Four more innings. That's all Hanley Ramirez had to get through before the Dominican Republic could return him to the Dodgers in working condition.
But Ramirez tore ligaments in his right thumb diving for a ball in Tuesday night's World Baseball Classic championship game. Suddenly the Dodgers are without their shortstop and No. 5 hitter for the first two months of a season in which their new ownership group has committed $213 million on player salaries with the expectation of a long October run.
As you might know, I'm an unabashed supporter of the WBC. But it's also easy to understand why most general managers provide only tepid support for the event.
There was hardly a trail of bodies from the WBC, but there were injuries. Mark Teixeira went down with a torn tendon in his right wrist at the Team USA camp, and David Wright is questionable for opening day after experiencing an intercostal strain at some point in his four-game stint as Joe Torre's third baseman.
None of those players blames his injury on the tournament, which was a huge success when viewed from 10,000 feet.
"It's something I can't control," Ramirez said. "It could have happened anywhere. It could have happened (in the Dodgers' camp). It unfortunately happened in the WBC. It's very disappointing."
Ramirez's injury almost certainly would not have happened in Arizona, not in the way it did, anyway. Because he was playing alongside Jose Reyes, Ramirez was being used at third base. The Dodgers wanted him to play shortstop because that's where they have him penciled in.
There are more subtle concerns for teams than the casualties we know about. How will heavily used players be affected when the season begins? And what about guys who weren't used very much?
Dominican closer Fernando Rodney pitched in all eight games for his unbeaten team. Setup man Pedro Strop, seemingly a breakdown candidate because of his violent delivery and high-90s stuff, worked 62/3 innings in six outings for Tony Pena.
If those two guys experience midseason injuries or are ineffective for the Rays and Orioles, respectively, it still will be on the mind of baseball executives when teams are assembled for the 2017 WBC. It's possible that a guideline will be put in place to make it impossible for a manager to push his relievers as hard as Pena did this time around.
Rays manager Joe Maddon says he will pitch Rodney only twice before opening day. He says that the emotional drain of the event is as real as the physical drain, but Rodney insists he's fine.
After rejoining the Rays Thursday, he told the Tampa Bay Times he's "ready to go right now'' for opening day and isn't concerned about wearing down.
"I don't think about September,'' Rodney said. "I think about staying healthy. If I stay healthy I know I can do my job.''
Jose Molina, the Rays' starting catcher, was out of camp almost three weeks and got only three at-bats as Yadier Molina's backup with Puerto Rico. Maddon will get him as much action as possible in the Grapefruit League to get his bat going.
Maddon was typically diplomatic with his words about the WBC. Don Mattingly, who is now without his shortstop, surprisingly endorsed it.
"You have to go back to what the WBC is all about,'' the Dodgers manager said. "Just because one of our guys gets hurt, doesn't change that. The tournament, to me, was great, totally cool."
Sitting it out: Some guys go to great lengths to continue their baseball careers. Ryan Theriot, the former Cub, is ready to get on with real life if he can't find a team that is willing to give him regular playing time.
That seems unlikely at this date, especially if a team like the Dodgers isn't calling him. He told the San Francisco Chronicle he's ready to stay home in Louisiana and be a full-time husband and father, and maybe in the near future do some work as a player agent.
Theriot won World Series rings with the Cardinals and Giants the last two seasons but got only 11 plate appearances in the Giants' 16 postseason games last year, mostly encouraging shortstop Brandon Crawford and second baseman Marco Scutaro.
"I like to play,'' said Theriot, 33. "I'm a busybody. I like to go out there and do it. I'm counterproductive when I'm just watching. I like to contribute in some way, shape or form other than in the clubhouse. (I want to) feel needed on the field.''
Next big thing: Eyebrows were raised when the Dodgers signed Yasiel Puig to a $42 million contract last year. The Cuban defector was reportedly out of shape and a character risk, and the move seemed more questionable when general manager Ned Colletti made the Red Sox trade, adding Carl Crawford and committing the Dodgers to more than $300 million for Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier and Crawford.
But with Crawford running behind this spring, the 22-year-old Puig has been one of the most impressive players in Arizona. Scouts raved early about Jorge Soler, the Cubs' big-ticket Cuban, but it is Puig who has pushed for a spot on an opening day roster.
"To me and to anyone who has seen what he has done, he's ready," Yoenis Cespedes said after his A's played the Dodgers last week.
Puig entered the weekend hitting .521 with four stolen bases and a 1.354 OPS. His play and attitude have prompted comparisons to Cespedes and the early versions of Bo Jackson, Jose Canseco and Mark McGwire.
"At this point, he's creating an expectation that he can't live up to, that nobody can live up to," Mattingly said. "I just try to temper it, take a realistic look."
If Crawford gets healthy by opening day, the Dodgers won't have anywhere to play Puig, who probably would be sent to Double A or Triple A.
Global success: Will the MLB Network carry the next World Baseball Classic? You have to wonder if ESPN or another of the networks with a broader audience will get interested in having the event after so many people tuned in around the world this time around.
The WBC set records in the Dominican Republic, Japan, Puerto Rico and Taiwan. The Dominican-Puerto Rico championship game was the most-watched sports broadcast in the Dominican in at least 10 years, and the most watched in Puerto Rico for at least the last year.
Japan's victory over the Netherlands in the second-round final was the highest rated sports event in Japan in a year. Chinese Taipei's game against Japan on March 8 was the highest-rated cable program in the country's history.
Everything was up for the WBC —– attendance, merchandise sales, sponsorships. Acceptance in the United States seems to be a glaring exception, but expanding the partnership with ESPN (games were carried on ESPN Deportes) in 2017 would be a good move. It would put the event on the table for shows like "Mike and Mike,'' who can't talk enough NFL free agency and the grinding NBA regular season.
The last word: "Talk to all managers, general managers — they'd rather have their guys in camp. Selfishly, we all want our guys here. … But from a player's standpoint, if I put myself in their shoes — I'd want to play in that (WBC championship) game. I'd want to be in that tournament. You see those guys and the emotion they played with in that tournament.'' — Mattingly.