1:45 PM Eastern
In a departure from form from the previous administration, the Blue Jays sent out a release today actually volunteering information about player injuries. It’s true – they came out and told us about Edwin Encarnacion and Vernon Wells’ wrist surgeries without having been specifically asked “Are Encarnacion or Wells or both having surgery?” This is cool – glasnost under Alex Anthopoulos. Or is it perestroika? I’m going with glasnost, but either way, I like it.
So here’s the deal: Last Friday, Encarnacion had surgery on his left wrist – a large bone spur was shaved off his hamate bone. Wells will have surgery next week to repair cartilage damage in his left wrist. Both players are expected to be cleared for full activity prior to the start of Spring Training.
We knew that Encarnacion had broken his wrist in April, and that’s the kind of injury from which it can take a good, long while to recover. It seems as though the last thing to come back from such an injury is power, but Encarnacion hit seven homers from September 1st on, which augurs well. In fact, after most Jays fans were looking to ride him out of town on a rail after his first couple weeks, he wound up hitting .274/.364/.547 in Sept./Oct. That’s a .911 OPS that would have ranked second on the team over the full season, 73 points ahead of the third-place Lyle Overbay, behind only Adam Lind.
We knew that Wells needed a cortisone shot in his wrist prior to the season starting, but he wouldn’t admit to anything being wrong over the course what might have been his worst season in the majors (2007 will give it a good argument). Now we find out that the wrist was obviously bothering him, and he’s going to have it fixed. What does this mean? Well, at the very least, it should calm the people who believe that Wells’ 2009 production is the new normal regarding his future level of production.
Still, though, it’s troubling. This is two years in the last three that Wells has tried to play through injury “for the good of the team” while going out every day in a very important spot in the batting order and – for lack of a better word – sucking. Is it his fault? Doubtful. It’s very difficult to blame a player for not wanting to come out of the line-up if he’s physically able to play (never mind play well). It’s exceedingly rare to find a player who will step back and say “Not only am I not helping, but I’m hurting the team and embarrassing myself in the process. I have to ask out.” Don’t blame Wells for wanting his name written into the line-up everyday.
In 2007, the only reason we found out about Wells’ shoulder problems were because then-hitting coach Mickey Brantley spilled the beans in September. (By the way, how crazy is it that Brantley, who was fired two years and one month ago, is the Jays’ FOURTH-last hitting coach?) The Jays knew about Wells’ issues in 2007 – he was totally up-front with the team – so I’m assuming that they knew about his wrist issues this year as well. Yet in 2007 he missed just three games before being shut down for good in mid-September, and only made nine starts outside the top four spots in the batting order (and those were all hitting 5th). This past season, he only missed three games – and those were because of a stomach virus he had right after the all-star break – and all but eight of his starts came with him hitting 3rd, 4th or 5th.
At some point, Cito Gaston (and John Gibbons before him) has to be the grown-up, as it were, and tell Wells that he’s doing more harm than good trying to play in his condition and sit him down – or at least drop him to a far lower-leverage spot in the batting order until he gets healthy.
Gaston’s response to the batting order thing was always “if you’re not going well, you’ll come up in a big situation no matter where you’re hitting.” I guess there’s some anecdotal truth to that, but the real truth is that you can organize your line-up so that there’s a great chance that better hitters will come to the plate with opportunities to drive in runs.
Hopefully the surgery fixes whatever’s been wrong with Wells (though he’ll still have chronic hamstring issues to deal with), but if it doesn’t, here’s hoping we don’t spend another season banging our heads against a wall trying to figure out why Cito won’t drop a struggling Wells in the line-up, or give him the occasional day off or two.
Marc Rzepczynski was our Blue Jay A Day guest on the pre-game show last night, prior to A.J. Burnett’s lovely implosion, and he was terrific. Here’s his appearance, for your listening pleasure:
Also, it was pointed out to me that I owe you a rain-delay show from Saturday night. Here it is:
There won’t be a Blue Jay A Day Pre-Game Show prior to Game 6 on Wednesday, because locally in Toronto we’ll be joining the game in progress after the Raptors and Pistons, so if there’s a Game 7 (fingers crossed!), we’ll have our last guest for you then. Remember as well, the phone lines are open for the post-post-game every night, about 45-50 minutes after the last pitch.
Rational, reasonable comments are always welcome!