On Monday we heard that James Paxton fell in an agility drill, injuring both his forearms as he caught himself in what he called “an unathletic moment.” Though everyone agrees this injury is minor, and embarrassing, there is little question the Mariner community held its collective breath as the big left-hander was held out of drills this week. After losing the big left-hander for most of last season, the M’s want to be sure Paxton is available for the long haul, rather than focusing on the first few days of spring training. General manager Jack Zdurencik was quite clear about this point
“He’s saying he feels good,” Zduriencik said. “But we’re not going to make him come out and throw until it’s completely quieted down. It doesn’t make sense this early.”
Last year was an incredibly tough year for injuries in major league baseball, especially for pitchers, and the Mariners are right to bend over backwards to protect Paxton, a projected key contributor to this year’s pennant chasing team.
But, so far in this early pre-season, other teams have not been quite so lucky. Last year’s Rangers team was utterly devastated by injuries, especially to their pitching staff, but most of the starting lineup was out too. Last week the Rangers announced that all-everything phenom, Jurickson Profar had an unresolved shoulder injury and will have surgery that likely costs him the 2015 season. Profar was the number one ranked prospect in baseball in 2013. It was Profar’s emergence in 2013 that allowed the Rangers to trade Ian Kinsler to the Tigers for Prince Fielder. Subsequently, Fielder ended up playing only a quarter of the season before ending up on the DL. Profar, likewise hurt, ended up missing the entire 2014 season. Fielder should be back, but Profar is likely out. The Rangers, with enough talent when healthy to compete for the AL West, begin their year with a hand tied behind their back.
It was announced today that former Mariner, Michael Saunders, suffered a serious knee injury in the first days of spring training. Unfortunately, this one is more severe than Paxton’s fall. Saunders stepped in a soft spot surrounding a sprinkler head in the Blue Jays’ Dunedin, Florida playing field, tearing the meniscus in his left knee.
My foot got jammed,” a visibly dejected Saunders told a group of reporters on Thursday. “To be honest, I don’t know exactly how it happened. It stopped me in my tracks and I heard a pop. I was scared to find out, so I just did my best to get off the field and not draw any attention until I saw the training staff.”
MRI test confirmed the results, and it is unlikely that Saunders, an off-season acquisition for Toronto will return the lineup until the All-Star break. Very tough break for The Condor, a ballplayer I’ve always liked, because he was traded largely because he couldn’t stay healthy and in the lineup. Now the Jays have to scurry and figure out who can play left field as Saunders recovers. Tough on the player, a problem for the team.
Yesterday, after announcements that Angels outfielder Josh Hamilton was injured and likely would not start the season with the team, a story rumbled on to my phone that Hamilton was summoned by Major League Baseball for disciplinary reasons. As the evening wore on, it was clear the disciplinary issue was Hamilton’s relapse into drug use. Signed to a five year $125 million deal in 2013, Hamilton has struggled to meet the high expectations this contract carries with it. Suspended for drug use during his minor league career 2003-6, Hamilton re-emerged with the Rangers to become one of the very best players in the game. The five time All-Star, former MVP and silver slugger winner has his status with the league in jeopardy as he struggles to combat the demons every addict faces. Recovery is a long, dark, difficult struggle that never ends. Plenty of addiction among those I love, so he has considerable sympathy from me, but it will impact his team. Though the Angels did pick up Matt Joyce in the off-season, and are blessed with a platoon of very good outfielders beginning with Mike Trout, it will delay Hamilton’s quest to show he is worth the contract he signed two years ago.
At least the Mariners begin spring training without a crippling injury as some of their AL counterparts are facing. While I don’t wish these kinds of injuries on any team, enemy or not, hopefully the M’s can get through the pre-season intact and ready to rock the Angels when the season begins at Safeco Field on April 6th.