(Left to Right) Mariano Rivera, Chris Carpenter and Derek Jeter are all on the comeback trail as they look to overcome devastating injuries for the upcoming 2013 MLB baseball season (Photo : Reuters)
The road to baseball season is going to be more difficult for some baseball stars.
With spring training underway, there are several big name stars that are coming off surgery, or are currently dealing with injuries that have them at a distance as far as coming back. And with some of these stars, their returns could have potential playoff-level implications for their respective ball clubs.
For some of these players, it's a matter of fine tuning that can be easily done in the six weeks of spring training that players and coaches will be undergoing. For others, it could mean months of grueling rehab work still ahead, and their road back to the majors could prove to be an arduous task.
Let's take a look at Five of MLB's Comeback Players to Watch in 2013:
Derek Jeter, New York Yankees
The Yankees have a slew of injuries to key players that could impact their playoff hopes, although manager Joe Girardi said Tuesday that he doesn't see any reason why they can't win 95 games and get to the World Series. To get back there, one of the key pieces they will need is Jeter.
The 13-time All-Star and five-time World Series Champion was injured in Game 1 of the ALCS against the Detroit Tigers, which had a tremendous impact on the Yankees as they ended up going down in a humiliating 4-0 sweep. With so much talent still in New York, the Yankees could very well make another trip deep into the playoffs, but let's be clear about one thing-they're not getting very far without Jeter being at his best. Last season, he hit a stunning .316 with 216 hits and was clutch in the playoffs prior to his injury, batting .333 in six games in October. So far, he's looking fairly mobile, and is insisting that he'll be ready for Opening Day. If he can get back to form, the Yankees' chances of repeating as AL East Champions will be that much better.
Mariano Rivera, New York Yankees
There are closers, and then there is Mariano Rivera. The all-time leader in saves with 608 of them and 12-time All-Star tore his right ACL one month into the season on a practice mound, which ended his season and had many wondering if the legendary closer's career was over.
But last week, Rivera who has since healed, was fully excited as he spoke about returning to training camp. "I can't wait for it. It's right around the corner. I am excited," he told USA Today. Already having started throwing and running on a limited basis, Rivera feels the weather's improvement will help him start pushing his legs, and can help him get ready to go in six weeks.
Chris Carpenter, St. Louis Cardinals
Just last week, people were writing career eulogies for Carpenter, the former Cy Young Winner and World Series champion whose shoulder surgery rehabilitation had fallen way off schedule, prompting Cardinals management to state that they didn't expect him to return this season.
And yet, Carpenter is still hoping to get back on the mound. He's due to meet with team doctors after he completes a series of physical exams in Florida. And he remains hopeful that he can still return at some point. But whether or not the 2005 NL Cy Young winner can return this season will depend on what doctors can find. At 37 years old, the odds are against him and time is not a friend of his. And yet, Carpenter has returned before from both elbow and Tommy John surgery to have a stellar 2009 season that earned him Comeback Player of the Year honors that year. To bet against Carpenter may not be a wise thing to do.
Matt Kemp, Los Angeles Dodgers
The Dodgers All-Star centerfielder is continuing the rehabilitation of his left shoulder after he tore his labrum when he crashed into a wall during a game Colorado in August. While he still going through the post-surgery soreness that accompanies post-surgery, Kemp is insisting that he will be ready for Opening Day.
For Kemp, who finished second in NL MVP voting in 2011, says that his goal for the coming season is simply to stay healthy through the schedule.
"For me, my goal this year is just to stay healthy for 162 games," Kemp told the L.A. Times. "Whatever happens after that, happens. As long as I stay healthy, I'm going to go out there and perform. The numbers are going to be there."
Victor Martinez, Detroit Tigers
After a left knee injury took him out for more than a year, Martinez, who hit .330 with 104 RBIs in 2011 prior to his injury, is looking to be back in the swing of things.
Tigers coach Lloyd McClendon gave Martinez his endorsement, telling the Detroit News on Feb. 7 that Martinez was looking "unbelievable" and that he was "really, really impressed" with the 34-year-old slugger's progress.
"He's in great shape, and he's swinging the bat extremely well. A lot of zip, a lot of pop, it doesn't look like he's lost anything."
That can only be great news for the Tigers, who were swept in the World Series by the eventual champion San Francisco Giants, 4-0. With a healthy Martinez onboard to compliment 2012 AL MVP Miguel Cabrera and ace pitcher Justin Verlander, things are looking up for the Tigers.