Jim Henderson Decided the Shortstop Competition
PEORIA, Ariz. — Chris Taylor wasn’t about to let a fastball off the wrist slow his ongoing quest in the Mariners shortstop race Friday.
Officially, Chris Taylor has let a fastball off the wrist slow his ongoing quest in the Mariners shortstop race. From the press release:
Chris Taylor has been diagnosed with a fracture of the triquetrum bone in his right wrist.
At first I wasn’t sure what to think, but I just got off the phone with a doctor who confirmed that “triquetrum” is a real word, so this all seems legit, as opposed to being an elaborate prank being played by the team for some reason. Taylor’s going to be sidelined for some time, and while he thankfully won’t need any kind of surgical intervention, the shortstop competition is over, and it came down to Brewers reliever Jim Henderson, just like we all suspected. Based on the timeline of Taylor returning to baseball activities, the best-case scenario might be his becoming available around the beginning of May. More likely, it’ll be the middle or the end of the month.
And then, who knows, maybe we’ll have the shortstop competition revived. It’s not like this has been decided forever, irreversibly. But now we know Brad Miller will be the Mariners’ starting shortstop out of the gate, at least unless he also faces Jim Henderson. No one likes an injury, and we all have the right to be pissed off at Henderson for this:
On the other hand, maybe Henderson has served his punishment, because within literally seconds, Taylor tried to separate Henderson’s teeth from his mandible:
Often in the past, we’ve all been critical of players for trying to play through pain. Not only does performance tend to suffer — the injuries can get worse, as they aren’t given time to properly heal. What we have here, though, is Chris Taylor singling through the box a pitch after sustaining a fracture in his wrist. In other words, Taylor with a broken bone is batting 1.000. Market inefficiency? It’ll take some brave souls to find out.
Let’s assume Taylor’s fine in the long run. It’s not a given, since wrists are tricky, but he should be okay. We’ve had the biggest question of spring temporarily answered. Miller will be the shortstop. Willie Bloomquist, then, will be the backup, and Ketel Marte is around just to try to show off what he can do and prove he isn’t an offensive or defensive zero. Because Miller will be the guy, he’ll be that much more difficult to displace whenever Taylor is back in action. This spring, the two were locked in a fair and even fight. Once the season starts, it’ll be Miller’s job unless he loses it. Which he could do, but maybe this time he actually hits.
It’s possible things could become very complicated. Taylor is a shortstop. Marte is a shortstop. They can’t both be regular shortstops in Tacoma. Marc has written about this recently. Miller is the most versatile of the players, so in that sense it actually made more sense to have Taylor get the Mariners’ gig. Then Miller could move around at a bunch of positions in Tacoma, and Marte could play a lot of short and a little second. Now, I’m not sure. It won’t be hard for the season’s first few weeks, but then I don’t know what the course of action will be. If Miller’s doing well, there’ll be little urgency to move him. Maybe Willie Bloomquist could make this easier, by being really bad — then the Mariners could increasingly justify carrying both Miller and Taylor at the same time.
I still feel like Miller deserves a chance to be the Mariners’ next center fielder, after Austin Jackson. I think he has the skills, and there’s no one else in the system, unless you believe in James Jones, which you probably shouldn’t. Now, this news might make that ever so slightly less likely, with Miller locked in at short for a while. He might still be able to make a quick transition between 2015 – 2016, should it come to that, but you can see how there could be wide-ranging consequences of one fastball that seemingly got away from a Brewer. Maybe I’m taking this too far. The Mariners probably aren’t yet thinking about how they’re going to replace Austin Jackson. More importantly, they want to make sure Austin Jackson isn’t bad anymore.
One of the silver linings: the Mariners have lost a big-league-ready shortstop, and they still have a healthy big-league-ready shortstop. Not many teams would be able to say that. Another silver lining: between Miller and Taylor, I personally prefer Miller right now, so I like him more for a potential playoff season anyway. But I don’t know what’s going to happen in May. It’s hard to find room for so much up-the-middle depth when you want the guys playing every game.
Ultimately, in the long run, if Miller hits enough and if Taylor hits enough, they’ll both be starters somewhere. Yet, now Miller has won a competition by default, and Taylor has lost an opportunity to earn the distinction of being an Opening Day starter. So this isn’t the way anyone wanted this to go. Except for maybe Jim Henderson. Jim Henderson seems like a real son of a bitch.