A scary situation Wednesday led to some bad news for the Reds Thursday.
After Aroldis Chapman took a Salvador Perez comeback liner to the face during Wednesday's Cactus League game, the worst was feared. Chapman stayed on the ground while trainers and medical personnel tended to him, and he was eventually taken off on a stretcher. The scene left everyone shaken -- Perez was seen in tears, and the game was called shortly after the incident -- and wondering what Chapman's immediate future holds.
That question was answered Thursday when it came out that Chapman sustained fractures around his nose and left eye, sidelining him for six to eight weeks. The 26-year-old had surgery Thursday to insert a plate above his left eye. Along with the fractures, Chapman also sustained a "very mild concussion," according to Reds medical director Tim Kremchek, but he avoided any other brain injury.
Chapman has a chance to be back before the end of May, but it won't be that long before he's back working out, Kremcheck said.
"The idea is to get that fixed and hopefully within a couple of weeks, he can start exercises and start throwing and hopefully be back in six to eight weeks with contact," Kremcheck told MLB.com. "The problem is you don't want him to get back to contact or pitching too soon, because just in case another accident or some type of collision happens or a baseball hits him again."
As it stands, Chapman could be back and throwing off flat ground in two to three weeks before progressing to a mound around the six-week mark in a best-case scenario. In the meantime, the Reds will scramble to find a suitable replacement among the internal candidates.
When healthy, the Reds have no shortage of candidates. Jonathan Broxton saved 27 games as recently as 2012. That same year, Sean Marshall closed nine games for the Reds. But neither player is likely an option for the team, at least in the early going, as Broxton just recently made his first spring appearance after August surgery to repair a torn flexor mass tendon and Marshall has been bothered by shoulder tendinitis this spring. It's possible that Broxton and Marshall are ready to go by Opening Day, but if not, the best bet is J.J. Hoover, another hard-throwing reliever.
Instead of trying to guess, the best option may just be to wait and see how Reds manager Bryan Price handles the first few save opportunities of the regular season before rostering any of them.
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Iglesias' Season In Doubt
Speaking of bad news, the Tigers confirmed a devastating injury that was reported over the weekend.
It came out Saturday that Jose Iglesias would miss most of the 2014 season due to shin injuries. The team said as much Thursday, confirming that the shortstop is dealing with stress fractures in both of his shins. He'll miss at least five months, and the realistic expectation is that he won't play at all this year.
In the days since Iglesias' injury was reported, Tigers general manager Dave Dombrowski has expressed a desire to replace the 24-year-old with in-house candidates. That's nice in theory, but the Tigers lack a true backup or a top prospect to fill the position and their best option, Hernan Perez, is hitting just .200/.231/.286 in 35 at-bats this spring. In 71 plate appearances with the Tigers last season, Perez slashed an even worse .197/.217/.227.
The better option for the team with World Series aspirations seems to be going outside the organization for a replacement. A one-year pillow deal with Stephen Drew would seem to make sense, but so far the team has bristled at the idea of surrendering a draft pick to sign Drew.
Another avenue is via trade. The Mariners are fielding calls on offense-first shortstop Nick Franklin, and Didi Gregorius seems to be the odd man out with the Diamondbacks. Pete Kozma, a light-hitting shortstop with stellar defense like Iglesias, could also be available, as he seems like a long shot to break camp with the Cardinals. With just over a week before camp ends, the Tigers' Opening Day shortstop should become clearer in the coming days.
X-Rays Negative On Ellsbury
Now, for some good news.
An MRI on Jacoby Ellsbury's sore right calf came back negative Thursday, lending credence to the idea that the center fielder will be back in the lineup sooner than later.
Ellsbury has been sidelined since Sunday after feeling some tightness in the calf. He has been working out, though, and the club is hopeful he'll be able to return to game action over the weekend. Ellsbury has over a week to get himself healthy and back in the lineup, though, so even if it isn't Saturday or Sunday it shouldn't be something that keeps Ellsbury from making his Yankees debut on Opening Day.
Puig, Turner Among Opening Night Headliners
The Dodgers and Diamondbacks are two teams that don't have the luxury of waiting another week for injuries and position battles to work themselves out.
The Dodgers' lineup for Opening Night was released on Thursday, and it starts with Yasiel Puig. Puig batted leadoff 27 times last season, posting a .333/.409/.618 line with eight home runs and three stolen bases. Although it sounds promising, Puig is hitting ahead of a lineup that includes Justin Turner at second base and Scott Van Slyke in left field.
Turner's inclusion in the opening lineup is the most surprising. The 29-year-old was generally an afterthought in a position battle that featured $28 million international signee Alex Guerrero and speedster Dee Gordon. Neither Gordon nor Guerrero impressed in spring, though, opening the door for the underwhelming Turner to walk through. It's hard to imagine Turner holding onto the gig all season -- or all month, for that matter -- but he's an NL-only option while it lasts.