Avoiding injury during spring training has proved difficult for Will Middlebrooks and Stephen Drew. Middlebrooks got a ball to the wrist weeks ago and recovered. Drew got hit by a pitch and got his bell rung, resulting in a concussion. He still awaits clearance. David Ortiz is working each day to overcome ankle swelling, batting and running as the trainers allow.
Everyone involved in the game, from commentators to players, worry about obtaining injuries during these exhibition games. Everyone needs to be healthy for when it counts, the regular season. All players will compete tentatively, but with purpose, not wanting to risk a roster spot. In addition, perfect practice dictates perfect play later.
Baseball is a game of dynamic, explosive actions made by the body. Quick blasts of energy are needed from relatively sedentary positions, standing at the plate or in a defensive position on the field. A fast run to first base, or sprint to catch the ball in center field are the norm. Throw in a hard cored, leather covered ball weighing approximately 5 pounds, being hit and thrown in excess of 90 MPH, and you have some serious opportunities for injuries.
People may laugh that the biggest news out of spring training on a given day may be that someone ran the bases, or a pitcher threw a simulated start, but this is no laughing matter. The other implication of an injury incurred during spring training is wasted money. Players may end up riding the pine in the regular season still getting paid. This does nothing, but hurt the organization’s finances, as they are paying someone to sit. Even worse, injured players may be traded, forcing teams to give talent away only for those players to compete against them once healthy.
All the preparation in the world cannot eliminate the risk or occurrence of injury. Some things in this game of strategy and control are left to fear and fate. These fears are especially real after the injury laden 2012 season. The clubhouse had a record 24 players on the disabled list last year in the first week of August 2012. Currently, we have about 4-5 players in physical trouble, including Ryan Kalish, Drew, and Ortiz. Alfredo Aceves, meanwhile, jumped right into the fire brawling during the World Baseball Classic and nearly another, during Saturday’s tilt with the Rays. Aceves, if you are going to fight, use your feet not the instruments that earn you money—your hands and arms. With a solid 4.50 ERA for spring training, we still need him as either a closer or possible starter. Cool out, dude!
While we do not want to see talent wasted, or accidentally injured during pre-season action, the only bright side would be the opportunities for young, talented prospects to come up from Pawtucket.