We all remember the first day of full team workouts prior to the 2012 season, Scott Sizemore‘s knee made an audible pop as he attempted to field a ground ball at third base. Everyone hoped for the best, but feared the worst. The worst was what we got. Sizemore had torn his ACL and 2012 season was over about an hour after it began. The third base situation would be a fluid one throughout the season, with the likes of Josh Donaldson, Brandon Inge, and even Luke Hughes occupying the hot corner.
Well, it was nowhere near as dramatic, but the Athletics have been hit with another knee injury within the first week of camp. Grant Balfour underwent successful surgery Thursday to repair his torn meniscus that had apparently bothered him dating back to last season. It began barking at him again this week and they decided to operate now and give Balfour and the team hope he would be ready by the beginning of the regular season. The chance remains though that Balfour may need to get some extra reps on the mound to tune up before entering live game situations.
I’m treating this situation as if it won’t have a major impact on the Athletics season, no matter what some supposed experts may want you to think. But the possibility always remains that the rehab could not go as well as hoped, and the A’s bullpen could be without its emotional leader for a period of time.
Naturally the question as to who would cover the 9th inning in Balfour’s absence would come into play. The obvious candidates to close games would be right hander Ryan Cook and left hander Sean Doolittle. Cook did serve as the team’s closer for a brief period during the 2012 season, and needless to say he had his issues in the 9th inning. He was removed from the role and replaced by Balfour for the duration of the season. He certainly would qualify as the more experienced replacement.
Sean Doolittle though might prove to be the more effective candidate. He showed what can only be described as electrifying stuff during the 2012 season, and while he did have his implosions at times, he made incredible strides after converting from a first baseman to a set up guy. He has 1 save to his name, a dominant 1-run save against the New York Yankees to save the 3rd game of an eventual 4 game sweep in July.
So who should they turn to if Balfour isn’t ready? I think this time it would have to be Doolittle’s turn. Not only did he prove himself in 2012, but the Ryan Cook we saw in the 9th inning was a far cry from the one we saw in the 7th and 8th innings during the rest of the season. Cook may be one of those guys who is just much more suited to a set up role, which is no less valuable than a closer.
Balfour’s absence would also delay a decision needing to be made at the back end of the bullpen, bringing good news for Hideki Okajima, or Evan Scribner perhaps. But without a doubt that would be a short lived.
Hopefully this injury isn’t a sign of things to come in 2013, over the last few years injuries have plagued what could have been promising seasons for the Athletics, and this is not the time for the injury bug to creep back into our lives. Time to break out the “Rage Raid” to keep the injury bug away from the Oakland Athletics.