It happens every spring.
After a winter of rest and recovery from a long, grueling baseball season, players return to their homes and give their weary bodies a break. It’s well deserved, healing, and restorative, but eventually, players need to ramp their bodies back up again to prepare for the upcoming grind of a big league (or minor league) season.
Inevitably, especially during spring training, injuries occur.
So far this spring, the Phillies have not suffered anything major, certainly not in the way the Mets appear to have.
Mets aren’t saying anything official until all the opinions are in, but sources say that after the initial diagnosis Quintana is expected to be sidelined three months https://t.co/eZO8xWjuis— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) March 14, 2023
Fortunately for the Mets, they have options. Tylor Megill is next man up, with David Peterson a viable option as well. More than most, New York can deal with it.
As for the Phillies, just about everyone being counted on to be a major contributor this year has remained healthy so far (knock on wood), but that doesn’t mean the ouchie bug isn’t present.
Andrew Painter is shut down for another three weeks with a UCL injury that will force him to miss the start of the regular season. He likely won’t be ready to join the Phillies until late May or early June. Ranger Suarez is sidelined for a few days with a sore forearm. The team believes it’s minor, but it bears watching. Rule 5 pick Noah Song has a sore back, which will require an IL stint (although that actually works in the team’s favor in that it delays a decision on whether to put him on the 26-man roster or return him to Boston). Garrett Stubbs has been dealing with a bum knee while playing for Team Israel in the World Baseball Classic, but his injury is not believed to be major, either.
And, of course, Bryce Harper will miss at least the first two months, and perhaps more, as he recovers from Tommy John surgery.
You can’t do anything about injuries. The team had been so careful with Painter, and still, the human elbow was simply not designed to naturally hurl a projectile close to 100 mph repeatedly.
More will happen. It’s a guarantee.
The only thing team officials can do to prevent injuries from ruining a season is to build a deep roster, and that’s just what Dave Dombrowski has done.
Losing Harper stinks, but the team is better prepared to handle it this year, which is saying something when you consider they were 12 games over .500 without their MVP. The addition of Trea Turner brings another superstar into the fold, taking the pressure off Kyle Schwarber, Rhys Hoskins, Nick Castellanos and J.T. Realmuto to have to do everything themselves. They also appear to have solid bench players in Edmundo Sosa and Josh Harrison with Jake Cave, Kody Clemens, Darrick Hall and Scott Kingery are killing it in Clearwater as they vie for the final two bench spots.
There should be enough offensive firepower to keep the team afloat until Harper’s return.
On the pitching side, the addition of Taijuan Walker is a significant upgrade over Kyle Gibson. While Gibson took the ball every fifth day, without fail, that often wasn’t a good thing. Walker is not a superstar, but he is a high-end fourth starter/lower-end third, a definite upgrade in the back of the rotation. Unlike last season, they have actual starting pitching depth, with Bailey Falter, Cristopher Sanchez and Michael Plassmeyer lining up as potential No. 5 starters. We know Falter can pitch at the big league level, and when Painter is ready to return, they’ll add a starter with top of the rotation potential to the back-end. If Ranger Suarez or another starter is out for some time, one can reasonably hope one of Sanchez or Plassmeyer will hold down the fort until his return.
And don’t forget, mid-season call-ups of Mick Abel and/or Griff McGarry aren’t out of the question, either.
As for the bullpen, Dombrowski has built one of the deepest units in baseball. So deep that, if Song weren’t injured, they probably wouldn’t be able to keep.
Seranthony Dominguez, Jose Alvarado, Craig Kimbrel, Gregory Soto, Andrew Bellatti, Connor Brogdon and Matt Strahm are all locks, provided all stay healthy, with Nick Nelson or Yunior Marte the likeliest players to get that final spot. The minors are crackling with options, too.
Remember, last year Didi Gregorius played in 63 games for the Phillies and piled up 232 plate appearances before he was released. He was worth -0.4 WAR. Odubel Herrera received 197 PAs, with a 0.2 WAR. Johan Camargo had 166 PAs, his WAR was 0.1, while Mickey Moniak and Roman Quinn totaled 90 PAs between them and a -0.6 WAR.
That’s a lot of mediocre-to-below replacement level ABs Joe Girardi was throwing out there.
Should Brandon Marsh get hurt, Scott Kingery and/or Dalton Guthrie are there. Jake Cave can fill in a corner outfield spot for a spell. Darrick Hall proved he can be a big league DH/1B against right-handed pitching, Sosa might be the best utility infielder in baseball, and Harrison has a track record of being a versatile winner.
None of these guys is an All Star, and not all of them are going to play well this season. But by eschewing the luxury tax, John Middleton has allowed Dombrowski to not only fill the team with stars throughout the diamond, but to add real depth throughout the roster. And as the team’s player development program continues to improve, reinforcements from the minors should be more effective, too.
You can’t prevent injuries. You can give yourself options when they happen.
And that’s what the Phillies have done.