Interesting news emerging from Sacramento tonight, where the A’s made a pit stop before returning to the Bay Area this weekend for the conclusion of their exhibition season: Manager Bob Geren told reporters that projected starting first baseman Dan Johnson will start the season on the disabled list.
And that was not the only unnerving news relayed to me by Jonathan Okanes, our reporter on site at Raley Field. Starter Esteban Loaiza was scratched from his scheduled start because of continued tightness in his right trapezius, and outfielder Milton Bradley was scratched with tightness in his side muscle.
Sure it’s not still 2006?
Anyway, start with Johnson. He apparently suffered a torn labrum in his hip in a collision with Colorado’s Yorvit Torrealba earlier this week. Now, one of the problems with baseball’s new policy on revealing injuries (trainers cannot speak about them), is that there is no timetable for his return. Spent a half-hour on Google earlier this evening in search of what this might mean, and the answer is there is no definitive answer. The Associated Press report indicated Johnson might be out three months.
The immediate reaction is that it’s sad news for Johnson. His season never got off the ground a year ago — he was hitless in his first 27 at-bats, tying Joe Wallis’ Oakland record set in 1979 — and the A’s seemed encouraged that he was regaining his stroke after a slow start to the spring. Now he essentially gets to start over. He’ll be 28 years old in August, and the time he has to establish himself in the majors won’t be endless.
As for the ramifications, the A’s next move largely will depend on where they want to see Nick Swisher. Erubiel Durazo was having a good spring entering Thursday — he hit .283 with 14 RBI in Arizona — and this developoment may ensure that he makes the club after being a minor-league invite. Of course, that would require a corresponding move to remove somebody from the 40-man roster (one of which could be to move Johnson to the 60-day disabled list), and that prospect may lead the A’s to do something else. Keeping Durazo would mean Swisher remains in right field, which until Johnson got hurt, had been the plan all along.
Another possibility involves moving Swisher back to first base, where in a perfect world, the A’s would like to see him. Such a move likely would involve keeping young phenom Travis Buck, one of baseball’s best prospects and a .370 hitter with nine RBI in the Cactus League. That said, it’s hard to imagine Buck being fully ready just yet, and keeping him as an extra outfielder would go against the team’s usual grain of letting prospects get their at-bats in the minors.
From an A’s standpoint, it’s a shame this news didn’t come down 24 hours earlier, because it would’ve opened a spot for Rule 5 pick Ryan Goleski. The A’s were forced to return Goleski to Cleveland on Wednesday.
I’d assume that Loaiza’s injury puts Brad Halsey on high alert. Halsey, of course, entered the spring competing with Joe Kennedy for the fifth starters’ spot, so you’d assume he’d be the first guy on call should someone go on the shelf. Halsey was going to Triple-A Sacramento to have his innings further stretched out anyway.
Loaiza struggled with the same issue last April, albeit in his left arm, and he went 0-3 with an 8.35 ERA in four April starts before finally going on the disabled list. Since Loaiza was much more himself after healing, the guess here is that the A’s will opt for that road if there’s any question whatsoever about this injury lingering. Even before Thursday’s developments, Loaiza had skipped one Cactus League start and his velocity was very low in another.
As for Bradley, just hold your breath. Sounds like one of those nagging pains that can crop up during the course of a season, the kind you play through in August, September and October, but choose to rest in March. If that’s the case, this is a smart move. The A’s can ill afford to be without Bradley for any significant stretch, and he comes in with an injury-filled history. It won’t make one bit of difference to miss a meaningless game in March if it means he’ll be on the field for nearly every game once the A’s get into April.