MLB Spring Training: Biggest Injury Concern for All 30 Teams
After the St. Louis Cardinals lost pitching ace Adam Wainwright to Tommy John surgery, you could see every player, skipper, general manager and fan's eyes begin to slowly glance around the Majors. Everybody began to quietly look around the league, but more importantly, at their own team to see who they can absolutely not afford to miss this season after watching the Cardinals' World Series chances blow up in smoke.
As of today, new Milwaukee Brewers ace Zack Greinke is scheduled to miss the start of the season due to a fractured rib. Oddly enough, he didn't even suffer the injury while playing baseball, but rather in a game of basketball.
At this point, everybody must be on pins and needles impatiently waiting for Spring Training to be over with. We'll most likely see superstars taking more breathers this spring than ever before and pitchers used much less to preserve them for when the games matter in April.
The Minnesota Twins are finally getting Justin Morneau back to practice after suffering a concussion last season. You better believe they are monitoring every movement closely to avoid a setback. Like Morneau, who is the one injury concern fans and management should be keeping a close eye on during Spring Training heading towards the season?
1. Arizona Diamondbacks: Xavier Nady
Where to choose from when it comes to the Arizona Diamondbacks? There's a bunch of players on this roster who could be listed here, but let's be honest, Xavier Nady is one of the most injury-prone players in the Majors.
It seems every year he is dealing with some sort of injury, regardless if it is major or minor.
He played in a career-best 148 games in 2008, but has appeared in just 126 games the past two seasons.
Who wants to make a bet that the X-Man will suffer some sort of injury once again?
Last year with the Chicago Cubs, Nady hit .256 with six HR and 33 RBI.
2. Atlanta Braves: Chipper Jones
Jason Heyward AKA The Future of the Atlanta Braves, would have made this list, but he's young enough to heal quickly.
The veteran third baseman Chipper Jones, instead, takes center stage here.
He just recently hit a home run and says that his knee is feeling good. Still, Jones is no spring chicken and will need to be monitored very carefully throughout the entire preseason following the ACL injury he suffered last season.
He is still one of the most effective veterans in the game and will be relied on to help guide this team to push the Philadelphia Phillies for the NL East division.
Last year, he hit .265, 10 HR and 46 RBI in 95 games.
3. Baltimore Orioles: Brian Roberts
Brian Roberts could be a catalyst for an improving Baltimore Orioles team led by Buck Showalter. The team vastly improved under his watch last season, but he needs a fully healthy squad to continue that success.
Now, though, it seems their potential All-Star second basemen is constantly dealing with this back injury.
He has missed a ton of time with the ailment, which continues to flare up because it is difficult to treat a troublesome back.
For a speedster like Roberts, a stiff back is deadly. He needs to be loose to run the base paths and spark this Orioles offense.
Last year, Roberts only played in 59 games, batting .278 with four HR and 15 RBI. He also stole just 12 bases.
4. Boston Red Sox: Adrian Gonzalez
The Red Sox are justifiably playing it very safe with their new superstar first baseman.
Gonzalez has the potential to dominate at Fenway Park and could very well lead the Red Sox to a championship. The Red Sox are stacked heading into 2011, but like the Phillies, injuries could derail this menacing train.
Gonzalez had offseason shoulder surgery and is still not medically cleared to play in Spring Training, according to Nick Carfado on Twitter.
The Red Sox have the big picture in clear sight by playing it safe with A-Gon, because any setback with his shoulder will set back the potential of this team.
Last year with the San Diego Padres, he hit .298, 31 HR and 101 RBI.
5. Chicago Cubs: Aramis Ramirez
The superstar third baseman has seen his career take a tumble down the top of the mountain.
Ramirez used to be one of the most consistent players in the game, but injuries have set him back mightily. He's only played in 206 games the past two seasons and was up-and-down last year when healthy.
He's dealt with a myriad of injuries the past two seasons and although he's in a contract year, the Cubs should monitor their rapidly aging veteran closely.
Last year, he hit .241, 25 HR and 83 RBI in 124 games.
6. Chicago White Sox: Jake Peavy
Once one of the top pitchers in all of baseball, Peavy's career has taken a backseat to injury.
The White Sox are taking it slow with their potential ace, who is performing well thus far in Spring Training.
Still, their season could rest on his throwing shoulder, as he could catapult this rotation into the upper echelon.
Last year, Peavy went 7-6 with one complete game shutout, 93 strikeouts, a 4.63 ERA and 1.23 WHIP.
7. Cincinnati Reds: Edinson Volquez
The Reds are expecting Volquez to be back fully healthy after starting late last season and having a full offseason to prepare for this year.
Still, my major injury concern with this team, next to Scott Rolen's potential back and neck flare ups, is Volquez.
He could be the one piece to have the Reds dominating the NL and push the Phillies and Giants for a World Series appearance.
His stuff is that good, but any flare up and I'm shutting him down to regroup.
Volquez started 12 games last year, finishing with a 4-3 record, 4.31 ERA, 1.50 WHIP and 67 strikeouts.
8. Cleveland Indians: Grady Sizemore
Grady Sizemore used to be one of the most promising young players in all of baseball.
Oh, how things can change in an instant. It seems like forever ago that Sizemore was on the come up. Sizemore is still on the come up, but all the way from the bottom of the league after two disastrous seasons.
It remains to be seen if Sizemore will be ready for Opening Day following offseason knee surgery. At this point, since the Indians aren't going anywhere, all they can do is wait for Sizemore to be 100 percent healthy.
Right now, there's doubt that Sizemore will ever reach his full potential following the knee surgery as he relies on his speed on the base paths.
He's supposed to begin participating in drills this weekend, but now that he's becoming known as an injury-prone player, the Indians must now coddle their superstar.
He played in just 33 games in 2010, batting .211 with 13 runs batted in, four stolen bases and zero official home runs.
9. Colorado Rockies: Troy Tulowitzki
"Tulo" is one of the most gifted and dominant players in the Majors right now. His career is as bright as anybody else.
The only thing stopping him is his constant battle with injuries. We have seen him battle an injury in just about every season in his short career thus far.
Even now in Spring Training, he is dealing with a sore heel. His injury history is his only Achilles Heel, for when he is healthy, he is downright unstoppable.
The Rockies have a chance in the NL West with Tulo, Carlos Gonzalez and Ubaldo Jiminez, they just need to make sure they take things slow with their superstar.
Last year, Tulowitzki hit .315, 27 HR and 95 RBI.
10. Detroit Tigers: Carlos Guillen
Guillen has been a solid veteran for the Detroit Tigers. Manager Jim Leyland would prefer to have his veteran at second base, but he must be patient with his vet coming back from microfracture knee surgery.
He has been participating in drills this Spring Training, but it would set the Tigers back even further if they rush him into anything.
Even if the Tigers are forced to start one of their younger second basemen, they would be wise to accept that for now and wait for Guillen to provide an experience boost in May or June.
He hit .273, six HR and 34 RBI in 68 games last season. He only played in 81 games in 2009.
11. Florida Marlins: Mike Stanton
Stanton is one of the brightest young players in the Majors. He debuted in great fashion last season. Now, his sophomore season already looks to be headed towards disappointment.
Stanton is now dealing with a quadriceps injury, which could very well sideline him into May or June. We're now hearing that he could play in some minor league games shortly and could be back for the final week of Spring Training, according to Manny Navarro on Twitter.
The Marlins really need to settle down, take a deep breath and play things carefully with Stanton. He has an extremely bright future and a quad injury could linger.
Last year, in 100 games, he hit .259, 22 HR and 59 RBI.
12. Houston Astros: Bud Norris
Norris has the ability to become the ace of this rather mediocre Houston Astros pitching staff.
He is expected to be fine after tweaking his hamstring this Spring Training, but with the Astros likely staying at the bottom of the barrel in the NL, there should be no reason to rush back one of their brighter pitchers.
Last year, he started 27 games, finishing with a 9-10 record. He had 158 strikeouts, a 4.92 ERA and 1.48 WHIP.
13. Kansas City Royals: Alex Gordon
For the past two seasons, I feel like all I heard out of Kansas City was how good Alex Gordon was supposed to be. I'm still waiting...
The former first-round pick started his career off nicely with 31 home runs in his first two seasons. Since then, he's been demoted after disappointing play and has dealt with hip and thumb injuries.
He's only hit 14 home runs in 123 games the past two seasons for the Royals.
Kansas City is also dealing with an injury to veteran catcher Jason Kendall, but Alex Gordon is supposed to work in with Billy Butler to bring the Royals to the middle of the MLB pack. I doubt it will happen this year...
14. Los Angeles Angels: Kendrys Morales
Was there any doubt in your mind that Morales would be the guy here?
Kendrys Morales, as we're now supposed to call him, fell victim to the celebration last season. He broke his leg jumping onto home plate following his walk-off grand salami. His season was over.
He can be a difference-maker for this Angels team in the AL West. The Rangers lost a monster piece in Cliff Lee but are still dangerous, so LAA needs all hands on deck as soon as possible.
In 51 games last season, he hit .290, 11 HR and 39 RBI.
15. Los Angeles Dodgers: Jon Garland
Garland may not be a big injury concern on the surface, but look deeper down, and he's supposed to be an important piece to this veteran rotation led by ace Clayton Kershaw.
The Dodgers are trying to win back the NL West and are rounding out a solid all-around team.
He just today confirmed that he is suffering from an oblique injury, according to Bill Shaikin on Twitter.
Vicente Padilla, who is an average pitcher, is also dealing with an injury.
Garland is supposed to be the bridge between the younger studs up front in Kershaw and Chad Billingsley to the veterans rounding out the rotation in Ted Lilly and Hiroki Kuroda.
Last year in San Diego, Garland went 14-12 with 136 strikeouts, a 3.47 ERA and 1.31 WHIP.
16. Milwaukee Brewers: Zack Greinke
We thought outfielder Corey Hart was going to be the only player we should be concerned about this Spring Training.
Instead, news broke yesterday that Zack Greinke will miss almost two months with a fractured rib he suffered going up for a rebound playing basketball.
After Adam Wainwright underwent Tommy John surgery, the Brewers' eyes were wide open as they knew their window was becoming increasingly wider in a now-open NL Central division.
Now, in light of the Greinke injury, the Brewers' window is back to where it originally was.
They need to monitor their ace very closely to make sure he does not suffer any setbacks and that he responds to treatment. They need him back as quickly as possible so they can get an early jump in the division.
Last year for the Kansas City Royals, the former Cy Young winner had a 10-14 record with three complete games, 4.17 ERA, 1.25 WHIP and 185 strikeouts.
17. Minnesota Twins: Justin Morneau
Morneau was out for an extremely long time following a concussion suffered during last season. He's finally getting back into game shape and received medical clearance to begin playing in Spring Training.
He had three RBI in his first appearance.
Still, the Minnesota Twins need to be careful with the other half of the M&M boys.
Superstar catcher Joe Mauer did a fantastic job last year guiding the Twins back to the postseason, but with Morneau healthy, the Twins have a great chance to finally win a World Series with this team.
Last year, Morneau hit .345, 18 HR and 56 RBI in 81 games.
18. New York Mets: Carlos Beltran
Doesn't Beltran seem like a delicate little flower at this point in his career?
He shockingly underwent knee surgery last January and didn't even play until midway into the season.
For his decision to wait so long for the surgery, many Mets fans have a newfound hatred for their "superstar" outfielder.
Beltran is still dealing with lingering knee issues such as tendinitis. If the Mets want to make any noise this season, which they desperately do, they need a healthy Beltran.
They need to coddle him throughout Spring Training and even the first two months into the season, especially with Johan Santana out.
Last year, he played in 64 games and hit .255, 7 HR and 27 RBI.
19. New York Yankees: Francisco Cervelli
I've yet to talk to a Yankees fan who dislikes Francisco Cervelli. He brings great energy to this veteran team.
Unfortunately for the Yankees and his fans, he will miss at least a month with a fractured foot after taking a foul ball to the extremity in Spring Training.
This is either good or bad news depending how you want to look at things.
Jorge Posada is expected to be the designated hitter regardless. The Yankees also have depth at the position after signing Russell Martin, formerly of the Los Angeles Dodgers, to catch for New York.
Cervelli needed to gain experience behind the plate, though.
The team could be forced to promote top prospect Jesus Montero. Should they do so and Montero disappoints, his mystique in trade discussions could be destroyed.
Last year, Cervelli hit .271 with 38 RBI in 93 games.
20. Oakland Athletics: Rich Harden
Harden has fantastic talent but always seems to be bothered by injuries. He appeared in at least 20 games the past two seasons but was a disaster in the last three years of his first stint with Oakland.
The A's hoped Harden figured things out physically, but he's back to his up-and-down ways physically.
He has been dealing with a stiff lat muscle throughout Spring Training and could even begin the season on the disabled list.
Last year for the Texas Rangers, he went 5-5 with 75 strikeouts, a 5.58 ERA and 1.66 WHIP.
21. Philadelphia Phillies: Chase Utley
We thought it was going to be smooth sailing back to a World Series for the Philadelphia Phillies when they signed Cliff Lee. That signing put the Phillies on top of the Majors as the most dominant team, on paper.
That's the thing with sports. Paper champions rarely become champions in reality. We have to play the games because on any given day, a team can be beaten.
Even worse (or better, depending who you talk to), injuries can happen at any second in sports.
The Phillies have already had their fair share of scares this offseason, but they are now facing their biggest to date.
First, Cliff Lee strained his oblique. He turned out to be okay.
We just learned recently that outfielder and potential superstar outfielder Domonic Brown will miss almost two months after surgery to repair his fractured hand.
Utley could be facing surgery to fix his knee, which could spell disaster for the Phillies given their current state.
They absolutely have the pieces to make up for a loss, but they will certainly miss his fantastic bat and solid defense at second base.
Utley may be forced to sacrifice 2011 for the rest of his career...
Utley hit .275 with 16 home runs, 65 runs batted in and 13 stolen bases in 115 games played in 2010.
22. Pittsburgh Pirates: Evan Meek
The very last thing the Pirates could afford is an injury to their All-Star reliever Evan Meek.
He is the catalyst for this quality bullpen that backs up a poor pitching staff. He would be the first in line to fill in at closer should Joel Hanrahan falter.
Meek was dealing with a calf injury and pitched a hitless inning on March 7. The Pirates would be wise to keep it at that minimum for most of Spring Training.
Last season, the All-Star had a 5-4 record with four saves and six blown saves, 70 strikeouts, a 2.14 ERA and 1.05 WHIP.
23. San Diego Padres: Kyle Blanks
With Adrian Gonzalez in Boston, the franchise is entirely in Kyle Blanks' monster hands. The mammoth outfielder is one of the best young sluggers in the game, but his career is being thrown off track due to injury.
He has the potential to carry this team but with his size, injuries could be staring him in the face his entire career. He is still recovering from Tommy John surgery but at least he's taking grounders in Spring Training.
This is a good sign and I'm sure the Padres will play it safe with their young stud. Still, any setback here could cost him more than the two or three months he's already scheduled to miss.
In 33 games last season, he hit .157 with three HR and 15 RBI.
24. San Francisco Giants: Brian Wilson
Maybe the best beard in the history of beardom, Wilson was dealing with a back injury earlier in Spring Training.
He has already returned and pitched this week, including March 9 against the Chicago White Sox. He threw one inning, giving up two hits and one walk, but did strike out two.
Personally, I'd be taking it extremely slow with the superstar closer for the defending World Series Champions. He's a proven veteran and would be fine waiting another week before pitching.
Last year, Wilson finished with a 3-3 record, 48 saves and five blown saves. He also threw 93 strikeouts with a 1.81 ERA and 1.18 WHIP.
25. Seattle Mariners: David Aardsma
Aardsma is one of the better closers in the majors, but the Seattle job is now wide open due to his injury. He still isn't even cleared to throw. He should miss all of April and possibly into May if he suffers a setback.
The Mariners are struggling to get back to the top of the AL West. They should remain towards the bottom, even though stranger things have certainly happened in MLB.
Last year, Aardsma finished 0-6 with 31 saves and five blown saves. He had a 3.44 ERA, 1.17 WHIP and 49 strikeouts.
26. St. Louis Cardinals: Chris Carpenter
Uh oh, things could quickly get interesting in St. Louis.
With their first ace Adam Wainwright sidelined for the year, their second ace Carpenter could force St. Louis fans to push the panic button if his hammy sidelines him for any amount of time.
Carpenter is now no longer expected to pitch in a game Friday, but is expected to face live batting. Smart move by a St. Louis franchise that needs to play everything safe right now.
The Cardinals need everything to go as smoothly as possible this season to retrain Albert Pujols at the end of the season.
Should things unravel, the Cardinals could lose more than just this season, but the present and future of the franchise.
Last year, Carpenter went 16-9 with one complete game, 179 strikeouts, a 3.22 ERA and 1.18 WHIP.
27. Tampa Bay Rays: Jeremy Hellickson
The Rays' newest pitching sensation displayed monstrous potential and talent late last season. Hellickson is so good that Tampa Bay shipped off one of their better pitchers in Matt Garza to make room for their newest ace in the hole.
This is why I question the decision to even have him pitch later this week, even if it is supposed to be just one inning.
He was dealing with a hamstring injury, which as we all know, may just be the most fickle injuries in all of sports, up there with concussions. There is almost no telling how somebody could react after a hamstring injury.
The Rays lost a ton of offensive firepower in Carl Crawford and Carlos Pena this offseason. With so much riding on superstar Evan Longoria, the Rays need their superstar driven pitching staff to anchor the team in the toughest division in baseball.
Hopefully for their sake, they aren't rushing their young ace this Spring Training.
Last season, Hellickson finished with a 4-0 record, 3.47 ERA, 1.10 WHIP and 33 strikeouts.
28. Texas Rangers: Adrian Beltre
Adrian Beltre was incredible for the Boston Red Sox last season. He hit .321 with 28 HR and 102 RBI.
The Red Sox brought in Adrian Gonzalez to move Kevin Youkilis to third base, leaving Beltre without a home. He's found one in Texas, who needed to regroup after Cliff Lee
deserted them signed with Philadelphia.
Beltre was so good last year that there were rumors Texas would trade away third baseman Michael Young for the right price. Perhaps luckily for them right now, they couldn't find a proposal they liked.
Beltre is now dealing with a calf injury. He could be returning shortly, but with Young a quality third baseman in his own right, I don't see the need. Beltre shouldn't need much time to regain his form, he's a quality veteran.
If Beltre is ready, perhaps the Rangers should go back to entertaining trade proposals for their designated hitter Young.
29. Toronto Blue Jays: Aaron Hill
Hill was amazing two seasons ago. He came out of nowhere to hit 36 HR and 108 RBI.
Last year was disappointing. Although he hit an impressive 26 HR, he drove in just 68 RBI and hit an abysmal .202.
Hill would've preferred to clear his head this offseason and come in strong to Spring Training but a quadriceps injury has derailed his track.
He may be itching to make his Spring Training debut, but Toronto is right to play it slow and steady with Hill.
Hill needs to remain calm and not stress the slow process, for it could linger into the season and disrupt his play more than the limited reps he might receive.
30. Washington Nationals: Jordan Zimmermann
The Nationals brought Jordan Zimmermann in to be their ace. Then he had to undergo Tommy John surgery.
So Zimmermann was gone and the Nationals brought in Stephen Strasburg to be their ace. Then he had to undergo Tommy John surgery.
Zimmermann is now back and looking just as explosive as he did before surgery. Hopefully one day we'll finally get to see Zimmermann and Strasburg lead the Washington Nationals pitching staff together as dual aces.
Although Zimmermann returned late last year and had the entire offseason to prepare for the season, the Nationals must do everything they can do play it careful with their young star.
At the moment, Livan Hernandez is expected to lead the staff, which is not good for anybody despite his stellar 2010 season. Should Zimmermann suffer a setback, the Nationals will have another subpar season.
Last year, he started seven games, finishing with a 1-2 record. He had a 4.94 ERA, 1.32 WHIP and 27 strikeouts.