With Andre Ethier out, Dodgers turn to outfield depth
Subscribing to the conventional wisdom that Spring Training is meaningful only in its injuries, the Dodgers are continuing with a frustratingly meaningful March. Yesterday in this space, we reviewed the deteriorating state of the team’s rotation; today, Andre Ethier reminds us not to take position player health for granted, either. The Dodgers announced Tuesday that the left fielder is expected to be out for 10 to 14 weeks with a fractured tibia.
Initial x-rays did not show any damage after Ethier fouled a ball off his leg on Friday, but results from follow-up exams were not so encouraging. Though it certainly isn’t ideal for the Dodgers to have the 33-year old sidelined until June, the team’s outfield depth makes it a little more palatable. It was already expected that the left-handed Ethier would share time with right-handed Scott van Slyke, and in his absence, left field will probably be filled by a platoon team of van Slyke and Carl Crawford. It’s something of an outside shot at redemption for Crawford, who wasn’t expected to receive much playing time after three seasons in LA that have been disappointing and injury-plagued (and, of course, expensive)—though projections suggest only continued decline for the erstwhile star.
In contrast to the aging Crawford, other potential options for time in left field include Enrique Hernandez and Trayce Thompson. Thompson, acquired from the White Sox this winter, was originally expected to begin the year in triple-A, but the injury opens up the possibility for the promising young defender to show up with the big league club sooner rather than later.
Carson Smith to start season on DL, with return unclear
Impressively long as the Dodgers’ list of pitcher Spring Training injuries may be, the team doesn’t have a monopoly on this type of disappointment. The Red Sox announced their own share of discouraging news Tuesday, revealing that reliever Carson Smith would start the season on the disabled list.
Smith left the mound mid-inning with forearm tightness on Monday, and the culprit has been identified as a strained flexor muscle. There’s no timetable for his return as of yet, but pitchers with similar injuries (such as Andrew Miller last season and Mat Latos and Homer Bailey in 2014) have been sidelined for one to two months each. While the news is disappointing for the Boston bullpen, it’s far preferable to the worst-case scenarios of ligament damage that some imagined after Smith was pulled from Monday’s game.
After an impressive season with Seattle last year—posting a 2.67 DRA with 11.9 K/9—Smith was dealt to Boston along with Roenis Elias in exchange for Wade Miley and Jonathan Aro. When healthy, he’s expected to help create a fierce late-inning combination with fellow new addition to the Red Sox bullpen Craig Kimbrel. Until then, though, Koji Uehara and Junichi Tawaza will hold down the role of set-up man.
While Smith’s loss would be frustrating regardless of timing, April is a particularly bad month for the reliever to go down, noted Tim Britton of the Providence Journal. The Red Sox were depending on Smith to help counter righty-heavy lineups such as that of the Blue Jays, and Boston faces the division foe seven times in the first month of the season alone.
Back to the bullpen for Brandon Maurer
The starter’s role has not been particularly kind to Brandon Maurer—a 6.62 ERA in 21 outings, with peripherals that suggest little other reason for hope—but we all, at one point or another, find ourselves returning to things that hurt us. A little more than a year after he first converted to a relief position with Seattle, Maurer approached the Padres last summer about returning to a spot in the rotation with his new team. Before he could start an attempt at the transition, however, shoulder inflammation ended his season.
In retrospect, it seems that the injury might have been a cosmic signal for Maurer to stay away from the rotation, as his Spring Training attempt to regain a starting job was none too pleasant. After a handful of discouraging performances this month, the Padres said no more and announced that the 25-year old will again pitch out of the bullpen this year.
Maurer’s career as a reliever has not been anything remarkable, but before last season’s injury, he showed some signs of the stuff that made him an exciting prospect a few years ago. Whether he can recapture that in 2016 is anyone’s guess, but it’s probably for the best that he’ll be trying for it from the bullpen.
Thank you for reading
This is a free article. If you enjoyed it, consider subscribing to Baseball Prospectus. Subscriptions support ongoing public baseball research and analysis in an increasingly proprietary environment.Subscribe now