Rolling with the punches
We know how it feels. Every fan of every team, when each yanked hamstring pops up, feels as if it’s only them. “Why?” they cry. “Why us? Why again?” Injuries are a part of any major league season, even a defining part. And now that we’re 21/2 months into the year, we have a handle on which teams have been unduly impacted by poor health. This is, of course, subjective— rankings based not only on the sheer number of injuries but involving the roles the hurt players play, the lengths of their absences— and guesswork. Yes, we know the Yankees have been without Jacoby Ellsbury, missed Masahiro Tanaka and just lost Andrew Miller. Hey, Baltimore, we’re well aware that Matt Wieters isn’t all theway back, that J.J. Hardy missed so much time to start the season, that Jonathan Schoop still isn’t back. And sure, Detroit, we know Victor Martinez and Justin Verlander just got back. Remember: Every team has its issues. But here are three that seem particularly brutal— and how they’ve handled them.
St. Louis Cardinals
Key injuries: RHP Adam Wainwright, above, likely out for season with ruptured Achilles’; 1B Matt Adams, out until at least September with quad tear; LF Matt Holliday, on 15-day disabled list with a quad strain; RHP Lance Lynn, on 15-day disabled list with forearm inflammation; RP Jordan Walden, likely out until the end of this month with a shoulder issue.
Injury management ranking: 1
Injury luck ranking: 27 (of the 30 MLB teams)
Wait. This is the team with the best record in baseball? And it’s not close. The Cardinals are on pace to win 106 games and are already 21 games above .500 when no other National League team is morethan 10 games over .500. But rightnow, they’re playing with a fraction of the team they expected to have. On opening night, Wainwright threw six scoreless innings, Holliday hit third and went 2 for 4 with two RBI, Adams hit fifth and Walden pitched a scoreless eighth — exactly how the Cardinals envisioned things working out. Now they’re all out — and some are facing major questions.
St. Louis has plugged the holes in the rotation because Michael Wacha (9-2, 2.48 ERA) has pitched like an ace and Carlos Martinez (7-3, 2.80 ERA) has successfully moved from the bullpen. Mark Reynolds is filling in for Adams, but the test could be replacing the underappreciated Holliday, who was hitting .303 with an .839 on-base-plus-slugging percentage when he went down.
Key injuries: RHP Yu Darvish, above, out for the season after Tommy John surgery; 3B Adrian Beltre, out with a cut on his left thumb; OF Josh Hamilton, on 15-day disabled list with a strained left hamstring; LHP Derek Holland, out until at least after all-star break with strained shoulder; 2B Jurickson Profar, out for season after shoulder surgery.
Injury management ranking: 2
Injury luck ranking: 30 (based on Darvish alone) In a way, not much was expected of Texas this year anyway. But when Darvish went down in March, all hope seemed lost. So it’s somewhat amazing that the Rangers enter the weekend in second place— ahead of the Angels and Mariners— in the AL West. Beltre’s injury has merely opened the door for prized prospect Joey Gallo, who hit five homers in the first 50 at-bats of his career. The fact that Prince Fielder (.344 batting average, .407 on-base percentage, .525 slugging percentage) is Prince Fielder again has spurred the offense, but the amazing duct-tape job has been in the rotation, where Nick Martinez (2.76 ERA), Wandy Rodriguez (3.20 ERA) and Yovani Gallardo (3.16 ERA) have helped offset the losses of Darvish and Holland.
Tampa Bay Rays
Key injuries: 1B James Loney, above, out with fractured finger; OF Desmond Jennings, out until at least August after knee surgery; LHP Drew Smyly, out until at least late July with a shoulder problem; LHP Matt Moore recovering from Tommy John surgery, perhaps back in July; RHP Jake Odorizzi on 15-day disabled list with oblique tightness.
Injury management ranking: 3
Injury luck ranking: 28
Given their payroll, the Rays had to be built on young starting pitching. But with Smyly — the key piece in last year’s trade of David Price — on the shelf, this figured to be a tough slog. But the Rays have the best ERA in the AL (3.35), and their rotation’s ERA of 3.22 is second best in the league. Chris Archer (2.18 ERA) has led the way. But in typical Tampa Bay fashion, contributions are coming from everywhere. No Rays regular player has an OPS higher than .800 — and that’s from infielder Logan Forsythe. Given their injuries and overall talent level, what the Rays are doing to lead the (mediocre) AL East is astonishing.