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In honor of the festivities taking place in Kansas City today around the 2012 MLB All-Star Game, it seemed appropriate to compile a roster of All-Injured All-Stars. The qualifiers for this roster were selected from:
• Players who were chosen for this year's All-Star game but could not participate due to injury
• Past All-Stars who might have had the potential to earn another trip in 2012 were it not for the injuries that beset them this year.
The sad fact is that this was a relatively easy list to compile. Outside of one or two spots that required a stretch to meet the inclusion criteria, it was not difficult to find candidates for each position in both the American and National Leagues. Does that make this year any better or worse than previous years? I'm not sure, but it does remind us how much injuries can impact the game. Not everyone who could possibly qualify is listed. Naturally, as with the actual All-Star roster, there will be debate. But like the managers in the All-Star get to select their lineups, these are my picks, undoubtedly influenced by the number of times their names make an appearance in questions fielded during chats, podcasts, blog entries and Twitter posts.
May I present to you the 2012 All-Injured All-Stars?
1B: Ryan Howard, Philadelphia Phillies: Howard finally made his 2012 debut just before the All-Star break after he ruptured his Achilles tendon in his last at-bat of last year's playoffs. Complications following an infection slowed his recovery. The Phillies are hoping for offensive contributions from Howard -- and he has delivered a couple of hits -- but since his return, the team has yet to earn a victory. Howard is still not a daily player as he is easing back into the lineup, and even he acknowledges his leg is not likely to return to 100 percent until next year.
2B: Chase Utley, Philadelphia Phillies: Like his fellow infielder on this roster, Utley started the season on the DL and only recently returned to action. Working through chronic patellofemoral pain (pain under the kneecap), Utley underwent an intensive, focused rehabilitation program to be able to get back to baseball. It was slow and deliberate, but how long he will be able to hold up once he is playing on a regular basis is unknown. The Phillies like what they see so far; a couple of home runs, a few RBIs and, most importantly, no setbacks. If only that can last.
SS: Troy Tulowitzki, Colorado Rockies: Tulowitzki was bothered intermittently by groin pain this season, but a setback during a rehab assignment led to eventual surgery to debride scar tissue from around a nerve. Tulowitzki was projected to be out approximately 6-8 weeks following the procedure, which translates to an August return. Until he resumes baseball activities, it will be difficult to assess how close he is to seeing any game action.
3B: Ryan Zimmerman, Washington Nationals: Zimmerman has certainly been playing like an All-Star ever since receiving his latest cortisone injection in his right shoulder. The big question on everyone's mind is whether it will last. Zimmerman initially had trouble with the shoulder in April, which ultimately landed him on the DL. Even after the time off, Zimmerman continued to have discomfort and it showed at the plate. In June, there was discussion about a cortisone shot or even another DL stint. The shot seems to have done the trick, though, and hopefully when post-All-Star play resumes, Zimmerman's shoulder will still be feeling good.
C: Jonathan Lucroy, Milwaukee Brewers: Admittedly, this is a bit of a reach, but Lucroy was batting .345 when he went out with a broken hand in May and there was abundant chatter about his potential selection to the 2012 All-Star roster. Exhibit A from the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel in May: "He has five homers and 29 RBIs in addition to his gaudy batting average, putting him in the conversation for an All-Star Game appearance." Who knows what might have been? Instead, Lucroy is working his way back toward a return. He has been throwing and running, and was recently cleared to start swinging a bat, putting him on pace to return in late July.
OF: Jayson Werth, Washington Nationals; Giancarlo Stanton, Miami Marlins; Matt Kemp, Los Angeles Dodgers: Werth qualifies for the most dramatic injury after he broke his left wrist when his glove caught in the grass as he was attempting to make a sliding catch. To complicate matters, this was the same wrist on which Werth had undergone a prior surgical procedure in 2006. The initial timetable for Werth was projected at three months, but the good news is that he is expected to start swinging a bat sometime after the All-Star break. Let's see how his wrist tolerates those swings before thinking about upping his return date.
Stanton was a late scratch from both the All-Star Game and the Home Run Derby when he was removed from Saturday's game with soreness in his right knee. After undergoing surgery Sunday morning to remove loose bodies, it will be a few weeks before he is ready to return.
Kemp has missed more time this year than he has at any point thus far in his career because of a finicky hamstring strain. Known for his ability to play virtually every day over the past few years, Kemp was reluctantly forced onto the DL in the hope of preventing a more serious injury. He then had to return to the DL when the hamstring acted up in only his second game back. Kemp's timetable has been slower this time around and he was deliberately kept on a lengthier rehab assignment to force more situational running. Everything seems to be pointing to his return to the lineup this Friday when the Dodgers are back in action.
SP: Roy Halladay, Philadelphia Phillies; Chris Carpenter, Cardinals: The Phillies tie the Nationals with the most members on this NL roster, but the Phillies win in terms of the importance of the players lost to their team (no hard feelings, injured Nationals). To go along with starting infielders Utley and Howard, the Phillies lost one of their most durable and consistent starters in Halladay, who was forced onto the DL with a strained lat. Despite his denials, it seemed as though the injury was affecting him, even if in a subtle manner, since the spring and ultimately the discomfort caught up to him. Halladay has been sidelined since late May but has been steadily progressing in his throwing program. He is expected to make a rehab start Thursday, and the Philadelphia Inquirer reports that if all goes well, he could then rejoin the Phillies for a Tuesday start against the Dodgers.
Carpenter has been either very good or very injured. This year, unfortunately, it was the latter and he was plagued by weakness in his throwing shoulder since the spring. Tests confirmed thoracic outlet syndrome (which he has actually been dealing with for several years but has progressed to the point where he can no longer pitch) and Carpenter is scheduled for surgery later this month. The rehab is long and there are no guarantees, but Carpenter hopes to be able to pitch again next season.
RP: Brian Wilson, San Francisco Giants: What a difference a year makes. Last year, Wilson was participating in the All-Star Game. This year he is recovering from Tommy John surgery No. 2. Wilson struggled late last season and even had his elbow examined after it was causing him discomfort. The hope was that the offseason rest had helped sufficiently, but it didn't take long to find out that was not the case. Just two weeks into the season, Wilson was done and headed for Dr. James Andrews' office. Whether he will be available to pitch at the start of next season remains uncertain.
1B: Kevin Youkilis, Chicago White Sox: Whether it was his back injury that landed him on the DL this spring or his general malaise while in the murky Boston Red Sox situation, Youkilis was not performing up to par. The three-time All Star -- who also spent the offseason recovering from surgery to address a core muscle injury -- was not going to be making this year's Midseason Classic. It's worth noting, though, that his performance thus far with his new club has certainly been reminiscent of the Youkilis of old.
2B: Dustin Pedroia, Boston Red Sox: A partial tear of a thumb muscle is likely to blame, at least in part, for Pedroia's struggles at the plate in June. Pedroia was not voted into the 2012 All-Star Game, which may be just as well, because he suffered yet another thumb injury just last week. A diving play resulted in an injury to the volar plate of Pedroia's thumb, the fibrocartilaginous tissue deep in the joint that helps block hyperextension. He is expected to miss several weeks.
SS: None: There were no real candidates for this position based on the inclusion criteria. Something tells me this should make AL shortstops a bit nervous about the second half of the season.
3B: Evan Longoria, Tampa Bay Rays: Longoria partially tore his left hamstring at the end of April, and his return at this point is anything but certain. In June, he appeared on course, but a rehab outing was cut short when Longoria again felt discomfort in the hamstring. Since that time, there have been wavering suggestions as to when Longoria might resume baseball activities, something which has yet to occur. According to the Tampa Bay Times, manager Joe Maddon said he has no idea when Longoria can return. He then offered perhaps the most precise summation of the challenge of dealing with a partially torn hamstring: "It's a tough injury to overcome and a tough injury to battle back from."
C: Victor Martinez, Detroit Tigers: The former All-Star underwent surgery in January to repair both the lateral and medial menisci along with a microfracture procedure. His progress has been understandably slow in order to protect the delicate spots on the knee where the microfracture was performed. Based on a recent MRI and clinical evaluation to assess his progress, the Tigers have indicated the soonest (note: soonest) Martinez would return is middle to late September.
OF: Carl Crawford and Jacoby Ellsbury, Boston Red Sox; Grady Sizemore, Cleveland Indians: Just imagine what this outfield could look like when healthy. It's actually difficult to do, as these three players have dealt with extended absences over the past few seasons.
To be fair, Crawford's absence in 2011 was a virtual one; he was healthy but merely a shadow of himself. Then in the offseason, he injured his left wrist and had to undergo surgery to debride a fibrocartilage tear in the joint. A slow recovery was followed by a setback, and just when he seemed on the verge of beginning a rehab assignment, he had elbow pain. It turned out to be a partial tear of his ulnar collateral ligament. No surgery was immediately required (there is some discussion about Crawford having surgery eventually) and he recently embarked on a rehab assignment. That assignment was interrupted by a mild groin strain, and again Crawford's return date has been pushed back. The Red Sox are hoping they will have him in the second half of July.
Ellsbury was hurt early in the season on a collision, which resulted in a shoulder subluxation. He too has started a rehab assignment, and while there is no firm commitment to a date, it sounds as if he could rejoin his team by the weekend.
As for the three time All-Star Sizemore, his healthy days seem to be far fewer than his unhealthy ones in recent years. This year, he is recovering from back surgery, and there is always some question about the true health of his knees. He has actually started a running program and a rehab assignment could be in the not too distant future. No one is counting on a specific date but the Indians would love to see him back on the field at some point in the second half.
SP: C.C. Sabathia, New York Yankees; Dan Haren, Los Angeles Angels: Sabathia did not want to go on the DL for his mild left groin strain, but the Yankees did not want him to be hurt in September. And so he went. After all, better to rest a minor groin issue now than have compensations turn into a shoulder or elbow injury later. The good news is that he is doing well and is expected to return shortly after the All-Star break.
Haren has never even been on the DL until now. Considering he's pitched in the majors for 10 years, there should be a special All-Star category for that alone. Haren did admit that the stiff back that sent him to the DL has been bothering him since the spring, and he felt his performance was hindering the team. The Angels are hoping for a brief stay.
RP: Mariano Rivera, New York Yankees: Rivera, a medical marvel when it comes to pitching and baseball, suffered the unlikeliest of injuries when he tore his ACL while shagging fly balls during pregame batting practice. The 42-year-old closer quickly made it known that this would not be his exit from baseball. While no one has ruled him out from a late-season return, even Yankees general manager Brian Cashman has said he does not expect him back in 2012. No matter what the return date, the fact that he is making such good progress is encouraging.