Matt Garza Adds to Milwaukee Brewers' Gamble On Starters' Injury History

By Tim Muma
Matt Garza
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Now that the Milwaukee Brewers have finalized the deal with starter Matt Garza, the club has an interesting mix of veterans they’ll be relying on to make a postseason run. While most teams could suffer a key injury, the Brewers appear to have more guys in danger of hitting the disabled list than the average franchise; consequently, luck in the health department could be the biggest factor in the Brewers’ success this year.

All five of the projected hurlers in the rotation missed a start or struggled due to certain ailments in 2013. Wily Peralta, the youngest of the group, hasn’t had any serious injuries, but he’s had to deal with hamstring issues and blisters that have forced missed starts. Each of the other four have had some concerns recently, and while the Brewers have plenty of options behind them, losing multiple arms for extended periods creates major trouble. As mentioned in an earlier article, however, the Brewers are better set up for this than in years past.

Garza has a slightly checkered injury history. Some wondered if the delay in the deal was due to a failed physical, and while that wasn’t the case, the incentives the Brewers included are part of the concern over Garza’s health. The right-hander has landed on the disabled list in each of the last three seasons, twice with elbow issues, and missed a total of 153 regular season games during that time. So, if you count every fifth day as a start, he’s missed the equivalent of 10 starts per season. Not horrific, but far from ideal.

Yovani Gallardo struggled mightily early last season, in part because of his extra work in the World Baseball Classic. There’s no doubt that wore on his arm a bit and affected his production. Then, later in the year, he went to the DL with a strained left hamstring. He came back strong, but there will be some worry due to his workload and its impact, having thrown at least 180 innings in each of the past five seasons.

Meanwhile, Kyle Loshe was brutal in May last year, prompting him to miss a start due to elbow soreness and irritation. He also had a strange spring, not signing with the Brewers until right before the start of the Cactus League. By pushing himself to be ready and being off a normal routine, it manifested itself in his worst month by far. One also wonders if there will ever be repercussions from his surgery in 2010, after he was diagnosed with exertional compartment syndrome, an exercise-induced condition in which the  sheath around the muscle swells, cutting off the blood flow to his hand. He’s had no trouble with that area that the public knows of, but it has to be in the back of everyone’s mind.

Marco Estrada spent time on the disabled list as well, also going down due to a strained hamstring. For Green Bay Packers fans out there, apparently it’s an issue for both teams in the state. Estrada tends to miss time every year, so it’s almost expected to happen in 2014. The good news was that he looked sharp, like Gallardo did, upon his return, so that could bode well in the long run.

If four of the five starters give the Brewers 30-plus starts, they should be right in the thick of the wild card chase in the end. A few missed dates won’t hurt thanks to their many young options, but the injury bug will be a big storyline for the 2014 rotation.

Tim Muma is a Milwaukee Brewers writer for Follow him on  Twitter @brewersblend, “Like” him on Facebook, or add him to your network on Google.

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