Oakland Athletics’ super utility man Ben Zobrist was placed on the 15-day disabled list Saturday, however it appears he’ll be out approximately four to six weeks.
He’ll have to undergo arthroscopic surgery to trim the torn cartilage that has been causing him pain since he hurt it sliding into second base on Sunday in Kansas City.
The A’s “jack of all trades” sat out three games and attempted to play through the pain on Friday night in the designated hitter position. It just didn’t work out. The hardest part wasn’t even getting out of the batters box, it was trying to swing.
Zobrist is very important to the A’s as he can play almost every position. He’s the quintessential utility man being able to play any infield or outfield position.
The only positions (that I know of) that Zobrist doesn’t play are pitcher and likely catcher. But the Athletics are all good in those positions with a healthy Stephen Vogt at catcher and Josh Phegley to back him up.
While the bullpen does seem to need a little help especially after last night’s crazy game (an account of which will be in my next post), it’s ok. The A’s have quite a bit of pitching depth in the minors, five quality starters and both Jarrod Parker and A.J. Griffin on the mend from Tommy John surgery. Both pitchers are expected back this season, with Parker returning possibly in late May.
And of course, there is always first baseman Ike Davis who proved Tuesday night that he could pitch and pitch quite well. He pitched a perfect inning, inducing three straight ground outs and throwing just nine pitches in the A’s 14-1 loss to the Los Angeles Angels.
However light I’m seeming to make of it, Zobrist’s injury is a blow to the Athletics. His absence, along with the absence of center fielder Coco Crisp, limits the way that manager Bob Melvin can configure his lineup. Crisp also underwent arthroscopic surgery on his elbow to remove bone spurs but his return is not imminent.
In Crisp’s absence Zobrist has been mainly playing in the outfield. Despite a good start by current second baseman Eric Sogard, Zobrist was really brought in to help fill a major hole that the A’s had in their middle infield in 2014.
The A’s were proactive signing outfielder Cody Ross last week and they also have Craig Gentry who can start in the outfield, however, neither of them can produce at the plate the way that Zobrist does. In fact, Gentry just got his first hit of the season in Friday night’s game.
So the A’s need Zobrist not only in the field but at the plate. After DHing on Friday Zobrist decided that surgery would be his best option in order to help the team later on down the stretch.
“I’m disappointed. I just didn’t feel like I could be the player that this team needs me to be in the condition I was trying to play in,” Zobrist said. “So I got to get it cleaned up and get back out here as soon as possible.”
Melvin agreed with Zobrist’s decision not to continue to play at what would have been far less than 100 percent.
“We brought him in here for a reason,” Melvin said. “He’s a significant factor for us. Depending on the timetable we’ll get him back for most of the season. These are things that you have to deal with over the course of a season.”
In my eyes, it’s a crappy hand to be dealt if you’re on the A’s or even an A’s fan but at the same time they are handling it the right way. There is no need to let the injury worsen and Zobrist’s level of play diminish and still need surgery in the end.
I feel the same way about players who tear their UCL and don’t get Tommy John surgery, the New York Yankees’ Masahiro Tanaka being the most recent to go with rest and rehab instead. But I would bet that he’ll end up needing surgery.
He’s playing half injured and that’s never good. Using Tanaka as an example, his velocity is down and he is not as effective as he was during the first half of 2014.
Better for Zobrist to lose six weeks now then play for six weeks at 50 percent and then still end up missing a significant amount of time. It’s better that way for all involved – for the team, for Zobrist, for the fans even. It was the mature and professional decision to make.
The A’s also purchased the contract of infielder Max Muncy from Triple-A Nashville. Muncy just got his fist major league hit during the seventh inning of the A’s and Astros game. The Astros are currently winning the game by a score of 8-3 going with two outs in the bottom of the seventh inning.