The headline out of extended spring training is much the same as it is for the Oakland A's major league team – injury woes continue. A number of players who were slated for extended camp at the conclusion of spring training still find themselves trying to overcome setbacks and mounting frustration levels.
Right-handed pitcher Michael Ynoa is a perfect example of how overcoming one injury does not necessarily mean you are headed in the right direction. Ynoa, the young Dominican player who set the Dominican amateur signing record, remains the organization's most well-known, unknown player. Ynoa has battled through tendonitis in his knee and soreness in his elbow. He has not stepped foot on the pitcher's mound in a regular season game since he was signed in 2008.
"He got through those problems but then encountered wisdom teeth that were impacted, which caused him a two- or three-week delay," Keith Lieppman, the Oakland A's Director of Player Development, said.
"Shortly after that setback, he strained his back. We are hoping to get him on the mound in the next couple of weeks so that he is ready for the summer league in Arizona."
While Ynoa seems to making progress overcoming his injuries, the A's first-round draft pick in the 2007 draft, right-handed pitcher James Simmons, has not been so lucky. When asked about Simmons progress, Lieppman stated that the doctors have not yet been able to locate exactly what is wrong with his shoulder and all conservative treatments are being explored before considering surgery.
Simmons began his career with Double-A Midland in 2007 and continued to produce solid numbers with the club through the 2008 season. In 2009, Simmons spent the season with the Triple-A Sacramento River Cats, but struggled with his command and ability to get hitters out, posting a 5.72 ERA in 119.2 innings of work. The youngster has had some shining moments in his career thus far, being invited to participate in the Arizona Fall League twice in addition to an invitation to big league camp in 2009. However, it remains unclear as to when and if Simmons will rejoin the organization as an active player anytime soon.
The injury woes continue for the organization, as notable young prospect infielder Dusty Coleman has experienced a setback to his surgically repaired wrist.
"He won't be back anytime soon. The fracture in his hand has not healed correctly and he may have to have to undergo another surgery to correct it," Lieppman said.
Coleman initially thought he has sprained his wrist while playing with Low-A Kane County last season. The injury revealed itself to be more than that, a fracture. Coleman was off to a great season, hitting .323 in April and racking up six homeruns in the month of May. However, the effects Coleman's decision to play through his injury became apparent during June and July when he batted .214 with not a single home run. Despite the decline in Coleman's numbers, the A's promoted him to High-A Stockton before being shut down due to his wrist injury in the final weeks of the season.
The "what if" scenarios are never easy to figure out and neither is this one - what if Coleman had decided not to play through his injury. Would he be facing yet another surgery or would he be making his way up the minor league system?
For these three young prospects their short-lived baseball careers have been filled with injury and frustration. However, this injury-plagued story must go on with other updates from players in extended camp that are eerily similar:
• RHP Mike Madsen – Madsen, who has missed the last two years due to Tommy John surgery in July 2008, continues to work his way back to the mound. He experienced a minor setback after a few innings of work during spring training but the A's have been working with him, building up his pitch count and stamina on the field. Lieppman noted that he is doing well and pitching in extended, but that the A's will be looking to see if he can hold up under the rigors of throwing every fourth or fifth day.
• 1B Sean Doolittle – Doolittle continues to experience problems with his surgically repaired knee to the point where he is strictly in Arizona working with a physical therapist. "He is another player that is frustrated and we continue to struggle with figuring out exactly the issue is," said Lieppman. Doolittle and the team will continue to push on little by little with the hopes of Doolittle recovering from his injury.
• RHP Chad Lee – The two years of arm problems seem to be continuing for this right-hander. According to Lieppman, Lee had a recent setback with his shoulder and is not progressing quite as quickly as the team had hoped. Lee spent a short time with the short-season Vancouver Canadians in 2009 before being promoted to Low-A Kane County.
• RHPs Brett Tomko and Jason Jennings – The A's signed the pair of right-handers to minor league contracts earlier this year. Tomko continues to experience a nerve problem in his right elbow that ended his season with Oakland last year. Lieppman mentioned it was their hope to have him pitching sometime this summer, but that the team expected this injury would take awhile to heal. Jennings, on the other hand, is not in Arizona, but is back home working with a physical therapist. In 2007, Jennings had season-ending elbow surgery to repair a torn flexor tendon in his right elbow. He is not expected to start throwing for another six weeks.
• LHP Julio Ramos – The 2009 pitcher of year for the short-season Vancouver Canadians is in extended after throwing one bullpen in spring training and complaining of soreness is his shoulder. Lieppman said that he is not expected to pick up a ball until June 1.
• C Joel Galarraga – The A's depth at the catcher position just got a little bit more shallow with the shoulder injury set-back for Galarraga and the release of Curtis Thigpen. Galaragga has been told not to throw again until June 1. He has been hitting on a limited schedule and has been catching bullpen sessions, said Lieppman. Thigpen could come in handy right now with the injuries at the catcher position. The club had a secondary position for Thigpen, but he elected to take his release instead.
• 1B Matt Whitney – Finally a good news story! Whitney was recently added to High-A Stockton Ports to begin the process of getting him healthy and to the point where he can play every day. This off season, Whitney signed a minor league free agent contract with the A's. Lieppman mentioned that Whitney has been dealing with fractures in his back, but is doing well.
• 3B Ryne Jernigan – Jernigan spent the last two seasons with the Canadians. He asked for his release earlier this year and the A's granted it to him two weeks ago.