It's been a painful last seven days in Major League Baseball, if not in the number of injuries then certainly in their severity and impact to contending teams. From Sunday to Sunday, in fact, multiple teams saw their roads to the postseason get considerably rockier much earlier in the season than they would have liked.
Jered Weaver got the misfortune started a week ago Sunday for his Angels, landing awkwardly on his non-throwing arm when trying to stop a fall off the mound and fracturing his left elbow in the process. That landed him on the 15-day disabled list and landed Garrett Richards one more shot in a major league rotation. Richards didn't have the worst start in the world this week when he took Weaver's spot for the first time -- 6.1 IP, 4ER, 3BB, 1K, got the win -- but that was against the Houston Astros; the competition's only getting harder from here, and those peripheral numbers are ugly.
The good news is that the Angels had fairly putrid pitching across the board last year and were still successful. The bad news is that they still had a healthy, good Jered Weaver all year and a 20-year-old having one of the best seasons of all time. Neither of those look likely to repeat themselves so far, but the Angels had a notoriously slow start in 2012 as well.
Things were somewhat quiet during the early part of the week, then Thursday night into early Friday morning, well, you've seen the replays of Carlos Quentin versus Zack Greinke. It's unclear precisely when the Dodgers' new top-of-the-rotation starter broke his left collarbone -- in the ill-advised bull charge, or in the scrum beneath Quentin when the miscreant outfielder dragged him to the ground -- but break it he did, and Greinke will miss a substantial amount of time in a season where he'd already had tentative throwing-elbow problems to start the year. While collarbone injuries don't usually take too long to come back from, considering they involve fractures, the possibility of him overthrowing or compensating for the collarbone injury during his rehab and consequently hurting his throwing elbow even worse does loom rather large.
The Dodgers will replace Greinke with Chris Capuano in the rotation, which is a huge step down in terms of quality but not as bad as putting, oh, Garrett Richards out there every fifth day. This is an injury the Dodgers are going to be seeing red about for a long time, but it shouldn't affect their ability to contend too much unless there's a setback.
Then they came fast and furious: on Friday, the Toronto Blue Jays, already reeling from a terrible start to the season from their pitching staff, lost one of the few lights of their young campaign, Jose Reyes, to an absolutely brutal-looking ankle injury during a slide (helping prove that while sliding into a base headfirst can lead to bad things -- ask Brian Roberts and Ryan Ludwick -- it's not as if going in feet first is entirely safe either). Reyes had to be carted off the field and spent the rest of the weekend on crutches in the dugout. After an MRI, it was clarified by the team that the franchise shortstop had a severe sprain, not a break, which is actually worse for a player in terms of recovery time.
In response, the Jays are starting to play around with the idea of putting Brett Lawrie back at second base, Bautista at third, and some combination of Casper Wells/Emilio Bonifacio/generic Triple A player in right field, which seems like a heinous overreaction to a problem that would likely be better solved by just sucking it up at putting Izturis at short until Reyes is ready to return. However, the Jays did just claim Wells off waivers, and this would be a way to get him in the lineup. Whatever route Toronto takes, this makes the Jays' bad start even worse, and even the most optimistic preseason fans of the Jays (i.e., myself) have to start thinking about backing off of them for the division crown. There's still a lot of time to turn it around, of course.
That same night, Oakland Athletics outfielder Yoenis Cespedes also landed himself on the DL. He hurt himself on an awkward slide as well, though in this instance the result was a substantially less gruesome hand injury. He won't be out as long as any of the other guys on this list unless things go really poorly for him while rehabbing -- Cespedes just strained a muscle in his hand, and manager Bob Melvin is hopeful he'll return after the minimum 15 days -- but it comes at a particularly bad time, as teammate Coco Crisp hurt himself that night as well, sapping the deep Oakland outfield and making them particularly glad they have Chris Young hanging out on the bench. Crisp, luckily, is day to day; Oakland's cooled off a bit since their extra-innings win on Friday, but this shouldn't be much more than a slight bump in the road for them.
Last but not least, the Cincinnati Reds had to pull Johnny Cueto from his start on Saturday with pain in the triceps of his throwing arm, which morphed over the next 24 hours into a strained lat muscle and a trip to the disabled list. With that, the Reds run into early DL trouble with their starting rotation, which didn't miss a single start due to injury all of last season. Depending on how long Cueto will be out, he could be replaced by either Sam LeCure in the short term or a prospect (or Triple A journeyman) from the minors if the strain is worse than anticipated. The situation there will become clearer as we move into next week, but considering how good Cueto is and how important he was to this rotation last year, there is obviously not going to be a replacement for him that delivers the value he does once every five days.
That doesn't cover all the injuries across the league in these unfortunate last seven days -- Steve Clevenger suffered a noticeably icky abdominal injury while striking out, Giancarlo Stanton is trying to avoid the DL for his bruised shoulder -- but all five of the above players are substantial contributors to their teams, and losing any one of them long term could change the division races, let alone the lot of them. Hopefully next week will bode better for ankles, elbows and arms across the league.