Indians hit hard by injury bug as Santana, Miller require surgery

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The Indians already have Matt LaPorta as a question mark for Opening Day after he required hip surgery in October. Now two more of their top youngsters have required procedures that leave their statuses for 2010 in question.
Carlos Santana, one of the game’s very best prospects, suffered a broken hamate bone in his right hand. Given the usual two-month recovery timeframe, he’ll still have plenty of time to get ready for spring training. However, it often takes considerably longer for a player to regain his power after suffering a broken hamate. Under the circumstances, it’d be no surprise and no cause for alarm if Santana’s homer total is cut in half in Triple-A next season. He finished with 23 homers in Double-A last year.
Adam Miller’s future is considerably murkier. The Indians’ former No. 1 pitching prospect needed another tendon reconstruction operation for the middle finger of his right hand. It’s the fourth surgery he’s had on the finger, and it’s unclear when he might pitch again.
Since going 15-6 with a 2.75 ERA in Double-A in 2006, Miller has been limited to 65 1/3 innings in 2007 and 28 2/3 innings in 2008. He didn’t pitch last year while recovering from a previous finger surgery. The Indians may well non-tender him Saturday as a result of the latest setback. He could be re-signed to a minor league deal, but he’s no longer worth a 40-man roster spot.

Why Ryan Zimmerman skipped spring training

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All spring training there was at least some mild confusion about Nationals first baseman Ryan Zimmerman. He played in almost no regular big league spring training games, instead, staying on the back fields, playing in simulated and minor league contests. When that usually happens, it’s because a player is rehabbing or even hiding an injury, but the Nats insisted that was not the case with Zimmerman. Not everyone believed it. I, for one, was skeptical.

The skepticism was unwarranted, as Zimmerman answered the bell for Opening Day and has played all season. As Jared Diamond of the Wall Street Journal writes today, it was all by design. He skipped spring training because he doesn’t like it and because he thinks it’ll help him avoid late-season injuries and slowdowns, the likes of which he has suffered over the years.

It’s hard to really judge this now, of course. On the one hand Zimmerman has started really slow this season. What’s more, he has started to show signs of warming up only in the past week, after getting almost as many big league, full-speed plate appearances under his belt as a normal spring training would’ve given him. On the other hand, April is his worst month across his entire 14-year career, so one slow April doesn’t really prove anything and, again, Zimmerman and the Nats will consider this a success if he’s healthy and productive in August and September.

It is sort of a missed opportunity, though. Players hate spring training. They really do. if Zimmerman had made a big deal out of skipping it and came out raking this month, I bet a lot more teams would be amenable to letting a veteran or three take it much more easy next spring. Good ideas can be good ideas even if they don’t produce immediately obvious results, but baseball tends to encourage a copycat culture only when someone can point to a stat line or to standings as justification.

Way to ruin it for everyone, Ryan. 😉