Dipoto gives injury updates on Mariners’ Ryon Healy, Erasmo Ramirez and Kyle Lewis
PEORIA, Ariz. – I am sure the last thing Jerry Dipoto wanted to be talking about in his first meeting of the spring with reporters was injuries, but with two Mariners down and the recent surprise surgery news on a young player, injury updates were the prime topic of discussion for the general manager.
In the case of Ryon Healy, who last week underwent surgery to remove a bone spur in his hand, Dipoto is optimistic the setback his new first baseman is facing is minor.
“We think it’s the best case with Ryon,” he said. “We tried to take care of it conservatively in the early going and it didn’t work out quite that well, and ultimately it required a surgery that should not take that long to heal. This one required a little bit more acute attention. The surgery went well. We will see how quickly he comes back but we are encouraged by how he feels already.”
Initial X-rays on Healy’s hand failed to show the floating piece of bone which was removed last week. As was the case with most bone spur irritations, rest was prescribed. When Healy felt pain again after rest, further tests were taken and the piece of bone found. He began physical therapy almost immediately after surgery and is expected to be cleared for on-field activity – no hitting – as soon as next week.
There is a decent chance Healy will return in time to get enough work to be ready for opening day. Dipoto stressed that the Mariners would not rush him, however, and were comfortable going with one of their internal options – Daniel Vogelbach, Mike Ford, Dan Hague – in the interim if necessary.
The picture for Erasmo Ramirez, who was shut down Sunday with a lat strain, is not as clear. The belief is they caught the issue early. We have seen with a number of pitchers, however, that there are no guarantees with lat injuries.
“It’s where our high performance department has a chance to help us,” Dipoto said of the diagnosis and decision to immediately shut Ramirez down. “Lat issues can become bigger or long-term issues. Hopefully we caught this one early enough that it is short to mid-term. We don’t know yet. We’re hoping that in two weeks we are going to get a thumbs up and he is ready to roll. That’s not a slam dunk.”
Again, there will be no rushing the player. The length of the season takes priority over the start of the season in importance, and the loss of Ramirez for even a month may not be as painful as one would expect.
“The big benefit with April is the schedule,” said Dipoto, noting that the Mariners have four days off in the first two weeks of play. “We can be somewhat creative in how we get through with our starting rotation if we need to start with Erasmo getting into his throwing program. What would be more damning is if it is a long-term issue and that is something we are going to have a tough time absorbing. In the short term, we are hopeful he will be back in two to three weeks. Over the long haul we have to be prepared it will be longer than that. Right now our general mindset is Erasmo Ramirez is starting one of our first five games. We are just going to have to take it day by day until we get there.”
Should Ramirez miss the first month of the season, the Mariners would need just two starts filled if the first four starters pitch every fifth day. Any missed extra time off in that month could be made up later in the season. It is too soon to know if Ramirez, who has only been on the disabled list once in his six-year MLB career, is facing a shorter or more lengthy time down, but for now this appears to be a very manageable situation provided the other starters stay healthy.
The final injury update was on outfield prospect Kyle Lewis, who has struggled to come back from a July 2016 knee surgery. Pictures posted on social media of Lewis on crutches two weeks ago signaled ominous news, but Dipoto is optimistic he could finally have the 2016 first round pick back on the field for good at the end of April.
“We had to clean up the fat pad on his patella. The expectation is from start to finish it is a four-to-six week process,” he said.
Lewis was pulled from the Arizona Fall League after just two games last October when discomfort surfaced again. A new course of action for the offseason was formulated, with a focus on strength and conditioning rather than game experience, but the problems crept up again.
“It was something that was a periodic complaint of his during the season and we just kept starting and stopping him,” said Dipoto. “He’s seen a lot of doctors, some of the best in the world. Similarly like Ryon Healy it was a like a floating piece of bone that was pinching off or creating a problem, which explains why he was having so much pain. Hopefully we were able to finally determine the source of irritation, solve it and move forward in a productive way. We are hoping this is the final step toward getting him healthy.”
• While this spring lacks position battles, there is one item of intrigue in Mariners camp that will need to be settled before March 29. Who gets the ball on opening day? “We’ll see how the spring plays out,” said manager Scott Servais. Most years it is an automatic answer: Felix Hernadez will get the ball of course. Based on performance in 2017, the answer might have automatically been James Paxton, but more goes into the decision of who gets the opening day nod, and history counts. “I think we just see how things are progressing throughout the spring,” said Servais. “We certainly have guys who are capable of doing that. We saw what Paxton did last year kind of stepping forward for a nice stretch of time and really leading our staff. Everyone knows what Felix has done here. Mike Leake had a nice debut for us last year. We have plenty of guys who can take that ball.”
• Ariel Miranda will start the Mariners’ Cactus League opener vs. the Padres Friday, then followed by Andrew Moore. Just for fun, rain is in the forecast that day. No roof here. The rest of the probables:
Saturday vs. White Sox: Leake
Sunday vs. Dodgers: Marco Gonzales
Monday at Cubs: Felix
Tuesday vs. Padres: Paxton
• Tuesday will be the first time the full squad takes the field together for workouts. Position players reported for physicals Monday, with Dipoto saying all were present and accounted for. Junior Lake, who played for Manny Acta’s Dominican team in the Caribbean World Series, was among that group.
• We will have more reaction from players and staff Tuesday but MLB announced new pace of play initiatives for the 2018 season. There will not be a pitch clock but there will be significant changes. From the release:
a. 2018 Championship Season. Mound visits without a pitching change shall be
limited to six (6) per team, per nine innings. For any extra-innings played, each Club shall be entitled to one additional non-pitching change mound visit per inning.
(2) Definition of Mound Visit. A manager or coach trip to the mound to meet
with the pitcher shall constitute a visit. A player leaving his position to confer with
the pitcher, including a pitcher leaving the mound to confer with another player,
shall also constitute a mound visit, regardless of where the visit occurs or the
length of the visit, except that the following shall not constitute mound visits:
a. Discussions between pitchers and position player(s) that (i) occur between batters in the normal course of play and do not require either the position player(s) or the pitcher to relocate;
b. Visits by position players to the mound to clean spikes in rainy conditions;
c. Visits to the mound due to an injury or potential injury of the pitcher; and
d. Visits to the mound after the announcement of an offensive substitution.
(3) Cross-Up in Signs. In the event a team has exhausted its allotment of
mound visits in a game (or extra inning) and the home plate umpire determines
that the catcher and pitcher did not have a shared understanding of the location
or type of pitch that had been signaled by the catcher (otherwise referred to as a
“cross-up”), the home plate umpire may, upon request of the catcher, allow the
catcher to make a brief mound visit. Any mound visit resulting from a cross-up
prior to a team exhausting its allotted number of visits shall count against a team’s
total number of allotted mound visits.