MLB Injury Report: Braves Lose Fried, Wright
The first-place Atlanta Braves are cruising in 2023, but they just lost two important starting pitchers on consecutive days.
The Major League Baseball season is more than a month old, meaning, among other things, that every team has been hit by injuries. Some of them have been devastating (Jacob deGrom, we miss you, King), while others – thankfully – have only required players to take a short stint on the injured list (Aaron Judge, we’re looking at you, big fella).
As we push forward into the second week of May, let’s take a look at the weekly injury report.
Updated as of Wednesday, May 10.
Braves Go Back-To-Back, Lose Fried and Wright on Consecutive Days
The Atlanta Braves have got it going on. They’re 25-11 and have a 7.5-game lead in the NL East. But the Braves were dealt back-to-back blows to start the week. Starting pitcher Kyle Wright hit the IL Monday with a shoulder strain. Then Tuesday, Braves’ ace Max Fried landed on the IL with a forearm strain.
Here’s the big lefty talking about his injury to reporters in the locker room:
That’s actually good news, considering all forearm injuries come with Tommy John scares. Even non-forearm injuries come with TJ scares. For Fried, it would have been his second surgery. Those fears were put to bed by a clean MRI, but this will not be a short-term IL stint. He felt the injury after his May 5 start against the Orioles, where he gave up five earned runs and allowed 10 baserunners in six innings pitched.
Now, to Wright.
He also has no structural damage but will miss an undisclosed amount of time. This is already his second IL stint of the season, both of which have been shoulder-related. The first one came back in March and was considered just “soreness” at the time.
So where does this leave the Braves’ rotation?
Spencer Strider, Charlie Morton and Bryce Elder have the top three spots in the rotation on lock. Hell, Strider might be the best pitcher in the National League. But after that, there’s some uncertainty. Dylan Dodd, Jared Shuster and Michael Soroka are all options and will get looks. However, Dodd and Shuster have struggled when called up, and Soroka hasn’t pitched in the big leagues in two years.
On a positive note, closer Raisel Iglesias is back in the closer spot. That further lengthens an already-deep bullpen.
That big division cushion sure is nice to have.
Hoerner Pulls a Hammy: Cubs Could Be Without Budding Superstar
They called it in the offseason.
His team signed Dansby Swanson. He moved over to second base. This was the year Nico Hoerner would officially break out. And he has.
The Cubs’ second baseman is off to a terrific start in 2023. He’s slashing .303/.348/.395/.742, way above his career average of .281/.336/.386/.722. He’s also 12-for-14 on the basepaths and has played a slick second base. Hoerner has made just one error and has four defensive runs saved, according to FanGraphs.
Perhaps the most impressive part of Hoerner’s game is his ability to make contact. Per Baseball Savant, he’s struck out in just 10.4% of his plate appearances, compared to the league average of 22.4%. To dig even deeper, his swing-and-miss (whiff) rate is just 10.1%, compared to the league average of 24.7%. At one point, he’d not struck out in 41 straight plate appearances.
All of it adds up to a 1.6 bWAR through his team’s first 36 games.
But the Cubs got a serious scare Monday night, when their leadoff man was shown limping as he went from first to third on a hit.
The diagnosis is a mild hamstring strain, and he told reporters after the game he didn’t think a trip to the injured list would be necessary. Phew.
That would be a tough blow for a Cubs team that’s hit a bit of slide recently, losing 10 of their last 15 games, including four in a row.
Hopefully for Hoerner, he won’t need to be on the sidelines for long and can keep pushing ahead in what’s been a breakout campaign.
Another Rodón Roadblock: Yankees Star Pitcher’s Back Still Preventing Debut
Aaron Judge’s time on the shelf was short-lived. The Yankees’ anemic offense needed that.
But the team’s big free agent acquisition has yet to make his long-awaited pinstripes debut.
Carlos Rodón is still dealing with back pain. It’s being called a “chronic” issue now. He got a cortisone shot to help him alleviate the pain but couldn’t give reporters a firm timetable on when he might come back.
Yankees’ beat man Bryan Hoch tweeted this about the possibility of a July return:
If that doesn’t scare a Yankees fan, I don’t know what will. It sounds all too familiar for many of them. Fairly or not, social media is already photoshopping Rodón’s face onto Carl Pavano’s body.
When he’ll be back on a big league mound, I’m not sure anyone knows. The good news is that Rodón’s initial injury – forearm discomfort – is no longer there. His arm isn’t the problem. But we all know how back problems go.
One other note from Yankeeland: Luis Severino is officially on the way back. He started Wednesday for the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Railriders. His pitching line is below:
Finally, some good news.
Red Sox: Whitlock Still Working Back to Form
How about the Boston Red Sox?
As of Wednesday, they sit at 21-16, putting together a very solid (and unexpected) start to the season. And they’ve done it all while missing some big pieces.
One of them, Garrett Whitlock, is still working his way back from an elbow injury.
Alex Cora told reporters Tuesday that Whitlock threw a bullpen on Monday, but the manager still wouldn’t put a timetable on his rotation return. Whitlock’s been on the IL for roughly two weeks with what the Sox have called ‘right elbow ulnar neuritis,’ essentially inflammation of the ulnar nerve in his right elbow.
There was legitimate Tommy John concern, which would’ve been the second of Whitlock’s career, but a doctor’s visit confirmed the injury wasn’t that serious. That’s good news for the Red Sox, who’ve had some rotation concerns for the first six weeks of the season.
Nick Pivetta got shelled by the Braves Tuesday night, which could’ve earned him a demotion to the bullpen. But the reinforcements are coming. James Paxton is slated to start Friday’s game against St. Louis, with Whitlock hopefully not far behind.
White Sox: Appendectomy Forces Jiménez To Miss More Time
Similar to the Red Sox, the phrase ‘what a start to the season’ can most definitely apply to the White Sox, with a different connotation.
It’s been a first-month implosion for the South Siders, who currently sit at 13-24, fourth in the AL Central. For perspective, the Minnesota Twins currently sit atop the division at 19-17.
Over the weekend, the Sox got more bad news.
Designated hitter Eloy Jiménez will likely be out more than a month after undergoing an appendectomy Saturday night. So far this year, Jiménez had played 25 games, slashing .258/.321/.423 with an OPS+ of 103. Granted, it’s a small sample size, but those numbers are below his .274/.326/.498 career slash line. His career OPS+ is 121.
It’s tough to compare a freakish medical emergency to his already-long injury history, but the 26-year-old outfielder/DH has already missed a fair share of games in his career. He missed time this April with a hamstring problem (add him to the list of hamstring injuries across the league this year).
So what does this mean for the White Sox? Probably, DH by committee, including Andrew Vaughn, Yasmani Grandal and Gavin Sheets. Grandal played DH Tuesday night and went 0-for-4. Whoever fills the slot, he will have to hit at least a little bit. Chicago’s in a tough spot, and if they don’t turn it around by the time Jiménez is back, it might be time to have some difficult conversations.
Twins: Reliable Lefty to Miss Time
Speaking of those Twins, we have some injury news on that front.
Relief pitcher and one of baseball’s best stories, Caleb Thielbar, was placed on the 15-day IL with a strained right oblique.
This injury write-up is for all the fantasy owners out there. Thielbar was one of the sneaky Holds Gods to start the year. In 10 innings pitched, he’s allowed just two earned runs, walked only two batters and struck out 10. His seven holds are still near the top of the league.
In general, Minnesota’s bullpen has been solid. So far this year, they’ve given up the fewest hits (95) and sixth-fewest earned runs (49) in baseball.
But without Thielbar, that leaves rookie Jovani Moran as the lone lefty. Moran will undoubtedly get some more high-leverage looks, but he’s not the only arm that needs to pick up the slack. The Twins will need Emilio Pagan and Brock Stewart to toss some zeros in the meantime.
On a housekeeping front, the Twins called up 1B/OF Alex Kirilloff as the corresponding roster move. Kirilloff had been recovering from his second season-ending wrist surgery, which he suffered in 2022. He was tearing up Triple-A St. Paul during his rehab assignment (.316/.435/.605), and his power bat will be a nice insert into the lineup. Of course, that’s if he can stay healthy.
Blast Off! Jose Altuve Swinging a Bat
We have our first big Jose Altuve update!
The Astros’ star second baseman is swinging a bat before everyone thought he would. This video from Jason Bristol is from Houston’s Triple-A affiliate in Sugar Land.
Altuve told reporters a few days ago that not even he expected to make this quick of a recovery, but he tempered those expectations when he followed up by saying he wasn’t sure when he’d ship out for a rehab assignment. Still, it’s a nice surprise for the Astros to have him ahead of schedule. And boy, do they need him.
Don’t look now, but the defending World Champs are 18-18. Odd.
Cardinals: O’Neill Back on IL
The baseball world has talked/written/thought about the St. Louis Cardinals ad nauseam.
So have we. You can read the latest right here. And here.
But the Redbirds are officially on a winning streak. They’re up to three in a row after Tuesday’s win over their rival Cubs. It puts them at 13-24 on the season.
Maybe part of their newfound success is Adam Wainwright playing counselor to Contreras. Another part could be lockdown work from Gio Gallegos and Ryan Helsley. But perhaps, part of their newfound success is a bit of consistency in the outfield.
Over the weekend, Tyler O’Neill hit the IL with his latest back issue, a lower back strain. It’s allowed the Cardinals to roll out an outfield of Donovan-Carlson-Nootbaar for the past three games. Funny enough, they’re 3-0 in those contests.
And while correlation does not imply causation, there is something to be said for lineup/alignment consistency. The Cardinals have had too many position players, too many outfielders, all year. It’s part of the reason they sent Jordan Walker back to Triple-A.
O’Neill’s injury both muddies and clears the waters.
For one, it provides a set outfield alignment and gets Paul DeJong in the lineup every day (which, like it or not, the Cardinals want to make happen). Moreover, with Donovan the current mainstay in left field, it frees up the utility infield spot for Nolan Gorman. On the other hand, O’Neill is set to start a rehab assignment as soon as next Tuesday (5/16).
The Cardinals have to make a move for an arm. Almost everyone knows this. Is it time for them to officially move on from O’Neill?
Mariners: Muñoz Suffers Setback
I’ll finish this week’s update with my favorite relief pitcher in baseball.
Seattle Mariners fireballer Andrés Muñoz suffered a setback in his recovery. He went for another MRI, which showed inflammation in his deltoid (shoulder) area. He received a platelet-rich plasma injection and will be shut down for a few days. That sets back his rehab assignment and, thus, his return to a big league mound. That almost certainly means the earliest he could return will be sometime in June.
In real time, it’ll also mean roughly two months of missed time.
In his absence, Paul Sewald has been his consistent self at the back end of the Mariners’ bullpen. Matt Brash, Trevor Gott, Justin Topa, Gabe Speier and Penn Murfee have all been excellent over the past two-to-three weeks. The M’s are currently 18-18 and will need the back end of their ‘pen to keep up the good work until they get their fireman back on the bump.