The non-waiver trade deadline has passed, August is here, and there are just two months left in the 2014 regular season. Among other things, that means that a 15-day disabled list stint will knock a player out for a minimum of one quarter of the rest of the season. I mention that because three players who started games for their teams Thursday night came out mid-game due to injury, and all three are expected to be placed on the disabled list today.
The most significant injury came when Phillies lefty Cliff Lee re-injured his left arm on his first pitch to Denard Span with two outs in the third inning of the Phillies' 10-4 win over the Nationals. According to the Phillies, Lee hurt the flexor pronator in his left forearm, the same injury that shelved him for two months earlier this season. Lee was activated last Monday but failed to impress in either of his starts before Thursday. All indications are that this will be a season-ending injury for Lee, and the possibility of surgery has been floated.
(GIF courtesy @nick_pants)
With the Phillies mired in last place, Lee’s injury won’t have an impact on the standings. But it obviously ends any hope the team might have had of unloading his contract, which guarantees him $37.5 million over the next two years, including a $12.5 million buyout of his $27.5 million option for 2016. The Phillies were reportedly interested in unloading the soon-to-be 36-year-old Lee prior to Thursday’s non-waiver deadline, but the initial occurrence of this injury and Lee’s poor showing after his return last week dried up any interest there might have been. It now seems unlikely that the Phillies, who failed to make a single trade Thursday, will find a taker for Lee in the offseason, either.
A little further up I-95 in Baltimore, Angels starter Tyler Skaggs didn’t allow a hit through 4 2/3 innings in what was ultimately a 13-inning, 1-0 Angels win over the Orioles. However, in a near-exact replay of Lee’s earlier exit, Skaggs’ first pitch to Caleb Joseph with two outs in the fifth inning was immediately followed by the lefty signaling to the third-base dugout and coming out of the game. The initial diagnosis from team doctors is that Skaggs’ ulnar collateral ligament is unharmed and that he simply has a strain in his forearm, but his MRI on Friday could reveal more.
Per the Los Angeles Times, Skaggs said he “over-pronanted” on the changeup that struck out Delmon Young to start the fifth and was hurting for the rest of the inning. He managed to strike out J.J. Hardy for the second out, but after walking Steve Pearce on five pitches, Skaggs finally decided to call out the trainer when what was supposed to be a mid-90s fastball to Joseph came out of his hand as a looping, 89 mile-per-hour pitch. Skaggs said after the game that his arm was already feeling better. “I have full range of motion, and the tests went well," he told reporters. "We’ll see tomorrow, though. It’s not feeling too bad right now." Still, a stint on the disabled list is likely, as the Angels are expected to be careful with the 23-year-old, who was their primary target in last winter’s Mark Trumbo trade.
The good news for the Angels is that Skaggs could be replaced in the rotation immediately if C.J. Wilson is indeed activated to make Saturday’s start against the Rays. That would likely be an upgrade, as Skaggs, who missed most of June with a hamstring strain, had posted a 4.21 ERA in six starts since returning from the disabled list, albeit with a strong 4.67 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Still, the Angels' ideal rotation includes both Wilson and Skaggs, and with Los Angeles having failed to add a starting pitcher at the deadline (though the team did good work reinforcing its bullpen earlier in the month), it doesn’t need its rotation depth tested. The Angels have a comfortable 8 1/2-game lead over the third-place team in the AL wild card race, but they’d be far more comfortable if they could catch the Athletics, who lead them by just two games in the West but added Jon Lester on Thursday, making the rotation upgrade the Angels failed to.
The injury that could have the biggest impact on the pennant races, however, was one that was actually suffered a week and a half ago. Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer was hit in the back of his right hand by a Jon Lester pitch in the Royals' 6-0 loss to the Red Sox on July 20, and though he played that entire game, he sat out the next two days and appeared only as a defensive replacement in the next three. Thursday marked his third straight start, but he aggravated the injury with a check swing in the fourth inning and was unable to hit when his turn came around again, yielding to pinch-hitter Billy Butler. A subsequent x-ray revealed a stress fracture in that right hand, and Hosmer is now expected to miss four to six weeks of the eight remaining in the season.
Though Hosmer’s injury has been an issue for almost two weeks at this point, that’s still a tough blow for the Royals, who are just 3 1/2 games out in the American League wild-card chase. It’s particularly painful because Hosmer had been hot prior to the injury, hitting .429/.492/.643 in the first 14 games of July, and because the disabled list move came mere hours after the deadline. The Royals can paper over Hosmer’s absence with Butler and Raul Ibañez splitting time at first base and designated hitter, as well as giving DH time to Lorenzo Cain and Norichika Aoki. But for a team that failed to make an impact move at the deadline (their only trades in July were the acquisition of righty reliever Jason Frasor from the Rangers and backup catcher Erik Kratz from the Blue Jays for third baseman Danny Valencia), the last thing Kansas City needed was to lose the player who had been their primary No. 3 hitter this season.