If there is one bug baseball fans hate hearing about, it is the insect known as the “injury bug.” Well, either the Dodgers have found the entire nest or, hopefully, just one that has gone rogue.
The Dodgers announced that All-Star infielder Hanley Ramirez will be lost for at least two months due to a thumb injury he suffered in the World Baseball Classic tournament. Ramirez dove for a ball while playing third base for his native Domincan Republic in the WBC final game. An MRI showed a torn ligament and surgery is required. Although the medical reports say he could be ready in eight weeks, many believe it will be ten weeks or more before Ramirez is back at 100%.
Ramirez, who had a batting average of .313 from 2006 to 2010, has struggled offensively the last two seasons. His overall average since 2011 is .252. Although the drop off can probably be attributed to the grind of being an every day player the last seven years, I see this and wonder if baseball’s crack down on performance enhancing drugs is part of the equation. Ramirez is perhaps just cleaner than he was when he won the batting title four years ago.
With back up shortstop Dee Gordon nursing a sprained ankle, the name that has cropped up as Ramirez’s replacement is Luis Cruz. Cruz was expected to start at third base but now that position will most likely be handled by the ”platoon” of Juan Uribe, Nick Punto, and possibly Jerry Hairston.
This is the first serious injury to be recorded in a spring that has been filled with several precarious health questions. Outfielder Carl Crawford is inching towards recovery from Tommy John surgery. GM Ned Colletti said he expects Crawford to be ready by opening day but him starting the season on the DL is still a possibility. Pitcher Zack Greinke has suffered from elbow problems the last couple of weeks. The Dodgers had some nervous moments until the medical reports said it was only inflammation. Greinke says he will be ready for his first start of the regular season. Outfielder Matt Kemp had surgery on his left(non-throwing) shoulder this past winter and is struggling this spring. He is hitting .167 with one home run.
Trading Up at last
The Boston Red Sox will always be known for making the worst trade in baseball history.
I’m talking, of course, about their 1920 deal that sent Babe Ruth to the Yankees in exchange for the money needed to finance a musical, “No, No, Nanette.” It took about 84 years to recover from that one. Fortunately for Bostonians, baseball has changed to the point trading blunders can be easily be erased by dollar bills and free agents. But this season could see one minor Red Sox trade become one of their blunders, albeit a minor one.
In 2011, the Red Sox were in the thick of a run to the postseason and were looking for pitching help. They would eventually embark on a three team trade with the Dodgers and Mariners. The Dodgers sent their number one outfield prospect, Trayvon Robinson, to the Red Sox who in turn dealt Robinson to the Seattle Mariners for pitcher Erik Bedard. When the dust settled, the Dodgers ended up with two prospects – catcher Tim Federowicz and pitcher Stephen Fife.
Federowicz is currently in line to begin this season with the Dodgers as the number two catcher behind A.J. Ellis. “Fedex,” as Federowiz, has been called, had a pretty solid Triple A season in 2012 batting .294 with 11 home runs. The Dodgers are still holding out hope they can obtain a veteran catcher but as of now, all signs point to the job being Federowicz’s to lose.
Injuries to several veteran pitchers resulted in Fife being called up for five starts last season. He may have pitched better than his 0-2 record reflects. Fife did not give up more than two runs in any of his starts and the Dodgers were shutout in both of his losses. This spring, he has performed as well as, if not better than, the trio of veterans currently vying for the fifth spot in the rotation.
Ted Lilly is recovering from a shoulder injury and has a 9.45 ERA this spring. The other candidates, Aaron Harang and Chris Capuano, both of whom the Dodgers have openly shopped to other teams, have a combined ERA of more than 7.50. Fife is 1-0 with a 3.72 ERA and has struck out 9 in 9.2 innings.
Staying Down on the Farm
The Dodgers announced that outfielder Yasiel Puig, who was signed to a $42 million deal last year after starring in the Cuban leagues, will start 2013 in the minors. He is hitting .521 this spring and appeared ready to take over the left field slot if Crawford couldn’t start the season. But Dodgers management still sees him as a work in progress. Alex Castellanos, Elian Herrera, and Skip Schumaker, listed as an infielder but who has played in 389 games as an outfielder in eight major league seasons, will probably rotate in left as well as help cover center and right when Kemp and right fielder Andre Ethier need a break.