After leaving Tuesday's game Nelson Cruz and Andrew Romine could be back in games next week along with first baseman Ryon Healy.
PEORIA, Ariz. — When you look at the list of nine players on the 40-man that are dealing with some sort of known injury, it easy to see why it can be a little overwhelming and disheartening for Mariners’ fans. Particularly when the names of Felix Hernandez, Nelson Cruz and Robinson Cano are part of it.
Given all of the injury issues last year, starting with Drew Smyly’s “soggy” left arm and the 21 other disabled list stints for 15 other players, the health of the Mariners, or complete lack thereof, has been reduced to an unfunny joke or Twitter meme.
So when both Cruz (quad strain) and Andrew Romine (partial shoulder subluxation) exited Tuesday’s Cactus League game with injuries, how did manager Scott Servais not slam his Mariners’ cap — featuring the possibly cursed upside trident logo — into the ground, throw his hands up in the air in disgust and scream obscenities at the baseball gods?
“Does it do any good?” he said with a chuckle. “It does not do any good for me to throw my hands up and say, ‘What the hell?’ It doesn’t. It doesn’t at all. You have to continue to manage the situation and communicate with our guys and make sure our medical people are on the right page and make the adjustments with what these guys are doing. And then hopefully, we can put an end to it.”
And pointing fingers of blame isn’t going to help the situation. Servais knows the injuries are diverse in their causes and reasoning. He doesn’t believe there is a basic common denominator of cause.
“Do I have a reason for it? Not really,” he said. “I guess if I did I’d try to fix it and get it fixed right away. The soft tissue injuries are the ones that concern you. Where are we at with those? I know our medical people are on it and trying to address it. From the outside, you look at it like — ‘are these guys loose enough? Are they stretching enough?’ Nelson Cruz prepares as well as anybody we have in here. I know he’s getting a little older, but nobody does more than he does. Things happen. I don’t have an exact reason for it. I’m going to stay focused on where we are at on opening day.”
With two weeks till opening day, the time frame is more manageable and conducive to rehabbing injuries to full health. If these injuries happened during the season, it would be crippling.
“That’s the advantage of maybe having these injuries in spring training is that you can slow play it and make sure our guys are 100 percent,” he said.
It’s clear that answering about each player’s injury and updating their status every day isn’t enjoyable for Servais. It’s like forcing him to watch a continuous loop of all the team’s baserunning mistakes from last year over and over. But it is the news surrounding the Mariners right now and correlational to their success.
“I don’t want to cover up the injury issue,” he said. “They are what they are. We’ve got to work our way through them. But the key is to get these guys ready by March 29th.”
Of the players on that list projected for the opening day roster, only outfielder Ben Gamel (oblique strain) and pitcher Erasmo Ramirez (lat strain) seem certain not be ready for that first series vs. the Indians.
Neither Cruz’s injury nor Romine’s seem to be serious.
In his first at-bat of the game, Cruz felt his right quad tighten up as he sprinted from the box on a line drive to the right field corner.
“It would have been a triple for sure,” he said.
Instead, he jogged to first for an RBI single and was taken out of the game. He underwent a MRI on Wednesday morning and it revealed a Grade 1 strain of the quadriceps.
“I feel good,” he said. “From yesterday to today, there’s been huge progress.”
Cruz hoped to take 2-3 days off from baseball activities and then hopefully return to games by the middle of next week. But that doesn’t mean he will be sedentary. He’s incapable of that.
“I’m going to work out,” he said as the interview ended. “Upper body in the gym, legs in the pool and then treatment.”
Servais will definitely not let Cruz rush back to games. They need him healthy for the regular season. His ETA for Cruz’s return was a little longer.
“As far as pain tolerances go, Nellie’s is about as high as it gets,” Servais said. “You probably won’t seem him in a game 5-6 days.
Romine’s injury looked awful at first. He fell awkwardly while trying to make a tag in the ninth inning of Tuesday’s game. And got up in pain, holding his left arm. He could feel his left shoulder partially come out of joint on impact. It wasn’t the first time that had happened.
“It subluxed out and in real fast,” Romine said. “It’s a little sore today. It’s happened before. Very similar, soreness the next day. We are doing some checkups and tests as precautions. Today is just rest to let the inflammation go down and let the shoulder relax.”
Romine will rest the shoulder for 2-3 days. And he could be in games by next week as well.
Two of Servais’ injury updates did yield some positive news. Hernandez (forearm contusion) came out of his bullpen on Tuesday with no issues. He will throw an extended bullpen of close 40-50 pitches on Friday. And if that goes well, he would start a game on Monday or Tuesday.
“I feel good,” Hernandez said. “It’s up to them.”
If Hernandez follows that schedule, he would likely get two spring training starts before the team leaves Arizona. And Servais hinted that might be enough.
“Felix’s bullpen yesterday was awesome,” Servais said. “I do think there’s a realistic chance that maybe he can get back for opening day and certainly there’s the prospect of his pitching in the opening series.”
First baseman Ryon Healy (hand surgery) took on-field batting practice for the first time this spring. The plan is for Healy to take on-field batting practice again on Thursday and add in a live batting practice session on Friday and then appear in a Cactus League game on Saturday or Sunday. That would allow him plenty of games to get ready. He could also use minor league games to get his at-bat totals up.