tendinitis in his left knee. While the Mets are officially saying that Beltran has not been shut down, they are clearly erring on the side of caution.
Beltran was being expected to make the transition from center to right field this season. However, with only one appearance in a spring training game, and that as a designated hitter, the Mets may indeed have to go with an alternative plan if Beltran’s knee doesn’t respond to treatment.
When Stephen Strasburg went down with a tear in his ulnar collateral ligament last August, requiring Tommy John surgery, there was a collective gasp plainly heard in the Beltway, as Washington National fans were clearly frustrated considering the staggering amount of money Strasburg signed for just 12 months earlier.
However, Strasburg has already started a throwing program, and while the Nats will head north in a few weeks without him, Strasburg could very well be throwing for Washington sometime late in the season.
His pitching mate, Jordan Zimmermann, came back from Tommy John surgery himself in one year's time, and this spring Zimmermann has been lights out, throwing six shutout innings thus far.
The old pickup basketball game rears its ugly head once again. Milwaukee Brewers starting pitcher Zack Greinke, who was acquired during the offseason by the Brewers in hopes of winning their first NL Central title, was injured during a pickup basketball game with friends during which he fractured a rib.
Greinke apparently suffered the injury before his two spring starts, neglecting to tell the Brewers that he was in pain.
"Everyone always told me not to do it because I was going to get hurt," Greinke told ESPN.com. "It finally caught up to me."
Greinke will start the season on the disabled list, and Brewers manager Ron Roenicke has indicated that if Greinke only misses a couple of weeks’ time, there won’t be a need to replace him in the starting rotation, with early days off providing the Brewers some relief.
If general manager Doug Melvin was aggravated at the news, he was certainly hiding it well.
"It doesn't matter how he hurt it," Melvin said. "This is part of what we go through as a GM."
On Wednesday, Los Angeles Dodgers starting pitcher Jon Garland, acquired as a free agent during the offseason, cut short his spring start against the Seattle Mariners after straining his left oblique muscle.
Garland has been one of the most reliable and durable pitchers over the past 10 seasons, making at least 30 starts each season since 2001.
Garland will likely miss between four and six weeks, which delivers yet another blow to the Dodgers' starting rotation—Vicente Padilla injured a nerve in his forearm and is undergoing surgery on Thursday. Padilla likely won’t be back until the All-Star break, leaving new manager Don Mattingly scrambling to patch together his starting rotation.
Philadelphia Phillies star second baseman and five-time All-Star Chase Utley has had a rough spring. After receiving a cortisone shot for his swollen right knee last week, it was learned that Utley has patellar tendinitis, and the cortisone shot provided no relief for Utley.
The Phillies and Utley are now seeking other opinions, and while surgery could be an option, it is the last resort as far as Utley is concerned.
“My goal is to alleviate this as quickly as possible but still keep in mind that I have a career ahead of me,” Utley told MLB.com.
General manager Ruben Amaro Jr. has apparently been burning up the phone lines since the news, with Detroit Tigers infielder Ramon Santiago being bandied about as possible trade bait for the Phillies.
The Baltimore Orioles had renewed optimism going into the 2011 season with the offseason acquisitions of J.J. Hardy, Mark Reynolds and Derrek Lee.
However, Lee, who is recovering from offseason surgery to his thumb, is now having issues with his right wrist, which doctors believe may stem from the resumption of baseball activities after an extended period of downtime.
Lee, who has 312 lifetime home runs, is expected to be a huge part of the revamped Orioles offense.
If Lee is unable to suit up on Opening Day, designated hitter Luke Scott will most likely man first base until Lee’s return.
In what was supposed to be a normal bullpen session, Adam Wainwright felt twinges in his elbow. After shutting it down and getting looked at, it was determined that Wainwright had suffered a tear to his ulnar collateral ligament, requiring Tommy John surgery.
Wainwright is 50-22 over the past three seasons and has finished in the top three in Cy Young Award balloting for the last two seasons. His injury is a huge blow to the St. Louis Cardinals, who are also keeping a very close eye on No. 2 starter Chris Carpenter after he felt a twinge in his hamstring in his most recent spring start.
Longtime reliever Kyle McClellan appears to have the inside shot at replacing Wainwright in the starting rotation for the Cards.