For the second time in seven months, the White Sox have had one of their young stars cut down by a pitch to the hand, right when they were in the middle of the greatest hot streak of their big-league careers.
Twice in seven months is hardly an epidemic, but it sure as hell is annoying. Last August 30th, Gordon Beckham got drilled in his right hand while in the midst of a season-saving finishing kick, and eventually was shut down for the season after a noble attempt to play through pain so intense he struggled to close his hand...which is necessary...for all the bat-holding he does and all.
This year, the victim is Dayan Viciedo. Jackin' Dayan took an 8th inning delivery off of the right thumb on Thursday afternoon, fracturing it, and sidelining him for 3-4 weeks. Or in other words, the rest of Spring Training; which is about to get a lot more boring now.
As J.J. Stankevitz pointed out, Dayan's .435 Spring batting average was probably a little inflated,
but with the tasks he had cut out for him--improving plate discipline
while adjusting to playing the outfield for the first time since his
Cuban days--his performance had been superb. "As good as anyone could
have hoped for" is a phrase that comes to mind when thinking about his
frozen rope throws from the outfield, and his improved plate discipline
(2 walks in 25 PAs is a baby step, but three-pitch strikeouts have been
noticeably on the decline).
Spring Training stats aren't determining that many jobs right now for
the Sox, but in the free-for-all for the final outfield spot, Dayan was
the only player setting the grass on fire, to the extent that he seemed
like a serious contender for the final roster spot, even if serving as
Carlos Quentin's understudy seemed like a pretty woeful waste of the 22
year-old prospect's time. The novelty of hearing "Dayan Viciedo,
Defensive Replacement" wouldn't be worth the loss in vital plate appearances.
With Dayan gone, the absurdity of a guy originally thought to have no
shot at the Opening Day roster out-playing 90% of the team goes with
it. Because of that, cooler heads about what's best for Viciedo's
future will likely win out, and he'll be left to immolate Triple-A
pitching unless an opportunity for full-time play emerges later in the season.
The outfielder race winds back down to battle between Lastings Milledge,
Alejandro De Aza, and Brent Lillibridge to see which potential
replacement can seem the most like an actual MLB-quality replacement. With
Teahen (a corner outfielder) already on the roster--and as several have noted,
he's presently hitting the bejeesus out of the ball--there should be a
strong mandate that whoever wins the spot be capable of playing center,
and that's apparently in play as Milledge has gotten some tryouts out in
the middle. Maybe it's never too late to redeem a career of defensive mediocrity after all.
Lillibridge is hitting the best out of three at the moment but it's
been like...a week and a half. For all I know, someone could be pulling
that swinging-at-every-first-pitch-fastball trick Brent used last
season to club extra-base hits at will for a month. To say there's a clear front-runner at this point would be a stretch.
Viciedo's injury is certainly a very bad thing. It ends his extremely
impressive run, will require a re-adjustment period for his swing, takes
away one of the nicer stories of the Spring in his transformation from
overweight youngster in the doghouse last season to prodigy in the best shape of his
life this year. Also, I have to imagine have your thumb
fractured by a major-league pitch is in bottom 2 percentile of life
experiences. Seeing Viciedo slump to the ground was not fun.
However, it could result in a smarter roster decision, as I genuinely
feel it would be a mistake to keep Dayan in the major leagues when he
can't be promised regular playing time.
Also, if there's any chance Carlos Quentin is hitting .167 because
Viciedo has put the fear of God into him and convinced him he's one more
outfield assist from losing his job, then maybe this will help that
J.J. Stankevitz beat me to the punch, and already mourned the loss of Viciedo.
U-God from South Side Sox previewed AL Central 2nd Basemen yesterday and I forgot to link to it. I'm pretty sure the season hasn't started yet, so it's still relevant.
Melissa Miller revels in the good news of the Sox winning two Spring Training games on Thursday. That bumps the team's record up to 5-7, which means I can start acknowledging that these games actually have winners and losers again.
Confused? Annoyed? Read my stat primer. It's a fun read...at least as far as stat primers go.