In January 2015, the team with the most significant injury concern was Detroit, with Miguel Cabrera recovering from complicated ankle surgery and Victor Martinez coming back from knee trouble. Cabrera’s rehabilitation continued relatively seamlessly, with the first baseman working hard to keep weight off while his aerobic activity was limited, and he was in the Opening Day lineup, with Martinez.
It was quickly evident that when batting left-handed, the switch-hitting Martinez was at less than full strength at the outset of the season, and his knee issue continued through a lot of the year, until he finally went on the disabled list. In 120 games, Martinez batted .245, with a .301 on-base percentage.
Cabrera batted .338, but was limited to 119 games after he suffered a serious calf strain. Nobody could ever know for sure whether that problem was somehow related to the fact that he wasn’t able to go through a typical winter of preparation, but the bottom line was that the best right-handed hitter in the world was not available for about a quarter of the season to the Tigers, who finished last in the AL Central.
The cautionary tale to be drawn from Detroit’s experience of 2015 could be that with every injury and the rehabilitation that follows, there is a distinct crossroad, which is why the best executives never assume that anything is guaranteed with a recovering player.
With that in mind, here are some injury updates, with the start of spring training about a month away.
• Mets pitcher Zack Wheeler, who had Tommy John surgery on his pitching elbow in March: The Mets feel they learned from the conservative, extended path Matt Harvey took as he recovered successfully from his elbow reconstruction, so they will take their time with Wheeler. By the time the team breaks from camp at the end of March, Wheeler still will not have pitched in any games, in all likelihood. At the very least, the Mets want there to be a 15-month recovery period. At the earliest, Wheeler will pitch in the big leagues sometime around midseason. The depth of the Mets’ rotation will allow the team to hold him back and make him take his time.