The Kansas City Royals experienced a slightly farcical situation the other night in their finale against the Minnesota Twins. Several days prior, Jarrod Dyson picked up an injury that prevented him from throwing. With David Lough having already come out of the game with a niggle, the Royals found themselves in a spot of bother when Lorenzo Cain did his hamstring going for a ball in the outfield.
The Royals have not expanded their roster to forty players because their AAA affiliate is in the playoffs so they actually had no other full-time outfielders on the active roster. They were forced to send first baseman Eric Hosmer into right field and put backup catcher Brayan Pena at first base. As it transpired this was just for one pitch as the Twins got a walk-off double immediately, but in a way it was the season in microcosm.
To say that the Royals have been injury plagued this season would be a massive understatement. This is Cain’s second injury of the year after he missed three months just after the season started. Before the season started the Royals lost All-Star closer Joakim Soria for the season to Tommy John surgery and Salvador Perez, who had been brilliant in the second half of last season, for the first half of the season to knee surgery.
Chris Getz fractured his thumb a month ago. A pair of starters who had excellent starts to the season, Felipe Paulino and Danny Duffy also went down with season ending injuries in the first half. The Royals were forced to use the disabled list ten times before they were halfway through the month of May this year.
It would be simplistic and irresponsible to blame the Royals struggles this year on injuries alone, but they certainly have had an effect. The biggest weakness all year has been pitching and to lose two talented starters and one of the best closers in baseball so early was always going to leave a mountain to climb.
When the Royals have had good starting pitching they have consistently been at or around .500 and well below when they have not, so whilst they were never going to be a contending team this year they might well have put up their first winning season in nine years.
Injuries are a part of any sport though and nothing good will ever come of sitting around bemoaning them. How the Royals respond to setbacks like these in years to come, however, is important. If they harbour ambitions of being a contending club in the near future (and they most certainly do) they will not only have to find a way to minimise the number of injuries, but also their effect.
This year we saw almost a revolving door between Kansas City and Omaha as players came and went on rehab assignments and injury cover. Although there are few teams who could comfortably deal with an injury crisis on the scale the Royals suffered, but best ones can and the Royals will need to find a way to make sure the outcome is less chaotic if they have another unlucky season in the future.