The 2023 postseason is upon us and an unfortunate part of the calculus when it comes to expectations for how these playoffs will unfold is injuries. The various and sundry opening-round Wild Card Series, which get underway on Tuesday, are no exception.
Specifically, the Minnesota Twins, who square off against the Blue Jays in one of the most compelling first-round matchups, have multiple worries on this front. As well, the Miami Marlins, opponents of the division-rival Phillies in their best-of-three Wild Card Series, have questions about their leading offensive engine, while the Brewers revealed some tough news about one of their best pitchers on Monday, and the Diamondbacks were forced to make a late change to their roster minutes before they took the field to begin their postseason journey.
Let's take a closer look at these situations.
Correa and Lewis on Twins' roster, no Buxton
Minnesota, Carlos Correa, Byron Buxton, and Royce Lewis. Manager Rocco Baldelli would not tip his hand Monday -- "We're going to set our roster tomorrow when we hit that deadline, and we'll know the answers then," he told reporters (per the St. Paul Pioneer Press) -- and, when the Twins announced their Wild Card Roster on Tuesday, it included Correa and Lewis, but not Buxton., faces a level of uncertainty regarding three core contributors:
Correa, the Twins' shortstop and marquee addition of last winter, has endured a subpar season by his standards, and injuries likely have much to do with it. Specifically, a debilitating case of plantar fasciitis has limited him since at least May, and he's still been dealing with it. Correa hasn't appeared in a game since Sept. 18, but on the eve of Game 1 he told reporters he'll be ready to go for the series opener. The question, of course, is how close to 100% he is and how effective he'll be.
Buxton has been laid up since Aug. 1 with a hamstring injury. He's dealt with injuries his entire career, and the Twins this season made Buxton – an elite defensive center fielder – an exclusive DH partly in an effort to keep him healthier and partly because of ongoing knee issues. The approach worked until it didn't. Prior to his current injury, Buxton had performed well below his usual level at the plate. It's fair to wonder how effective he'll be whenever he returns, especially given the long layoff.
Lewis the other injury X-factor for Minny. The youngster and former No. 1 overall pick has done nothing but hit when healthy, but he's waylaid by injuries in his young career. He hasn't seen game action since Sept. 19 with a hamstring injury of his own. When he's a go, he's probably the Twins' best hitter, so it goes without saying – about to say it anyway – that they need him in the lineup against Toronto. Lewis is on the roster, though he limited to DH duty in the Wild Card Series.
Marlins have batting champ
Does any hitter mean more to any playoff lineup than Luis Arraez does? "No," is a very plausible answer to that question. That's in part because Arraez is an excellent batsman. That's also because the Marlins' offense would be lost without him.
On the first point, Arraez, the NL batting title winner, this season slashed .354/.393/.469 with more extra-base hits (43) than strikeouts (34). That's special production, especially for a middle infielder, and Arraez continues to flash the best contact skills in baseball. On the latter point, the Marlins even with Arraez's contributions ranked 10th in the NL in OPS and last in runs scored. That is to say, he's not a bat they can afford to be without.
Speaking of which, Arraez has played sparingly since a Sept. 19 mishap during infield drills that resulted in an ankle sprain. The good news for the Fish is that signs point to yes for their best hitter:
Skip Schumaker said it would take a lot for Luis Arraez not to be in the lineup for Game 1 on Tuesday. He’s been sidelined recently by an injured ankle.— Todd Zolecki (@ToddZolecki) October 2, 2023
The Marlins are already heavy underdogs against the Phillies, so suffice it to say they need Arraez in the lineup and swinging the cudgel.
Siri on roster, Raley out
Rays center fielder Jose Siri is on the team's Wild Card Series roster. Fellow outfielder Luke Raley is not, however. Siri, who hit 25 home runs in only 101 games during the regular season, has not played since Sept. 11, when an errant pitch broke his hand. Raley has been out since Sept. 21 with a neck issue.
"Siri is a little sore but these games are meaningful so he's good to go," Rays manager Kevin Cash said Tuesday. "Luke Raley is unfortunate. He has worked hard, he looked good but not quite like himself. Didn't wanna put a version of him with a neck issue out there."
With Raley and Brandon Lowe (broken kneecap) sidelined, . It's unclear how much Siri can contribute at the moment. With his hand compromised, he may be limited to pinch-running and defensive replacement duty.
Woodruff will miss Wild Card Series
. His availability for the rest of the postseason is unknown. Woodruff missed just about the entire first four months of the season with a shoulder issue, and he showed reduced velocity in his last regular season start. The Brewers skipped his last scheduled outing to give him extra rest.
McCarthy removed from roster
Diamondbacks outfielder Jake McCarthy was removed from the playoff roster moments before Arizona began their series against the Brewers after he strained his oblique during batting practice. McCarthy was replaced by utility infielder Jace Peterson. Under MLB's rules, McCarthy won't be eligible for the NLDS if Arizona advances.
McCarthy, 26, hit .243/.318/.326 (77 OPS+) in 99 games this season.