Tag: Injuries

The 2010 Atlanta Braves: Playing Through Injuries

Over the season, I’ve had to hear the media lament over key injuries. Surprisingly, when the unlucky injury-bugged teams are mentioned, the Atlanta Braves are normally overlooked.

For most baseball fans, they would look at you as if you were crazy if you mentioned that Braves have battled through several key injuries.  The Braves are believed to be lucky when it comes to the injury bug, with the exception of Chipper Jones.

I can’t blame them, since little has been mentioned about the Braves’ injuries. So far, they’ve lost Chipper Jones and Kris Medlen to season-ending injuries.  Jair Jurrjens, Eric O’Flaherty, and Matt Diaz have spent over a combined five months on the DL.  Those are pretty big losses for a team that relies heavily on pitching and situational hitting. 

Don’t forget that the Braves have lost production from players playing through injuries as well.  Jason Heyward and Troy Glaus are the best examples in this regard.  Key support players, such as David Ross and Takahashi Saito, have had to take time to heal as well.

This loss of quality pitching and offensive production is a pretty big challenge for any team. How well a team deals with these challenges is normally what separates great teams from good teams.

The 2010 Braves have faced these types of challenges better than anyone else in the NL.  That’s why they’ve been sitting in first place for the past two-and-a-half months.  It’s also why I feel we’ve yet to see the Atlanta Braves play their best baseball. 



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Red Sox vs. Yankees: Losing On Errors, Not Injuries, as Boston Wins, 6-3

The Boston Red Sox disabled list is long, but even crippled, this is a darn good ball club.

Winning the first game against the Yankees proves the Red Sox are still in the mix in the AL East.

Boston’s starting rotation is now all active and healthy, and they are ridiculously good.

Red Sox ace Josh Beckett’s being back is huge because his passion and fiery attitude demand a lot of respect. Clearly, Beckett is the leader of the staff and his absence was apparent.

In Friday night’s loss, the Yankees should have taken advantage of Red Sox starter Clay Buchholz.

It looked that way after Mark Teixeira’s blast in the first-inning, scoring Derek Jeter, but that was the extent of it. Jeter was on base all night, as the other Yankees run came from Alex Rodriquez driving in the Captain in the fifth.

Buchholz set this game’s tone, as he successfully pounded the strike zone. He didn’t let pitches get up too high after being reminded why by Tex. Buchholz allowed nine hits in total, while the Red Sox were fielding error-free behind their starter.

Considering the Red Sox’s record amount of injuries, their record of 63-47 is astonishing.

Recalling all the doubt at the start of the 2010 season in the Red Sox as a team is something no one will question again. GM Theo Epstein is so confident in the teams he puts on the field because the Red Sox are always atop the top teams list.

I can say or admit that imagining a healthy Red Sox team scares the hell out of me. Epstein is a certified GM because the initial roster was superb, but players are not super men.

The dropped ball error by Yankees catcher Francisco Cervelli did allow three unearned runs to score. The Red Sox took advantage of the Yankees’ mistakes and capitalized for the win.

Luckily, the Yankees still remain in first place, thanks to the Tampa Bay Rays losing for the second night against the Toronto Blue Jays. The Rays have now lost three in a row.

As for the Yankees, just watch this game again and observe our Captain in the bottom of the ninth, with two outs. Jeter had a 14-pitch at-bat and the fight in him should be inspiration enough.

It just proves that the outcome for the next three games will make a serious impact on both ball clubs.

Both teams know it and both will fight to win.




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Brandon Inge on DL as Tigers Get a Bad Break

The Detroit Tigers suffered a really bad break on Tuesday night when starting 3B Brandon Inge was placed on the 15-day DL with a broken left hand. Inge broke the hand when he was hit by a pitch by Scott Feldman in the third inning of Monday night’s game against the Texas Rangers.

It’s expected that Inge will miss four-to-six weeks with the injury. This is a big blow to the Tigers as Inge is having a solid season on the field and is one of the leaders on this Detroit team.

Going into last night’s game against the Rangers, the Tigers were 2.5 games behind the first place Chicago White Sox in the AL Central. They are clearly in “win now” mode, so how do they replace Inge in the lineup and on the field?

They could go with Don Kelly for the time being, but his sub-.220 average might not cut the mustard in Detroit. Another internal option for the Tigers would be to move Carlos Guillen back to third, where he played 89 games back in 2008 and promote Scott Sizemore to play second base. Sizemore is currently hitting .331 in 163 AB’s for Triple-A Toledo.

If the Tigers want to go outside the organization and make a trade, there are a couple of inexpensive third baseman available on the market. Third baseman that available are Miguel Tejada, Jose Lopez, Ty Wigginton, Jorge Cantu, Jhonny Peralta, and Alberto Callaspo.

Whatever the Tigers decide to do, one thing is for sure — losing Inge at this stage of the season definitely hurts.

You can follow The Ghost of Moonlight Graham on Twitter @ theghostofmlg

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Red Sox Catcher Injuries: A View From Pawtucket

A series of toppled dominoes have rearranged the catching depth chart in the Boston Red Sox organization. As a result, Juan Apodaca and Daniel Butler are now making their new home for the Pawtucket Red Sox, the Red Sox’ triple-A affiliate.

Neither 23-year old figured in the equation as one of the top five catchers in the Sox’ system when the year started, yet both are now getting an opportunity to carve out a more permanent role in Pawtucket.

With mainstays Dustin Pedroia, Jacoby Ellsbury and Josh Beckett inactive, Red Sox Nation had enough injuries to agonize over prior to starting catcher Victor Martinez being bitten by the injury bug.

The ripples of those injuries are reaching all levels of the organization. “It’s not the ideal moment for us but we have been dealt the cards and we have to play them,” said Pawtucket head coach Torey Lovullo. “But what it does is provide a chance for some younger players to shine and we are looking for them to do that now.”

The Red Sox regularly carry two catchers on their active roster, and with Boston’s normal starting catcher Martinez being placed on the 15-day DL Tuesday with a broken thumb, Red Sox captain Jason Varitek will assume the role of starting catcher. In the aftermath of Martinez’ thumb injury, the focus shifted to Pawtucket to find Vartiek’s new backup.

In the event of an injury to either Martinez or Varitek, the opportunity for the backup job would normally fall in line to either Dusty Brown or Mark Wagner, the third and fourth ranked catchers in the organization. However, both catchers are currently injured and are on the seven-day disabled list- Brown with a sprained thumb ligament and Wagner with a broken bone in his hand.

The latest report from management is that both players are within 15 days of returning to the active roster. Brown is scheduled to have his cast removed in a week, and both he and the team were pleased with the news that no surgery would be required. Wagner will be returning to a hitting program in a few days and would be getting live at-bats a few days after that, according to Lovullo.

Despite missing out on an opportunity in 2010 with the big club, Brown appeared in seven games over two stints for Boston in 2009. In his first season of major league action, Brown went 1-for-3 with his lone hit being a homerun against the Indians.

As a result of the injuries to Brown and Wagner, Gustavo Molina was the next in line for a promotion and he is now serving as Jason Varitek’s backup in Boston.

“Talk about another great story with Gustavo getting called up and backing up now for the Boston Red Sox,” said Lovullo. “Unfortunately for Brownie and Wags they’ve been hurt but that’s what this game is all about- being in the right place at the right time.”

Prior to his promotion, Molina had 19 games of major league experience spanning two seasons with three teams: in 2007 he played a combined 17 games with the Chicago White Sox and the Baltimore Orioles and in 2008 he appeared in two games for the New York Mets.

When asked if he was surprised at Molina’s call-up this early in the season, Louvello said he wasn’t. “He put himself in a great situation by doing a great job in spring training, impressing the major league scouts, running some great ballgames and putting together some great at bats,” the head coach said.

Though, Lovullo was quick to acknowledge that the timing of the injuries to the regular triple-A catchers did pave the way to Boston for one of the less heralded minor league catchers. “Unfortunately with Wagner getting hurt and Dusty Brown getting hurt it wasn’t how it was supposed to be written up,” said Pawtucket head coach Torey Lovullo. “But it’s a game of opportunity and we are looking for [Apodaca and Butler] to impress just as Tito [Terry Francona] will look for Molina to impress in Boston”.

Juan Apodaca will be the new everyday starter for the PawSox in light of the revolving door at catcher in the Red Sox organization. “The past couple days he has done a great job of following a game plan, running a ballgame and reading swings. We are very pleased with what we saw.”

Apodaca has recorded a hit in each of his first four games with Pawtucket, including a blast to left field in his fourth game that went for his first triple-A homerun.

The backup backstop for Pawtucket will be Butler, who was called-up from Greenville Drive (A) of the South Atlantic League. In Greenville, he was hitting .316 in 55 games with five home runs including .382 over his last ten games.

Short of that, the scouting report was thin on Butler when he was called up to Pawtucket. “I’m just going on some scouting reports and some eyes that have seen him and they have said he is much like Apodaca,” said Lovullo. “He came from Greenville and he has got a long way to go between there and here with maturity and baseball knowledge but if you want to talk about the raw talent, he’s got it.”

Butler skipped over double-A for Portland, playing no games for the Sea Dogs, and a large part of that has to do with his ability as a game-caller not a sweet-swinger.

“He is not a ding-dong who can’t run a baseball game and that was the one reason he was chosen to come here,” said Lovullo. “He can block baseballs, control a pitching staff and run a baseball game, and we are looking for him to do that while he is here.”

Lovullo has had to work hard to manage Pawtucket’s roster amid all of the injuries and he has worked ever harder to find the silver lining in all of the shuffling the PawSox roster has endured over the past few weeks.  

“It sends a smoke signal to the rest of the guys in the organization that at any point in time you can be sent to another level to help contribute,” Lovullo said. “For these guys, there is nothing better than that: having hope.”

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Erick Aybar’s Collision Proves Consequential For Los Angeles Angels

The Angels depth at the shortstop position has being severely tested ever since Casey McGehee took out Erick Aybar at second base, trying to break up a double play.

Aybar has missed the last six games since McGehee tried to “sweep the leg,” and his return doesn’t appear imminent. The good news is that Erick Aybar’s knee injury is not serious enough to require surgery. The bad news is, he received a cortisone shot on June 22 and has been shut down.

Mike Scioscia addresses the situation yesterday saying “We’re encouraged that long range, it won’t be an issue, but short range, we might shut him down and give him an extra week to get ready.”

Translation, Aybar will be headed to the disabled list. 

Aybar spoke with LA Angels Insider Jason Brennan and said he was feeling better, but he also understands it’s not in his or the team’s best interest for him to return if he is not 100 percent.

Article continued at LA Angels Insider.com

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J.J. Hardy Injury: Minnesota Twins Shortstop Lands on DL

The injuries just keep on coming for the Minnesota Twins.

In March, the club lost All-Star closer Joe Nathan for the year after he underwent Tommy John surgery.

Last week, reigning American League MVP Joe Mauer sat out with a heel injury that threatened to land him on the disabled list.

And just today, the Twins placed shortstop J.J. Hardy on the 15-day disabled list with a left wrist contusion. Hardy initially sustained the injury sliding into third base on a triple a week ago.

The move is retroactive to May 4, meaning that Hardy can be rejoin the big league club next Thursday in Boston for the finale of a two-game set against the Red Sox.

Hardy was acquired from the Milwaukee Brewers last fall for outfielder Carlos Gomez who—ironically enough—also landed on the disabled list today with a with a left rotator cuff strain.

Prior to the injury, Hardy—a notoriously streaky hitter—was off to a less than impressive start at the plate. Through the season’s first 25 games, Hardy posted an uninspiring .250/.299/.400 batting line to go with three home runs, 11 RBI, and four doubles.

In essence, the time off could do Hardy some good as it’s largely believed he’s been pressing at the plate in an effort to prove that his dreadful 2009 was an aberration.

To fill in for the injured Hardy, the club recalled infielder Matt Tolbert from Triple-A Rochester.

Aaron Gleeman of Hardball Talk said it best:

“…the Twins have added to their amazing collection of banjo-hitting utility infielders by calling up Matt Tolbert from Triple-A. Tolbert is anything but deserving after hitting .232 with a .632 OPS and six errors in 27 games at Triple-A, but he’s a poor man’s Nick Punto and so naturally Ron Gardenhire loves him.”

The move is nothing if not disconcerting.

As Gleeman mentions, the club is already stock-piled with prototypical “small ball” style players in Nick Punto, Brendan Harris, and Alexi Casilla.

The club could have used this opportunity to call up the supposed third baseman of the future, Danny Valencia or bring Luke Hughes back for a second go-around with the big club, but neither is doing anything overly inspiring at Rochester.

Additionally, Valencia and Hughes are both third basemen by trade, although Hughes has spent plenty of time at second base as of late, but neither of those positions appear to be open with the big club.

The Twins appear content to leave Nick Punto at third base—his best defensive position, according to UZR —and Orlando Hudson isn’t going to suit up anywhere but second base.

That leaves current Rochester shortstop Trevor Plouffe as the most logical player to call up in this situation.

Plouffe, 24, is off to a solid start with the Red Wings, hitting .278/.344/.452 with two home runs, 13 RBI, and eight doubles through 29 games.

The Twins however, appear to be playing favorites and going with one of manager Ron Gardenhire’s favorites, the “scrappy” Matt Tolbert.

Tolbert will likely split time with Alexi Casilla who isn’t exactly lighting the world on fire with his paltry .261/.292/.304 batting line.

To their credit, UZR rates both Casilla and Tolbert as above average defenders at shortstop, albeit in very small sample sizes.

The Casilla/Tolbert combo isn’t an ideal solution for the Twins, especially with the division rival Chicago White Sox in town and a weekend series with the world champion New York Yankees looming on the horizon, but the duo should serve as an adequate defensive stopgap until Hardy returns next week.

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Chien-Ming Wang: The Former New York Yankees Ace’s Disappearing Act

There are plenty of players in professional sports who can have a great performance once in a while.

One day the guy is on fire, and the next he’s just an average player.

The ability to be consistently good is one of the qualities which make a professional athlete great at their job.   

The athletes described above—those who can have a breakout game once in a while—are merely role players who have a small impact on their respective teams, because they aren’t able to be consistent with their play.   

As for the stars, after a few seasons of performing well and proving themselves at the professional level, you can generally say that that player will continue to do so for many seasons to come. 

This is what makes the disappearing act of former New York Yankees ace Chien-Ming Wang so interesting.

Despite rehabbing from an injury after the 2008 season came to a close, it appeared that Wang had legitimized himself as a consistent starting pitcher in the major leagues. Especially when you consider that the righty had started 97 games and had been pitching in the majors for four seasons.

The 2009 season would see Wang take a huge step back, though, even from where he was when he first started in the majors.

In 2005, the 6’3’’ Taiwanese native made his MLB debut for the New York Yankees and was a breath of fresh air for fans.  

The Yankees were finally able to point to a pitcher who had been brought up through the Yankees farm system, as opposed to the high-priced free agents the team had been bringing in for years.

In his first season, Wang pitched admirably, especially for a player who had never appeared in the majors before. He started 17 games for the Bronx Bombers and compiled a record of 8-5 with a solid 4.02 earned-run average.

Wang seemed to learn a lot from his 17 starts in 2005, because he came back in 2006 and had one of the best pitching seasons in the majors. 

Utilizing his patented sinker to induce ground balls, Wang went on to win 19 games and had the eighth-lowest ERA in the American League, at 3.63.

Wang’s 19 wins were tied with Johan Santana for the most in the majors and he finished second to Santana in the AL Cy Young voting.

In 2007, Wang set out to prove the prior season’s success was not an aberration. Despite starting the season on the disabled list, Wang didn’t miss much time and returned to the Yankees rotation at the end of April. 

It didn’t take long for him to return to midseason form, either, as Wang brought a perfect game into the eighth inning against the Seattle Mariners on May 5. 

Wang’s bid for baseball immortality was broken up by a home run off the bat of Ben Broussard, and after the game Broussard had this to say about Wang’s performance: “It’s not like he was completely dominating, but he did a good job of keeping us off balance.” 

In what sounded like a ridiculous statement, Broussard summed up Wang’s entire career with the Yankees. 

He didn’t have a blazing fastball (though he routinely got into the mid-90s,) and he was never a strikeout pitcher. But he worked fast, kept his pitch counts low, rarely walked anyone, and generally kept the ball on the ground thanks to his amazing sinker. 

Despite the fact that Wang threw sinkers almost exclusively, he was able to get major league hitters out because of the velocity with which he threw them. 

Wang didn’t have to pitch like current Yankees ace C.C. Sabathia in order to be effective. He was an unassuming, quiet assassin, and if you were playing against him you would look up in the seventh inning and realize you only had four hits the whole game. 

Despite falling short of a perfect game against the Mariners, Wang never looked back in 2007 and won 19 games for the second consecutive season. Wang also compiled a respectable 3.70 ERA, which ranked 14th in the American League. 

However, Wang’s regular season success didn’t translate into the postseason. Wang was solid in both the 2005 and 2006 ALDS series against the Angels and Tigers, respectively, but the Yankees went on to lose both series. 

In the 2007, ALDS Wang started two games against the Cleveland Indians and did not fare nearly as well.

In Game One he gave up eight earned runs in only 4.2 innings pitched, and in Game Four he only recorded three outs while allowing four earned runs, putting the Yankees in a hole they couldn’t dig themselves out of.    

In a lot of ways, Wang embodied the Yankees’ World Series drought from 2001 to 2008.

Like the Yankees, he was great in the regular season, but when the playoffs started he looked like a completely different player.     

Despite his struggles in the playoffs, Wang had entrenched himself as the Yankees ace heading into the 2008 season, ahead of veterans Mike Mussina and Andy Pettitte. 

Even though the Yankees got off to a slow start, Wang began the season with a 5-0 record. Heading into the second half of the season, Wang had won eight of his first 15 starts and looked to be one of the catalysts to lead a slumping Yankees team to the playoffs. 

These hopes came to an end in Houston when, during an Inter league game against the Astros, Wang came up lame while rounding third base. It was later revealed that he had a partially torn tendon and had sprained his right foot, the combination of which caused him to miss the rest of the 2008 season. 

Wang’s season-ending injury in June was a big part of the Yankees’ most disappointing season in recent memory, as they failed to make the playoffs for the first time since 1994. 

In December of 2008, the Yankees were dead set on fixing what had been their worst season in well over a decade. They went out and signed free agents Mark Teixeira, C.C. Sabathia, and A.J. Burnett. 

The idea was to pair Sabathia and Burnett with Wang and Pettitte (who also re-signed in the off-season,) to form one of the more formidable starting rotations in the majors. 

But as the 2009 season got under way, it became clear that something was wrong with Wang, who started off the season going 0-3 with an astronomical ERA of 34.50 during the month of April. 

Many theorized that Wang’s struggles were because he had changed his pitching mechanics as a result of the foot injury that he had suffered the season prior.

Shortly thereafter, the Yankees sent Wang to the minors to try and correct his pitching motion, and he was subsequently placed on the disabled list a few days later. 

When Wang came off the disabled list he was relegated to pitching out of the bullpen to try and regain his confidence. 

Wang soon returned to his familiar starting role, but he continued to pitch poorly in what was a surreal experience for most Yankee fans. 

Although the player on the mound looked like Chien-Ming Wang, wore Wang’s No. 40, had the same calm demeanor both in the dugout and on the field, and featured a similar repertoire of pitches,  he was not the same player who had anchored the Yankees rotation the past three seasons. 

He went go on to start nine games in 2009, accumulating a record of 1-6 with an ERA of 9.64 before he was placed on the disabled list for the second time, on July 15. 

Wang would have season ending surgery on his shoulder just 15 days later. 

Without their former ace, the Yankees nonetheless went on to finish the regular season with 103 wins and eventually defeated the Philadelphia Phillies for their 27th World Series title. 

Perhaps because they were winning, or perhaps because C.C. Sabathia had taken over as the new Yankees ace, there was very little talk of Wang the rest of the season. 

There were few updates about how he was progressing with his rehab, and despite the fact that his contract was coming to an end after the season, there wasn’t much talk of whether or not the Yankees would re-sign him. 

Wang was absent during the parade down the canyon of heroes when the Yankees celebrated their newest championship, and it had seemed as if Wang had simply disappeared.  

During the 2009 off-season, amid concerns about how quickly Wang (who would soon be turning 30-years-old) would be able to return from major shoulder surgery, the Yankees decided to allow him to become a free agent when they failed to offer him a contract for the 2010 season. 

To many, it had seemed like the Yankees simply gave up too quickly on Wang, who had been the team’s best pitcher for nearly three seasons. 

Wang’s detractors will point out that while he won a lot of games, he did so on one of the best teams in baseball and that he was essentially a one-pitch pitcher who had failed to add any other effective pitches since being called up to the Yankees in 2005. 

While these arguments are valid, the numbers speak for themselves; omitting his injury-riddled 2009 season, Wang had won a total of 54 games in 95 starts. Simply put, the guy was a winner. 

Regardless of how many runs the Yankees were scoring for him, Wang still had to come out and finish the job, which he did more often than not. 

It’s somewhat hard to believe that a player who had a career record of 54-20 with an ERA under 4.00 going into the 2009 season all of a sudden forgot how to pitch because of a foot injury. 

Obviously, it’s a lot more complicated than that, but after the Yankees essentially gave up on him, it didn’t appear that many other major league clubs had much of an interest in Wang either. 

He eventually signed a one-year contract with the Washington Nationals, who have been one of the worst teams in all of Major League Baseball for many seasons. 

In their last two campaigns the Yankees have lost a combined 205 games, which is only 68 fewer losses than they had in the four seasons Wang pitched for them from 2005 through 2008.  

He has yet to pitch this season as he is still recovering from shoulder surgery. Wang was placed on the 60-day disabled list on April 4 but hopes to rejoin the team sometime before mid-season.   

Just when it seemed like Wang had established himself as an effective major league starting pitcher, he dropped off the face of the earth. 

What legitimizes his demise even more is that the Yankees were willing to let him go and few other teams showed much of an interest in the 2006 Cy Young runner-up. What says even more is that the team that decided to take a chance on Wang only gave him a one-year deal just to test the waters. 

Generally speaking, when a magician makes something disappear, they make it re-appear just to show the crowd that it actually existed.

As it stands, Yankees fans and anyone who took an interest in Wang’s career is still waiting for the guy that was the cornerstone of the Yankees rotation for nearly three seasons to re-appear, even if he has to do so with another team.

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