This Week in the National League

March Cases of the Injury Bug

We are a solid two weeks into spring training games, and that ugly creature known as the injury bug is already rearing its head. Cases of the injury bug can ruin a fans excitement about the new season even before it begins. There is nothing worst than high hopes of a great season heading into spring training, and then having those hopes absolutely squashed by key injuries in the clubhouse.

 

Here's the news from around the National League, including the most notable injury bug reports:

 

Arizona Diamondbacks - Jeff DaVanon is currently listed as the D'Backs' fourth outfielder, but the youngster has been making the most of his spring thus far and is fighting for a potential starting spot. In 20 at-bats, he's batting .450 and has posted a very nice .645 on-base percentage. Considering he provides that youthful spark and has some wheels, DaVanon could provide Arizona with some much needed energy throughout the 2006 campaign.

 

Atlanta Braves - Long-running skipper Bobby Cox signed a one-year contract extension through 2007. Edgar Renteria, who returns to the National League after his hiatus with Boston, is looking sharp in spring training, batting .304 with a homer and six RBI in nine games. On the pitching front, ace Tim Hudson is also looking sharp having given up just one earned run in three starts and nine innings of work. But in a pleasant surprise, little known relief pitcher Joey Devine is smoking the competition. In just five appearances he has worked eight innings, racking up a save in his first opportunity and striking out 15 batters.

 

Chicago Cubs - Talk about curses, bad luck, whatever. The Cubs just can't seem to get out from under those rain clouds, even in what should be the bright sunny desert skies of Arizona. Mark Prior has been dealing with shoulder soreness and spent yesterday with a specialist. An MRI revealed a "moderately strained" subscapularis muscle, which is part of the rotator cuff under the shoulder blade. The news wasn't awful (i.e. a tear requiring surgery), but Prior is expected to be out 7-10 days in this new setback. As if that wasn't enough bad news, Derrek Lee also had to go see a specialist for his sore shoulder. Lee injured his shoulder while diving for a foul ball in the World Baseball Classic. The injury had Lee sidelined for Team U.S.A's dreadful 2-1 loss to Mexico Thursday, where the club managed just three hits. But tests showed Lee's injury was just a bruise, which was a huge relief for Cubdom.

 

Cincinnati Reds - As if the high ERA and 40+ homers he's given up the past two seasons weren't enough justification for the Reds to seriously consider moving Eric Milton this year to the bullpen, he is reportedly dealing with a nagging calf injury. And when you think about injuries and the Reds, you have to think about Ken Griffey Jr. So what about him? Well, he's just been mashing the ball in the WBC, including 3 home runs, 2 doubles, 10 RBI, and a .588 batting average. With the potential to resurrect this year, Griffey might just be exciting to watch play again.

 

Colorado Rockies - The Rockies are dealing with the injury bug too. Budding infielder Josh Wilson suffered a broken big toe after fouling a pitch off his foot and will be out four to six weeks. Outfielder Jorge Piedra, who made some noise in the second half last year, is nursing an injury to his right heel, and catcher Yorvit Torrealba has been day-to-day with a sore shoulder.

 

Florida Marlins - There's probably not a club around that isn't more fun for a new manager to work with in spring training than the Florida Marlins. Dontrelle Willis and Miguel Cabrera may have their jobs locked up, but every other position is pretty much up for grabs. That means new Manager Joe Girardi is blessed with a healthy environment of competition. To the winners go the starting spots. Shortstop Hanley Ramirez is making his presence known, having already cracked three long balls, posting a .371 batting average, and swiping a pair of bases. Starting pitcher Sergio Mitre has also looked strong, surrendering six hits in 10.0 innings of work while posting a 1.80 ERA.

 

Houston Astros - Jason Lane played in 145 games in 2005 and hit 26 home runs, but the outfielder batted just .267. This spring, he's still got the power numbers, driving three homers in his first 10 games. And right now he's batting a nice .409, showing increased patience at the plate. Andy Pettitte had his first outing this past week, and it was less than stellar. Pettitte suffered the loss giving up five hits and two runs in just three innings of work.

 

Los Angeles Dodgers - The AP is reporting that All-Star shortstop Cesar Izturis could return from Tommy John surgery far sooner than the originally expected target of July. Izturis now expects to be playing minor league games around the time the regular season gets going. New teammate Rafael Furcal did make his first appearance in spring training this week. Furcal went 0 for 1 in his debut, but did tally a walk, after which he swiped second base leaving no doubt he'll be a threat on the base paths all year.

 

Milwaukee Brewers - Ben Sheets left his last spring training outing early with a sore muscle in his side. Tests revealed a strained muscle in his back alongside the muscle that sidelined Sheets for a good part of 2005. He has reportedly thrown twice without complication, but there's no word when he'll throw off a mound or his ability to be ready for Opening Day. Teammate Rickie Weeks, the club's second baseman, has been struggling with a strained oblique muscle himself, but he is making progress, and the club is rightfully being cautious with him.

 

New York Mets - Pedro Martinez, who has been bothered with a toe injury, threw 61 pitches to live hitters this past week without any problems. Martinez continues to progress and is still on target for making that Opening Day start. Relief pitcher Juan Padilla, on the other hand, will miss the entire 2006 season after learning he will need Tommy John surgery. Outfielder Xavier Nady has been the biggest bright spot so far in spring training for the Mets. Nady is batting .394 through 11 games and has a pair of dingers and a team-best 11 RBI.

 

Philadelphia Phillies - Eight. Count 'em. Yes. Eight. That's how many long balls stud first baseman Ryan Howard has already launched in 12 games this spring. New teammate Aaron Rowand, though, hasn't quite gelled in his new uniform yet. The former Chicago White Sox outfielder has just 4 hits in 27 at-bats.

 

Pittsburgh Pirates - Plunk, plunk. Sean Casey took a high and tight pitch off his helmet from Reds pitcher Michael Gosling and had to sit out two games. Center fielder Chris Duffy also was the not-so beneficiary of a high and tight fastball, this time from Curt Schilling. Both players are ok, but Duffy's beaning didn't go without a little added controversy when the outspoken Schilling decided to voice his opinion that Duffy should have been able to get out of the way of the pitch. How 'bout them apples?

 

Saint Louis Cardinals - Chalk up another 4.0 scoreless innings for Chris Carpenter, who continues to dominate this spring. That's no surprise. What has been surprising this spring, though, has been the hot stick of outfielder Chris Duncan. The son of Cards pitching coach Dave Duncan, Chris is carrying a lofty .323 batting average and has connected for four long balls in 43 at-bats.

 

San Diego Padres - Reliever Doug Brocail had an angioplasty this past week after a stress test revealed a blocked artery near his heart. He's reportedly doing well and should be back to work in a couple weeks. Fellow bullpen mate and team closer Trevor Hoffman bounced back from the three-run homer he gave up last week to pitch a perfect inning of relief against Oakland striking out two batters.

 

San Francisco Giants - Amidst continued controversy, Barry Bonds continues to crush the ball, smacking his second homer in as many games. Though not overly concerning, closer Armando Benitez received a cortisone shot in his left knee. Keep a close eye on him, as those shots alone don't just make a problem disappear forever.

 

Washington Nationals - First baseman Nick Johnson got his pay day, signing a $16.5 million, three-year contract extension. Starting pitcher Billy Traber started two games this past week, tossing nine innings, striking out seven, and only giving up one run. Fellow starting pitcher Jon Rauch also produced a sharp outing this week, tossing five innings and giving up just one hit, a solo home run.

 

Got questions or comments? Sound off to pete@petekhazen.com

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