Jesse Crain's oblique is tricky

The White Sox are responding to reliever Jesse Crain's oblique strain perfectly; they're demonstrating absolutely no hurry in returning a proven (relatively) veteran back from an injury that's easily re-aggravated if not fully healed during a meaningless slate of baseball.

Crain's "tenatively scheduled" to throw off a mound again by the end of the week, but was still experiencing discomfort Tuesday and there's a lot of variance in recovery time for such an injury.  The same issue cost John Danks nearly a month last season, and Crain is in his second week of inactivity, and will be about two weeks from Opening Day by the time he's first hoped to be throwing.

That should probably enough.  Crain has already thrown 3 innings this Spring, and has been preparing himself to work in short stints for the past decade.  It's a non-story if he has two weeks to catch up.  It's probably a non-story anyway; the only blip in a Spring Training where no one of any interest has broken themselves yet.

If it lingers on, and Crain misses a week or three healing and rounding into shape, well...from a saberist's standpoint, it's hard for a reliever to be good enough to be an impact contributor in a whole season, so you can imagine what advanced statistical significance is going to be attributed to replacing a guy like Crain with Generic Reliver #42 for a couple of weeks.

However, from a still-shellshocked-from-2011 perspective, having unworthy contributors stacked in the later innings is something that has the potential to blow up quickly and traumatically.  Some of that trauma was realizing that handfuls of games in what figured to be a tight division race were being frittered away inexplicably.  This year the stakes are a bit lower, and with the youth set to get work, we're better set up take positives away from the negatives.

Stepping into any temporary Crain vacuum would be Addison Reed and Hector Santiago, two rookies who have forcefully strode toward securing roster spots and have performed as if they're seeking out the biggest role available.

Reed's closer potential is well-understood, but he's been given the assignment of needing to pay more dues and go through more reps by Ventura before he ascends to higher standing.  Barring the White Sox just not scoring any runs at all, any setback to Crain would aid Reed developing a rapport with Ventura as someone who can fish him out of high-leverage opportunities, if only just a bit.

Santiago on the other hand, is still going through a surprise transformation of his career facilitated by the addition of a screwball.  After a promising but not-dominant season as a starter in AA, he's not just going to make the major league bullpen, but will outrank a few members of it.  It's already a meteoric rise, but recently--and especially with the organization's current state--the Sox have been content to allow their prospects to go as far up the ladder as their success will take them.  They need to see what they have in Santiago sooner rather than later, and any Crain absence will simply accelerate that.

Any discussion of an injury can quickly become a long thought exercise about the lack of organizational depth.  To avoid that, suffice it to say that the Sox can cover a short-term absence while giving opportunities to some interesting characters, but would really be stretching it with a longer one. 

That's where being cautious, and leaning upon the best trainer in baseball would seem to figure in.


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