Dr. Michael Ciccotti was a busy man on Saturday, which is bad news for the Phillies. He already had a full slate of patients that included Chris Coste, Geoff Geary, Freddy Garcia and Carlos Ruiz. The reports on all those patients were basically, "take two of these and call me in the morning". All checked out with mild injuries that should cure easily with some tender loving care and caution.
Then, Jon Lieber walked in.
Lieber is going to be sidelined with a strained right oblique muscle, making him a potential no-go for opening day on April 2nd. Lieber has already started treatment, but it's not clear how well he'll respond and when he'll be able to resume baseball activities.
You have to wonder if Lieber's changed routine of warming up on about 15 pitches rather than the much longer, slower paced routine he was used to as a starter, played some role in the injury. Lieber had questioned how the new routine would work for him when he was given the news that he would start the season in the bullpen.
Actually, the Phillies may still be okay, since Freddy Garcia should be able to go shortly after opening day. The Phillies won't need a fifth starter until April 8th and Garcia could be ready by then if all goes well. The highly durable Garcia was allowed to start doing some light throwing after being seen by Ciccotti and will work his way back to the mound possibly as early as late this week or next weekend. That would give the Phillies some indication as to just how much he might be able to give them when April 8th - or possibly an earlier assignment - would come around.
If Garcia and Lieber are both scratches, the door could be opened for not only a young pitcher to make the team as a reliever, but also for a young pitcher to make a spot start early in the season. Joe Bisenius and Zack Segovia are candidates for a bullpen job and either Segovia or J.A. Happ could also take a starting assignment if both of the veteran pitchers were to need more time to heal.
Ruiz, Coste and Geary are all closer to returning to action and all were diagnosed with mild injuries that would require just regular treatment. Geary and Coste have been battling sore hamstrings, while Ruiz had a stiff bicep muscle, the same injury that hit Garcia.
Ah, yes. Depth is a wonderful thing.