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Thursday, March 21, 2013
Strangest injuries of the spring

By Jayson Stark

Strange spring injuries
Scorpion sting. Painful tattoo. Skydiving accident. Yeah, we've had some strange injuries this spring.

Every spring, it's alwaaaaaays something.

A pitcher twists his neck toweling off between innings. … Or hurts his elbow tossing out the trash. … Or strains his shoulder turning off his alarm clock.

It's alwaaaaaays something. Something that definitely never happened to Cal Ripken, anyway.

But then came this spring, and holy schmoly. You don't need to be related to the surgeon general to know that in the annals of modern spring training medical mishaps, this has been an all-timer. Just to give you an idea:

A general manager (guess who?) jumped out of an airplane and did bad stuff to his fibula. And that wasn't even close to being the craziest injury of this nutty spring. Heck, it didn't even involve a tattoo or a scorpion.

So what was the most bizarre injury of them all (uh, so far)? Read on, as we present the Nine Strangest Injuries (or Mishaps) of Spring Training 2013:

EIGHTH RUNNER-UP: A funny thing happened to Casey Kotchman during the Marlins' first pop-up drill of the spring: He was chasing a pop fly and crashed into the pop-up machine. He survived the collision OK. But this little calamity was far from over.

He also knocked over the pop-up gizmo, tried to grab it before it hit the ground and wound up gashing two fingers on his right hand. Four stitches later, according to the Palm Beach Post, he had to sit at his locker and listen to his teammate, Greg Dobbs, ask him, jokingly:

“Why did you grab it? What was going through your brain? Dude, if the machine falls and breaks, the drill is over.”

Kotchman's classic reply: “I was trying to be a gentleman to the machine and try not to throw it down on the ground.”

Moral of the story: Gentlemen prefer fungo bats.

SEVENTH RUNNER-UP: Tigers shortstop Jhonny Peralta missed a game this spring due to, well, lunch. He gulped down a bowl of clam chowder, had an allergic reaction and was a late scratch.

In more ways than one.

SIXTH RUNNER-UP: Sleep is a big enough challenge in spring training. But every spring, somebody finds a way to take that to a whole new level. And this year’s winner is Yankees reliever David Robertson. He went a week and a half between appearances this spring because of a sore shoulder.

Robertson
And how'd he hurt that shoulder? Not by throwing a baseball 96 miles an hour. By sleeping on it wrong. How else?

Last spring, you’ll recall, Robertson sprained his foot -- by carrying boxes down the stairs. So we believe he's set a franchise record for most spring injuries without setting foot in the ballpark. But we’ll check that with the Elias Sports Bureau and get back to you.

FIFTH RUNNER-UP: This one actually wasn't funny. Two weeks ago, Cardinals reliever Marc Rzepczynski went out to play golf with three of his fellow pitchers and got himself into way more trouble than he ever could have imagined by driving into the rough on the first hole. So right after he unfurled his second swing of the day, a piece of dirt or debris apparently flew out of the rough and landed in his eye.

How messy a development was that? Yikes. It caused so much irritation in that eye that not only couldn't he pitch for a week and a half, he had to sleep standing up, on doctor’s orders, to help the eye heal. But now that we know Rzepczynski will be all right, we’d like to offer four words of helpful advice for the next time he finds his Titleist in the rough:

Free drop. For life.

Brian Cashman
Is there a more fearless general manager than Brian Cashman?
FOURTH RUNNER-UP: You can bet that back in the good old days of Bronx Bomber-hood, you never would have caught Gabe Paul, Lee MacPhail or Dan Topping Jr. jumping out of any airplanes. Not for charity. Not for fun. Not even for a very special presentation of Celebrity Yankee GM Apprentice.

But here’s to Brian Cashman, whose fearlessness is a refreshing change of pace -- about 99.99999999999999 percent of the time. Except for that one rare, unfortunate occasion this month when a skydiving adventure to benefit the Wounded Warriors Project landed him in a Florida operating room with a broken fibula and dislocated ankle.

We asked Cashman last week whether he’d ever jump out of a plane again. His reply: “Would I? Sure. I don’t know if I will, but I would.”

Whoah. Hold on. He’d really do that again after what happened to him this time?

“It’s like Mariano [Rivera],” he quipped. “Don't want to go out that way.”

THIRD RUNNER-UP: It's been a tough spring to be a general manager, even for the guys who managed to stay firmly planted on the ground. Ask Brewers GM Doug Melvin. He was finishing up dinner one night when his wife spotted a “bug” crawling across the floor. So Melvin volunteered to leap to the rescue. Big mistake.

He grabbed a tissue, attempted to apprehend that little bugger and, just as he was about to finish off this heroic deed, got stung in the finger by a creature known as an Arizona bark scorpion. Or, as they say around the scorpion batting cage, a Centruroides sculpturatus.

Almost immediately, Melvin realized numbness was spreading up his arm. So he did what any GM does when times get tough: He turned to Google. And once he read the word “lethal” in the description of the varmint that stung him, he headed straight for the emergency room. Where he spent the next several hours.

Asked by brewers.com’s Adam McCalvy what he’d do the next time his wife sees a bug crawling along their floor, Melvin replied: “I’m going to have her kill it with her shoe.”

SECOND RUNNER-UP: For four years, Texas shortstop Elvis Andrus had been looking into getting what the Dallas Morning News’ Gerry Fraley described as an “elaborate tattoo” to honor his late father, Emilio.

Andrus
Everything about this is both beautiful and touching. Except for one minor detail:

In retrospect, flying in a tattoo artist -- from Dallas -- to apply this thing during spring training, which is not held in Dallas, might not have been Elvis’ best idea of the millennium.

After spending nine hours, over two days, getting this tattoo etched on his arm, Andrus arrived at Rangers camp the next day reporting that his arm was basically “on fire.” So he had to be shut down for a couple of days until the smoldering subsided.

Turned out this wasn’t just Andrus’ first career tattoo injury but also his first tattoo, period. Much to the chagrin of tattoo-injury historians, it’s looking like there won’t be a second.

“I’m done with this,” he told his local tattoo-beat correspondents. “Too much pain.”

FIRST RUNNER-UP: Bad things seem to be happening this spring when players named Peralta think to themselves: “Hmmm, I believe it’s time for lunch.”

We’ve already chronicled Jhonny Peralta's unfortunate encounter with those darned chowder demons. But he can't top the fate that befell Rays reliever Joel Peralta last month when he made the mistake of going out for Cuban sandwiches after a workout.

So he hopped in his flashy orange Camaro, arrived at the Cuban Taste restaurant in Port Charlotte, went to wriggle out of the car and … uh-oh … hurt his neck.

By the next day, he had what was described as an “extremely stiff neck.” And the upshot was he couldn't throw for four days, had to withdraw from the World Baseball Classic and is still hearing about it from knuckleheads like us.

If you're wondering, though, Peralta fought through the pain, ate the sandwiches and gave this thumbs-up review to the Tampa Bay Times’ Marc Topkin: “They were good.” Be sure to look for that one on Yelp next time you’re in Port Charlotte.

One final astute author's observation: When this injury first happened, who among us would have thought it wouldn't even rank as the top calamity of the spring a month and a half later? Still amazed by that. But you're about to find out why:

AND OUR WINNER IS …

It was an injury only Dave Gumpert, Bubbles Hargrave and John “Chewing Gum” O’Brien could love. It was also an injury so made to order for this high-brow piece of literature that the San Francisco Chronicle’s trusty A’s beat writer, Susan Slusser, tweeted it at us somewhere in the neighborhood of 11 seconds after she learned about it.

Taylor
A’s outfielder Michael Taylor probably wasn’t going to make the team anyway this spring. But he, um, chewed up whatever chance he had when he sliced up the little finger on his right hand by -- we kid you not -- tossing out his gum. During a game.

So how’d that happen? It was easier than you might think. Taylor grabbed the gum, went to throw it away and -- oops! -- hit his hand on the dugout ceiling light. Which resulted in an injury whose bad taste lingered a lot longer than a piece of Juicy Fruit.

He was out for 11 days, then came back to log a mere eight at-bats, whereupon the A’s officially burst his bubble -- by sending him to Sacramento.

Where, as his dentist undoubtedly warned him as a kid, he’ll definitely have a lot to chew on.