Can KC Count on Cain?


KC is counting on a healthy Cain in 2013. Mandatory Credit: John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports

“Not again,” seems to be the loudest groan heard from Royals fans via the internet. We are barely into spring training, and Lorenzo Cain, 2012’s oft-injured center fielder, is already hurt again.

Fans are worried with somewhat good reason, as Cain’s first full season (well, not if you count all the injuries) in KC saw him injured, re-injured, and injured yet again in 2012. This wasn’t the introduction to Royals fans Cain had hoped for, and has resulted in a reputation as an injury prone player. Fairly or not, fans have labeled him and are already starting to pile on.

Has Cain earned his new “paper doll” reputation? It would appear, from his history in pro ball, that he has not. Looking back over his career (mostly in the minor leagues) it seems Cain has been a pretty sturdy, reliable player. In 2006, he had 603 plate appearances, followed by seasons with 533 and 550 trips to the plate in 2007 and 2008. The first drop in playing time for Cain came the following year, as he only tallied 232 PA in 60 games. In 2010, he was back on track playing 84 games while splitting time in AA and AAA, then playing another 43 for the Brewers after a promotion to the big leagues.

The following winter, Cain was traded to Kansas City as part of the Zack Greinke deal. He spent 2011 in Omaha and managed to play 128 games and getting to the plate 549 times that season (adding another 23 PA in 6 games for the Royals that year).

This track record shows that over the course of seven professional seasons, Cain only missed significant time once (2009). But, for most fans, what they see is what they believe. The average fan doesn’t know, and doesn’t care, what Cain did in the past. Their introduction to Cain came in 2012, and it wasn’t pretty. Groin, hamstring, and hip injuries kept Cain out of commission for the better part of the season, as he only managed to play 61 games. Starting off 2013 with an injury (no matter how minor) is going to send up a red flag.

Jarrod Dyson – Plan B. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Should fans be worried, though? Should Cain be stamped “fragile”? Honestly…it’s hard to say. There are guys in every sport who seem to have a knack for hurting themselves. I have a feeling in this case, though, judging from what I’ve seen reported, this latest injury to the hand is nothing to lose sleep over. Just a bit of bad luck that happened to – let’s face it – the last guy on this roster who needed yet another injury. Another bit of bad luck that gives fans reason to be skeptical.

I’m going to hold off on judgment at this point. Cain’s history is that of a pretty durable outfielder. His 2012 string of injuries were to his legs. This latest injury (if we can really call it that, at this point) is to his hand. While I’d prefer not to have to address an injury at all, at least it’s not a re-injury of something from last year. Seems to me it’s just a bit of bad luck. Let’s hope so…because Cain looks much better roaming center field than he does as a name on the disabled list. Just in case, though, let’s hope Jarrod Dyson is ready to play some ball.