As Justin pointed out yesterday, Joe Wieland has been placed on the Disabled List due to an elbow injury. When I read the news of Wieland’s arm issue, I simply threw my hands up in the air in an exasperated manner and simply uttered, “Well, that’s just (bleepin) cracker jack! How many more (bleepin) starters are primed to go down?! There’s going to be nobody left by the All-Star Break, let alone Memorial Day Weekend at the end of the month!”
I am sure most of you readers did not use as dirty language as I did upon hearing the news, and likely acted in a more composed manner, but I am sure you felt the same way I did about Wieland being shelved. Furthermore, I am sure that you have become just as frustrated as I have because of the numbers of other injuries and issues which have affected San Diego’s starters over the last month and a half.
Frustration Over Injuries
As I alluded to in a previous article in the middle of Spring Training, it appeared that San Diego’s projected starting rotation had the makings of a real “diamond in the rough” unit. Sure, there was not an “Ace” in the group, but from top to bottom, the Padres looked like they were at least in decent shape. Especially in what appeared to be a weaker Division from an Offensive perspective.
Steady Tim Stauffer would lead the group and was primed to build off of two seasons where he showed real improvement and was able to stay healthy. Cory Luebke appeared ready for a breakout season as he entered his first full season as a starter. Recently acquired Edinson Volquez was in a perfect situation for a career Renaissance at spacious Petco, and looked to recapture the magic which made him one of the League’s best starters only a few short seasons ago. Clayton Richard, who enjoyed a solid end to the 2009 season and had a terrific 2010 campaign was healthy again and looked ready to continue producing. Lastly, Dustin Moseley looked to round out the rotation after posting a solid 3.30 ERA during the 2011 season.
Unfortunately for the Padres, only two of these players still remain on San Diego’s starting staff. Granted, it will become three when Stauffer returns from his Disabled List (shoulder) stint against Philadelphia this weekend to make his season debut. However, nothing has appeared to go right as Padres’ starters have been sent to Disabled List on what seems like a weekly basis.
Injuries Hurting Continuity
The first starter (after Stauffer) to go down was Moseley. After missing the end of 2011 with a shoulder injury, Moseley went down again and will likely miss the rest of the 2012 season as well. If losing Moseley was not enough, Luebke, who was enjoying a terrific season, was placed on the Disabled List with an elbow ailment after him. Probably the worst part about losing Luebke was the fact that he appeared to be “turning the corner” this year, and appeared primed to assume the #1 spot in the rotation. At 3-1 with a 2.61 ERA and 23 to 8 Strike Out to Walk ratio in 31.0 Innings, the loss of Luebke was huge.
Granted I am a bit of a homer, but I do have to be honest here in regards to the injuries. In my opinion, it is highly likely that if all five of the projected starters stayed healthy that San Diego would still have a losing record at this point in the season. Nevertheless, the injuries which have rocked this staff have forced others with little to no starting experience and veterans that were out of baseball last year into a makeshift rotation. And when you combine a make-shift and unproven rotation with a lineup that can barely buy a run, only bad can come out of the situation.
Anthony Bass was slated to be the spot starter and share long middle relief outings with the now injured Micah Owings. While Bass figures to be a staple in the Padres’ starting rotation later on, he had started only 3 big league games total entering 2012. To his credit, Bass has looked good as of late, but he is still 1-4 and is only now beginning to become more consistent on the mound.
The previously mentioned Joe Wieland was the Padres top Pitching Prospect when the 2012 campaign began, and was assumed to join the club later this season. Yet because of the injuries, Wieland was rushed to the big leagues after beginning the season by making his debut at the Triple-A level. While Wieland appeared to improve over his 5 big league starts, he still went 0-4 with a 4.55 ERA and still appears to need more seasoning in the minors.
Veteran Jeff Suppan, a 37-year old who was out of the big leagues in 2011 has been starting for San Diego for the last two weeks. Kudos to Suppan for putting up some decent stats (2-0, 0.90 ERA in 10.0 Innings pitched) and pitching well enough in his first two starts. Yet when your team is looking to players of Suppan’s age to win ballgames on a non-spot starting basis, and only do 5.0 Innings of work per start you might have a problem with depth over the long haul of a season.
I am honestly not sure where the Padres can go from here. At this rate, we could see prospects Robbie Erlin and Casey Kelly taking the hill at Petco much sooner than expected. Sure, with this club the more experience for the younger and more talented players the better, but hopefully Erlin and Kelly do not suffer the same fate as Wieland did: shelled early and promoted before their time. How the Padres’ staff can recover from the injuries and perform, I have no idea, and Friar Fans everywhere could be in for an extremely long summer. Volquez and Richard must help to pick up the slack, and hopefully Stauffer can deliver some strong outings. At this point though, San Diego cannot afford to have anymore starters go down, because they are running out of capable arms.