Results tagged ‘ injuries ’
The Rays have been battling injuries all season long, but their AL East title hopes are still very much alive. Despite having a double-digit amount of players on the disabled list, the Rays have been able to hold their ground in baseball’s toughest division.
The team’s leader, Evan Longoria, has missed almost a month now with a hamstring injury. Incredibly, the Rays have managed to stay atop the division (now tied) and have actually gained a game on the Yankees since Longoria went down on the final day of April. But Longoria was just one of numerous injuries that caused the Rays to play shorthanded throughout the month of May. Leadoff hitter Desmond Jennings, Jeff Keppinger, Brandon Allen, Jeff Niemann and Brandon Guyer (out for the season) have all hit the DL this month, essentially weakening every part of their game to some extent.
Yet somehow the Rays have continued to win ballgames. How role players have stepped up with Longoria on the sidelines is what really tells me that the Rays will be able to fight through their injury issues and prevail with the division. Sean Rodriguez, Elliot Johnson, Jeff Keppinger, Will Rhymes and Drew Sutton have all contributed to replace Longoria at the hot corner. While Longo was hitting .329/.433/.561 with 19 RBI and 168 wRC+ before he hurt his hammy, here’s how the five fared:
Longoria made up for the lack of production from Rodriguez and Johnson, which is why there was obviously a major concern when he was put on the DL and was reported to miss over up to two months. To many’s surprise, the Rays had all five of Longoria’s replacements work together to put up some impressive numbers offensively following the injury:
If these five can keep up the good work for about another month—when Longoria could possibly to return—the Rays will stay on the right track and escape what could’ve been a disastrous fall in the standings. Once Longoria returns, the Rays will only get better, as his defense at third and his big-time power has been dearly missed
Longoria is not the only player that could help the Rays run away with the division once he returns. The Rays have yet to unleash the full potential of their base-running game, as the Rays’ three biggest threats on the bases—Desmond Jennings, Sam Fuld and B.J. Upton—have yet to play a single game together this season. As I said before, the Rays’ injury issues have negatively impacted every part of their game, and base-running has been a big one. Once Jennings returns (likely later this week), the Rays will get an instant boost on the base paths as they get back their talented stolen-base duo of Jennings and Upton.
Barring any more injuries, the Rays will also be bolstered by the return of Jose Lobaton, Jeff Keppinger and Kyle Farnsworth. Jose Lobaton provides the Rays with the switch-hitting catcher they need, as Chris Gimenez has hit just 0.59 off of right-handed pitching this season. Keppinger gives the Rays’ offense a huge boost against left-handed pitching (.417 against lefties this season), as well as some extra depth in the infield. And Farnsworth gives the ‘pen another good righty, which is preferable over the likes of Joel Peralta or Burke Badenhop late in games, considering the terrific job he did last year.
The Rays’s starting rotation, which—besides Matt Moore—is everything hyped up to be, is another reason to believe the Rays have what it takes win the AL East. It is once again the division’s best rotation, and it has continued to carry the Rays through these brutal injuries. Jeff Niemann, who has had a strong start to the season, broke his leg right when he started to heat up and really find his groove at the back end of the rotation. Luckily for the Rays, they happen to have the best starting pitching depth is baseball, and found an effective replacement for Niemann in Alex Cobb. Since being called up, Cobb is 2-0 with a 2.25 ERA through his two starts. I believe with six starters as good as these, the Rays will simply out-pitch their AL East opponents just as they’ve done in the past years.
One more thing to consider when discussing which team is the favorite to win the AL East is the injury problems amongst the Rays’ competition.
Boston currently has seven outfielders on the DL, including stars Jacoby Ellsbury and Carl Crawford. Their pitching is their biggest weakness, injuries to three starters (Aaron Cook, John Lackey and Daisuke Matsuzaka) and their closer Andrew Bailey (likely won’t return until August) a big reason why.
The Yankees also have their share of injuries, as pretty much half of their bullpen is on the disabled list, including Mariano Rivera (out for the season), Joba Chamberlain (likely out for the season), and David Robertson. They’re also missing a much-needed solid starter in Michael Pineda, who will miss all of 2012 as well.
Even the Orioles, who have had a great start to the 2012 season, have been affected by injuries. The big bats of Nolan Reimold, Mark Reynolds and Brian Roberts are all on the DL. Starter Zach Britton—a potential key piece in Baltimore’s rotation—is also hurt.
Although the Rays have been bombarded with injuries right from the get go, their AL East foes by no means have been injury-free either. With the Rays having the benefit of less long-term injuries than than the Sox and Yankees thus far this season, I believe they’ll use that as an advantage down the stretch. As for the Orioles, well, the Rays hope their early-season success is just a fluke and they won’t be in the pennant race once October comes calling.
The baseball gods must be upset with the Rays this year, as they haven’t been able to avoid injuries at any point so far this season. The Rays have had a total of nine players on the Disabled List this season, including B.J. Upton, Kyle Farnsworth (60-day DL), Sam Fuld (60-day DL), Robinson Chirinos (60-day DL), Jose Lobaton, Evan Longoria, Brandon Allen, Desmond Jennings, and Jeff Niemann. Besides Upton and Chirinos (rehab assignment), all of them are currently on the DL.
After lingering as day-to-day for over a week with a sprained left knee, Jennings was finally placed on the 15-day DL. Not only are the Rays without their biggest offensive producer Evan Longoria, but now they’ll have to manage without their leadoff hitter for some time. With Jennings out the offense—and the defense—takes another huge blow. He’s probably the biggest part of the Rays’ running game, as well as a plus defender in the outfield which can’t be replaced by the likes of Brandon Guyer and Stephen Vogt.
The Rays were hit with yet another big injury last night, as Jeff Niemann—the fifth man in the starting rotation—broke his leg on a hard comebacker against the Blue Jays. X-rays revealed a small fracture above Niemann’s right ankle, which will sideline him for a minimum of 4-6 weeks.
The injury could not come at a much worse time for Niemann and the Rays, as the big right-hander seemed to be on the way up after his best start of the season in Yankee Stadium last Wednesday, where he silenced the New York bats with seven sharp innings of one-run ball. Although he’s in the number five spot in the rotation, Niemann has been a key piece to the Rays’ pitching staff this year. He’s probably been the most consistent starter for the Rays this season, as he hasn’t had a start with more than three earned runs thus far (3.38 ERA on the season). With Matt Moore having some early season struggles in the No. 4 hole, Niemann has been the core of the back end of the rotation, giving his team a chance to win in every single game he pitched this year.
Niemann is no stranger to injuries, however, as they’ve already stifled his chance of becoming a star multiple times in his career. In 2010, it appeared as he was headed towards a breakout season, posting a 2.77 ERA with a 7-2 record through 117 innings pitched in the first half. After getting hurt in August, it all went down hill for him from there as he imploded in a horrific end to the season. In early May of last year, Niemann was placed on the DL with back problems, and it was likely was the only thing that got in the way of a solid year for him. Before the injury, when his back was probably bothering him, Niemann went 1-4 with an ERA of about 6.38. After returning from the injury, he went 10-3 with a 3.94 ERA.
Now the question is who will replace Niemann for the time being. Alex Cobb—who’s already filled in for a Jeff Niemann injury in the past—is definitely a possibility. Cobb gave the Rays a huge boost last year while Niemann was out last year, going 3-2 with a 3.42 ERA in nine starts (his only MLB experience). After eight starts with Triple-A Durham this season, Cobb is 1-4 with a 4.14 ERA.
Top prospect Chris Archer is also in the conversation. Although he seems to be heating up now, he’s had a rather slow start to the season posting a 4.71 after eight starts with Durham. Wade Davis—who was edged out of a starting role by Niemann—is another possibility to take his place. He’s done well out of the ‘pen so far this season, posting a 2.04 ERA through 17.2 innings pitched. With more experience in the rotation than both Cobb and Archer, he could be the front-runner for the gig, but then again the Rays may want to keep him in the bullpen where he’s had success.
The latest Rays news and notes:
- The Rays have won two of their last five games, which also included a tie. Yesterday, the Rays lost to the Red Sox 5-0 in another frustrating offensive effort. Wade Davis had a rough start, allowing two earned runs and walking four batters in 2 2/3 innings of work. Offensively, the Rays collected seven hits and left 22 men on base. The Rays now fall to a 2-6 spring training record. Click here for a full boxscore.
- The Rays’ injuries continue to make forward progress. Evan Longoria (bruised hand) will likely play his first game today against the Pirates. David Price suffered a bizarre injury during Thursday’s game, hurting his neck while toweling off. Price will probably pitch his next scheduled start, but his between-starts bullpen session was pushed back to today. Yesterday he said he felt “almost normal.” Matt Moore (mild abdominal strain) seems to have fully healed, and is scheduled to start Tuesday. Brandon Gomes (offseason back surgery) is set to play today’s game, possibly along with Luke Scott (offseason shoulder surgery). Kyle Farnsworth, who’s being handled cautiously after elbow soreness last year, will make his debut Monday. The most concerning injury for the Rays is probably Sean Rodriguez’s sprained left index finger. Rodriguez will most likely return in the next few days, but he’ll have to play with pain for at least three more weeks.
- Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reported Friday that James Shields will be the Rays’ Opening Day starter.
- Reid Brignac now has a son, Reid Michael, who was born yesterday. The birth came less than a month after many found out that Brignac was dating Playboy model Lauren Anderson.
- Skipper Joe Maddon will shave his head for charity. Maddon will do the shaving publicly at Charlotte Sports Park before an upcoming game against the Phillies.