With less than a week until opening day, now is the time baseball players start ramping up for the start of the season as spring training winds to a close. Unfortunately, there are a few players who may not be with their teams on opening day after suffering an injury late in spring or coming back from offseason surgery. Let’s take a look at some of the impact players who are hoping to return from injury without missing too much of the regular season.
Michael Brantley, Indians
Brantley has had all kind of trouble staying healthy the last few years. But when he’s been healthy, he’s performed at an all-star level. With Cleveland losing Edwin Encarnacion last offseason and Carlos Santana this past offseason, the Indians need Brantley to be healthy and take on a prominent role in their lineup. Unfortunately, he only made his spring debut on Wednesday after coming back from ankle surgery in October. He’d like to be ready by opening day, but that may not be a realistic timeline considering his recent problems with injuries.
Michael Conforto, Mets
Conforto was arguably New York’s best player last season before a freak shoulder injury ended his season early. He’s only recently started playing in minor league games and is yet to play in an official spring training game. However, Conforto launched two home runs during a scrimmage on Wednesday, so he appears to be fully recovered and ready to pick up where he lost last year when he posted an OPS of .939. The Mets originally set a target date of May 1 for Conforto’s return, but now it looks like there’s a chance he could return before then, which could be a huge boost for the Mets.
Daniel Murphy, Nationals
Murphy, one of Washington’s most impactful players, underwent micro-fracture surgery on his knee during the offseason. He’s only recently started to increase his level of baseball activities, so opening day is all but off the table for Murphy. Considering how important he is to the team, the Nationals may not want to rush him back. Murphy himself has indicated he doesn’t want to come back if it means taking frequent days off once the season starts. The Nationals will no doubt miss him early in the season, but they do have veteran Howie Kendrick to hold down the fort at second base until Murphy is ready to return.
Ervin Santana, Twins
Santana underwent surgery on the middle finger on his pitching hand in early February, at which point he was given a 10-12 week timetable to return. Roughly eight weeks later, Santana still isn’t throwing, so while the Twins remain optimistic and say that Santana is on the right track, there’s little chance he pitches in a big league game before May. Last season, a month without Santana would have crushed the Twins. However, after adding Jake Odorizzi and Lance Lynn over the winter, the Twins are still in good shape at the top of their rotation. Of course, the Twins have little margin for error this season if they want to catch up to the Indians in the NL Central, so the longer they go without Santana, the longer their postseason chances become.
Justin Turner, Dodgers
Turner suffered a broken wrist when he was hit by a pitch during a Cactus League game Monday night. The good news is that he won’t need surgery, but he’s still going to start the season on the DL and be out several weeks. Considering their lack of infield depth and Turner’s steady production over the last few years, he’s one of the players the Dodgers could least afford to lose. For the time being, Logan Forsythe will shift to third base with the aging Chase Utley getting most of the playing time at second base. However, Turner’s absence will be felt, and teams like the Diamondbacks, Giants, and Rockies may see this as an opportunity to get out ahead of Los Angeles early in the season and shake up the pecking order in the NL West.