Dipoto spoke to the media for the first time this spring. The first topic was the injuries to two expected contributors.
PEORIA, Ariz. — A day before the Mariners were to have their first full-squad workout of the 2018 spring training, general manager Jerry Dipoto met with the media on Monday afternoon to discuss his team and, of course, the early injuries to two expected contributors — first baseman Ryon Healy and starting pitcher Erasmo Ramirez.
“Obviously, we could have done with out the early health hiccups for Ryon and Erasmo,” he said. “But otherwise, everybody looks great. It’s very clear to see that a lot of guys did their work in the offseason and a lot of bodies that look like they were taken care of in a good way. I’m really encouraged with how they’ve looked. I’m proud of the way the guys came in. I think the energy level is high. The intensity is high without being over the top. There’s a focus in the room and a concentration that is really good.”
But the uncertainty of Healy and Ramirez and when they will return still lingers. Of the two, Healy seems somewhat more projectable to Dipoto and the Mariners’ medical staff.
“We did have the best case scenario with Ryon Healy,” he said. “It could have been a lot worse. An acute injury? We couldn’t have done much about it. We tried to take things conservatively and it didn’t work out quite that well and ultimately it required a surgery that should not take that long to heal. But you know how it goes with rehabs — it could be a little longer, it could be a little shorter.”
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Dipoto clarified the issues surrounding the injury to Healy’s right hand that led to the procedure, including why the surgery didn’t happen earlier in the offseason.
“He had a floating piece of bone in his hand that was creating intense pain when he was trying to hit,” Dipoto said. “The bone we could not see on the original image. And as a result, (rest and relaxation) was going to be the solution, which is usually the way you solve most bone spur irritations. This one just required a little more detail or acute attention.”
The procedure was performed by Dr. Randall W. Culp — a specialist at thePhiladelphia Hand to Shoulder center.
“The surgery went well,” Dipoto said. “I don’t think it was a particularly difficult one. I think it took about 20 minutes. We’ll see how quick he comes back, but we are encouraged by it.”
Healy arrived in Peoria on Monday and met with the team’s medical staff while taking his mandatory physical. He will rehab the injury while also trying to condition and prepare of the season in ways allowable.
“Ryon is an incredibly hard worker as we have found out already,” Dipoto said. “He’s particularly passionate about baseball and wants to get back. Our expectation is that he’s playing in the not too distant future. Activities should start for him some time next week in terms of non-baseball related movements or even just fielding. Obviously, we won’t see him hit for a little bit.”
The original timeline for recovery is four to six weeks. If he heals quickly, he could get in some Cactus League games before the season starts on March 29. If the recovery drags on to the later part of the timeline, he could be a week or two behind and start the season the disabled list.
“Is there a chance he’s ready for opening day? Yeah,” Dipoto said. “But are we eyeing that as the absolute? No. Whatever time it takes him to get back, we’ll take that time. We are more concerned with the long haul than the short.”
As of now, the team will look at internal candidates for his replacement instead of signing a first baseman on the free agent market. It means Daniel Vogelbach or Rule 5 draft pickup Mike Ford or both could be on the opening day roster if Healy isn’t ready.
“Opportunity is what it is,” Dipoto said. “Somebody might step in and show you something that surprises you or shows you that they are prepared to do what you need them to do.”
The situation surrounding Ramirez’s minor lat strain is even less defined.
“As we know from having dealt with Evan Scribner the last couple years, lat issues can become bigger or long term issues,” Dipoto said. “Hopefully we caught this one early enough that it’s short to mid-term. We don’t know yet. We’re hoping in two weeks we get a thumbs up and he’s ready to roll. But that’s not a slam dunk. Then we have to take it day by day. I told Erasmo yesterday, similar to what I said to Ryon Healy, ‘We’re in this for the long haul. We care about you are at the finish, not necessarily where you are at the start.”
Many a lat injury was deemed minor only to lead to a pitcher missing 6-8 weeks instead. The Mariners are hoping it won’t be that long. But they have in-house options for the void. Lefty Ariel Miranda or right-hander Andrew Moore could slide into that spot. Seattle can also use the slew of off days in the first month to maneuver their rotation to nurse Ramirez back.
‘The great benefit we have, especially in the case with Erasmo, roughly for the first five weeks of the season we have a day off about every week,” Dipoto said. “It means we can be somewhat creative how we get through with our starting rotation, if we need to start with Erasmo getting into his throwing program. What would be more damning is if it’s a long-term issue and that is something we’re going to have a tough time absorbing. So in the short term we believe he’ll be back and we’re hopeful that’s in two-three weeks. But over the long haul, we have to be prepared that it’s longer than that.”
Even if it were a six-week recovery, it is unlikely that Dipoto would commit to a free agent like Alex Cobb on a multi-year contract. He might consider a one-year contract or a split major league/minor league contract with a free agent. But right now, he will stay in-house with his replacement choices. Ramirez and lefty Marco Gonzales being out of minor league options presents some overall roster issues when adding a free agent starter.
“Right now, our general mindset is Erasmo Ramirez is starting one of our first five games,” Dipoto said. “That’s our resting position. We’ll just have to take it day by day until we get there. It’s probably most prudent we first wait to see how long we could be without players before we start filling in their spots.”