ESPN’s Buster Olney talks to a scout and an unnamed executive, each of whom think that Chase Utley’s struggles this year are because he’s injured:
Two years ago, one scout noticed in June that Utley did not seem
right, and at season’s end, Utley had hip surgery. And the same scout is
seeing a lot of the same things this season. “The tell-tale sign for me
is how he is not getting to pitches in the lower half of the strike
zone, which makes me wonder if his (perceived injury) might be affecting
his balance at the plate,” said the scout. “He’s a guy who has always
thrived on balls in the lower half of the strike zone — he murders them
— and he’s just not getting to them these days.”
rival executive: “He just does not look right to me at all.”
I have to think that of all of the things baseball players have to think about, getting their minds around the difference between playing through pain and playing hurt has to be one of the tougher ones.
For years, when you’re a young guy on the make, you get it drilled into your head that you need to be tough, that you can’t get a rep for being injury prone and all of that, and then, relatively late in your baseball life — when you become an established star — you’re immediately expected to get your brain around the idea that playing injured is a bad thing. Which it is, but it has to run counter to all of your competitive instincts.
The Mets have begun working outfielder Jay Bruce and second baseman Neil Walker at first base as potential insurance in the event Lucas Duda continues to experience back discomfort, Mike Puma of the New York Post reports. Duda has been sidelined recently due to back spasms and missed all but 47 games last season as a result of a stress fracture in his lower back.
Manager Terry Collins spoke about Bruce’s work at first base on Sunday, saying, “I liked everything I saw today. “It looks like he’s got the athleticism, he’s got the hands, he’s got the arm angle. He made some throws in our drills that you wouldn’t expect an outfielder to be able to make, but yet he does. If that’s where we have to go, I think we’ll be fine.”
Bruce has only three games’ worth of experience at first base at the major league level, but still has high expectations for himself. He said, “I am going to work at it. I want to give myself a chance and the team a chance. I am not going to go over there and be a butcher. It’s just not the way I go about my business on the baseball field and it wouldn’t be fair to the team if I wasn’t capable to do it, so I am going to work at it and we’ll see what happens.”
The Mets made Bruce available via trade over the offseason but didn’t get an offer that whet their appetite. As a result, Michael Conforto appears to be the odd man out in the Mets’ crowded outfield.
Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis has been diagnosed with a strained rotator cuff in his right shoulder, MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian reports. Kipnis has received a cortisone shot and will be shut down from throwing for the next four to five days.
There’s a lot of spring left, so it’s perfectly sensible for the Indians to play it safe with their star player. The club already had Kipnis on a shoulder strengthening program.
Kipnis, 29, helped the Indians to the playoffs after batting .275/.343/.469 with 23 home runs, 92 RBI, 91 runs scored, and 15 stolen bases in 688 plate appearances during the regular season last year. He then helped the Indians reach Game 7 of the World Series against the Cubs, where they were eventually stopped, as he provided a .741 OPS including four homers and eight RBI in 15 playoff games.