Injuries threaten opening-day availability

Tim Brown
Yahoo! Sports

At the conclusion of three weeks of spring training that seemed unusually newsy, what with the Albert Pujols(notes), Miguel Cabrera(notes) and Michael Young(notes) situations (along with DUI apologies from Cabrera, Coco Crisp(notes), Austin Kearns(notes) and previously Adam Kennedy(notes)), we also find ourselves with a lot of potential wins riding exercise bikes all over Florida and Arizona.

We picked 10, ignoring bug bites (Alcides Escobar(notes)), long-term recoveries (Adam Wainwright(notes)), warts (Michael Cuddyer(notes)), infected cuticles (Ubaldo Jimenez(notes)) and the usual (Brandon Webb(notes)) and regular (Brian Roberts(notes)) rites of spring.

Victim: Zack Greinke(notes), Milwaukee Brewers
Ailment: Hairline fracture, left seventh rib; bone bruise, eighth rib
ETA: Late April
In the meantime: Fortunately for the Brewers (and Greinke's cross-over), the club will require a fifth starter only three times in April, so can probably make do with Yovani Gallardo(notes), Shaun Marcum(notes), Randy Wolf(notes) and Chris Narveson(notes).
Money quote: Team doctor William Raasch: "We're not talking about this gross deformed fracture."
Summary: I didn't go to med school, but presumably, "gross" and "deformed" would be bad. The doctor went on to say Greinke would be able to play through this if it were the playoffs, though he did not specify MLB or NBA.

Victim: Chase Utley(notes), Philadelphia Phillies
Ailment: Mild patellar tendinitis, chondromalacia, bone inflammation right knee
ETA: Unknown
In the meantime: Wilson Valdez(notes), who filled in at shortstop and second base last season, is next on the depth chart and could do the job in the short-term. If Utley opts for surgery, Ruben Amaro Jr. could rummage around for the likes of Michael Young, Chone Figgins(notes), David Eckstein(notes) or Felipe Lopez(notes).
Money quote: Utley, on whether he'll play this season: "My goal is to alleviate this as quickly as possible, but still keep in mind I have a career ahead of me."
Summary: Second base is one thing, quite another is the three hole in the order, from where Utley has a .294 average and a .911 OPS. That looks to fall on Raul Ibanez(notes), who will be 39 in June but batted .304 with runners in scoring position last season.

Victim: Kendrys Morales(notes), Los Angeles Angels
Ailment: Broken left leg
ETA: Opening day-ish
In the meantime: The understudy is Mark Trumbo(notes), a 6-foot-4, 220-pounder who had 36 home runs and 122 RBIs in the PCL last season and is tearing up the Cactus League while Morales dabbles on the treadmill. Howie Kendrick(notes) and Brandon Wood(notes) are options.
Money quote: Mike Scioscia, ever the optimist: "Kendry has time."
Summary: Morales probably won't see game action for another 10 days and that's assuming no setbacks. If he isn't a full go come opening day, he could DH, but that's Bobby Abreu's(notes) spot. Bottom line, the Angels lost 202 runs from 2009 to 2010, didn't do a lot to upgrade the offense in the offseason, and could struggle for runs again if Morales isn't at full strength.

Victim: Justin Morneau(notes), Minnesota Twins
Ailment: Concussion
ETA: Opening day-esque
In the meantime: Ron Gardenhire's squad has been a wreck. Camp-wide injuries (and/or recoveries) have taken bites out of Morneau, Delmon Young(notes) (toe), Joe Mauer(notes) (knee), Michael Cuddyer (uh, wart), Joe Nathan(notes) (elbow) and Francisco Liriano(notes) (shoulder). No team will come further – or go to DEFCON 1 faster – in the final three weeks of spring than the Twins. Cuddyer is the best option at first base. In his absence, Jeff Bailey(notes), Chris Parmelee and Justin Huber(notes) have gotten the spring at-bats at first.
Money quote: Morneau: "Cautiously optimistic is a good way to describe it. When I see myself in the lineup on April 1 and we're running out there as a team, that will be when I'm 100 percent confident that I'm ready."
Summary: It's taken Morneau eight months to get this far and there's no sense in rushing him now. He played three innings of a B game earlier this week and is scheduled to play again Friday, but this is undoubtedly a moving target.

Victim: Adrian Beltre(notes), Texas Rangers
Ailment: Strained right calf
ETA: Opening day
In the meantime: The majority of third base at-bats are going to Chris Davis(notes) and, of course, Michael Young. Thanks to their unwillingness to move Young for the sake of team serenity and Young's willingness to earn his way out, the Rangers will be covered for as long as Young is around. If the Rangers were reluctant to move Young before, the chance Beltre's injury could linger should only increase their hesitance.
Money quote: Assistant GM Thad Levine: "We've been given no cause for concern that he wouldn't be ready for opening day."
Summary: For Beltre, the Rangers spent $80 million and initiated the chain of events that led to Young's trade request. Assuming Beltre heals, the more critical area continues to be the pitching staff, where Brandon Webb (shoulder) has barely gotten out of the bullpen and Neftali Feliz(notes) just professed his love for the ninth inning.

Victim: Chipper Jones(notes), Atlanta Braves
Ailment: Torn ACL, left knee
ETA: Opening day
In the meantime: Jones, who's coming up on 39, has been biding his time with at-bats at designated hitter and has looked reasonably mobile at third. The backup plan is Martin Prado(notes), though at this point that doesn't look necessary. As important, perhaps, was getting Jason Heyward(notes) (groin) back on the field this week.
Money quote: Chipper, on a good day recently: "I felt like I had first-step explosion. I felt like I was running as hard and as fast as I could for a guy my age."
Summary: The Braves have a chance to stay with the Phillies, particularly in light of the recent news regarding Utley, but it would be easier – and more fun – if Jones were around.

Victim: Jake Peavy(notes), Chicago White Sox
Ailment: Detached right latissimus dorsi
ETA: Sometime from April to July
In the meantime: The White Sox top four – Mark Buehrle(notes), Edwin Jackson(notes), John Danks(notes) and Gavin Floyd(notes) – is set. But Peavy is a big deal in what he means to the rotation, clubhouse and payroll.
Money quote: Peavy: "To break camp with the team would be exciting, but it's not life and death."
Summary: Original estimates had Peavy returning from surgery to reattach the muscle under his right arm in mid-July. He seems to be way ahead of schedule, but the White Sox are wise to take it slow. Peavy hasn't made as many as 28 starts in a season since 2007.

Victim: Adrian Gonzalez(notes), Boston Red Sox
Ailment: Torn labrum, right shoulder
ETA: Opening day
In the meantime: The Red Sox seem to have this plotted out so Gonzalez will get enough at-bats to answer the bell. In a scenario in which Gonzalez lags slightly behind, they're better covering him with Jed Lowrie(notes) or Lars Anderson(notes), leaving Kevin Youkilis(notes) to third.
Money quote: Gonzalez: "We're at the point where you've got to push it a little more, I guess."
Summary: Gonzalez should start getting regular at-bats within a week.

Victim: Carlos Beltran(notes), New York Mets
Ailment: Arthritis, right knee; tendinitis, left knee
ETA: Quasi-opening day
In the meantime: They wait. Beltran already had ceded center field to Angel Pagan(notes), so will have to gather some reasonable alternatives in right, because when the season opens Beltran might not be there.
Money quote: GM Sandy Alderson: "It would be nice if he were on the field. It would be nice if we didn't have this interruption. But, that's life in the big leagues."
Summary: Beltran is almost 34, is in the final year of his contract, and can hardly stay upright on those knees anymore. By now, the Mets have bigger issues – Johan Santana(notes) for one, what to do with Jose Reyes(notes) for another, Jason Bay's(notes) return – than Beltran, who clearly will limp into his final days in New York.

Victim: Grady Sizemore(notes), Cleveland Indians
Ailment: Microfracture surgery, left knee
ETA: Late April to early May
In the meantime: The Indians will start Michael Brantley(notes) in center, with Austin Kearns in left and Shin-Soo Choo(notes) in right.
Money quote: Sizemore, on the reality of opening day: "I'm not scheduled to start playing games until the third week of March. And that will be after not playing for nine months."
Summary: Sizemore is in the final guaranteed year of his contract. He'll make $7.5 million. Next year's option is just $8.5 million, which is pretty reasonable, even for the Indians. If Sizemore is up and running by mid-season, however, he'd be very attractive at those prices, though the 2012 team option becomes a player option if he is traded.

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