As much as players try to avoid it, injuries are a natural part of the game of baseball.
Though injured players still collect a paycheck, no one wants to spend an extended time having to sit out from playing the game they love, especially if they know they could be helping their team win ballgames.
A handful of talented players who sat out significant time in 2013 will look to stay healthy and contribute to their ball clubs this season.
Highlighting the list is New York Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira. In a year where the Bronx Bombers were plagued left and right by injuries, the wrist injury Teixeira suffered in the World Baseball Classic could have been the most crippling.
But with Teixeira looking healthy for the upcoming season, it’s almost like the Yankees’ have acquired a brand new first baseman. And with Carlos Beltran and Brian McCann joining the middle of the order, Tex should get plenty of pitches to see. He’s likely salivating for the start of the season.
Neftali Feliz of the Texas Rangers also must be excited to start the season. After Tommy John surgery in 2012, Feliz returned to appear in six games late last season.
He will slate in as the Rangers’ closer, though he’s been bounced between the bullpen and the rotation. He pitched well in winter ball, and he should be the late-inning force that supports the Rangers’ top-notch starting rotation.
Cincinnati Reds ace Johnny Cueto was very effective in 11 starts last season. The problem is that he only made 11 starts after dealing with a shoulder injury. The Reds had decent starting pitching all season but really lacked that dominant force that Cueto has shown he can be.
With Bronson Arroyo set to leave via free agency, Cueto will be needed to lead the rotation.
The next three players returning from injury will all have a new home. The San Francisco Giants took a gamble by signing the 38-year-old Tim Hudson. Hudson was on his way to another stellar season in Atlanta before a gruesome ankle injury in late July sidelined him for the rest of the season.
Sure, Hudson may be getting up there in age, but he will join a rotation featuring Matt Cain, Tim Lincecum, Madison Bumgarner and Ryan Vogelsong. If everyone is healthy and performing up to snub, this could wind up being the top rotation in the game.
Pitching carried the Giants to the 2010 and 2012 World Series titles, and if recent history repeats itself, San Francisco is on pace to win in 2014, having won every other year.
Next up is Curtis Granderson, who the New York Mets signed to a four-year, $60 million deal. He clubbed 84 home runs in 2011 and 2012 combined but was limited last year due to a broken forearm in spring training and a broken pinkie during the season.
The Mets overlooked these freak injuries, since Granderson had been durable up until last season. Again, injuries happen, and the Mets -- who desperately needed a power bat -- hope the risk is worth the reward.
Finally, Corey Hart missed all of 2013 with a knee injury, but the Seattle Mariners are giving him the chance to resurrect his career. He can play a little first base and a little corner outfield, but he’s slated right now to be Seattle’s primary designated hitter.
That suits Hart well, since he will be able to ease back into playing after missing all of last season. With the additions of Robinson Cano and Logan Morrison as well, the Mariners are gearing up for improved offensive production.
One or more of the above players will likely be in the running for their league’s respective Comeback Player of the Year awards. But the first step is to stay healthy.
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