Injuries are often reported as time lost, usually as a range of days, weeks or even months. With the time ticking down toward Opening Day with the sledgehammer ticks of a Jack Bauer-style clock, baseball players are learning that while there's no clock during the game, there might as well be one hanging on the wall of the training room. However, the slow-moving arrow of time is not the key -- instead, that's the gap between "now" and "healed." The problem is, that's different for everyone.
It's a bit harder to evaluate in spring training. "The guys are all at different stages. Some are coming off winter ball and are tired. Some are rested and not ready for a full load yet," one trainer said. Injury management is in some ways not unlike scouting. It takes years of training and experience to make the decision, all of which goes into both treating an athlete and estimating his recovery time.
"The hardest part is knowing there's a hard deadline," the trainer said. "Opening Day is what all these guys are shooting for once they've made the team, and getting the team as close to 100 percent on that date puts pressure on both them and us. It gets the rehab a bit tighter. We push to make sure that four weeks means four weeks or that four to six is closer to four if it's not going to put a guy in a bad spot."
With time getting tight, teams are looking closely at the injuries they have and working hard to prevent new ones. With pitchers, it's more difficult. Not only do they need to be physically able, getting them up to speed and building stamina is a big part of spring training. "Even missing a day or two sets them back," the trainer said.