One week to the day after the Texas Rangers somberly announced that 23-year-old right-hander Eric Hurley would miss the entirety of the 2009 season after undergoing arthroscopic shoulder surgery to repair a torn rotator cuff and a frayed labrum, the relentless war of pitching attrition claimed yet another victim: Joaquin Benoit.
General manager Jon Daniels announced on Wednesday that Benoit, 31, underwent arthroscopic shoulder surgery on Tuesday to repair a torn rotator cuff and could miss the entirety of the 2009 season:
"Joaquin was affected most of last season, and it didn't allow him to perform to his abilities," Daniels said. "He attempted to rehab the injury this off-season. He worked hard, but the results weren't there. From all accounts, the surgery went well and he can begin the process of strengthening his shoulder now."
The door was left open for a potential late-second-half return by operating surgeon -- and Reds medical director -- Dr. Timothy Cremchek, who reportedly indicated that the procedure went better than expected; however, the probability of Benoit being at a point in his rehabilitation just seven months from now where he could conceivably bolster the Rangers' relief corps seems awfully minute. Every injury is different, of course, and the preliminary reports are indeed encouraging, but knowing what we know about the seriousness of even minor shoulder procedures, entirely writing off Benoit's 2009 campaign is probably a safe gamble at this point.
The roles of southpaw C.J. Wilson and presumptive closer Frank Francisco should remain relatively static (though one would suspect Wilson might see even more high-leverage work in a setup role in Benoit's absence), but uncertainty now enshrouds the composition of the remainder of the bullpen. The odds of Derrick Turnbow (great arm, poor command), Dustin Nippert (ditto), Warner Madrigal (electric, but inexperienced) and Willie Eyre (mediocre) breaking camp as part of the active roster have presumably been amplified, while Josh Rupe might well be close to a lock in spite of the maddening inconsistency that beset his 2008 campaign.
Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram explicitly mentions that the Rangers have remained in contact with the agent of free-agent left-hander Eddie Guardado throughout the off-season; I legitimately doubt that Texas desires to go into Opening Day with Kason Gabbard or Joe Torres installed as the second LOOGY (left-handed one-out guy) behind Wilson, and it wouldn't come as much of a shock if a deal was indeed completed with Guardado -- or one of his similarly priced peers -- in the next week or two.
For what it's worth, Joe Christensen of the Star Tribute reported late Wednesday evening that that Twins had severed talks with free-agent right-hander Eric Gagne, instead opting to pursue relief help through trade. Gagne's reported asking price? One year, $3 million with $500,000 in incentives.
Benoit, coincidentally, is set to earn a base salary of $3.5 million in 2009. Toss in Frank Catalanotto's seemingly immovable $4 million salary (coupled with a $2 million buyout for 2010), and that's suddenly more than 10 percent of the projected 2009 payroll sunk into either damaged or superfluous goods.
Unless, of course, that whole Ben Sheets thing happens to work out as so many of us have envisioned.
[Hint: I still bet it does.]