Schumaker Injury Hurts Depth

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In baseball, much like any sport (and life), the rule of thumb is to expect disappointment—many sports fans certainly felt that way last weekend while checking their suddenly worthless Warren Buffett billion-dollar brackets.

This lesson seems to be making a preemptive strike on the Cincinnati Reds, as well, who have caught the injury bug early out in the desert.

Spring Training hasn’t been all roses for the Reds this offseason. As of right now, no injuries appear to be too significant, but pitchers Mat Latos, Aroldis Chapman, Jonathan Broxton, and Sean Marshall have been shelved for a later date, and the same may go for Homer Bailey. And now utility man Skip Schumaker is the latest position player to join the ever-growing disabled list after he suffered a dislocated left shoulder.

Schumaker signed a two-year, $5-million deal with the club in November, added to provide a much-needed lift to the Reds bench alongside Chris Heisey and Jack Hannahan, the latter of whom will also start the year on the DL. There is no question that Schumaker’s injury hurts the Reds, the only good news being that he was not projected to be a key cog in the everyday lineup.  But his versatility in the field will be missed, and Schumaker was rather impressive during his time in the Cactus League. Prior to his injury, he played in 14 games with 34 at bats and 15 hits (.441 avg), including three doubles, a homerun, and seven RBI. He also had an on-base percentage of .500 and a slugging percentage of .618—a small sample size, sure, but strong numbers nonetheless. Schumaker is also a proven utility player who can fill in at nearly any position in a pinch, whether in the field or the batters’ box.

Even though he may not have provided a huge role in the opening weeks, it is the lack of depth and unknowns swirling around that make the injury a potential problem. If a regular position player were to get injured—Jay Bruce or Brandon Phillips, perhaps—then the Schumaker injury suddenly makes things more complicated. Schumaker’s greatest asset is as an insurance policy. That security blanket is now gone.

Again, these are not major injuries. Schumaker and Hannahan likely wouldn’t have had a monumental impact on the club during the first few weeks. Latos, Chapman, Broxton, and Marshall can all be replaced—on paper at least—until they get healthy. But what these setbacks do pose is a difference in strategy and how certain situations might be carried out early on, from pitching matchups to who should spell a player off the bench. It may cost the team a few runs, or things may prove to be just fine. It’s the unknown that’s bothersome.

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