Friday, February 3, 2017

Twins Must Fix Injury Issues In 2017

Over the course of a 162 game season, it's incredibly inevitable that injuries are going to take place. The depth of even the strongest 40 man rosters are often tested in the game of baseball. While the Minnesota Twins have experienced their fair share, they've also been behind the eight ball far too often.

Just this last season three key examples of reactivity as a detriment come to mind for Minnesota, and one came to a head as Byungho Park was DFA'd by the new front office. Each of Trevor Plouffe, Alex Meyer, and Park were grossly mishandled (or so it would seem) by the Twins training staff a season ago.

Park, who was recently jettisoned off the 40 man roster to make room for recently acquired Matt Belisle, ended his rookie season with season ending wrist surgery. That surgery didn't take place until September, after he had been optioned to Triple-A. Back in July, Park missed time due to the injury, he wasn't DL'd until landing on the shelf with Rochester in August, and there weren't corrective measures taken until the surgery in September.

In Park's last 30 games at the big league level for the Twins (May 17-June 28), he slashed just .123/.208/.236.  After starting .257/.339/.578 through his first 32 games, it was pretty clear regression had move in for some reason or another. Given that he was a prolific slugger coming over to a new test for the first time, it would stand to reason that Park was doing what he could to give his new club more than he currently had.

Then, other the opposite end of the spectrum is a veteran that may have been in the same boat. Last season, Trevor Plouffe dealt with plenty of side injuries that no doubt played into what was somewhat of a disappointing year. He suffered a groin injury early in the summer, then cracked a rib in July. The cracked rib was initially diagnosed as "sore ribs" by the Twins, and the third basemen attempted to play through it. As the season drew to a close, another DL stint was pushed off as a strained oblique became the latest thing to sap Plouffe's production.

In 2016, Plouffe's .723 OPS was his lowest since the 2013 season, and in part, indicative of a player that never was able to take the field with a clean bill of health. It's admirable when a vet wants to go out and battle, especially an arbitration case like Plouffe, but again the Twins training staff did him no favors. He was allowed to participate to his detriment on multiple occasions, and injuries went wrongly diagnosed for a period as well.

Rounding out the most noticeable trio from 2016, and arguably the most egregious, is former prospect Alex Meyer. To be fair, the Twins did a less than ideal job of developing Meyer into the frontline starter he was dubbed as, but their handling of his body may have been even worse.

On May 3, 2016 Alex Meyer pitched for the Twins and lasted just 2.2 IP. He was then optioned to Triple-A Rochester. Despite having shoulder issues, he was simply called day-to-day for 32 days. He wasn't DL'd until June 3rd. The Twins didn't have him throwing, they didn't have more information, the simply did nothing for what was once considered a top tier starting prospect.

When the Twins dealt Alex Meyer to the Los Angeles Angels on August 1st with Ricky Nolasco, he ended his time with Minnesota having not pitched since May 3. The Angels placed Meyer on the minor league 7 day DL immediately to work a roster spot, but had him back on the mound pitching on August 13. The organization invested time into getting him healthy, and had him contribute five starts in September for the big league club.

Ron Gardenhire was often chastised for how he handled roster movement with injured players. He'd carry a guy not available for too long, only to DL them and leave the club short for a longer period of time. In recent memory, the Twins process has been to slap a day-to-day designation on a player (Byron Buxton has also experienced this fate), despite seemingly having no real plan on how to get players healthy.

Given that I'm unfamiliar with the inner workings of the training department, and what Dave Pruemer and his staff have as goals, I can't point an exact finger. What is apparent though, is that the Minnesota Twins seem to be an incredibly reactive organization when it comes to injuries, and it often works to the detriment of their players. Guys like Park, Plouffe, and Meyer all were worse off for how the Twins handled their setbacks a season ago. For a team needing every advantage possible, poor injury management isn't something ideal to fall under.

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