The countdown is now at six days until the Red Sox open up their highly anticipated 2016 campaign.They are finalizing their roster and four players are officially on the opening day disabled list. While you never want to see anyone start off your season on the DL, we are lucky the timetables of the injured shouldn’t be too long. Let’s take a closer look at what this means for the 2016 Red Sox in the early months or longer down the road.
One of the most anticipated players who will officially find himself on the disabled list to begin the season is the lefty starter, Eduardo Rodriguez. He has been sidelined with a right patellar subluxation (some type of knee cap injury) after awkwardly turning on his landing foot during a February 27th workout at Jet Blue Park. Since then he has been throwing and is making a steady recovery but the Sox do not want to rush his return. Rodriguez should find his way back into the rotation by the end of April, but who is going to be the pitcher to step up and fill his role? As of now, Henry Owens, Roenis Elias, and knuckleballer, Steven Wright are the leading candidates to be his stand in.
The next player who has found his way on the disabled list is one of the Red Sox’s big acquisitions of the offseason, Carson Smith. Smith’s injury is a little bit more concerning. After an MRI revealed that Smith had suffered a strained flexor mass muscle in his throwing arm, there is an uncertainty of his return. The dominant pitcher is known for his impressive strikeout and his groundball inducing tendencies with an 11.7 k/9 and a 67 percent ground ball rate for his career, as well as a 2.07 ERA, and a .970 WHIP. This injury will hurt the early portion of the Red Sox season as now the Sox have one less valuable arm in the bullpen, potentially making the coaching staff think twice about pulling one of the starters early. On top of the dominancy of Smith, he was needed to effectively distribute innings between Koji Uehara and Junichi Tazawa. Uehara is soon to be 41 years old and Tazawa, over the past couple seasons, has been overworked. Do we now need to ask our starters to go deeper into games for the time being or can the Sox find a strong replacement for the foreseeable future? As of now, the strongest candidate is hard throwing Matt Barnes who has shown a strong spring. Also, Noe Ramirez can potentially help eat up some early season innings. However, the absence of Smith will be felt until his return.
The two other players who make up the disabled list were both victims of Tommy John surgery. Brandon Workman missed the 2015 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery in June. He may not be back until the end of the season, when he is expected to finally finish his recovery process. The other player is the greatly talented catcher Christian Vazquez. He was expected to fight for playing time with Blake Swihart and Ryan Hannigan. However, for now that will have to wait. He has been playing all spring but isn’t completely back to being fully healthy, so he will start the season on the DL before he finds himself making rehab starts in Pawtucket. Both players will be missed, however with both not being on top of the depth chart we won’t find ourselves in a panic without them…for now.
In terms of their disabled list, the Sox can be somewhat optimistic to start the season. There is only one long-term injury and three relatively short terms, so it could be worse. Fortunately, Rodriguez should be back within a few weeks, and hopefully Smith just needs a little time to heal his strain instead of something more serious.