Dan's Dugout: Unexpected Injuries Rear Their Ugly Head • Latino Sports

Baseball

Dan’s Dugout: Unexpected Injuries Rear Their Ugly Head

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Even baseball experts can’t predict illness or injury – or how they will impact the pennant races.

Bobby Thomson’s spring training mishap gave Hank Aaron his chance

In 1954, Bobby Thomson broke his leg during spring training, prompting the Milwaukee Braves to move 20-year-old infielder Henry Louis Aaron to left field. Hank Aaron is now the lifetime home run king for those who discount the numbers of alleged steroids abuser Barry Bonds.

The injury suffered by Dodgers star Justin Turner Monday shows that sudden mishaps are still the wild-card in forecasting the fortunes of big-league clubs.

The 33-year-old third baseman will be out at least six weeks after a pitch from Kendall Graverman of the Oakland A’s broke his left wrist. The National League Championship Series MVP, Turner was a .322 hitter with 21 homers during the regular season. His bat will be missed.

So will be the bat of Michael Conforto, the likely leadoff man for the New York Mets once he’s healed from September shoulder surgery. Although he’s already hitting in minor-league games, the team doesn’t expect him back before May 1.

Southpaw starting pitcher Jason Vargas, about to begin the two-year, $16 million contract he signed out of free agency, may be out even longer after breaking the hamate bone in his right hand. The Mets had been counting on the lefty, whose 18 wins for the Royals last year tied for most in the majors.

At least Vargas will be back. Can’t say the same for Oakland pitcher Jharel Cotton, certain to miss the whole season after submitting to Tommy John surgery. He had been projected to be one of the club’s top starters.

Fellow righthander Zack Greinke, high-priced ace of the Arizona Diamondbacks staff, could also land

Zack Greinke will miss his Opening Day start

on the disabled list, at least for the start of the season. At 34, the former Cy Young Award winner has had back and groin problems in recent years. He’s scheduled to make his 2018 debut on March 31 but that is subject to change, especially since there’s worry over his declining velocity.

Greinke will be throwing long before Ervin Santana, projected for a 12-week sojourn on the DL as he recovers from surgery to his right middle finger. After serving as Minnesota’s staff leader last summer, Santana sparked so much angst in the Twin Cities that the team acquired Jake Odorrizi and Lance Lynn to fill the void.

Some injuries almost seem laughable. Both Bryce Harper, arguably the best player in the National League, and Trea Turner, another Nationals regular, have missed time this spring with ingrown toenails.

Speaking of toes, Tampa Bay’s Brad Miller is rushing his recovery from a broken right pinkie toe. Injuries plagued him last year, when he hit a measly .201, but the Rays project a return to the 30-homer form he showed in 2016. The versatile Miller plays both first and second but may not play anywhere on Opening Day 2018.

The same can be said for Washington second baseman Daniel Murphy, who began his career with the Mets. Slow to heal from October knee surgery, he has yet to play in an exhibition game. A vital cog in the club’s offense, Murphy was runner-up in the 2016 National League MVP voting and a .334 hitter in his only two seasons with the Nats.

Daniel Murphy hopes to be ready by Opening Day

Also in the NL East, the moribund Miami Marlins can’t afford injuries to any of the few decent players they have left. But catcher J.T. Realmuto has a bad lower back and third baseman Martin Prado still suffers so strongly from off-season knee surgery that he’ll open the year on the DL. He reinjured the area while running the bases this spring.

Also uncertain for Opening Day are Jacoby Ellsbury (Yankees) and Johan Camargo (Braves), both with oblique issues; Chris Davis (Orioles), who hurt his forearm; Mallex Smith (Rays), a speed merchant with a hamstring pull; and starting pitcher Mike Fiers (Tigers), bedeviled by a bad back.

The wave of last-minute injuries could open the door for unsigned free agents Brandon Phillips, capable of playing second or third, and Alex Cobb, a quality starting pitcher most recently with the Rays.

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About Dan Schlossberg

Former AP sportswriter Dan Schlossberg of Fair Lawn, NJ has produced 35 baseball books, including autobiographies of Ron Blomberg, Al Clark, and Milo Hamilton. Also a broadcaster, he is the host and executive producer of Braves Banter and Travel Itch Radio and a contributor to Sirius XM.

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