The Facts
Head Trainer: Jamie Reed
Player Days Lost, 2007: 1,018
Dollars Lost, 2007: $13.2 million
Three-Year Rank: 19

The Rangers sent players to the disabled list 23 times last year, more than
any other team. Fourteen of those trips were for pitchers, again tops in the majors.Those injuries weren’t solely responsible for the team’s 19-35 start in
April and May; four missed Kevin Millwood starts didn’t hurt nearly as much as the rotation’s collective 6.44 ERA in that span. But even in light of the fact that the team still finished in the middle third of the pack in days, dollars, and percentage of payroll lost, they’re nothing to write home about, given the body count. Rangers head trainer Jamie Reed agrees. “No one on our staff, from Jon Daniels down, is satisfied with the results,” Reed avowed. “We’re committed to getting better on this front.”

One can’t chalk up everything that happened to the Rangers last season to failures of their system. The team had some random misfortune with injuries like Brandon McCarthy’s scapular stress fracture and Hank Blalock’s thoracic outlet syndrome, the latter of which cost him 106 days on the DL, not to mention a rib. “We’ve had some unusual injuries, some luck going against us that will equal out,” says Reed. On the positive side, the team took some risks last year, such as signing Eric Gagné as a free agent. Gagné had missed most of the previous two seasons, and did two virtually back-to-back stints on the DL to start the year (with first elbow and then hip problems). The team was able to get him healthy enough long enough to flip him for a decent haul from the Red Sox come the trade deadline.

The bottom line for the Rangers is that Reed, in conjunction with team physician Dr. Keith Meister–a protegé of Dr. Jim Andrews–is committed to making the Rangers a more forward-looking team when it comes to injuries, one focused on being proactive rather than reactive. The team has poured a tremendous amount of money into their health system in the service of those goals. They haven’t entirely been realized yet, but they haven’t stopped trying, either.

The Big Question
The bloggers from ask, “In the aftermath of last year’s blister problems and stress fracture, and in light of his frame, how concerned should Ranger fans be about Brandon McCarthy’s ability to stay healthy over the next few years?”

Is there a pitcher about whom a team and its fans shouldn’t be somewhat concerned he can stay healthy? McCarthy falls into the class of the rest of them. Last year was certainly no picnic for the hurler, given the litany of injuries he went through. If there’s a trend that should concern Rangers fans at this point, it’s that McCarthy hasn’t made the necessary adjustments he needs to make in order to stay healthy, whether it’s with his grip or his mechanics. Still, as the old proverb goes, “If you hang around a barber shop long enough, sooner or later you’ll get a hair cut.” If McCarthy keeps getting hurt due to things that he may be able to control, the message that he’ll need to listen to his instructors will sink in, and he may change for the better.

C Jarrod Saltalamacchia Yellow light/Gerald Laird Green light: Last year, Saltalamacchia split his playing time between catching and first base. The team has said he’ll be a full-time catcher this year, but his ability to hack it defensively may determine whether that becomes a reality. The more first base he plays, the more he trends towards a green light.

1B Ben Broussard Green light/Chris Shelton Green light

2B Ian Kinsler Green light

3B Hank Blalock Red light: Blalock missed three and a half months last year after undergoing thoracic outlet surgery, which involves the removal of a rib. The surgery usually involves solid but slow comebacks; most of the comparables are pitchers such as Aaron Cook. Blalock’s September showing (.313/.405/.656) is a good sign that he’s back on track.

SS Michael Young Green light

LF Frank Catalanotto Yellow light/Marlon Byrd Yellow light: Both halves of this platoon have a tendency to get nicked up; last year, Catalanotto missed three weeks with a strained biceps, while Byrd pulled a hamstring while down at Triple-A. This is more of a worry for Byrd, given his need for speed to provide value.

CF Josh Hamilton Red light: There simply aren’t any comparables for Hamilton. Gastroenteritis and a wrist sprain both cost him time on the DL last year, but reading the severity of both of those is complicated by the potential for roster shenanigans involving Rule 5 picks. As for his history of substance abuse problems–which have nothing to do with the lights here–it’s worth noting that the Rangers hired both former Reds manager Jerry Narron, who oversaw Hamilton’s big-league
breakthrough, and brother Johnny Narron, who coached Hamilton on traveling high school teams and who was with him all season long in Cincinnati; the latter was hired as a special assignment coach to provide Hamilton with an in-house support system.

RF Milton Bradley Red light: In one of the 2007 season’s more bizarre moments, Bradley tore his ACL while being restrained from arguing with umpire Mike Winters–an incident for which he was vindicated, while
Winters was suspended. In any event, Bradley’s coming back so quickly from the injury is cause for skepticism; such a move is dangerous, and could affect his gait and speed, though we’ll know more once he actually faces live pitching. He’s likely to DH at the start of the year.

DH Jason Botts Green light: This bumps down to a slight yellow if the Rangers put him in right field in Bradley’s stead.

SP Kevin Millwood Green light: If nothing else, he’s shown himself to be durable, having topped 30 starts in three straight years and five out of the last six. Last year he pitched through a respiratory infection and a hamstring injury; he’s already nursing another hamstring problem, this time on the other leg.

Vicente Padilla Red light: Not much of a surprise here. Padilla missed seven weeks last summer due to elbow soreness, and his health history has been spotty; he’s averaged just 26 starts and 146 innings a year since 2004, less than a full workload for a starter.

Brandon McCarthy Red light: McCarthy missed time last year with blister problems, a freakish stress fracture of his scapula, and some late-season elbow inflammation. For more on the challenge he represents, see today’s Big Question.

Jason Jennings Red light: Finally free of Colorado, Jennings went though a lost year in Houston last year, going 2-9 with a 6.45 ERA while being dogged by elbow tendonitis and finally a torn flexor tendon. It wasn’t an especially bad one by the standards for that type of injury; he underwent surgery at the end of August, and was throwing before the published March 1 estimate, suggesting he might be ready to start the season. However, he’s likely to be on an 80-90 pitch limit in
the early going.

Kason Gabbard Yellow light: After coming over from Boston in the Eric Gagné trade, Gabbard dealt with a blister problem and forearm tightness, the latter of which ended his season in mid-September.

CL C.J. Wilson Green light

RP Frankie Francisco Red light: Francisco has struggled to regain his control after undergoing Tommy John surgery in April 2005; perhaps it’s linked to incorrect chair-throwing mechanics.

Lineups courtesy SportsBlogs Nation.

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