April doesn’t end for another day, and yet several teams with playoff aspirations are already dealing with significant injuries that could impact their hopes of making the post-season. Tuesday saw several high-profile players diagnosed with injuries that will cost them a big part of the early season.
The Los Angeles Dodgers – already reeling from the season-ending injury to RHP Brandon McCarthy – were dealt another blow on Tuesday when it was announced that OF Carl Crawford had a torn oblique and would miss several weeks. The Dodgers are already without star OF Yasiel Puig, who is dealing with a hamstring injury.
Los Angeles entered the season with too many outfielders on their roster. Now the Dodgers are down to Andre Ethier, Scott Van Slyke and rookie Joc Pederson as the only pure outfielders on their active roster. Infielders Alex Guerrero and Enrique Hernandez will also see time in the outfield. The Dodgers still lead the NL West by a game even after their 2-1 loss to the San Francisco Giants on Tuesday.
The Cincinnati Reds lost two members of their starting rotation to injury this week. RHP Homer Bailey was placed on the 60-day DL with an elbow injury that may eventually lead to Tommy John surgery. The Reds expressed concern on Tuesday that Bailey would be out for the rest of the season. At a minimum, he is likely to miss two months.
Left-hander Manny Parra landed on the 15-day DL on Wednesday with a strained neck. His DL stint is retroactive to April 24th. The Reds have recalled right-handers Michael Lorenzen and Carlos Contreras from the minor leagues to replace Bailey and Parra. Cincinnati is currently fighting to get back into the NL Central race. At 10-10, the Reds are fourth in the five-team division.
Like the Dodgers and Reds, the New York Yankees are scrambling to patch-up their starting rotation after Opening Day starter Masahiro Tanaka was placed on the 15-day DL on Tuesday with wrist tendinitis and a right forearm strain. Tanaka has been pitching through a strained right elbow ligament all season and there has been concern that he will eventually need Tommy John surgery.
While Tanaka isn’t heading for the operating table at the moment, he could eventually require the season-ending surgery. At a minimum, the wrist and forearm injuries are expected to cost Tanaka two months. The Yankees recalled Chase Whitley to take Tanaka’s place in the rotation for now, but New York could look elsewhere for a more long-term solution. The Yankees currently hold a two-game lead in the AL East.
The Toronto Blue Jays have the talent to challenge the Yankees and others in the AL East, but injuries could prevent them from reaching their potential as a team. Oft-injured shortstop Jose Reyes landed on the DL on Tuesday with a cracked rib. Reyes has been a catalyst at the top of the high-scoring Jays’ line-up, although he has struggled since injuring his rib on April 10.
The Houston Astros are off to a red-hot start and are surprise leaders of the AL West. They will be without arguably their best position player so far this season for at least two-and-a-half months, however. Shortstop Jed Lowrie injured his right thumb during Monday’s game against the San Diego Padres. An MRI on Tuesday revealed that Lowrie had torn a ligament in his thumb. That injury will require surgery and Lowrie is expected to be sidelined through the All-Star break.
The Astros have recalled Jonathan Villar from Triple-A to take Lowrie’s spot, but the watch is on now for top prospect Carlos Correa, who is currently ripping through Texas League (Double-A) pitching for the Corpus Christi Hooks. Correa is just 20 years old and he missed a significant portion of last season with a broken ankle. However, he is one of the top talents in all of baseball and another hot month at the plate for Correa could convince the Astros to speed up their timeline with the top pick from the 2012 MLB draft.
The Oakland A’s – a fellow AL West rival – will be without super utilityman Ben Zobrist for at least a month after Zobrist had knee surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his left knee on Tuesday. Zobrist was the A’s marquee off-season acquisition and the A’s will be without their number three hitter for a significant portion of the season. Oakland currently sits 4.5 games out of first place in the AL West. If their team struggles over the next few weeks without Zobrist, Oakland could be early sellers with pending free agents Scott Kazmir and Tyler Clippard on the roster.
The A’s did receive some good injury news on Tuesday, as outfielder Coco Crisp (right elbow surgery) announced via Twitter that he would be joining the A’s High-A club this weekend to begin his rehab assignment. Closer Sean Doolittle also threw off of the mound on Tuesday and continues to make progress from a left shoulder injury.
Injuries are playing a role in the NL East, as well. The New York Mets are the surprise team of the early season, but they are battling a multitude of injuries. New York is currently without star third baseman David Wright (hamstring), promising young catcher Travis d'Arnaud (broken finger), and valuable relievers Jerry Blevins (broken arm) and Bobby Parnell (forearm tightness). During spring training, the Mets lost starter Zack Wheeler to Tommy John surgery. Despite the injuries, the Mets lead the division by 4.5 games.
The Washington Nationals had a stirring comeback win over the Atlanta Braves on Tuesday night, but they lost outfielder Reed Johnson to a potentially serious leg muscle pull during the game. The Nationals were the preseason favorites for the World Series, but they are currently in last place with an 8-13 record, even after the comeback win. Update: Johnson was placed on the DL by the Nationals on Wednesday afternoon with a calf strain.
The Philadelphia Phillies have an identical record to the Nationals at the moment, but there is little reason to believe that they will be able to turn their season around in any significant way. With every major pitching injury around the league, the Phillies become a team to watch, as they hold arguably the biggest trade chip in baseball with left-hander Cole Hamels.
The St. Louis Cardinals could be in the market for a pitcher like Hamels after losing star right-hander Adam Wainwright to a season-ending injury. Wainwright tore his Achilles over the weekend while hitting and the injury will take 9-12 months recovery time. St. Louis is off to an excellent start at 13-6, but their lead in the NL Central is just one game over the Chicago Cubs.
The Arizona Diamondbacks received a scare on Tuesday when young right-hander Archie Bradley was struck in the face by a line-drive off the bat of Carlos Gonzalez. Bradley remarkably escaped serious injury, as he didn’t suffer a concussion or any facial fractures. Bradley’s face did swell considerably, however, and he could miss some time while the swelling abates. Update: Bradley was placed on the disabled list by Arizona on Wednesday afternoon.