Spring training injuries
By James Fegan
Discussion of injuries does not become magically more transparent in the regular season, but they always have an objective fact waiting behind them–the game. It’s a daily value judgment that a manager and training staff has to make, and distinguishes whether a player is dealing with “soreness” or “discomfort” that’s somewhat similar to what we feel when we use the words, and “soreness” and “discomfort” that very much isn’t.
Missing from all these spring training injury reports–and the White Sox are starting to rack up a few–is any earthly reason at all for Robin Ventura to push the throttle.
Keppinger is scheduled once more to return to the lineup Sunday as a designated hitter, having not played since March 9.
The “personal matter” that kept him out from March 14 until Sunday obfuscates what’s actually going on, but his not being in the field indicates that he’s still on the road to recovery from shoulder problems. Those were first hinted at when Keppinger was played as a DH on Feb. 24 as he tried to build up the arm strength to “throw the ball across the infield,” and more plainly defined when he was scratched from the lineup on March 10 with “slight right shoulder irritation” which he claimed to have been bothered by “through the early stages of spring training.”
In sum, Keppinger hasn’t played third base–where he’s the projected starter–a whole heck of a lot, and is getting pushback from his shoulder as he tries to deal with the throwing requirements of his position. He’s a veteran player and has hardly looked lost or out of it when he has played and Conor Gillaspie having the best spring of his life to date slightly mutes the panic two weeks out from Opening Day.
But a month spent working through shoulder issues is significant, even if there’s not an earthly reason for Keppinger to be playing, and it’s a very inauspicious beginning to a three-year contract.
Another injury at a place where the White Sox aren’t particularly deep (which is most field positions). Now that Flowers has been scratched for Sunday’s game, that will make it three straight outings missed with back stiffness.
Flowers has joked about how he “never had much” range of mobility when asked if he was restricted, intoned that he’s been working out steadily in spite of the absences and has Robin Ventura’s assurance that he’ll be ready for Opening Day. So he’s probably fine.
Brent Morel has ruined being flippant about back stiffness for the next few years. Hell, between him and John Danks, being unconcerned about lingering soreness was punished brutally all season. But the concern about Flowers is also born out of the White Sox making a point of not bringing in anyone to compete with him for the starting gig. Hector Gimenez mashed in winter ball and has kept it up through spring, but his 23 plate appearances during camp are more than he’s registered in actual major league games. He’s 30.
Again, Flowers is probably fine, even if every time he’s hurt, the wisdom of an enormous man crouching for his job comes to mind.
For the second-straight spring, Jesse Crain is slowed through his preseason preparation by a muscle strain. He’s been limited to one official appearance this spring. A Sunday outing in a B-game, where he was appropriately rocked, marked his return to action, but he’s been steadily completing throwing sessions throughout.
Robin Ventura joking that Crain is being kept in “bubble wrap” makes it sounds worse, but also hits home the point how it’s more important for Ventura to deliver Crain to Opening Day healthy than make sure his nine-year veteran is prepared for game action.
I always assumed the White Sox would do well to get through three years with Crain without his ability falling apart, and his health issues the past two spring certainly suggest he’s not the best investment going forward. But he was signed for putting up aesthetically pleasing ERA’s, and has done that.
Angel Pagan stepped on him, and now he’s missing Sunday night’s WBC semifinal, despite being “fine.” A WBC game is a bit more meaningful than spring training, but probably not enough to inspire recklessness. This is a long post of injury speculation, but “stepped on” is just not a lot to go on.
UPDATE: Rios played anyway. So now there’s really nothing to worry about, other than him not really hitting since he left the Sox.
Ostensibly, Danks is healthy and hasn’t reported any discomfort, but is still not finding the low-90’s heat he had previously and has to flash some effectiveness before he’s allowed to just go waltzing through the starting rotation. More on that later.
Follow James Fegan on Twitter @JRFegan