Death, taxes and...attempting to heal UCL injuries through rest and rehab instead of surgery will always fail. They’re life’s three certainties.
Wednesday, Adam Eaton may have found that out the hard way.
Yes, there’s a glimmer of hope his setback isn’t major, but there’s now a very real chance that Eaton — who was projected to be the Diamondbacks’ opening day center fielder — will require Tommy John surgery. Eaton — a .348/.448/.498 hitter across 1,517 minor-league plate appearances — originally went down with just days remaining in Spring Training (where he was hitting .390/.403/.542). Given a 6-8 week timetable, he progressed steadily throughout April and early May, eventually DHing in extended spring training and on the farm.
It was only once he put his arm to the test in center field that the issue again flared up. With the D-Backs still holding out hope that Eaton can avoid surgery, there’s no reason to drop him if you’ve made it this far stashing him. But as any 2012 Brett Gardner owner could tell you, it’s time to temper your expectations for Eaton’s return. That’s especially true with the D-Backs already trying to squeeze four outfielders (Cody Ross, Jason Kubel, Gerardo Parra and A.J. Pollock) into three spots. Eaton is a legitimate stud, but he may have to wait one more year for his big-league breakout.
In A Rut
Josh Rutledge earned himself a lot of roto love by hitting .345/.360/.634 over his first 150 plate appearances last season. Then the calendar flipped to September, and he crawled to a .197/.248/.288 line over his final 32 games.
It all came out to a good but not great .274/.306/.469 slash for the then 23-year-old former third-round pick. It made it hard(er) to predict what Rutledge might have in store for 2013. Although Rutledge’s career minor-league numbers were solid — .320/.374/.496 — he drew just 59 walks across 959 plate appearances, and had never taken an at-bat above Triple-A.
That’s why it’s not terribly surprising Rutledge has failed to adjust to MLB pitching that’s clearly adjusted to him this season, hitting .242/.298/.357 before he was demoted to Triple-A Colorado Springs on Wednesday. In the mind of Rockies management, the decision was made easier by the fact that D.J. LeMahieu has raked since his promotion.
Rutledge is only 24, and has good-to-excellent power for a middle infielder. In other words, he’ll be back. But his July-August 2012? Don’t be surprised if it goes down as the best stretch of his major-league career, and he eventually settles in as a good — but not great — NL-only league option.
Fantasy baseball is all about too good to be true. Just see “Rutledge, Josh.” “Too good to be true” is certainly what came to mind following Kevin Slowey’s hot start for the Marlins. The owner of a 4.66 ERA through 532 2/3 career innings coming into 2013 — zero of which came in 2012 — Slowey managed a 1.81 ERA, 0.94 WHIP and 36/8 K/BB ratio through his first 44 2/3 Marlins frames.
Then he allowed 11 runs in 7 2/3 innings over two starts and all was right with the universe. Things have since gotten more muddled. Well on his way to a rebound outing Wednesday, Slowey was forced from his start against the Phillies with a left lat strain. He departed having allowed just one run in five innings while striking out six and walking none.
The injury is supposedly minor, but a lat strain is what held Slowey out for most of his 2012 minor-league campaign with the Indians — a campaign where he posted a 5.14 ERA across 49 innings for Triple-A Columbus.
Slowey has been getting it done with sparkling control this season, but control has never been his problem, as his career 4.50 K/BB would attest. He simply doesn’t have very good stuff, as his career 6.6 K/9 and 89 MPH fastball would attest.
Making half his starts in cavernous Marlins Park, Slowey is going to run into more quality outings. But though his current numbers may suggest otherwise, he’s highly unlikely to remain a mixed-league dynamo. Consider him an ideal spot-starter. That is, of course, if his health allows it.
Game Notes: Cliff Lee became the latest pitcher to go in for a successful oil change and tire realignment against the Marlins. … One day after being inexplicably called on to lay down two sacrifice bunts, Bryce Harper yanked his 12th home run in Washington’s 2-1 win over the Giants. … Curtis Granderson hit his first home run of 2013. … Jose Bautista had his second two-homer night of the year. … Francisco Liriano has allowed just two runs in 18 innings (1.00 ERA) since making his Pirates debut. … Fernando Rodney blew his fourth save. … Justin Verlander got rocked again as Ubaldo Jimenez did Ubaldo Jimenez things.
National League Short Hops: Dodgers manager Don Mattingly benched Andre Ethier for Wednesday’s rout of the Brewers, saying he wanted to put out his "most competitive lineup,” one that would "fight the hardest." Not coincidentally, Donnie also said the Dodgers are considering recalling outfielders Yasiel Puig and Joc Pederson from Double-A. The heat is on in L.A. … Jaime Garcia (shoulder) is done for the season. … Garcia’s teammate Jake Westbrook (elbow) was forced to end his first bullpen session since landing on the D.L. after just 20 pitches thanks to renewed pain in his elbow. He’s at least a month away from returning, and likely much more. … Kyle Lohse (elbow) has been scratched from his next start. Stay tuned. … Roy Halladay (shoulder) is shooting for a late August return if “everything progresses on schedule.” … Cameron Maybin (wrist) will begin a rehab assignment with Triple-A Tucson on Friday.
American League Short Hops: John Danks (shoulder) will make his 2013 debut on Friday against the Marlins. We would say, “don’t get your hopes up,” but you know, the Marlins. … Hiroki Kuroda was forced from his outing against the Orioles in the third inning with a bruised right calf, but manager Joe Girardi would be “shocked” if Kuroda can’t make his next scheduled start. … Kevin Youkilis (back) is “getting closer” to heading out on a rehab assignment after taking six at-bats in a simulated game. … Andy Pettitte (trapezius) will play catch Thursday or Friday for the first time since landing on the disabled list. … Salvador Perez (hip) missed his second straight game, but could return Thursday. … Ryan Madson (elbow) suffered yet another setback. … Vance Worley was finally demoted to Triple-A.