Recent injuries to the Nationals rotation can be dealt with, but where will the offensive production come from if players like Michael Morse and Adam LaRoche are unable to start Opening Day?
If I am a player in the fold and I wake up in my hotel in sunny Florida one morning, take in some continental breakfast, and then head out to Space Coast Stadium to suit up for workouts and find that overnight Nady's locker had been placed next to mine, I would probably start screaming and run madly from the locker room and in front of a truck moving down Stadium Parkway. Again, nothing against Nady, who is a serviceable player in his own right-- when healthy.
Nady was signed on Sunday to a minor league deal as an insurance policy in case first baseman Adam LaRoche (shoulder, foot) and/or Michael Morse (strained lat muscle) will not be able to get over their injuries before Opening Day. Neither man will be playing in any Grapefruit League action for at least another week and man, do the Nationals need these guys to be healthy and ready. It is safe to assume two things from the Nady signing: that the organization is truly worried about Morse and LaRoche (even though both players say they will be ready by Opening Day) and that there isn't anyone ready to come down the pipe and fill in for them until they are ready.
Prospect Tyler Moore has some pop, but he just isn't there yet. Normally Chris Marrero would be the guy to put at first base, but he himself is dealing with a major injury that threatens to keep him out until at least the All-Star Break. Marrero has started taking lightly hit ground balls, but he has a long way to go to recover from hamstring surgery. Injuries have been an ominous theme moving through Nats Spring Training camp this year, silent but deadly. "When healthy" has the potential to derail many fans and organizations' dreams of a fruitful 2012 campaign, and the team hasn't even gotten out of Viera yet.
Morse, LaRoche and Marrero are only three players that have been bitten by the injury bug. A good majority of the projected starting roster is already either nursing injuries or have already had injuries that caused them to miss some time. Jayson Werth, Rick Ankiel, Roger Bernadina, Wilson Ramos and Bryce Harper have all experienced them already. More recently, pitcher Chien-Ming Wang messed up his hamstring on a play at first base against the Yankees. Wang was projected to be the Nationals' fifth starter, but now will have to miss at least a couple of weeks to heal. Back up catcher Jesus Flores recently got hit in the, ahem, man region by a foul ball and knowing his history with injuries, I am surprised he isn't wrapped like a mummy from the waist down and in a wheelchair.
Am I missing anyone else? Probably. There seems to be some sort of epidemic of injury going on down in Viera right now that people want to ignore or are just too frightened to point out. It is like the ghosts of Shawn Hill and Alex Escobar have come back to haunt the team. It is an absolute imperative these guys remain healthy, especially the guys that are going to comprise the Nationals line-up. A line-up that consistently contains Nady and Mark DeRosa isn't probably what the Nationals or their fans had in mind when talking about the potential glory of the 2012 season.
Believe it or not, the Nationals can survive Wang's injury pretty easily due to their depth of starters. John Lannan or Ross Detwiler can fill in, or if they get truly desperate they can give Tom Gorzelanny a try again, but I would highly urge them to avoid unleashing the Gorzodon if they can. Gives up too many home runs. The concern comes with the line up. Where is the depth? Who is going to come in and give the team the offensive pop it will desperately need to be successful? Looking over the roster, I am not completely sure myself.
Harper is the Nats' wild card and many were hoping for a big Spring from him and for him to break camp with the team, but General Manager Mike Rizzo squashed any pipe dreams of that happening. Harper was part of Sunday's cuts and will be sent to Triple-A Syracuse to learn the center field position and how to hit lefties. I have no beef with the decision. It was the right one. The team would have been absolutely insane to unleash him in the bigs unseasoned and unready. But now the Nats are short another option and if you think they are going to start Harper's FA Clock a moment earlier because someone has a boo-boo, think again.
Right now, you can probably pass this all off as the wear-and-tear of getting back into it after a long off season, but if the injuries keep piling up, it is going to be a long 2012. At some point someone has to take a look at or point the finger at the Nationals strength and conditioning program and their medical team.
Despite all the injuries, excitement for the upcoming season is at a fever pitch and- when healthy- this team has the great potential of working magic in Washington. The only question is when does "when healthy" become a reality?