The powerful NL East: An early injury report

All right, let’s call this the Spring Training Ground Zero report for 2023 for the NL East. This division is one of MLB’s most competitive, sending not one or two, but three teams to last season’s playoff tournament. The third-place team in the division went to the World Series and came up two wins short.

So, who’s hurt in the NL East counts, even if it’s early in the season. Therefore, let’s get to it:

At first glance the New York Mets would appear to be in the best shape as exhibition competition begins. Per CBS Sports, everyone considered injured is currently “Probable for start of season.”

None of the Mets so listed spells his last name L-i-n-d-o-r or A-l-o-n-s-o, so there’s that right off the bat. The most important of four listed injured players is Starling Marte, who is working through a groin injury before his age-34 season. The others, with due respect, are role players or possible starters, Darin Ruf, Stephen Riddings, and Danny Mendick.

In the next best shape, arguably, are the Atlanta Braves, who have three reasonably important players currently out but also “probable” to begin the season – Ozzie Albies, Kyle Wright, and Mike Soroka. Between them Wright and Soroka won 36 games last season, with Wright having a real breakout campaign. According to Rotowire, he could begin throwing in competition after a shoulder problem in about two weeks.

Soroka, who has been the victim of freakish injuries, including “a pair of Achilles tears,” is currently experiencing some hamstring tightness. His chance of remaining healthy is seemingly less sure than Wright’s.

Albies is returning from a truly odd season in which he broke a pinkie finger one day after returning from a broken left foot. He missed everything after that September 17 injury, despite the hope he would return for the playoffs.

The rest of the NL East teams will be missing significant players for extended time in the 2023 season.

The Miami Marlins have six players on the CBS injury list, with both Max Meyer, who has yet to contribute significantly at the MLB level, and Sixto Sanchez, expected to be out until August and June, respectively. Anthony Bender is expected to miss the season.

Sanchez, obtained in the J.T. Realmuto trade with Philadelphia, hasn’t pitched for the Marlins since ’20, and reports are less than encouraging about his return. After arthroscopic shoulder surgery last fall, he reported to camp 50 pounds lighter by his own estimate, and is supposedly building arm strength at this point. At one time, Sanchez was considered a future star.

Of the three players listed as “probable” to start the season, Steven Okert is the most useful, probably.

The currently woeful Washington Nationals have three players currently injured, Stephen Strasburg, Tanner Rainey, and Carter Kieboom. Of these, only Kieboom is young, and arguably, only Strasburg is very important although he is aging. He will turn 35 this summer.

Once thought likely to have the impact of a Don Drysdale, potentially, Strasburg has battled injuries his whole career, and last season mirrored Ozzie Albies’ situation in a distorted way. As Albies returned to action and was immediately injured again, so did Strasburg.

Most recently, he returned from a procedure to fix a thoracic outlet syndrome, then returned to the injured list after one start. Although he is listed by CBS as potentially returning to action by May, Strasburg has not begun spring training because of a recurrence of the thoracic outlet problem.

Finally, there are the 2022 NL East third-place, NL-champion Philadelphia Phillies, who have five players injured, including two-time MVP Bryce Harper, who will likely miss half the season, rehabbing from Tommy John surgery. Harper is the sort of player who is literally irreplaceable, except that the Phillies sort of did exactly that.

They signed Trea Turner to play shortstop. Turner is a different sort of player, but could have the same sort of impact as a healthy Harper.

An interesting player on the Phillies list of those injured is Noah Song, the former Navy star pitcher recently released from his active military service obligation. Song apparently injured himself immediately after his arrival at spring training. CBS lists the injury as “personal,” and Rotowire estimates a March 30 return to action. This date is key since Song is a Rule 5 draftee, and could return to Boston.

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