The San Diego Padres suffered a blow this week that might derail their quest for a winning season. Injuries are a part of baseball, but the Padres already have suffered two to key offensive players. While having an apparently strong pitching staff, the Padres will be as good as their offensive production is.
Even before Spring Training games began, their offensive star, Chase Headley, strained a calf muscle. He should have enough time after the muscle heals to prepare for the season opener against the Los Angeles Dodgers on March 30. However, Headley's latest injury delivered a psychological blow to the team.
Headley was an MVP candidate after the 2012 season, and the budget-minded Padres rewarded him with a one-year, $10.5 million contract. Last spring a pitch broke his thumb, delaying his beginning of the season. He couldn't duplicate his offensive statistics, which hurt the Padres' chances of having a winning record in 2013.
After having a minor arthroscopic knee surgery during the offseason, Headley declared himself healthy just before straining his calf. Though he shouldn't miss more than one week of Cactus League games, he probably needs the entire Spring Training to perfect his swing, which was altered last season with the broken thumb.
On Sunday, center fielder Cameron Maybin made a diving catch against the Dodgers. While making the catch, he ruptured the biceps tendon.
The Padres will be without their center fielder for two or three months. Despite having Will Venable able to play center field, losing Maybin hurts the team's competitiveness. Maybin, who came from the Marlins in a trade after the 2010 season, should have given the Padres a speedy hitter who can cover vast territory in center field.
The ability to manufacture runs for the Padres is crucial. Playing half of their games at Petco Park, where fly balls go to die, the Padres must not rely on home runs to score. They must be aggressive on the basepaths and have a leadoff hitter who can reach base regularly. Maybin might not have had a good on-base percentage in the past, but at almost 27, he should understand the importance of getting on base frequently. The Padres are a reasonably young team, and Maybin should've brought a veteran presence and leadership that is desperately needed.
Venable was slated as the Padres' right fielder before Maybin got hurt. Although Venable arguably is a better player than Maybin, changing the outfield alignment is difficult and can weaken the team.
Another option for the Padres in center field is Alexi Amarista, who played 146 games last season but hit. 236. Entering his third Major League season, Amarista should have been on the bench for the Padres. The team needs depth to be more competitive, but every time an everyday player gets injured, it eats away at its depth.
Every baseball publication says the Padres have one of the best Minor League systems in baseball. These promising young players need time to have adequate instruction at the Minor League level before they can reach their potential at the Major League level. When the Padres suffer an injury, they must promote a Minor Leaguer to take a roster spot. This premature promotion can halt or slow down the process of shaping a player into a successful Major Leaguer.
Sarah D. Morris can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.