Ah, April. What a glorious month for the baseball fans in America. The fields and ballparks appear to be pristine, the fans are full of high hopes for their clubs and the players are looking forward to making their mark in the upcoming season.
In short, April is fabulous – except for those whose season is already done.
For a ballplayer, there’s nothing worse than knowing you won’t be playing at all in a given season. Whether it’s an injury that occurs in spring training that requires surgery and/or other intensive rehabilitation or some other equally-disastrous reason, it’s heartbreaking for a person to have his season taken from him as it begins for everybody else. Certainly, this is a disheartening event for athletes in any sport. But for Major League Baseball players, it’s even more demoralizing because they have 162 games to be reminded about their condition and playing status, and to realize that their team is proceeding on their journey without them.
Instead, these individuals must focus on their rehabilitative efforts and try to proceed on their recovery schedules, without overdoing it and causing more problems. And as this list will attest, there’s no guarantee after all of the months of hard work that they will be back to 100% and ready for the 2015 campaign.
It’s no picnic for the clubs, either. Organizations turn over a new year on their calendars and begin planning how to succeed in the coming season. But then, managers and front office personnel are forced to scramble and plug holes that were vacated when one of the players they were counting on goes down before May even arrives. Some teams never recover from playing catch-up, and their performance suffers as a result.
Ten such players (and their clubs) are facing this cruel reality right now. Here is a list of the players who did not make it to Tax Day before being scratched for the season.
10. Patrick Corbin, SP – Arizona Diamondbacks
This was an especially big blow to the D-backs, since Corbin was projected to be their Opening Day starter for 2014. Of course, the fact that Arizona’s season opened two weeks earlier in Australia is leading some to speculate whether Corbin rushed his preparation more than he should have. The 24-year old southpaw was the Diamonbacks’ best pitcher a year ago, with a 14-8 record, 178 strikeouts, three complete games, a 3.41 earned run average and an All-Star nod. Corbin has a partially torn ulnar collateral ligament in his elbow after throwing 91 pitches in a spring training game on March 15th. He later told reporters that he had been feeling stiffness in his throwing arm throughout the preseason.
9. Kris Medlen, SP – Atlanta Braves
Kris Medlen is actually one of three Braves pitchers who will miss the season due to injuries (along with fellow starter Brandon Beachy and reliever Cory Gearrin), but Medlen’s absence is arguably the most problematic. The 28-year old has a career ERA of 2.95 and a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 3.59. He was 15-12 last year after moving from the bullpen into the starting rotation. It’s looking like Medlen will have to undergo his second Tommy John surgery (his first was in 2010), which carries with it a much larger degree of risk than an initial surgery. After walking off the mound on March 9th, an MRI revealed ligament damage in his right elbow.
8. Ryan Dempster, SP – Boston Red Sox
Technically, Ryan Dempster is still on the Red Sox roster, but many are wondering whether the 36-year old already has one foot in the retirement pool. Back in February, Dempster announced that he would not be pitching in the 2014 season, due largely to neck-related issues that have made it difficult for him to train and prepare. The statement raised some eyebrows, since the decision meant that Dempster would forgo his $13.25 million salary for the season (to which he replied, “I have enough money”). Dempster came to Boston on a two-year contract last season, but went 8-9 and didn’t appear in the Red Sox’ postseason run. He has pitched 2,387 innings in his 16-year career with the Marlins, Reds, Cubs, Rangers, and Red Sox.
7. Avisail Garcia, RF – Chicago White Sox
The 22-year old Venezuela native is the one of two non-pitchers on this list. But at least Garcia made it to opening day before getting injured. On April 9th, Garcia, who was starting his first full season in the majors, tried to make a diving catch in the sixth inning of a game against Colorado. A subsequent MRI sowed that Garcia had sustained a torn labrum in his left shoulder, meaning that he will have to undergo surgery and miss the remainder of the campaign after just eight games. Garcia burst onto the scene in 2012 when he hit .319 in 47 at-bats with Detroit.
6. Luke Hochevar, RP – Kansas City Royals
While it’s never great to miss a season due to injury, Hochevar’s timing is especially bad, since the 30-year old was slated to become a free agent after this season. Ideally, you want to put up stellar numbers in your contract year, but Hochevar will just be putting his feet up after undergoing Tommy John surgery in Los Angeles on March 18th. The former number one overall pick of the Royals in 2006 tore his UCL while pitching in a two-inning spring training outing back on March 3rd It’s not the first time the elbow has given him trouble; Hochevar missed time in 2010 for another (but less serious) injury. The former Tennessee standout moved to the bullpen for the first time last year, and compiled an impressive 1.92 ERA and struck out 82 hitters in 70 1/3 innings of work.
5. Brian Moran, RP – Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
Technically, Moran isn’t a major league pitcher since he has never appeared in a regular season game in the show. But Moran, who was acquired in the off-season, was slated to be a situational lefty in the Halos’ bullpen in 2014 (and the first Rule 5 pitcher to make the team’s roster since 2000). However, after just four spring training appearances Moran’s elbow became sore, and he eventually decided to undergo Tommy John surgery in April. The 25-year old former North Carolina hurler was a seventh-round draft pick in 2009 for Seattle. Moran was impressive in AAA Tacoma last year for the Rainiers and compiled a 3.45 ERA and a 4.25 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
4. Bobby Parnell, RP – New York Mets
The Mets are looking for a new closer now that the 29-year old underwent Tommy John surgery on his elbow on April 8th. Parnell recorded exactly one inning of work in the 2014 season, blowing a save in the ninth inning of the Mets’ Opening Day, extra-inning loss to Washington. Parnell had been battling the injury bug for a few months, going under the knife in December to address a herniated disk in his neck and receiving a plasma injection in his elbow earlier in April. But once he hit the mound against the Nationals, his fastball barely cracked the 90 mph mark. In 2013, Parnell notches 22 saves in 26 opportunities with a 2.16 ERA.
3. Jarrod Parker, SP – Oakland Athletics
Like Corbin, Parker was penciled in as the A’s Opening Day starter this year and like Medlen, the 25-year old will undergo his second Tommy John surgery of his career. The righty was looking to start his third full season in the starting rotation in Oakland after compiling a 25-16 record in 61 starts spanning 384 innings of work in an A’s uniform. But Parker struggled with forearm problems at the end of 2013, and continued to feel soreness in his elbow during this year’s spring training campaign, which saw his ERA balloon to 10.61 in a trio of spring starts. With Parker out, Oakland’s pitching depth is being questioned, given that starter A.J. Griffin is out until May and reliever Eric O’Flaherty is on the 60-day disabled list, both for elbow problems.
2. Cory Luebke, SP – San Diego Padres
Luebke is another two-time Tommy John surgery recipient. But his situation is worse because since his first procedure in May of 2012, Luebke has not pitched at all in a game. The former Ohio State product was rehabbing from the initial surgery when his regimen was halted in September of last year because his progress was choppy. Then in January, an MRI revealed that Luebke had a torn UCL in his elbow; so he opted for a second procedure the following month. The frustration is palpable for the Padres, who signed Luebke to a four-year, $12 million contract during 2012’s spring training. But he hasn’t made an appearance since April 27th, 2012.
1. Alex Rodriguez, 3B – New York Yankees
Okay, this was no surprise. After abandoning his appeal earlier this year, A-Rod agreed to sit out the 2014 campaign, even though he’ll still be paid $2.9 million of his salary and $3 million of his signing bonus under his contract terms. Everyone has an opinion of Rodriguez, whether or not he used performance-enhancing drugs, and how he was treated by MLB (and these opinions may not necessarily be consistent). But the bottom line is that the Bronx Bombers will be without a career .299 hitter who goes yard once every 15 times on average. It remains to be seen just how much the 38-year old will be missed in 2014.