Don’t Call It A Comeback….

As Americans we all love a good comeback. In the last year we have had Mickey Rouke, Robert Downey Jr (again) and Britney Spears all make comebacks. Well in baseball there are 10 players who are trying to make a comeback from injuries they suffered last year. Let’s take a look and see how these players are fairing this spring.

Penny making a comeback

Penny making a comeback

1. Brad Penny, Red Sox. Penny who spent the majority of 2008 on the DL with a bum shoulder, signed a 1 year $5MM contract with the Red Sox in the offseason. After getting off to a slow start in Spring Training, Penny pitched in his first game against major league hitters on Monday and looked like the Brad Penny of 06 & 07. Penny pitched 3 innings, was hitting 92-94 on the gun and afterwards said he felt “100%.” The Red Sox won’t need a 5th starter until April 12th and it remains to be seen if Penny will be ready by then. However, it does look like Penny is on the right track to making a solid contribution to the Red Sox in 2009.

2.Mike Lowell, Red Sox. After hip surgery in October, many doubted the 35 year old Lowell could regain his old form. Those doubters have been quieted this spring as Lowell has looked like he never had hip surgery. Lowell is 6-16 with 2 hr’s so far this spring. Lowell looks on track to be the Opening Day 3B for the Red Sox.

3.Jorge Posada. Posada was limited to only 51 games in 2008 after torn labrum and damaged rotator cuff ended his season. The question headed into Spring Training with Posada is not whether or not he can hit (.333 in 30 ab’s this spring) but whether or not he can catch. In Sunday’s game against the Pirates, Posada threw out 3 of 4 baserunners so Posada’s shoulder looks to be holding up just fine so far. It will be interesting at 37 if Posada’s shoulder can hold up during the season.

4. Chase Utley, Phillies. Utley like Lowell had offseason hip surgery and like Lowell looks on pace to be in the lineup on Opening Day. Utley hit his 1st hr yesterday off of BJ Ryan and is 5-18 so far this spring.

5. Chris Carpenter, Cardinals. After only appearing in 5 games the last 2 years because of injuries, Carpenter has been a buzz saw in Grapefruit League competition. Carpenter hasn’t allowed an earned run in 19 innings and Carpenter felt he had his best stuff all spring when he struck out 6 Nationals in 5 innings on Monday. There isn’t a player in baseball who holds the key to his team’s success more than Carpenter does this year.

Escobar won 18 games in 07

Escobar won 18 games in 07

6. Kelvim Escobar, Angels. It’s amazing, Escobar wins 18 games in 07 and goes down in 08 and nobody flinches. Chien-Ming Wang wins 19 games in 07 and goes down in 08 and the world turned upside down. The Angels lost an 18 game winner from the previous season right before the season started and they still finished with the best record in the AL in 08. It just goes to show you what a solid franchise the Angels have become. But back to Escobar. It seemed as if Escobar was destined to rejoin the Angels in midseason, but after an impressive performance in a minor league game on Monday where he hit 96 on the gun, it might be sooner. Escobar is now throwing every 5th day in order to build strength in his right arm.

7. Travis Hafner, Indians. A shoulder injury limited Hafner to only 57 games and destroyed his 2008 season. Even when Hafner was in the lineup he just wasn’t himself. In those 57 games, Hafner hit .197 with 5 hr’s and just 24 rbi. This spring Hafner has been slow in reverting back to the form that made him one of the most feared hitters in baseball from 04-07. Hafner so far this spring has hit .157 with 0 hr and 3 rbi in 32 ab’s.

8. Erik Bedard, Mariners. Ladies and gentleman, your 2008 Bust of the Year award winner. Bedard was the centerpiece in the trade that sent Bedard to the Mariners and Adam Jones, George Sherrill and 3 minor league pitchers to the Orioles and failed to live up to expectations. Bedard suffered injuries to his hip and left shoulder which limited him to only 15 starts last year. Bedard is making progress (1.08 in 8.1 spring innings) and because of his impending free agency, I look for him to have a bounce back year in 2009.

9. Eric Chavez, A’s. Talk about being a shell of your former self. What on earth has happened to this guy? From 2006-2008 he has averaged 13 hr’s and 44 rbi’s. Not what Billy Beane was looking for when he signed Chavez to a 6 year $66MM in the spring of 06. Chavez has had 2 surgeries on his right shoulder and 1 major surgery on his lower back. He claims he has never felt better this spring but that remains to be seen. Chavez is currently hitting .091 with 0 hr and 0 rbi’s in 11 spring ab’s.

10. Troy Percival, Rays. Percival, who hadn’t saved more than 20 games since 2004, saved 28 for the Rays last year. He would have saved more if not for a back injury that ended his season. Now at the tender age of 39, Percival is attempting another comeback. Having thrown a scoreless inning in each of his last 3 outings, it appears Percival will be the Rays closer on Opening Day.

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