Monday, March 16, 2009
Braun day to day, Lindstrom done
By Amy K. Nelson ESPN.com
MIAMI -- The injury toll to Team USA continues at the World Baseball Classic.
Manager Davey Johnson said left fielder Ryan Braun will undergo an MRI on his strained right side at the request of the Milwaukee Brewers.
Also, Florida Marlins reliever Matt Lindstrom has left the squad after experiencing soreness in his shoulder in Sunday night's 9-3 victory over the Netherlands. Johnson noticed Lindstrom was feeling pain and removed him from the game.
On Monday afternoon during the team's workout, Johnson said Lindstrom was undergoing an MRI and would miss the rest of the tournament. He was upset that Lindstrom did not tell the coaching staff that he had soreness while warming up in the bullpen.
"I just wish he had said something," Johnson said. "I had conversations with him from day one, if anything is bothering him we have other guys. We can't take the chance. He's done."
After Monday's MRI, Lindstrom was told not to throw for seven to 10 days, the Marlins said. The organization is uncertain whether he'll be ready by Opening Day.
"We had every expectation he is going to be our closer, so that's a big deal to be in this position now," Marlins president of baseball operations Larry Beinfest said at the team's spring training complex in Jupiter. "We're hopeful we will start the season with our closer, but we are not sure. So that's tough."
Lindstrom was promoted to the closer's role last September, and the team acquired for set-up duty right-hander Scott Proctor, who has been slowed in spring training by discomfort in his elbow after undergoing offseason surgery.
If both Lindstrom and Proctor are unavailable, the closer's job becomes wide open.
"It's not where were hoping we'd be as we turn the corner heading into the start of the season," Beinfest said.
Johnson said that Braun, who left in the eighth inning of Sunday's game, did not want the MRI exam and wants to play on Tuesday against Puerto Rico.
"I want to play tomorrow," Braun said. "That's my intent."
Johnson said that the Brewers said the player has a tendency to not admit when he's hurt.
"He wanted me to keep an open mind and let him swing tomorrow," Johnson said. "I know ballplayers. ... I [said], 'I know you're lying to me right now. I also got word from the Brewers you might not be honest with me.'"
Brewers management decided to let Braun stay in Miami with Team USA.
"They work out today. He won't work out and probably will not play tomorrow just as a precaution. This is one of these literal day-to-day [injuries]," Brewers assistant general manager Gord Ash said. "We'll reconnect tomorrow, see how he is and see if we need to do anything. He's not going to come here or go to Milwaukee for any examination at this point."
Braun, who was checked out by the Marlins' medical staff, spoke with Brewers trainer Roger Caplinger, who agreed that the injury sounded minor.
"You're guided by the physician [there] and we're comfortable with that. And more importantly, comfortable with what the player tells us," Ash said.
The injury is on the same side that Braun hurt during a swing in a game on Aug. 9. Braun took six games off, but Ash said this intercostal strain is lower in his rib cage.
"Similar, but much milder," Ash said.
The 25-year-old Braun hit .300 with 30 homers in 114 games before last year's injury, and .238 with seven home runs in the final 37 games. He had only eight extra-base hits in September.
Brewers manager Ken Macha said he wasn't overly concerned since there's still three weeks left in spring training.
"Injuries happen," Macha said. "It's the weather and your wife, you have no control over those two or injuries."
The injuries to Lindstrom and Braun are the latest for Team USA, which already lost infielders Chipper Jones and Dustin Pedroia to muscle strains. Due to WBC rules, the Americans cannot replace either Braun or Lindstrom on the roster until the next round of play.
Jones wasn't thrilled about the WBC format.
"Just way too many days off," he said, according to the Atlanta Journal Constitution. "We stayed in Toronto for a week and played three games. I don't know if you ever stayed in Toronto, but it's not exactly Las Vegas. To say that we were plucking our eyebrows out one at a time would be an understatement. You're not getting the work in that you should. You're getting reps, but you're not getting the at-bats that you need."
Johnson already knows what he would do if injuries got so bad in the WBC that he ran out of certain position players: He would forfeit.
The injury-plagued Americans were so short-handed Sunday against the Netherlands that backup catcher Brian McCann played left field in the ninth. Asked during the team's batting practice Monday who his third catcher would have been, Johnson said he wouldn't have even tried to put a player in that position for fear of injury -- even if it meant elimination.
"I damn sure wouldn't want to be lynched or hung up in some city if I put [Kevin] Youkilis behind the dish or something," Johnson said, referring to the Red Sox first baseman. "I would definitely had to gone out and said we had to forfeit this ballgame. Yeah, I'd forfeit it."
Added Youkilis: "Yeah, he probably would."
The slew of sidelined Team USA stars have caused some to wonder if the tournament forces players to unnecessarily risk injury in an exhibition during usual spring training time. Others are questioning offseason conditioning by the Americans, who don't play winter league baseball anywhere close to the rate as Latin and Asian players.
"I'm definitely going to have a list of things to submit to MLB of things that would make it easier for the manager" to avoid injuries, Johnson said.
Among those, Johnson said he would like to see more exhibition games before the tournament, fewer days off and a rule change allowing a manager to reinsert a player into the lineup if an injury occurs during the game.
As for conditioning, some USA players say the timing of the tournament puts them at a disadvantage.
Dozens of Latin American players competing in the World Baseball Classic play in winter leagues in South and Central America, even for just the last few weeks of the season in January. Most players from Asia also are playing or practicing by January.
Winter is typically a laid-back time for American players.
"I don't start baseball stuff, I don't start hitting until spring training," U.S. first baseman and outfielder Adam Dunn said, adding that he starts conditioning at full speed after Christmas.
"I can definitely understand you're going kind of half speed in the offseason just kind of getting ready for Opening Day. It's hard to turn that switch on to full speed. It's just sort of one of those things I'm not sure there's a solution."
Youkilis, for instance, said he has been bothered by a sore neck.
But Youkilis said it's not serious and attributes the soreness to hotel pillows and traveling.
"More guys sit out in spring training because something is tweaked, and they miss a day," he said. "In the WBC, you don't have a chance to sit out for two days. If you sit out for two days, you're done for the whole round. The games happen so quick there's no time to be injured."
Amy K. Nelson covers Major League Baseball for ESPN.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.