It’s been a rough year. The Royals play on the field hasn’t been great, but they’ve also been struck by the injury bug. As a result, the Royals opened the year without their franchise catcher, their closer of the last four and a half years, a key starter and have seen injuries befall their most talented young starter, two of their second basemen, their prospective everyday center fielder and other players, mostly pitchers.
Again, it’s been a rough year.
Danny Duffy, Joakim Soria and Blake Wood are done for the year. Tommy John surgery has claimed all three. Felipe Paulino hit the DL after an awkward landing while fielding an infield grounder. Salvador Perez and Manuel Pina both had meniscus surgeries in spring training. Lorenzo Cain hasn’t played two full series after straining his groin, then having the ailment re-diagnosed as a hip flexor and having two rehab stints aborted.
Thankfully, though, the Royals are starting to see some players return.
On Tuesday, Chris Getz returned from a rib injury to join the club in time for their first game against Milwaukee. Everett Teaford had an abdominal strain that had him rehabbing in Omaha until today. He was activated today – and then optioned to Omaha. But hey, he’s healthy.
Jonathan Sanchez ran into bicep tendinitis and has been on the disabled list for a while, but he was announced as tomorrow’s starting pitcher. He’s struggled in 2012, but perhaps some of the problem has been his health (though maybe that’s just wishful thinking).
Cain has had a rocky recovery after a great play in Oakland. What was thought to be a minor injury has now kept Cain off the shelf for almost half the year, and there’s no timetable for his return yet. The Royals have mostly used Jarrod Dyson in center, but he’s been in a big slump over the last month and is only now showing signs of coming out of it. He’s made plays in center, but at times he’ll play more shallow and doesn’t take good routes to the ball and his speed isn’t enough to make up the difference. Mitch Maier is better at defensive routes to the ball, but his speed is nowhere near Dyson’s. Cain (when healthy) can be the best of both with upside at the plate. He just has to be on the field to show it.
The biggest injuries have been behind the plate. Manuel Pina and Salvador Perez have been recovering from meniscus surgery but are close to returning. The impact of the Perez injury has been felt in a few ways within the organization. First, the Royals had to trade for Humberto Quintero to fill the gap, giving up two players to bring he and Jason Bourgeois into the fold. Secondly, they’ve had to play Quintero, who makes an out nearly three of every four plate appearances. A healthy Perez would have left Quintero and Brayan Pena in a backup role, giving their at bats to a player the Royals think has more promise at the plate, and who plays better defense and who pitchers love throwing to.
Defensively, both catchers have held their own, but it will be great to get Perez back. The actual date varies, as the Royals want to see him be able to catch on consecutive days without issue, but Perez will be back anywhere from next week to the end of June. Pina had a setback while running, but could come back before the end of the year.
While in Omaha, Perez has 12 hits in 27 at bats and drove in three runs in each of his last two games. Whenever he’s ready, he’ll be a welcome addition to the Royals lineup.
If Sanchez can return with any effectiveness, Getz returns to his solid April form and Cain can finally get back, adding Perez to that group of the recovered could make the second half of 2012 interesting for the Royals. They won’t be at full strength, since Paulino may need some time to heal fully and Duffy won’t be back until next year at the earliest, but they’ll be closer to where they thought they might be before the season started.
Last year, the Royals were remarkably healthy, with only a handful of players hitting the disabled list all season. Fortune has flipped on them in 2012, and they’re only now starting to recover from it. But they are recovering. That’s the important part.