Spring Training Injuries Happen

In what can only be described as a cruel joke from a sardonic deity, Placido Polanco became the latest Phillie to visit the team trainer. Todd Zolecki reports:

Polanco left [yesterday’s] Grapefruit League game against the Toronto Blue Jays because of a hyperextended left elbow. He had surgery on the same elbow Oct. 29 to remove bone fragments and repair the extensor tendon.

“It’s right where I had the surgery, but it’s nothing bad,” he said. “I’ve had it before. I’ve had it a million times. But the fact that I had surgery in that elbow, we’re being safe. We’re playing it very safe. We’ll see how it feels tomorrow and the next day, take it a day at a time.”

Without Polanco and Chase Utley, the Phillies have an infield comprised of Ryan Howard, Jimmy Rollins, Wilson Valdez, and a to-be-determined fourth wheel. Understandably, this has Phillies fans worried, but there are still two weeks left in spring training. Pessimists will say that it is simply two more weeks in which the aging Phillies can get injured, but the reality is that every team has players that collect bumps and bruises and suffer sprains and strains during spring training. Few of the injuries are season-threatening.

As an example, take the spring training injuries over the past two years in Phillies camp:

Player Year ST Days Injury
Lidge 2010 39 Right elbow recovery
Victorino 2010 8 Right shoulder soreness
Utley 2010 7 Virus
Polanco 2010 5 Right knee strain
Ibanez 2010 3 Elbow Contusion
Ruiz 2010 2 Left arm contusion
Hamels 2009 25 Left elbow inflammation
Lidge 2009 10 Right forearm tightness
Dobbs 2009 9 Right thigh strain
Durbin 2009 9 Right thigh soreness
Park 2009 9 Left thigh soreness
Werth 2009 8 Right shoulder strain (6),
Right groin strain (2)
Eyre 2009 4 Right forearm tightness
Ruiz 2009 3 Neck strain
Rollins 2009 1 Lower back soreness

(Data courtesy Corey Dawkins’ Baseball Injury Tool)

With the exception of Brad Lidge and Cole Hamels, none of the injuries led to future injuries and significant time missed, or were a direct correlate to terrible on-field performance. By and large, when you scan over that list, you can’t find any injuries where you say, “Yep, that was the beginning of the end.”

That’s not to say that Utley’s patellar tendinitis isn’t worrisome, or that Lidge’s biceps tendinitis isn’t a harbinger of things to come. Those injuries are by no means good news. However, we have these scares multiple times every year and most of them turn out to be rather meaningless. The real problem here is that the Phillies have an image problem: they are viewed as old and fragile, and any spring training nicks and scratches will reinforce that belief — confirmation bias.

Spring training, like the first month of the regular season, does not lend itself well to legitimate analysis. Players are far too prone to wild swings of good and bad luck both in terms of health and performance. Don’t fret too much over the Phillies’ current health woes. Besides, it’s bad for your health!


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