|ESPN.com: Stephania Bell||[Print without images]|
In honor of the 2013 MLB All-Star Game and accompanying festivities at Citi Field in New York City this week, it’s time once again to compile a roster of All-Injured All-Stars. Members of this roster are selected from:
a. Players who were chosen for this year’s All-Star game but could not participate due to injury
b. Past All-Stars who might have had the potential to earn another trip in 2013 were it not for the injuries that beset them this year.
Just as was the case in 2012, this year’s list offered multiple options at nearly every position in both the American and National Leagues. In other words, there is no denying the impact of injuries on the game. Not everyone who could possibly qualify is listed. Some are making a repeat appearance after making this list last season (a dubious distinction denoted with an asterisk). The selections here, just as with the actual All-Star roster, are debatable. But as the manager of the injury roster, the selections are at my discretion.
And now, I hereby present the 2013 All-Injured All-Stars.
1B: *Ryan Howard, Philadelphia Phillies: Howard made the 2012 All-Injury roster as he was recovering from an Achilles tendon repair, a recovery slowed by setbacks in the spring. This year, the three-time All Star started the season on time but was placed on the DL on July 6 with a meniscus tear. Howard underwent surgery and is projected to be out for six to eight weeks (the Phillies hope to have him back and playing with the club in that time frame), a reasonable projection if all goes well with the rehab process. Still, the Achilles rupture and the meniscus injury have both been on Howard’s left side, which raises the level of concern about how that leg will treat the 33-year-old going forward.
2B: Aaron Hill, Arizona Diamondbacks: Although Hill has technically returned from the DL, there is little doubt that his injury derailed the All-Star second baseman’s season after a solid start. That too, the injury is not completely out of the picture. Hill sustained a nonunion fracture in his hand after being hit by a pitch. Ultimately, he was given clearance to try to play through it if the pain didn’t limit him. He has been able to do so, although the team is taking precautions to have him avoid overusing it. The risk remains that it could be aggravated during the course of the season and force him out of the lineup again.
SS: Rafael Furcal, St. Louis Cardinals: Last year at this time, Furcal was making an appearance in the All-Star game; this year he has not made an appearance in a major league game. After spraining his ulnar collateral ligament, Furcal tried to go the conservative route, but during spring training this year, his elbow failed him. After undergoing Tommy John surgery and spending the rest of this year rehabbing the elbow, Furcal hopes to return next season.
3B: Aramis Ramirez, Milwaukee Brewers: Ramirez has been plagued by a problematic left knee since the spring. The Brewers have attempted to manage the problem by giving him intermittent days off. The challenge with the knee sprain, sustained back in March, is that if there is any residual instability (which there appears to be, based on how his knee has behaved), it can easily become aggravated by an awkward movement that causes the knee to give way, such as a diving defensive play, a quick directional change or a slide while running the bases. Despite his attempt to play regularly through the injury, the All-Star third baseman has been limited at times by the knee and recently aggravated it to the point of requiring a second DL stint. In fact, teammate Ryan Braun was brought off the DL a few days sooner than expected when it became clear Ramirez would be heading back. The symptoms from this latest episode will likely settle fairly soon, and Ramirez should be able to then increase his activity and return to the lineup. But what the two trips to the DL along with the controlled management of his playing time tell us is that we can expect the uncertainty around Ramirez and his knee to continue throughout the season.
C: Yadier Molina, St. Louis Cardinals: We’re cheating a little bit by placing Molina here since it appears he will play in the All-Star game, despite the threat of injury. Molina’s knee began to bother him about a month ago, suddenly worsening last week and making it difficult for him to run. An MRI revealed no structural damage and after a few days rest, Molina returned to the lineup this weekend, seemingly without issue. It’s hard to imagine that an injury that has plagued him for the better part of a month would suddenly have disappeared, especially for a catcher whose job demands take a toll on the knees. It’s terrific that the National League’s leading vote-getter will be there for the fans. Let’s hope it doesn’t mean he won’t be there for them later this season.
OF: *Carl Crawford and *Matt Kemp, Los Angeles Dodgers; Justin Upton, Atlanta Braves: Crawford seemed to bounce back this season after spending most of 2012 on the DL, first for lingering wrist pain and weakness following offseason surgery, then for a torn ulnar collateral ligament that ultimately required season-ending Tommy John surgery. The injury bug appeared to be in the rearview mirror in 2013. Unfortunately, that changed in June when Crawford suffered a hamstring injury that sidelined him for several weeks. Just a week removed from the DL stint for his hamstring, Crawford was out of the lineup with back stiffness. Although an MRI turned up “nothing really significant,” according to manager Don Mattingly, Crawford has yet to return. At 31, it’s more difficult for Crawford to bounce back from these nagging types of injuries, making it more of a worry that the hamstring or the back -- or both -- could be problematic for Crawford for the remainder of the season.
Kemp’s performance in 2013 wouldn’t have earned him a spot on the All-Star team this year, even if he were healthy, but his talent has made him a regular in years past. Last year, a hamstring injury that flared up as soon as he returned from his initial DL stint caused him to miss more time than he ever had in his major league career. Now he is set to challenge that statistic this season with consecutive DL appearances for different injuries (a hamstring strain on the opposite side of last year’s injury followed by AC joint inflammation in his post-operative shoulder). The injuries only compounded the rough start Kemp was experiencing following his offseason labral repair. It always seemed likely that Kemp would improve in the second half of this year as he rediscovered his power swing. Now the hope is that he can simply be healthy enough to have the opportunity to do so. As of now, the end of the month appears to be the target for Kemp’s return, and the Dodgers are hoping to see the pre-2013 version of their star outfielder.
The entire Braves outfield is hurting right now, but it is Upton who has the most All-Star appearances of the three, hence his name at this position. Upton strained his calf muscle, but by all accounts, it sounds minor and he could return within the week.
SP: *Roy Halladay, Philadelphia Phillies; *Chris Carpenter, St. Louis Cardinals: Is it a coincidence that these two are repeat honorees? Probably not, especially given that their situations last year portended greater concern for their health heading into this season.
In 2012, Halladay was sidelined with a strained lat, an injury he was able to return from in just under two months. This year, when his performance suffered in an eerily similar manner to last year, Halladay was quicker to acknowledge there was perhaps an underlying physical problem. Indeed, Halladay was dealing with damage to his rotator cuff which required surgery to repair. After undergoing surgery, Halladay has embarked on an intensive rehab program. He has made it clear that he hopes to return this year, although it is not likely to be before September.
Carpenter underwent thoracic outlet surgery in 2012 to alleviate nerve compression that was causing weakness and pain in his throwing shoulder and arm. Surprisingly, he recovered well enough to rejoin his team for the postseason, but he did not pitch like his usual self. After taking some time to re-evaluate whether he even wanted to return to baseball, Carpenter dedicated himself to a focused rehab process … again. Despite several setbacks along the way, he is nearing the point where he could contribute to the Cardinals’ stable, as a starter. Carpenter is set to begin a rehab assignment Monday, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, which could pave the way for a late-season return.
RP: J.J. Putz, Arizona Diamondbacks: Technically, Putz has returned to his major league team after missing extensive time due to injury. An exception was made to include him in the list because he isn’t truly back yet, as evidenced by some of his lingering struggles. A sprain of his ulnar collateral ligament in his throwing arm had the former All-Star sidelined for virtually all of May and June. Shortly after returning, Putz blew a save, leaving us to wonder whether he had really fully recovered or whether he was just rusty. For now, he is operating in a support relief role, but the big question is whether he can pitch on a regular basis without any recurring elbow pain.
Honorable Mention: Freddie Freeman, 1B, Atlanta Braves (thumb); Ryan Braun, OF, Milwaukee Brewers (thumb); Jason Heyward, OF, Atlanta Braves (hamstring)
1B: *Kevin Youkilis, New York Yankees: Youkilis wasn’t going to make this year’s All-Star team, but he’s certainly made enough of them in the past to warrant making this All-Star roster. Hip and back problems have limited Youkilis intermittently for years, and this time, his back would not let him get comfortable. He ultimately had to go the route of back surgery in June and is expected to be out for approximately three months. It’s worth noting that the recovery timetable following this procedure is very fluid, so any setback could throw off that schedule. Despite his age (34), Youkilis is taking a chapter out of teammate Derek Jeter's book and expects to come back, although it remains to be seen whether he’s able to do so this year.
2B: Omar Infante, Detroit Tigers: After getting taken out by a hard slide in a game in early July, Infante’s injury was initially called a contusion. It was later announced that he had sprained his ankle, and Infante was placed on the DL but was expected back immediately following the All-Star break. Now it appears the ankle is recovering a little more slowly than expected, and manager Jim Leyland cautions that Infante may require a little more time. While this doesn’t have the sounds of a particularly serious injury, Infante still needs to move well enough to make defensive plays in addition to running the bases. A few extra days now will translate to a smaller likelihood of lingering problems in the second half.
SS: Derek Jeter, New York Yankees: No matter how hard he tried to return to the lineup to start the season, it just wasn’t meant to be for Jeter. After undergoing surgery to stabilize his fractured ankle last fall, Jeter appeared on track with his progression until pain during spring training interrupted his running program. Imaging studies revealed a second small crack, and Jeter’s program was put on hold to allow the bone to heal. As the bone healed to the point where he could resume running, Jeter progressed rapidly through his rehab progression. In fact, he progressed so well that the team opted to have him return prior to the All-Star break. He lasted less than one complete game.
During his first game back, Jeter’s 39-year-old quadriceps muscle tightened up on him, and he was forced out for the day. The Yankees are hopeful that this represents only a minor setback for the veteran given that it is a Grade 1 (mild) strain. After some rest and a few days to recover, it’s possible he could be ready to go after the break, although the Yankees may ease him back with alternating days off and DH usage.
3B: Alex Rodriguez, New York Yankees: It’s not surprising that the multiple-time All-Star is on the DL at this point. When he underwent January surgery to repair the labrum in his hip, Rodriguez was expected to be out until after the All-Star break. Still, it was uncertain whether his rehab would proceed smoothly and allow him to be on track for a July return. Minus the distractions associated with both the Biogenesis scandal and his recent rehab status updates on Twitter, Rodriguez has experienced a fairly smooth recovery. The last physical hurdle he needs to cross before rejoining the Yankees is a complete rehab assignment, and he is well on his way. On Monday, he graduated to Double-A Trenton as part of his progression towards major league competition. According to the New York Post, Rodriguez says his legs “feel good” and the plan, as he understands it, is to rejoin the team July 22. Although he hasn’t shown much at the plate thus far -- after being out of baseball for the bulk of the last nine months -- the rust is not surprising. While his physical condition is improving, there may be other hurdles -- other than of his hip -- which prevent him from contributing for the remainder of this season.
C: Francisco Cervelli, New York Yankees: Admittedly, Cervelli is a reach here as he has never been an All-Star. But with no one else really competing for a slot, he gets the nod as the starting catcher. Cervelli has been on the DL since late April after suffering a fracture in his right hand, which required surgery. (Incidentally, the Yankees seem to be leading the league in hit-by-pitches resulting in fractures among starters.) After finally recovering enough to take batting practice, Cervelli was just shut down again due to a stress reaction in his right elbow. It now looks like he will be sidelined until August, and it’s hard to imagine him being effective immediately after being limited from baseball activity for so long.
OF: Melky Cabrera, Toronto Blue Jays; Curtis Granderson, New York Yankees; Shane Victorino, Boston Red Sox Oh, what a difference a year makes. At this time in 2012, Cabrera was the All-Star Game MVP, and his performance helped secure home-field advantage for his team at the time, the San Francisco Giants, in their World Series appearance. It was a World Series that Cabrera would end up not participating in, due to the fallout from his suspension for testing positive for PEDs. Cabrera then switched leagues in the offseason when he signed with the Blue Jays. This year, he finds himself on the DL with what is being called left knee tendinitis. The good news is that he has begun a rehab assignment and should be able to rejoin his team shortly after the All-Star break, barring a setback. After going from the highest high to the lowest low last year, then following it with injury this year (which, so far, appears to be minor), Cabrera has to be ready to turn the page in the second half.
Granderson can’t catch a break this year. Or, maybe he can actually do it a little too well. After starting the season on the DL with a wrist fracture sustained when he was hit by a pitch during spring training, Granderson made his season debut in May. It was short-lived, however, as Granderson lasted just days before sustaining another fracture, also the result of being hit by a pitch. This time, he sustained a break to a bone in his hand that required surgical stabilization. For a while, Granderson struggled to grip the bat, and his progress back to baseball activities was slow as a result. As of now, he has begun taking swings but still needs to return to batting practice before a rehab assignment is even in the picture. Granderson still appears to be a few weeks from rejoining the team, and even then, some apprehension about exactly what he can deliver at the plate -- at least initially -- is justified.
Victorino has been in and out of the Red Sox lineup for much of the season with some variant of low back, hip or hamstring pain, which all seem interrelated, per manager John Farrell. The problem with this complex injury is that, as it moves around, it becomes more difficult to treat and slower to resolve. It’s just as well Victorino isn’t part of the All-Star festivities as his body can certainly use the rest. Given that Victorino has already missed a month’s worth of games this season combined with the fact that this problem has not gone away, there is definitely reason to be worried about how his body will hold up for the second half.
SP: Yu Darvish, Texas Rangers; Clay Buchholz, Boston Red Sox: Darvish would have been a fan favorite in this year’s All-Star Game, and matchups between him and some of the NL's heavy hitters would have been eagerly anticipated. Unfortunately, those matchups won’t be happening because of Darvish’s recent placement on the DL with an upper back strain. He has struggled with giving up runs in recent outings, and the team is describing his ailment as fatigue in his upper trapezius. It’s not your typical diagnosis, and it suggests he is experiencing associated neck or upper back stiffness. The question is how long the injury has been bothering Darvish and whether his performance of late can be attributed, at least in part, to his health. While the Rangers sound confident that he will return when eligible on July 22, consider that Red Sox ace Clay Buchholz is reportedly dealing with a similar problem and has been out for over a month. It may not be quite as benign as the team is making it out to be. We won’t really know much until Darvish tries to resume throwing.
Speaking of Buchholz, he started off the season in spectacular fashion, but that came to a crashing halt after an odd injury sidelined him in late May. Buchholz claimed an awkward sleeping position resulted in soreness in his AC joint. Within a week, the problem evolved into a neck issue that was not initially considered serious, but Buchholz has yet to return. In fact, he has yet to make a rehab start; that has been delayed until after the All-Star break. The expectation is that Buchholz will be ready to return by late July, but his recovery process has not been smooth. Until he is able to return to competition and string together consecutive starts, there remains some concern.
RP: Jesse Crain, Chicago White Sox: Oh, the injustice. Crain was named to his first All-Star game only to be sidelined with an injury to his throwing shoulder. Crain was placed on the DL in early July after experiencing tightness in his right shoulder while warming up. The soreness continues to linger when Crain attempts to throw, but it’s unclear just how serious the team thinks this particular episode is. Crain does have a history with his shoulder, having undergone surgery several years ago to address rotator cuff and labral damage. It’s never encouraging to hear about problems resurfacing in a thrower’s shoulder, but it’s too soon to establish whether this is a minor incident that will resolve itself with rest or the beginning of a decline.
Honorable Mention: Justin Verlander, SP, Detroit Tigers (quad); Mark Teixeira, 1B, New York Yankees (wrist); Jake Peavy, SP, Chicago White Sox (rib)