One of the major storylines of the first five weeks of the MLB season is the injuries to elite starting pitchers. Look at a few of the names currently on the shelf: Madison Bumgarner, Corey Kluber, Cole Hamels, Rich Hill, Chris Tillman and Carlos Rondon.
And that doesn’t include the well-stocked disabled lists of five contenders that already are in DEFCON 1 in terms of their tattered rotations. Their plights:
USA TODAY SportsBob DeChiara
Their injury problems are so widespread that it’s become an epidemic, and the rotation certainly hasn’t been spared. Steven Matz (elbow) hasn’t pitched this season, and the same is true for Seth Lugo (elbow). And it likely will be months before Noah Syndergaard (lat) is ready to return.
That leaves the oft-injured trio of Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom and Zach Wheeler to shoulder the load – at least until their seemingly inevitable aches and pains begin – with Robert Gsellman (6.75 ERA) and Rafael Montero (10.45 ERA) rounding out the starting five.
USA TODAY SportsGeoff Burke
Their woes began in the spring with ace David Price’s forearm/elbow scare and continued with Friday’s announcement that knuckler Steven Wright – and All-Star last season – will have season-ending knee surgery. Price is making progress but has yet to throw a pitch this season, and his durability will be a huge question mark.
Spring sensation Kyle Kendrick will replace Wright, but he was anything but sensational in his first start Thursday (six earned runs in four innings). Boston’s unenviable minor-league depth includes Brian Johnson and Henry Owens.
USA TODAY SportsKim Klement
Just when it seemed the team was ready to contend, the injury bug returned and bit hard. Garrett Richards (biceps) and Tyler Skaggs (oblique) went down a week apart in late April, after each was limited to fewer than 50 innings last season because of injuries. Richards is on the 60-day DL, and Skaggs is projected to miss up to 12 weeks.
Still standing (for now): Jesse Chavez, Ricky Nolasco, Matt Shoemaker, J.C. Ramirez and Alex Meyer. Not ideal.
USA TODAY SportsStan Szeto
Before the exodus from the mound to the trainers’ room began, the rotation was the prime concern for a roster that had a massive overhaul prior to the season. The first to fall was offseason acquisition Drew Smyly (elbow) in the spring, followed by Felix Hernandez (shoulder) in late April and then James Paxton (forearm) this week.
The survivors include Hisashi Iwakuma, Ariel Miranda, Yovani Gallardo and Chase De Jong. Ouch. At least GM Jerry Dipoto is familiar with the trade market.
USA TODAY SportsJoe Nicholson
Toronto’s rotation led the AL in ERA (3.64) last season and was being leaned on heavily again following the free-agent departure of slugger Edwin Encarnacion. So much for that. The Jays’ DL currently includes J.A. Happ (elbow) and Aaron Sanchez (fingernail), whose return from a blister lasted 13 pitches Sunday. If that wasn’t bad enough, Marcus Stroman left his Wednesday start after three innings because of tightness in his armpit. (And if there’s a body part that best represents Toronto’s 10-19 start, it’s an armpit.)
Healthy starters Marco Estrada’s and Francisco Liriano’s time in the Jays’ rotation also could be limited, as they soon could be used as trade bait.