Few teams fortunate to avoid pitching injuries
Healthy rotations have five clubs set up for early success
After just one 25-pitch inning and a blown save, who knows when Bobby Parnell will pitch again?
The Mets lost their closer on Opening Day with a partially torn medial collateral ligament in his elbow, and -- while manager Terry Collins must feel shell-shocked -- who could really be surprised? Baseball's marathon is always marked by too many pitching injuries, but this year the recurring, nonstop nature of them has been a major storyline.
Just ask the Braves. Or the A's. Or the Rangers, who on Opening Day gave Tanner Scheppers his first Major League start, then watched the Phillies slug their way to a 14-10 victory.
But here's something about the injuries that you might not know. They haven't been happening everywhere. There are five teams -- all but one in the American League, for what that's worth -- that spent the spring knocking on wood and counting their blessings in regard to a healthy pitching staff.
According to MLB.com's Injury Report, 70 pitchers start April on the disabled list -- a casualty list that includes 30 guys who would be penciled into starting rotation spots if they were healthy, and six closers.
Listed alphabetically, here are five teams that could get out of the gate in good fashion because they have healthy pitchers:
• Indians -- Terry Francona grabbed a Wild Card spot in his first season in Cleveland despite getting 30-plus starts from only Ubaldo Jimenez, who is now in Baltimore. The health of the rest of the staff is critical, and so far, the outlook is steady. The Tribe hopes to have an insurance policy in place in Shaun Marcum, who was signed to a Minor League contract and continues his recovery from thoracic outlet surgery last season. He agreed to forego an opt-out date and remains in Arizona, working toward a return in four to six weeks, best case.
• Marlins -- They not only have Jose Fernandez, but they've got everybody healthy. The bad news is they have no one who made 30 starts a year ago in using 12 starters. But it was a smooth spring for guys like Henderson Alvarez and Nathan Eovaldi, and there are intriguing arms in the Minors, including left-handers Andrew Heaney, Justin Nicolino and Brian Flynn.
• Twins -- Pitching coach Rick Anderson calls Mike Pelfrey and Phil Hughes "Frick and Frack" because they spend so much time hanging with each other. Along with Opening Day starter Ricky Nolasco, those former New Yorkers could combine for 90-plus starts, giving the Twins the consistency they've missed in recent years. It's a blue-collar group, for sure, but it is a much improved one.
• White Sox -- With John Danks two years removed from his left shoulder surgery and Jake Peavy and Gavin Floyd on the Red Sox and Braves, respectively, the White Sox are poised to resume their run of healthy rotations that was their hallmark when they won the 2005 World Series. Pitching coach Don Cooper and trainer Herm Schneider know how to keep pitchers healthy. The wild card in this rotation is former Royal Felipe Paulino, who had a very encouraging spring after a difficult recovery from Tommy John surgery in 2012. He makes his Chicago debut Wednesday as the No. 2 starter.
• Yankees -- No organization had a better spring in regard to pitching. While analysts focused on CC Sabathia's lack of velocity, Masahiro Tanaka prepared in ideal fashion and Michael Pineda seemed to turn a corner in his slow recovery from the right shoulder surgery he had in 2012. David Phelps worked well as a starter, but he wound up returning to his long-relief role with the rotation already five deep (including Hiroki Kuroda and Ivan Nova).
It's a long season, for sure, and nothing's going to go right forever. But April is a very important month, and success always starts with dependable pitching. The Indians, Marlins, Twins, White Sox and Yankees are positioned for early success.
Phil Rogers is a columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.