They say the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again while expecting a different result. And after yet another injury to one of their players, this seems to sum up the San Diego Padres and their approach when it comes to player safety. It feels necessary to state that we would never wish injury to any player, regardless of the team they play for. But this one, unfortunately, did not come as a surprise.
The Padres have created a stigma for themselves. Of recent vintage, they have rushed back players time and time again, only for them to re-injure themselves or not look 100% for quite some time. The most recent example of this came on Wednesday afternoon with the return of starter Dinelson Lamet.
The San Diego Way
Lamet has been recovering from an elbow injury sustained at the end of 2020, which looked like it might require surgery. Instead, Lamet and the Padres decided to go with rehab in the hopes that he would be ready to go in 2021. Everything looked to be going according to plan, but after just 2 innings (!) of work in his return, Lamet was pulled from the game only hours after being reinstated.
Freak injuries happen all the time, but it’s fair to question whether not having the surgery last season was the right call. Lamet now appears destined for a second Tommy John surgery, which would be a shame for such a talented pitcher.
The Padres summed up in two tweets. pic.twitter.com/wJwvOmO6bN
— Roach! (@JRoach_909) April 21, 2021
Meanwhile, Fernando Tatis is in a tremendous slump of his own. One of the most exciting players in baseball last season, Tatis has struggled in the early part of 2021 as injuries have kept him from gathering any rhythm at the plate. It was only a few weeks ago that it seemed possible that the Padres would be without their star shortstop for the foreseeable future, thanks to a shoulder injury sustained during the swing below.
Fernando Tatis Jr. went back to the clubhouse after hurting himself on this swing pic.twitter.com/iQh81fkwjU
— SF Giants on NBCS (@NBCSGiants) April 6, 2021
To be clear, Tatis had his shoulder pop in and out of its socket during that swing. This isn’t an injury that should be taken lightly, and it’s one that can easily cost a player an entire season if mishandled. And considering the hefty investment that the Padres made in their shortstop over the offseason, no one could blame them for playing it safe and letting the shoulder completely heal before letting him take the field again. But this wasn’t the case, as Tatis was activated just in time for the big series against the Dodgers this past weekend. And while he did hit a towering homer in his first game back, that hit is one of only two since his return to action.
As of Wednesday night, the young shortstop is only 3-21 with 9 strikeouts since returning from the IL. It’s clear that something isn’t right with Tatis, but the only ones who don’t see it are those in charge of keeping him healthy.
If this were an isolated incident, you could chop it up as a young competitive player wanting to do everything he can to be there for his team. But this isn’t a one-time occurrence. We saw this last season with Mike Clevinger. We’re seeing it with Fernando Tatis. And now, we’ve seen it with Dinelson Lamet.
Notably, promising young left-hander Adrián Morejón is also headed toward Tommy John surgery of his own.
The Dodger Way
The Dodgers, meanwhile, have approached every injury with extreme caution. The perfect example for this is Cody Bellinger and his pesky leg injury.
After being spiked during a game against the Athletics earlier this year, Bellinger was only expected to miss a few days as a result. Operating with extreme caution, the Dodgers decided to place him on the IL in order to avoid rushing him back until he was fully healthy.
The injury seemed to linger past the original timetable, and a new scan showed that it was worse than originally thought.
Update on Cody Bellinger injury, scan showed it’s a hairline fracture. He is rehabbing and progressing, but no timeline just yet as to when he will be back.
— Kirsten Watson (@kirsten_watson) April 16, 2021
Had the Dodgers gone with their initial timeline and brought Bellinger back early — say, perhaps rushed him to play in the San Diego series last weekend — chances are that his leg injury could have gotten much worse or at the very least affected his performance on the field. Instead, he will likely return after a rehab assignment in Arizona to get back to full strength.
Additionally, LA arms like Brusdar Graterol, Joe Kelly, and Tony Gonsolin have all been treated with caution as they make their way back to the active roster. No rushing.
It’s easy to judge teams for their actions when we don’t have to make the same decisions on a daily basis. Once a pattern starts developing, however, it is no longer a mistake or an accident. Players are competitors and will always want to get back on the field as soon as possible, but make no mistake about it: it is the team’s responsibility to do what is best for their players.
The health of Tatis and Lamet will continue to be topics of conversation for the foreseeable future, but the early comments from Padres manager Jayce Tingler point to the same cycle of taking unnecessary risks repeating itself.
Tingler found some optimism in that Lamet communicated the soreness immediately and is hopeful that the tightness was the result of adreanline. "It gives him a chance to maybe continue to pitch and go forward, but we’ll just have to wait and see," Tingler said.
— Alden González (@Alden_Gonzalez) April 22, 2021
The Dodgers have been a consistent example of what it means to operate with caution while the Padres continue to rush back players to their own detriment. There is no denying that both teams have the talent to win it all, but getting to the finish line on one piece may be another story.