SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Overcoming potential weaknesses in baseball should be a challenge for June, July or August -- and not come on the timetable the Los Angeles Dodgers have been forced to use.
A talented roster with veterans in key spots figured to be tested by injuries at some point of the season, it’s just that nobody could have imagined that test would be in the weeks heading into Opening Day.
Outfielder Andre Ethier, who is now out for 10 to 14 weeks because of a fractured right tibia, is only the latest in a long line of players who have made the Dodgers a group of walking wounded this spring. His injury was more freakish in nature -- sustained after fouling a ball off his leg in a game on Friday -- but that only means the Dodgers have embraced variety.
Left-hander Brett Anderson is another player out for an extended period of time, as his back injury will keep him on the shelf for three to five weeks. As far as the others who have bumped into the injury bug this spring, it might be easier to list the players who haven’t been hurt.
But for now, consider: Alex Wood, Brandon Beachy, Hyun-Jin Ryu, Yasmani Grandal, Adrian Gonzalez, Howie Kendrick, Enrique Hernandez, Corey Seager, Justin Turner, Scott Van Slyke and Julio Urias have all either had to work back from an injury of some type or are on the mend from an offseason procedure.
“You know what, it’s out of our control, and our guys have done a good job of continuing to get in their work, stay positive and get geared toward the start of the season,” manager Dave Roberts said. “We’re a talented team. We have a lot of good players. Obviously any injury hurts, and when you look at what we’ve gone through already, it’s frustrating, but we can’t let it distract us.”
The ripple effect from Ethier's injury affects multiple fronts. Not only are Carl Crawford and Van Slyke now expected to platoon in left field, the injury could yield an Opening Day roster spot for Trayce Thompson.
As far as Ethier goes, he now joins the group of players who essentially will be viewed as reinforcements once the season gets underway. Ryu was supposed to come back in May, but a slight setback in his throwing program this spring could push his season debut to June. Ethier and Brandon McCarthy (Tommy John surgery) could be on the comeback trail in July.
At that point, the Dodgers should have a decent understanding of their chances this season. A team in contention (read: healthy) figures to be looking to add reinforcements by the end of July.
The Dodgers spent all winter adding depth. Infielders Gonzalez, Turner and Kendrick all are over 31 years old. Outfielders Ethier and Crawford are both over 33. Even if the Dodgers won’t admit that adding the depth was a counterargument for their age, it had to have been a consideration.
But even the worst-case scenario didn’t have players breaking down this early. Seager should be back from his sprained knee by Opening Day, Gonzalez and Kendrick are at full strength from their nagging injuries and Turner is rounding into form quickly, so at least some areas are trending in the right direction for the Dodgers.
The health issue is a concern for all teams, but the Dodgers will have to keep a particularly close eye on things.
Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman did his best to keep things positive Tuesday.
“It’s an opportunity for some to step up, and at this point, we’re not considering ourselves cursed or fortunate,” he said. “It is what it is. It’s what happens over the course of a season.”
Sure, but this isn’t even the full course of spring.
Roberts, who does his pre-workout media updates among the grapefruit and palm trees, probably won’t be taking a vacation to a tropical setting anytime soon, as it would only remind him of the woes he encountered in his first spring as a manager.
At this point, he probably just wants the season to start for real. The spring has not been kind.
“Yeah, you know what, I think in one sense you do [want to leave Arizona], but we still have some work to do, to prepare and get ready,” Roberts said. “But it will not deter us from getting in our work and preparing for the season.”