Pitchers and catchers officially reported Wednesday, and it did not take long for revelations of three significant arms for differing reasons to come down with injuries of some degree.
The injury trifecta hit the Texas Rangers with Jacob deGrom, the Nationals with Stephen Strasburg and the Yankees with Frankie Montas.
Wednesday began with the Rangers tweeting a picture of deGrom casually strolling to work. Soon after the send button was hit, the Rangers announced deGrom was being held out of the first spring training workout because of some tightness in his left side.
Often, tightness goes away but deGrom’s injury history is as extensive as his noted velocity and frequency of strikeouts, especially in recent years with the Mets. While speculation persists about whether deGrom wanted to remain in New York, the injury history of someone who turns 35 in June likely contributed to the Mets being willing to be outbid by the Rangers.
It seems the Rangers are being cautious given it was cooler than usual at their spring training facility in Arizona.
“Nothing major, but having him come in today with the weather conditions, I made the decision that we’re going to hold him off from throwing for a day or two until we can treat him and things return to normal,” said Texas GM Chris Young, who pitched for the Mets two years before deGrom debuted in 2014. “We wanted to make sure that we play things slowly.”
To review he missed the final three months of the 2021 season with a tight right forearm along with a sprained elbow. Last year, he was shut down due to a stress reaction in his right scapula and his season debut did not occur until Aug. 2 and deGrom appeared in 64 1/3 of the Mets’ 1,438 2/3 innings.
The word coming from those in charge for the Rangers seems to indicate the tightness is not a concern but if you’ve followed his injury history of late, it is not an unreasonable thought to think the pitcher Texas signed to a five-year, $185 million deal is on the way to more injury issues until proven otherwise.
At least deGrom pitched some last year as the Nationals cannot say the same against Stephen Strasburg, whose performance in 2019 netted him a seven-year, $245 million people. He was 18-6 with a 3.32 ERA in 33 starts and then won the MVP in the 2019 World Series when the Nationals capped a quirky series by winning all of their road games.
Since then, the Nationals have seen Strasburg throw 31 1/3 innings in eight starts while their championship team gets dismantled and turned into the second significant rebuilding session in team history. He endured carpal tunnel surgery during the pandemic 2020 season, had thoracic outlet syndrome in 2021 and then made one start spanning 4 2/3 innings last season.
Now the issue is a nerve-related setback in a recent bullpen, which seemed so significant Strasburg did not report when the Nationals opened camp Wednesday.
“I know how hard he’s worked,” Nationals manager Dave Martinez told reporters. “I tell him, ‘you put every effort to come to Spring Training, and I know that and I know how hard you work. You’ve just got to hopefully, stick to the process and go get checked out and see what’s going on.’ That’s all he can do right now.”
As for the Yankees, they opened camp in Tampa and the first few questions were not about whether Aaron Judge could duplicate hitting 62 homers or if they finally will close the deep gap between them and the Houston Astros.
Instead it was about Frankie Montas, whom Yankee fans learned will undergo right shoulder surgery next Tuesday. Now he will go from being out for the first month of the season to hopefully being back by the end of the season.
“He was building back up and just still wasn’t quite right,” Boone said. “Now we’ve gotten to the point where they’re going to go in and they’ll scope it. Best case is he would be back late in the season but we’re really going to know a lot after the 21st.”
Montas never seemed right last when he was 1-3 with a 6.35 ERA in eight starts after being obtained from Oakland for four players, including solid starting depth piece J.P. Sears and noted prospect Ken Waldichuk. It turned out by mid-September he was injured and wound up being shut down Sept. 16 due to inflammation and joining DJ LeMahieu and Andrew Benintendi as players unavailable to help the postseason cause.
“He had shoulder issues when he got to us,” Boone said. “I think with all these pitchers, you’re going to have this similar thing. That’s why, especially with shoulders, they don’t race into shoulder surgeries all the time. You treat these things, and sometimes these things lay dormant, sometimes they are asymptomatic, sometimes they become very symptomatic. For Frankie, it was just I think that nagging thing that didn’t allow him to continue to get over the hump.”
The news on Montas continued a recent run of mixed results with pitchers the Yankees acquired in trades before their free agency.
The Yankees acquired Sonny Gray two years before his free agency but after bouncing him from the rotation in 2018 they admitted he was available and eventually he thrived with the Cincinnati Reds and now the Minnesota Twins.
After the 2018 season, they obtained James Paxton, who gave them a career-high 15 wins in 2019 and three postseason starts. In the pandemic season, his velocity was notably down at the outset and his season ended after five innings and he has pitched 1 1/3 innings since while hoping to come back for the Red Sox.
The Montas’ injury created the prospect of extensive use of Domingo German and Clarke Schmidt in the fifth starter role. It also became the second Yankee injury this week after Nestor Cortes revealed he has a hamstring strain that will keep him out of the WBC but hopes to be fully ready by the regular season.
It remains to be seen how serious the deGrom and Strasburg injuries become but certainly are things to closely monitor given their extensive injury history. As for Montas, the fifth starter competition will enter the spotlight even more while the Yankees wait for the pitcher they opted for instead of Luis Castillo.