Well, it took all of two days for the first major injury of Twins’ spring training to impact the 2012 season. That’s even fast by the Twins’ 2011 standards. As most are now aware, Joel Zumaya’s MRI showed a torn ulnar collateral ligament and will be out for this season. I suppose it’s possible, maybe even likely, that he never throws an MLB pitch again. For those of you playing Zumaya Injury Bingo, does UCL surgery give you the win?
The bigger question for me: Is it too early to worry about the depth of this team?
Words by the metric ton have been spent in the blogosphere, newspapers, and other media on the significant injuries that took a toll on the team last season. I won’t belabor the specifics. I’m sick of thinking about the huge number of games missed that – in part – led to the most disappointing Twins season in recent memory, maybe ever. For me, however, it’s not hard to think about this season as one whose outcome sits on a narrow precipice. I can’t help but wonder if we haven’t been set up by the past offseason and a long-term rebuilding plan to have another season of games that are hard to watch.
John Bonnes writes here about the gamble that Terry Ryan took in leaning on Zumaya alone to improve the bullpen. I think the Twins' took a similar stance by relying on less-than-solid players at most other positions.
First Base: Morneau’s recent history, and his Friday comments, throw a concussion-like fog of suspicion over his future. What is our backup plan at first? Admittedly, we have other players that can play first – Mauer among them. But if Morneau is not ready this season, our depth quickly becomes an issue when moving Mauer out from behind the plate or Doumit from DH.
Catcher: Even if Mauer isn’t out of the lineup, just moving him to another position means a large dropoff in production overall. Doumit was a good signing for the price, and I supported the move wholeheartedly, but I can not see Gardy using him as at catcher for large stretches of games. Know what that means? The Butt-era of so many hitting jokes would again be taking consistent cuts that make grandpa Jake Mauer cry in his Old Style.
Short Stop: Jamie Carrol is – like – way old, man. How’s Levi Michael looking? I'm really not bashing the signing of Carrol. I like the way a healthy Carrol fits into this lineup, but beyond him there is not much help for the middle infield.
Center Field: Denard Span (AKA “the Spaniard”) is saying all the right things in coming back from bouts of concussion symptoms and vertigo. However, Twins fans have become all too familiar with the lingering nature of head injuries. If Span misses time, who moves to the leadoff spot? The most likely candidate is Ben Revere – if last year is any indication – but his .305 OBP in 478 plate appearances is slightly higher than Matt Tolbert’s career mark. This team isn’t designed to weather the loss of significant table setters, and Parker Haggeman wrote a nice piece on the 2011 Twins’ woes in getting on-base early in the order.
I hate to be pessimistic this early in the season. Especially when my blog-mate just sold some hope so recently. I do, however, think that the top-end of the Twins’ potential success hinges on a lot of healthy players who may or may not be so. One of them threw his last 2012 pitch on Friday.
Also, I’d like to apologize for the Matt Tolbert reference. That was just unnecessary today.