Opening Day 2011: An All-Injured Team
Opening Day is upon us! And each year, teams are destined to begin their regular seasons with certain core players on the disabled list, down with some sort of ailment. But it seems like more than ever in 2011, big-name players have been hitting the disabled list early and often.
So with that, I have comprised an All-Star team consisting of players who have been injured in some capacity since the end of last season and will start the 2011 regular season on the disabled list. This list is made up of one player at each infield position, three outfielders, five starting pitchers, a middle reliever and a closer.
Of course, like any All-Star team, there will be snubs and there will be controversy. I invite readers' gripes, compliments and opinions.
1B: Kendrys Morales
On May 29, the Angels' Kendrys Morales hit a walk-off grand slam. It would be the last game he would play in 2010. Upon reaching home plate, Morales performed the now traditional helmet-toss-and-jump, only to land awkwardly and fracture his left leg.
Morales has worked his way back to just about game-ready. But he is still recovering from surgery, and is currently on the 15-day disabled list.
His bat was severely missed in 2010. Before his bizarre injury, Morales had 11 homers and 39 RBI in just under 200 at-bats. It appears he won't miss too much time—no more than a month would be a reasonable assumption. But at least to start the season, it looks like the Angels will need some angels at first base.
Other nomination(s) include: Geoff Blum, Kyle Blanks
2B: Chase Utley
Chase Utley missed a month last season due to a torn ligament in his thumb. But that's not the injury keeping the Phillies' star second baseman out indefinitely.
Utley has been diagnosed with patellar tendinitis, chondromalacia and bone inflammation in his right knee—all big medical terms for a knee injury that is prohibiting Utley from running and fielding. He has been taking batting practice, but has yet to appear in a spring training game.
There was a glimmer of hope in Philadelphia that Utley will actually be ready for Opening Day on April 1. But the Phils placed Utley on the 15-day disabled list on Wednesday. He hopes now to be back by the All-Star break.
Other nomination(s) include: Carlos Guillen
3B: Casey Blake
Casey Blake, 37, is in the final guaranteed year of his contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers (the Dodgers hold a $6 million option for 2012). But this spring, Blake has been plagued by thoracic spinal inflammation. He has started to field ground balls at third base and throw across the diamond.
But he's played only eight games this spring, and due to the limited game time, the Dodgers put Blake on the 15-day disabled list on Wednesday. But he is on the mend, and should miss only the first week or so of the season. In his place, free agent acquisition Juan Uribe will man third base.
Other nomination(s) include: Jason Donald, Geoff Blum
SS: Clint Barmes
On November 18, the Houston Astros sent right-hander Felipe Paulino to the Colorado Rockies. In exchange, they received infielder Clint Barmes. Barmes had shown vast potential in the Mile High city, but had never really been able to find consistent playing time. The one season in which he was an everyday player for the Rockies was in 2009. That year, he belted 23 home runs from the second base position.
The Astros had him pegged to be their starting shortstop. However, he was hit by a pitch on his left hand and suffered a broken bone. He is now slated to miss four weeks and begin the season on the disabled list. Angel Sanchez was named the Opening Day shortstop in Barmes' absence.
Other nomination(s) include: Nick Punto
RF: Corey Hart
Milwaukee Brewers fans have watched their star players drop like flies with injuries. Corey Hart is certainly one of them. Hart is suffering from a torn ribcage muscle, and did not appear in any spring training games. He was officially placed on the disabled list on Wednesday.
He is hopeful that he won't miss much time in the new season, but ribcage/oblique injuries can be tricky and sticky. The two-time All-Star will likely not be going at 100 percent whenever he does return.
Fortunately for the Brewers, their outfield is particularly deep with talent. In his place, they can start Brandon Boggs, Mark Kotsay, Jeremy Reed, or newcomers Brett Carroll and Nyjer Morgan.
Other nomination(s) include: Cody Ross, Dominic Brown
CF: Grady Sizemore
Grady Sizemore has all the talent in the world. He's a solid center fielder, with plenty of speed and power to make him a legitimate five-tool player. And he showed these skills to the tune of 129 home runs and 134 stolen bases over his seven-year career.
And for the most part of his playing years, Sizemore has been fairly durable. But he played in 106 games in 2009 (elbow surgery), and only 33 last season (micro-fracture on left knee) due to injuries. Sizemore will begin the 2011 season on the disabled list, with no established timetable for a return (he made his spring training debut last Sunday, and played his first game in center field last Tuesday).
When Sizemore eventually does return, it is unclear just how long he will remain in an Indians uniform. This season is the final guaranteed year on his contract, though the Tribe does hold an $8.5 million club option for 2012. With the Indians not likely to be contenders this year, they may look to trade their star center fielder in an effort to save budget and build up their farm system.
Other nomination(s) include: Franklin Gutierrez
LF: Jason Bay
To say Jason Bay had a down year in 2010 could be one of the biggest understatements of the year. Bay, who had signed a four-year, $66 million contract with the New York Mets, had one of the worst seasons of his career. After hitting only six home runs in 95 games, Bay missed the entire second half of the season with a concussion.
But Bay came to spring training symptom-free, and looked ready to rebound in 2011. That is until he began suffering from a sore back, which may or may not have led to his latest injury—a left ribcage strain. This strain forced the Mets to place Bay on the disabled list on Thursday. He shouldn't miss very much time, however—the earliest he can return is April 9. In his place, the Mets would likely have Lucas Duda and Willie Harris patrol left field.
Other nomination(s) include: Scott Podsednik, Fred Lewis
C: Jason Castro
Jason Castro was drafted in the first round of the 2008 draft by the Houston Astros. Before the 2010 season, he was declared the No. 41 prospect in baseball by Baseball America. And after making his major league debut mid-way through the '10 season, Castro was primed and ready to be the Astros' starting catcher for 2011.
But in an early spring training game against the Tigers, Castro stepped awkwardly on first base, and wound up tearing the medial meniscus in his right knee. He underwent surgery two days later, and will miss at least six months, if not the entire season.
The injury to Castro means J.R Towles (last year's Opening Day catcher) and Humberto Quintero will likely be splitting the catching duties. However, Towles himself has been dealing with back soreness, and his Opening Day status is in question.
Other nomination(s) include: Francisco Cervelli, Jason Kendall, Jonathan Lucroy, Dioner Navarro, Chris Snyder, Ronny Paulino, John Baker
No. 1 Starter: Adam Wainwright
The St. Louis Cardinals took a huge blow this offseason when they found out their young ace would have to undergo Tommy John surgery. Adam Wainwright felt discomfort in his pitching elbow after a batting practice session during spring training. He will miss the entire 2011 season, and he will be missed by the Cardinals.
St. Louis was looking like a true contender before this disheartening news. Wainwright, along with Chris Carpenter and Jaime Garcia were set to be part of a very dominant pitching staff. But now, with Wainwright gone for the year, the Red Birds will have a challenge to remain in the race the whole way through. Kyle McClellan will step into the rotation from the bullpen as an in-house replacement.
No. 2 Starter: Zack Greinke
In December, the Brewers sent a small bucket of prospects to the Kansas City Royals in exchange for right-hander Zack Greinke. His presence in the Brewers' rotation would give them a very solid rotation—one that also includes Yovani Gallardo and Shaun Marcum.
But Greinke's presence in the Brewers' rotation will have to wait about four-six weeks, as he suffered a fractured rib while playing basketball during the spring. So the Brewers' marquee acquisition this offseason will begin the 2011 season rehabbing on the disabled list, which is a big blow to the Brew Crew.
No. 3 Starter: Johan Santana
The outcome of the New York Mets' 2011 season may very well hinge on when ace Johan Santana returns from the disabled list. The lefty is recovering from left shoulder surgery and is not due back until late June at the earliest.
But if Santana is able to come back, and come back strong, the Mets could be looking at a huge lift for their club, especially if the team has been able to keep up with the rest of the division. Mets fans for sure would love to finally see a fully healthy Johan Santana pitch in Queens.
No. 4 Starter: Jake Peavy
It seems like it's been an eternity since Jake Peavy was the dominant ace of the San Diego Padres. His last quality season came back in 2006 when he won 19 games and led the league with 240 strikeouts. Peavy was dealt to the South Side at the trade deadline in 2009.
Since then, Peavy has only made 20 starts for the White Sox, and will begin the 2011 season on the disabled list. He had shoulder surgery last July, and is also suffering from rotator tendinitis. He did look sharp in a game against minor league batters on Tuesday, and believe it or not, he is only 29 years old.
So once the White Sox get the right-hander back in the rotation, look for them to become a complete dominant force in the American League Central division.
No. 5 Starter: Stephen Strasburg
Phenom Stephen Strasburg's much anticipated major league debut happened on June 8 last year. And he did not disappoint. He struck out 14 Pittsburgh Pirates that game, and it looked like Strasburg had been pitching at the big league level for years.
But during a game against the Astros in August, Strasburg left after hurting his elbow following a pitch. He would subsequently undergo Tommy John surgery, and will miss most, if not all, of the 2011 season. This was an enormous blow to the Washington Nationals and to fantasy owners everywhere.
But there's always a silver lining. And in Strasburg's case, he has a couple of silver linings. He's only 22 years old, and the success stories of Tommy John surgery patients have been well documented. There is a chance that Strasburg re-joins the Nationals' rotation late in 2011, but it may be wise to keep him out all season, especially if the Nats are not contenders.
Other nomination(s) include: Brandon Morrow, Aaron Cook, Tommy Hunter, Zach Duke, Jon Garland, Justin Duchscherer, Brandon Webb
RP: Scott Downs
During the offseason, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim signed left-hander Scott Downs to a three-year, $15 million contract. Downs, who spent the last six seasons in Toronto, was expected to be the primary setup man for the Angels.
But that will have to wait. Downs suffered a fractured toe during spring training, and has been placed on the 15-day disabled list. Though, no surgery is required, so he should not miss all that much time. The Angels should survive, with the likes of fellow newcomer Hisanori Takahashi, and Kevin Jepsen in the pen.
Other nomination(s) include: Joel Zumaya, Kris Medlen, Jesse Carlson, LaTroy Hawkins, Pedro Feliciano, Damaso Marte
Closer: Brad Lidge
The Philadelphia Phillies have what looks like the best team (at least on paper) in the National League—if not in all of baseball. But as talented as their players are, they are human, and thus susceptible to injuries. They have already lost All-Star second baseman Chase Utley to the DL, and now closer Brad Lidge will be joining him.
On Wednesday, the Phillies placed Lidge on the 15-day DL due to pain behind his right shoulder. He had been dealing with right bicep tendinitis, but this seems to be a separate woe.
In his place, the Phillies will have either Ryan Madson or Jose Contreras close. Lidge is hoping he will miss only the minimum 15 days, but is keeping realistic, realizing he has never had a shoulder injury before. The Phillies will likely be cautious with Lidge, whom they will certainly need in their bullpen if they hope for a World Series victory in 2011.
Other nomination(s) include: Frank Francisco/Octavio Dotel, Andrew Bailey, J.P. Howell, Brian Wilson, David Aardsma