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Injury Notes: Whitlock, Ahmed, Vargas, Reynolds

Right-hander Garrett Whitlock is still on the mend from September hip surgery, though Red Sox skipper Alex Cora indicated this morning there’s a possibility he won’t be ready for Opening Day (Twitter link via Ian Browne of Whitlock has been throwing off a mound but is not yet performing pitchers’ fielding practice, and Cora stated that if the right-hander isn’t ready for the start of the season, “he’s not going to lose too much time.”

One of the best Rule 5 selections in recent memory, the 26-year-old Whitlock has pitched 151 2/3 innings for Boston over the past two seasons, logging a sharp 2.73 ERA with a strong 26.8% strikeout rate against a brilliant 5.3% walk rate. The Red Sox have used him far more out of the bullpen than the rotation, but he’s slated to get a look as a starter in 2023, joining the likes of Chris Sale, Corey Kluber, James Paxton and Nick Pivetta in the mix for rotation work. Fellow righty Tanner Houck and top prospect Brayan Bello are both options to step into the rotation, should Whitlock need to miss any time early in the season.

A few more health situations to monitor as spring camps continue to ramp up…

  • D-backs shortstop Nick Ahmed received a cortisone injection in his right forearm and will be shut down for at least five days, writes Steve Gilbert of The 32-year-old Ahmed (33 next month) was dealing with inflammation and tightness in his forearm, and the hope is that the injection and some downtime will clear it up and avoid a lengthy absence. Ahmed was limited to 129 games in 2021 and just 17 games in 2022 thanks to a shoulder injury that ultimately required surgery last year. If healthy, he’ll be back in line for regular reps at shortstop, where he’s ranked among the game’s best defenders at any position. A healthy 2023 campaign is of particular importance for Ahmed, as he’s entering the final season of a four-year, $32MM contract and is slated to become a free agent for the first time next offseason.
  • Infielder Miguel Vargas, who suffered a hairline fracture of his pinkie finger earlier this spring, has resumed swinging a bat, writes Jack Harris of the L.A. Times. The 23-year-old Vargas, widely considered to be one of the sport’s 100  best prospects, scuffled through a 50-plate appearance MLB debut in 2022 (.170/.200/.255) but ripped through Triple-A pitching at a torrid .304/.404/.511 pace (129 wRC+). He’s the favorite for everyday work at second base to begin the season, though obviously the health of his finger will determine his readiness for the season. Vargas is in the Dodgers’ lineup for the second time in three spring games today, but he’s batting ninth and isn’t expected to swing during any plate appearances today (he walked and struck out on Saturday). He’ll still get some work at second base and use today’s game to work on tracking pitches in the batter’s box. It’s not clear yet when he’ll begin swinging the bat in a game setting.
  • Reds infielder Matt Reynolds is headed for an MRI after exiting Saturday’s Cactus League game with a quadriceps injury, tweets Bobby Nightengale of the Cincinnati Enquirer. The 31-year-old Reynolds, in camp as a non-roster invitee, logged a career-high 272 plate appearances with Cincinnati in 2022, slashing .246/.320/.332 while appearing at every position other than catcher. Reynolds is competing with fellow non-roster invitees like Chad Pinder, Alejo Lopez and Jason Vosler for a spot on manager David Bell’s bench to begin the 2023 season.
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