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Injuries and contenders: Not a good mix

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In the course of the last few days, four likely playoff teams have taken devastating hits via injury. The timing couldn't be any worse, with Opening Day 11 days away as I write (unless you're a Dodgers or Diamondabacks fan, and those teams open play Down Under in Australia on Saturday).

The defending NL East champion Atlanta Braves have lost two of their starting pitchers, Kris Medlen & Brandon Beachy, both of whom require Tommy John surgery for the 2nd time. Medlen was injured last weekend vs. the Mets, and took himself out of a game the Braves ultimately lost. The Braves were counting on him to be their #1 starter. Now, it seems as though the decisions the last two post-seasons to let Randall Delgado (now with Arizona) and Tim Hudson (San Francisco) go have proven to be bad ideas.

The AL Central champion Detroit Tigers won't have shortstop Jose Iglesias virtually for the entire season due to stress fractures in his shins. Detroit acquired Iglesias from Boston last summer, and now he might not take the field this year at all, as he's out 4-6 months. Do the math, pilgrims. He's out until late September at the most.

Over in the Cactus League, the Oakland A's won't have AJ Griffin to start the season, and won't have Jarrod Parker at all, as Parker will undergo Tommy John surgery. Since pitching is the A's strength, the chances of a 3-peat in the AL West for the first time since the late 80's have dimmed considerably.

Finally, Cincinnati Reds closer Aroldis Chapman was struck by a line drive off the bat of Kansas City's Salvadore Perez Wednesday night and will have surgery to repair his face. Chapman is gone until late-May or maybe June. The Reds suddenly have a tougher hill to climb to keep pace with St. Louis & Pittsburgh in the NL Central.

The common link is that all 4 teams made the playoffs last year, and with the exception of Iglesias, all of the injured players are important to their teams' playoff chances. Chapman will return, as will Griffin, but I wouldn't guarantee Iglesias making it onto the field during the September playoff push.

On one of my other blogs, I had picked Detroit to win the Central again. I don't have Oakland or Cincinnati making the playoffs, and I have Atlanta back in the Wild Card game. It's not an exact science, but this is one of those cases where I'm going to hate being right.
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