This spring marks the second go-around for Alfredo Amezaga in the Dodgers organization. You’re forgiven for not remembering the first.
Amezaga signed a minor-league contract with the Dodgers in Feb. 2010, less than a year removed from major knee surgery. He didn’t play in spring training. He didn’t play in the regular season either, save for one game at Double-A Chattanooga. Amezaga spent nearly the entire season on the disabled list and became a free agent in October.
On the day the Dodgers learned that Hanley Ramirez would miss the next eight weeks with a thumb injury, it’s worth noting where Amezaga suffered the injury that caused him to miss all but 31 games in a two-year span: The 2009 World Baseball Classic.
Amezaga was playing for Team Mexico when he hurt his left knee in the tournament. He went back to Miami to train with the Marlins and tried to come back two weeks into the season, but it was too soon.
“I was favoring my other (right) leg and the other leg got hurt,” he said. “It took me like two years. I was off two years.”
The initial injury was so severe that Amezaga had microfracture surgery under renowned physician J. Richard Steadman.
“I was in good hands with a good doctor, so that’s why I am here,” Amezaga said. “He did a good job. I feel healthy. … I owe the rest of my career to that guy.”
At the same time, he nearly owed the end of his career to the World Baseball Classic. Ramirez’s injury is not nearly as serious — he’s expected back by the end of May — but it raised the same question Amezaga faced four years ago.
Is playing in the WBC worth the risk of injury to major-league players?
For Amezaga, it was worth the risk in 2009 but not this year. He’s still battling to earn a spot on the Dodgers’ 40-man roster in major-league camp. Still, for a time, he seriously considered playing in the WBC again.
“I decided to talk to my parents and my wife about this because it was a hard decision,” he said. “I wanted to play for my country, but like I said, in the back of my mind it was always focusing on the Dodgers.
Maybe because he is one of the most recognizable players in the world, Ramirez didn’t blame the timing of the WBC for his misfortune. Amezaga, in a quote that probably won’t resonate far and wide, did.
“At that time, the moment the WBC’s on, I think players are not ready to play nine innings,” he said. “Because they’re not ready they can get hurt. Like, what happened with Hanley, you can’t control that. The only thing that I’m saying is, players are not ready to play nine innings at that time.”
Whether they’re ready or not, baseball players are stubborn creatures. “You cannot play halfway,” Amezaga said, noting that he would have dived for the ground ball that led to Ramirez’s injury.
Like most people in baseball, the 35-year-old veteran has reached some conflicting conclusions about the tournament. Yes, it exposes places like Italy and Brazil and Israel and Spain to baseball. Yes, it rips players out of their major-league spring training camps and exposes them to injury in a tournament that doesn’t count.
“But I am nobody to say to ban (the WBC),” he said. “I’m just saying players are not ready to play during that period of time.”