We Can't Have Nice Things, Vol. III: Injury Maelstrom Claims Jose Abreu, Andrew Cashner
If, like me, you've gotten to the point where you flinch when checking the baseball headlines for fear of reading news about another of the game's top players going down with an injury, your anxiety is likely increasing by the day. In the last 24 hours alone, the White Sox's Jose Abreu, the Nationals' Gio Gonzalez, and the Padres' Andrew Cashner have all hit the disabled list. Their absences rob us of, respectively, the league's home run leader, a 28-year-old two-time All-Star, and a 27-year-old fireballer who has emerged as San Diego's ace this season.
Abreu, who has been diagnosed with posterior tibia tendonitis in his left ankle, has been one of the best stories of the young season thus far. Arguably Cuba's top hitter, he defected last August and signed a then-record $68 million contract with the White Sox in October and has since validated that investment by belting 15 homers. He also leads the American League in RBI (42), slugging percentage (.595) and total bases (103). The 27-year-old's walk rate and on-base percentage have undermined that production to a certain degree, but prior to the injury he was nonetheless on pace for 55 home runs and 155 RBI, both of which would be rookie records. Abreu seemed destined to spend the year locked in fierce combat with the Yankees' Masahiro Tanaka for the AL rookie of the year award. At least for now, all of that has been put on hold.
Abreu, who had started his last eight games at designated hitter in an attempt to play through his ankle tendonitis, at least would seem to have a decent chance of returning close to 15 days from now. The prognosis for the two pitchers is far less clear as both have hit the DL with arm injuries.
Of the two pitchers, the more alarming is Cashner's because, as one of the hardest-throwing starters in the major leagues this season with a fastball that averages 96 miles per hour, he's out with a sore elbow. Cashner and the Padres believe they have been proactive in this case, however. The organization disabled Cashner before the soreness and inflammation in his elbow, which he reported after each of his last two starts, yielded to a structural problem. Cashner won't get an MRI until the Padres return to San Diego on Monday, and no one can be blamed for fearing the worst until those results come back.
The worst, of course, would be an ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) tear requiring Tommy John surgery and a subsequent year of rehabilitation. There has been a spike in Tommy John surgeries this year, including an increased frequency of hard-throwing products of American high schools, such as Cashner. UCL tears have even surprised some pitchers, like the Mets' Matt Harvey and the Tigers' Joba Chamberlain. That would be a devastating outcome for Cashner, a former top prospect who finally stuck in a major league rotation last year and was making good on his early promise to produce this season, posting a 2.35 ERA over his first nine starts.
Gonzalez hits the disabled list with inflammation in his pitching shoulder with the Nationals just a half-game out of first place in the NL East. Gonzalez has reportedly been pitching through discomfort in his shoulder since his start against the Angels on April 23, but after giving up 12 runs in 7 1/3 innings over his last two outings, the most recent coming on Saturday in a 5-2 loss to the Mets, it became clear that he could no longer do so effectively.
The good news is that an MRI on Sunday revealed no structural damage in Gonzalez's shoulder. Still, his injury comes just two weeks after the 2014 debut of rotation-mate Doug Fister. The Nationals have not yet announced who will take Gonzalez's spot in the rotation, though the top candidates would appear to be righties Taylor Jordan and Blake Treinen, both of whom are currently with Triple-A Syracuse.
After pitching well as a September call-up last year, the 25-year-old Jordan opened the season in the Nationals' starting five but managed just one quality start in five turns and was optioned to Triple-A in late April. He has since allowed just one run in two May starts for Syracuse. The 26-year-old Treinen made his first major league start on May 6 and held the Dodgers scoreless for five innings only to be sent back to Triple-A to make room for Fister. He has a 1.96 ERA in six starts for Syracuse this season. Meanwhile, the Reds are still evaluating Joey Votto's strained left quadriceps. He remained out of the lineup on Sunday and may yet hit the disabled list on Monday.