Of course Charlie Tilson injured himself in his first-ever MLB game. Even Robin Ventura seems resigned to it. When asked after Tuesday's loss to Detroit whether J.B. Shuck might boomerang back to the big leagues, the White Sox manager said, "It’s a possibility. It won’t be a guy making his debut."
And of course, Tilson left with what the White Sox described as a "strained left hamstring," although that’s a pretty general term for what is a rather acute problem with this team.
It looked worse than your normal strain:
Especially this frame, which seemed to put anything from his knee ligaments on down in play:
I wouldn’t rule out other issues after further examination, but even if it’s "just" a hamstring strain, that injury is more ominous than in previous years.
First, there’s Alex Avila, who left the middle of a game on July 5 rather discreetly. He just surfaced in Detroit, but he might have a whole month of recovery in front of him:
Alex Avila, still on the DL, is taking early BP. Supposedly out until the end of August.— Chris McCosky (@cmccosky) August 2, 2016
McCosky is a Detroit News reporter, so perhaps he’s not as informed as the Chicago guys, as Avila last said on July 23 that he’d need two to four more weeks. Yet it wouldn’t be surprising if Avila’s return were again delayed, because 1) it’s Avila, and 2) Ventura provided an update about Brett Lawrie’s "tight hamstring" in that same article ...
White Sox second baseman Brett Lawrie was out of the lineup for the second consecutive day with a tight left hamstring, and while he won’t require a stint on the 15-day disabled list, his injury has left manager Robin Ventura a little shorthanded.
The White Sox are carrying 13 pitchers, so with Tyler Saladino filling in for Lawrie at second base, they’ve been left with only three players on the bench for this weekend’s series against the Detroit Tigers. Ventura said he expects Lawrie to be ready to return to the lineup in the next couple of days.
... and Lawrie’s timetable has been pushed back quite a bit, too. He hit the disabled list four days later, retroactive to July 22. That allows him to return as early as Saturday, but that doesn’t sound like it’s gonna happen:
"He was feeling better," Ventura said. "It’s tough to really figure that out unless you’re getting an MRI every day. He’s working at it, but it still hasn’t gotten any better. I don’t see him getting close just yet."
Both players seem to be following the Austin Jackson plan, even if Jackson's problems are with a different part of his leg. Jackson went on the DL on June 10 for knee surgery to repair his meniscus. At the time, Rick Hahn said would cost him a minimum of six weeks. The Sox were wise enough to avoid setting an official timeline, because any attempt would’ve been ruined. The beat writers last relayed a Jackson update on July 21, when he was still several weeks away from "baseball activity," according to Hahn.
Throw in Matt Davidson, who was transferred to the 60-day disabled list for his broken foot and Zach Putnam’s depressing fight against elbow surgery, and this year might up use up all of the cushion Herm Schneider built up over the last 15 years. If I’m putting together the press release on this one, I’ve already written, "Tilson is expected to be out for ¯\_(ツ)_/¯."
Reading the "year in injuries" post from last December, it was odd that the White Sox fell so flat in 2015 without any notable extended absences. The start of Chris Sale’s season — and effectiveness — were delayed by the broken foot he suffered (")jumping off his truck,(") and Matt Albers broke his finger in the brawl with the Royals, but those weren’t nearly enough to sink a season.
This season has a more typical relationship between team health and team disappointment. The disabled list isn’t to blame for this year’s collapse, because Carlos Rodon is the only one of the core contributors to miss time. If the Sox had typical seasons from Jose Abreu and Todd Frazier and catchers who could receive, they might still be in the hunt.
The injury bug devoured the margins, though. Jackson’s absence submarined the outfield’s improved defense and threw the delicate balance at DH out of whack. Avila’s injury highlighted Dioner Navarro’s shortcomings. Jake Petricka’s hip surgery prompted Robin Ventura to put all his workload on Albers, who eventually foundered. Putnam got hurt just as he started taking on tougher situations. Davidson’s broken foot eliminated the last in-house improvement over Avisail Garcia.
Lawrie’s injury could have broken the Sox if they weren’t already out of it, but now he’s just a late hit. And if Lawrie’s hamstring is a late hit, Tilson’s is pure cruelty. Since we're still waiting for an official update, it's possible that it’s not as bad as it looked, but that would fly in the face of a season in which everything is worse than it initially appears.