At this point in spring training the players have settled into their routines.
Starting pitchers are stretching themselves out to five to seven innings, building arm strength as they make their final push to Opening Day.
This is usually the time when position players try to quickly get their work in, hopefully overcome any bad habits, and most importantly, avoid injury.
The last thing a player or the team wants is to lose someone to injury just over a week before the end of spring training.
I remember as if it were yesterday: March 28, 2000. The Diamondbacks had just completed their most successful season in 1999, where they reached the playoffs, winning 99 games that year. Expectations were high for 2000, and the team looked good during spring training.
On the last day before breaking camp at Tucson Electric Park, the Diamondbacks were hosting the Seattle Mariners. Third baseman Matt Williams was at the plate when he fouled a ball straight down, hitting him on the foot.
The foot was broken, and the Diamondbacks placed their third baseman and team leader on the disabled list. That injury derailed the team, and they struggled that season. Williams would return but would be hampered by the injury, never getting into his grove. Arizona would finish 85-77, which was only good enough for third place in the National League West.
After the season, manager Buck Showalter would be fired, and the team would attempt to regroup for the next season.
That is the perfect example of how quickly a team’s fortunes can change when a pivotal member of the team goes down to injury in spring training.
Yesterday the Arizona Diamondbacks faced the Chicago White Sox at Camelback Ranch in Glendale. The game was progressing along normally when All-Star Diamondbacks outfielder Justin Upton came to the plate.
He hit a routine ground ball to shortstop but through his hustle was safe at first. On the play Upton injured his right ankle lunging for first base. He did not really notice a problem and subsequently stole second base.
Upton felt soreness in the ankle but stayed in the game, taking third base during the inning. As he went back to the dugout, Upton began to feel additional soreness. As a precaution the Diamondbacks pulled him from the field and will evaluate the ankle.
After the game, both manager A.J. Hinch and Upton downplayed any injury. The fact is, already being down starting pitcher Brandon Webb, the Diamondbacks cannot afford to lose anyone, especially someone such as Upton, who the team is counting on for a majority of its offense.
Players and fans alike will continue to monitor the situation in hopes that this is nothing more than a precaution and that Upton will be healthy to open the 2010 season at Chase Field. I don’t anticipate seeing Upton in any running drills or taking the field for the next couple of days at least.