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Spring training becoming a minefield for contenders

White Sox managing their share of injuries, but lower expectations make them far less critical

Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

The White Sox's training room has been busier than usual this spring, but other teams have it worse right now. At least the Sox can turn their lemons into lemonade.

Whether it's Jeff Keppinger's shoulder weirdness or the strained obliques of Matt Lindstrom and Gordon Beckham, the most severe individual injuries could end up opening doors for promising young players, so it's not the worst outcome if the Sox have to start the season with two or three of these guys in the disabled list.

Then again, that's one of the few upsides when a team isn't a hopeful. Had the Sox lacked two starting infielders at the start of last season, few would be as comfortable risking a (hopefully) temporary step back.

Consider the Detroit Tigers, locked into win-now mode by exhausting much of their depth. Now their backup plans are going to be tested rather severely.

They already lost Andy Dirks to back surgery at the start of the month, and the Tigers are expected him to miss the first eight weeks or so of the regular season. Brad Ausmus penciled him as the heavy lifter in left field, but now platoon mate Rajai Davis is expected to start most of the games in left.

On Saturday, word bubbled up from both Jon Heyman and Jim Bowden that Jose Iglesias hasn't been battling your garden-variety shin splints, but a more serious leg injury that could sideline him for half the season or more. The Tigers have yet to respond to the reports, but he hasn't played in a Grapefruit League game since Feb. 27, so something's definitely up. There's quite the fallback plan available in Stephen Drew, should they be willing to forfeit their first-round draft pick, but that's not what Dave Dombrowski had in mind when he gave up Avisail Garcia, especially given their problems in left field right now.

(Garcia, on the other hand, showed what Rick Hahn had in mind when he took Clayton Kershaw deep on Saturday night.)

The Tigers aren't alone with their spring training headaches. The Orioles' rather dormant offseason hinged on a clean return by Manny Machado, but scar tissue in his surgically repaired knee is limiting his activity, which puts Opening Day and then some in jeopardy. And then there's the growing pile of pitchers who are dealing with some dreaded prognoses.

Braves: Kris Medlen will undergo his second Tommy John surgery, and Brandon Beachy may join him with his second such surgery in four years if he doesn't get good news on Monday from Dr. James Andrews. They already signed Ervin Santana to replace Medlen, and now it looks like Gavin Floyd's comeback from his own Tommy John surgery is of even greater importance.

(Then again, considering this surge of recent cases like Medlen, Beachy, Daniel Hudson and Cory Luebke, it's difficult to consider Floyd's comeback a given.)

Diamondbacks: Presumptive Opening Day starter Patrick Corbin left his start on Saturday after his 91st pitch (in the middle of an at-bat) with forearm stiffness, which is often indicative of greater elbow problems.

Athletics: Jarrod Parker is also battling forearm tightness, so much so that he's also going to see Dr. Andrews on Monday (and Parker had Tommy John surgery in 2009). A.J. Griffin is going to see a different doctor about his elbow discomfort.

Nationals: Doug Fister managed to throw a successful bullpen session on Friday after elbow tightness put him on the shelf for a couple weeks. An MRI revealed no structural damage, so the Nats are going to ramp up his throwing work and see if he keeps responding well.

When the injury wire is this crowded, it makes the wait until Opening Day seem a lot longer than 15 days away (that's three more tests for every starter). But on the bright side, maybe Jose Abreu can use the second half of March to figure out how to address his sore ankle.