When Chase Headley exited Sunday’s game after trying to break up a double-play ball, the Padres originally described the injury as a simple jammed left thumb. Subsequent X-rays, though, told a different story.
After visiting with a hand specialist Monday, Headley was diagnosed with a small fracture on the tip of the thumb. He’ll be out of commission for at least a month, and likely longer.
“Four weeks is optimistic,” general manager Josh Byrnes said in the San Diego Union-Tribune. “We’ve heard anything from four to six weeks.”
Headley will wear a splint on the thumb for now before eventually beginning the rehab process. Since he’ll almost surely require a handful of rehab games, the likelihood of the third baseman returning before the end of April seems remote. As long as the thumb heals properly, the injury shouldn’t have any long-term implications on Headley’s production. The possibility can’t be ruled out, however.
As far as replacing Headley at third base, the Padres’ top choice at the moment appears to be Logan Forsythe. Forsythe has dealt with plantar fasciitis in his right foot this spring, but he’s expected to return to game action before the end of the week and should have time to get ready for Opening Day if he avoids a setback. If Forsythe proves not to be ready, San Diego could move Jedd Gyorko over to the hot corner and install Alexi Amarista at second.
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Rondon On The Rebound
Bruce Rondon entered spring training as the clear favorite to win the Tigers’ closer job, but after three ugly appearances he was looking more likely to begin the year at Triple-A rather than in the back of the big club’s bullpen.
Big Bruce has been on the rebound of late, though, having gone three straight appearances without allowing a hit while boasting a 9/2 K/BB ratio over his last five innings. This is after the flamethrower gave up three runs while issuing six free passes over his first 3 2/3 Grapefruit League frames. The slow start prompted a re-working of Rondon’s mechanics, which obviously has paid dividends.
"He's been a little better," manager Jim Leyland said on MLB.com. "He's used his pitches a little bit more. He's obviously been better."
It remains to be seen whether or not Rondon’s recent surge -- if he can continue it -- will be enough to land the ninth-inning gig by Opening Day. It’s probably more likely that Leyland chooses not to name a closer by that time and goes into the season using a Closer by Committee, with Rondon, Joaquin Benoit, Phil Coke, Octavio Dotel and Al Alburquerque all in the mix. Rondon’s recent work is certainly encouraging, though, and he should probably be considered the favorite of the group to ultimately lead Detroit in saves.
Perez Ahead Of Schedule; Balfour Appears In Game
There is some additional positive news to report on the closer front.
Instead of doing a light workout from the mound Monday as scheduled, Chris Perez was able to throw a full 35-pitch bullpen session, mixing in all of his pitches. Afterwards, the reliever said his shoulder is “100 percent,” and he has no doubt in his mind that he’ll be ready for Opening Day.
"I'll be there," Perez said on MLB.com. "The initial injury is gone. I'm 100 percent. Now it's just trying to get my arm strength back to where I can make 60 or 70 appearances."
The Indians’ closer is about 3-4 days ahead of the throwing schedule that was laid out for him when he initially went down with a strained right shoulder. He’s hoping to face hitters in a live batting practice session by Saturday. Although the Indians haven’t committed to having Perez available on April 2 in Toronto, it’s looking like, barring a setback, he’ll be ready.
Another injured closer that’s looking like a good bet to be ready for Opening Day is Grant Balfour. The fiery A’s reliever threw an inning in a minor league game on Monday, and although the results weren’t what he had hoped for, he considers his surgically-repaired knee to be a non-issue.
"It was fine," he said on MLB.com. "I wasn't thinking about it at all, so now it's about getting ready and going through those speed bumps I get. It's Spring Training -- same old, same old, trying to get my arm going."
Balfour will make the first of five Cactus League appearances on Thursday. While it’s not ideal to have so few outings in preparation for the season, it should be enough to put Balfour in position to be available to close on Opening Day.
Down To Two For D’Backs Fifth Starter Job
Tyler Skaggs entered spring training as arguably the favorite for the fifth spot in the Diamondbacks’ rotation. On Monday, he was officially eliminated from the competition following a demotion to Triple-A Reno.
The demotion comes as no surprise, as Skaggs was roughed up badly during Cactus League play, allowing 16 runs – 11 earned – while issuing eight walks over nine innings.
“He just wasn’t ready,” manager Kirk Gibson said in the Arizona Republic. “We felt it was kind of counterproductive with him being here. We all talked about it, and we felt it was the right thing to do. I think he’s a little relieved, to be quite honest.”
Pitching coach Charles Nagy added that Skaggs “needs to go somewhere and iron out a few things mechanically, mentally.” With the 21-year-old sent down to work through his issues, Patrick Corbin and Randall Delgado are now battling for the No. 5 spot. Corbin has posted better numbers this spring, sporting a 3.68 ERA and 15/4 K/BB ratio over 14 2/3 frames. Delgado holds a 5.25 mark over 12 innings, though he was good on Monday, limiting the Dodgers to two runs over five.
While Skaggs would have held the most fantasy appeal of the trio, Corbin and Delgado have some intrigue in their own right. Corbin can probably be viewed as the slight favorite given his superior performance this spring and some success he had with the D’Backs last year. Whoever wins the job will likely just be keeping the seat warm for Daniel Hudson, who is due back from Tommy John surgery around the All-Star break. Of course, a lot can happen between the beginning of April and mid-July.
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