Key injuries hitting some teams at camp
Chipper to miss start of final season; Reds, Royals lose closers
From afar, Spring Training might appear to be filled with sunshine and relaxation. Get your stretching done, get an at-bat in and get to the pool.
Of course, baseball in February and March is neither that simple nor effortless. Players must transition from a few months of rest and recuperation and gear up their bodies for six months of the daily grind.
With Opening Day a little more than a week away, some teams are limping to the starting line and scrambling for alternatives.
Chipper Jones, an hour before announcing on Friday that the 2012 campaign would be his last, tore the meniscus in his left knee. The 39-year-old third baseman was set for surgery Monday and will begin his final season on the 15-day disabled list, with the hope of returning for the club's home opener on April 13.
"Historically, Chipper has taken 16-18 days to get back from these injuries," Braves general manager Frank Wren said. "So the thought is that he could very well be ready for the home opener."
The injury news is much more grim for the Reds and Royals.
Both clubs' closers -- Cincinnati's Ryan Madson and Kansas City's Joakim Soria -- need Tommy John surgery. The right-handers will miss the entire season.
"You feel terrible for [Madson], because he feels terrible," Reds manager Dusty Baker said. "It makes you sick to your stomach, actually."
Now the Reds must find another option for the last line of defense in their bullpen. Francisco Cordero, the team's closer the last four years, signed with the Blue Jays during the offseason. The most likely in-house candidate appears to be left-hander Sean Marshall, who Cincinnati acquired from the Cubs in a December trade. Madson's injury also could affect what the team does with prized southpaw Aroldis Chapman, who has been auditioning for a spot in the rotation after two years in the 'pen.
All in all, this is the type of scenario teams hope to avoid during Spring Training.
"Obviously, it's not what we wanted," Reds general manager Walt Jocketty said. "But we do have some very positive alternatives."
Soria will have his reconstructive elbow surgery on April 3, the second time the pitcher has had the operation in his career.
"I've just got to work hard, even harder than I was before," Soria said, "to get better and get out of this."
Jonathan Broxton, Greg Holland and Aaron Crow are the front-runners to replace Soria in the closer role, though manager Ned Yost seemed comfortable playing things by ear.
"We've got time; we'll play it out," Yost said. "We can mix and match. We've got a bunch of really good options. We may, before the season starts, name a closer, or we may not. I've got three guys that can close on any given night, so we may just go that route, too."
Other teams will be sweating out the final days of Spring Training while waiting to see if certain players will receive a full bill of health in time for the season's first pitch.
Nationals manager Davey Johnson said Saturday that closer Drew Storen might miss the start of the season as he continues to recover from inflammation in his right elbow.
Indians closer Chris Perez needed just seven pitches to get through his first inning of Spring Training work during a Minor League intrasquad contest on Saturday. Perez had missed all of camp with a strained left oblique. The club is hopeful he will be ready for Opening Day.
Dodgers starter Ted Lilly will miss his next scheduled start Wednesday with a recurring stiff neck. His spot in the team's opening-series rotation is in jeopardy.
Yankees pitcher Joba Chamberlain suffered an open dislocation and torn ligaments in his right ankle Thursday after jumping on a trampoline with his son. The right-hander, who had been recovering from Tommy John surgery, isn't expected back until at least late in the season.
Doctors diagnosed Cardinals ace Chris Carpenter with nerve irritation, which led to weakness in his right shoulder. The right-hander will need to restrengthen his shoulder through exercises before he conditions his arm for regular rotation work.
Phillies second baseman Chase Utley said his chronic knee problems will keep him out for Opening Day, but he expects to play at some point this season.
"I will take this process fairly slow," Utley said, "because I think it's important to get everything around my knees working correctly. And I think it's going to take a little bit of time."
Time is running out on Spring Training.
The Mariners and A's will open their regular seasons on Wednesday in Japan. The clubs will play a two-game set in Tokyo that counts toward the regular-season standings before returning to the United States for one last series of exhibition games.
As the sun sets on an eventful spring slate and players prepare for the rigors of a 162-game schedule, this final week could be critical as teams attempt to get -- and keep -- everyone healthy.