Vladimir Guerrero Jr., the Toronto Blue Jays’ young superstar, left Friday’s exhibition game after injuring his knee on the basepaths. A few days before that, Los Angeles Dodgers shortstop Gavin Lux suffered an even worse knee injury running the bases.
On Monday, Boston Red Sox third baseman Justin Turner was hit in the face with a pitch and rushed to the hospital.
And just like that, the upbeat, dulcet tones of MLB spring training turned sour for three teams with October in their sights.
That’s how quickly vibes and fortunes can flip in spring training, regardless of how well those teams and others are prepared with quality depth at those or any other positions.
It’s also how quickly reminders arise every spring of the top three things every team in baseball tries to accomplish every year at this time:
1. Be healthy.
2. Get healthy.
3. Stay healthy.
To wit: “Ultimately, I want to come out of this with everybody healthy,” Texas Rangers general manager Chris Young told the Dallas Morning News regarding new ace Jacob deGrom and the rest of his staff. “I also realize that may not be realistic. But with our depth, I think we’re in a better spot now.
“Everyone feels good coming in. And I want them to feel good coming out.”
Cut and paste those comments about 29 times, and you have an accurate account from every team’s top baseball boss.
A lot gets made of who wins the offseason every year — second only in hype, perhaps, to who wins the actually season. But when it comes to that part about the actual season, who wins the spring tends to be the most underrated part of the equation. And winning the spring is all about surviving it intact.
And if you don’t believe that, just take a look at the starting lineup and playoff rotation that can be put together with players who have already suffered injuries in camps across Florida and Arizona this spring — most of them likely costing the players injured-list stints to open the season and more than one threatening their entire seasons.
C — Connor Wong, Boston Red Sox
Wong is not exactly a household name among most baseball fans, but the Red Sox are not exactly blessed with catching depth, either. So for a team that won a World Series as recently as 2018 and was in the playoffs just two years ago, the hamstring injury to a projected platoon regular is problematic at least. It doesn’t appear severe, but the team doesn’t have a timeline for the injury.
1B — Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Toronto Blue Jays
The former MVP runner-up seems to have escaped serious enough injury to land on the IL at the end of the month. But he’s taking his recovery “slowly” at this point, and he withdrew from the World Baseball Classic over it, costing Dominican World Baseball Classic roster one of its best players.
2B — Brendan Rodgers, Colorado Rockies
A badly dislocated shoulder suffered the first week of Cactus League play is serious enough to require surgery and will likely cost the Gold Glove winner and All-Star hopeful the entire 2023 season. It’s a huge blow to the already marginal hopes of the Rockies.
3B — Justin Turner, Red Sox
Hit in the face with a pitch Monday by Tigers right-hander Matt Manning, the immediate prognosis for Turner after being examined at the hospital was mostly good, with 16 stitches needed and a lot of swelling but no apparent broken bones. Best case scenario: It ultimately turns out to be more scare than significant injury, more mental than physical for one of baseball’s tougher-minded players, who walked off the field on his own after the blow, holding a towel to his face.
SS — Gavin Lux, Los Angeles Dodgers
A torn ACL means the 2023 season is over for Gavin Lux, the former top organizational prospect who was handed the unenviable task of trying to replace All-Star shortstop Trea Turner after Turner departed for Philadelphia (and $300 million). The Dodgers, coming off a 111-win season with the big-spending San Diego Padres breathing down their necks, have Miguel Rojas plugged in for now as they continue to evaluate options for the season.
OF — Tyrone Taylor, Milwaukee Brewers
The versatile outfielder with two-way talent as a burgeoning everyday player was positioned to make an impact for a team that missed the playoffs last year by one game after a badly sprained right elbow has forced him to be shut down for at least half of spring training. He received platelet-rich plasma injections in the elbow, and according to reports from Arizona, he’s expected to miss at least the first month of the season.
CF — Leody Taveras, Texas Rangers
A “low grade” oblique strain finally shut down the projected Opening Day centerfielder and former top organizational prospect on Monday for seven to 10 days — putting his status for the opener in jeopardy. It could be a big blow early for a team with big plans for a 2023 turnaround, little margin for error in a division with Houston and Seattle and not a ton of depth at the position.
RF — Seiya Suzuki, Chicago Cubs
Last year’s $99.6 million rookie from Japan was forced to skip the World Baseball Classic and looks likely to miss the first week or two of the season dealing with an oblique strain that has prevented him from playing any games so far this spring. Last year’s NL Rookie of the Month for April put on 20 pounds of good weight in the offseason to leverage what he learned about the grueling differences between the Nippon Professional Baseball and MLB schedules.
SP — Joe Musgrove, San Diego Padres
A broken left big toe from a weight-room accident has will delay the start to the All-Star right-hander’s season and has the loaded Padres mulling whether to continue with the six-man rotation plans they had before the injury. Meanwhile, Musgrove is pulling out all stops, including spending two hours a day in a hyperbaric chamber. “I’ll try anything,” he told the San Diego Union-Tribune. “Anything, even if it knocks a day or two off.”
SP — Tyler Glasnow, Tampa Bay Rays
A grade 2 oblique strain suffered early in camp is the latest injury to befall the talented right-hander, who finally appeared poised for a healthy season after missing all but two starts last year rehabbing from Tommy John surgery. This one is considered a six- to eight-week injury and a big blow to a perennial playoff team — even one with more talent and depth on its staff than in some recent years.
Gordon Wittenmyer, MLB expert and former beat writer for NBC Sports Chicago and the Chicago Sun-Times. Get Gordon’s latest Sportsnaut Exclusive today!
SP — Jose Quintana, New York Mets
The former All-Star left his last start with soreness in his left side that testing determined was caused by a “small stress fracture” in his fifth rib. He withdrew from the WBC (Team Colombia) and left Florida for New York for more testing. The pennant-contending Mets did not suggest a timeline for the injury.
SP — Andrew Painter, Philadelphia Phillies
Right elbow “tenderness” has shut down one of the top prospects in the game and ended one of the most intriguing stories of the spring — reports from Clearwater, Florida, suggesting the powerful 19-year-old’s chances for earning the fifth-starter job in camp are likely over. For now the hope around the defending NL champs is that Andrew Painter‘s injury isn’t serious or long-term.
Gordon Wittenmyer covers Major League Baseball for Sportsnaut. You can follow him on Twitter at @GDubCub.