Tough time for NL third sackers

Maybe there’s something going around, but National League third basemen seem to be getting more than their fair share of injuries of late. Fans and fantasy owners probably are a bit panicked right now as this plague spreads.

The first wounded third baseman was St. Louis’ David Freese, who landed awkwardly on his tailbone trying to corral a pop-up in early March. Continued back and backside pain have led to the Cardinals’ decision to place Freese on the disabled list to begin the season. The team hopes its 2011 World Series star can make it back in time for the Redbirds’ home opener on April 8.

The next third sacker man to get nicked was New York’s David Wright, who had to pull out of the World Baseball Classic with a strained intercostal muscle on his left side. The fortunate thing is that Captain America’s injury appears to have happened early enough—and been minor enough—that he should be able to make an Opening Day start. After signing him to an eight-year, $138-million extension, you can be sure the Mets will be cautious, though they certainly want to get their money’s worth from their franchise cornerstone.

Hot on the heels of Wright’s injury came news that San Francisco’s Pablo Sandoval was experiencing numbness in his fingers. Doctors found an inflamed ulner nerve and a bone spur in the back of Kung Fu Panda’s right elbow. The latest update from Giants manager Bruce Bochy came Monday when he said Sandoval might play some catch soon. While there’s still a few days before the season gets underway, it’s looking less and less likely that Sandoval will be on the field for the defending champs’ first regular-season game.

We all blinked, and the next thing we knew, San Diego’s Chase Headley fractured the tip of his left thumb attempting to bust up a double play. What was initially thought to be a jammed thumb is a significant enough injury to keep the reigning NL RBI leading sidelines until mid-April.

Things got even worse when Los Angeles’ Hanley Ramirez—nominally a shortstop at the moment, but someone who played lots of third base last season and seems destined for this less-challenging defensive position long term—tore a ligament in his right thumb. Surgery was performed, and Ramirez will miss the first two months of the regular season. This certainly is not the start to the year that Dodgers management was hoping for after dropping $2.15 billion on the team and upping the payroll by over $100 million vs. 2012.

We’re not even counting Ian Stewart, the Cubs’ nominal third baseman, who has played in just 55 games since signing with the team in the winter of 2011-12. He was injured most of last season, and has more ouchies this spring. Cubs fans shouldn’t count him either.

The lesson to take away from all these maladies is that you don’t want to be one of the remaining NL third basemen. Ryan Zimmerman, Aramis Ramirez, Michael Young, Pedro Alvarez, Todd Frazier, Martin Prado and their compatriots ought to be careful not to make too many sudden moves, lest they find themselves bitten by the swarming injury bugs that seem to have a taste for players who man the hot corner.

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Greg has been a writer and editor for both The Hardball Times website and Annual since 2010. In his dreams, he's the second coming of Ozzie Smith. Please don't wake him up.

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Greg Simons
Greg Simons

Brett Lawrie is doing his part to represent the junior circuit, as he will begin the season on the DL due to a strained rib cage.

“Mommas, don’t let your babies grow up to be third basemen…”