NL Central Notes: India, Ashby, Santana, Pirates

Plantar fasciitis sidelined Jonathan India last summer, and the injury is still impacting the Reds infielder’s availability as Spring Training begins.  Manager David Bell told the Cincinnati Enquirer’s Charlie Goldsmith and other reporters that India isn’t slated to appear in a game until March 7 or 8, as India’s plantar fasciitis tore during the offseason and is still causing him some discomfort.  On the plus side, the tear means that India won’t need to undergo surgery on his foot, and Bell said that India is still able to take part in baseball activity as he builds up to being game-ready.

Health is just one of many uncertainties hanging over India as he begins his fourth Major League season.  Already the subject of frequent trade rumors due to Cincinnati’s plethora of up-and-coming infield talent, India looks to be moving into a utility role if he remains with the Reds, as he could be playing all over the infield, at DH, and perhaps in left field.

Other items from around the NL Central…

  • Aaron Ashby is eager to be back after missing virtually all of the 2023 season due to arthroscopic surgery on his throwing shoulder.  Describing the procedure to Todd Rosiak of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Ashby said “I essentially had some calcified muscle on my rotator cuff, and they went in there and clipped it right off.  Once I got out of surgery the doctor was like, ’This was best-case scenario for you.’  It’s a minimal surgery in terms of what they did, but a shoulder surgery is a shoulder surgery, and it’s tricky at times.”  The southpaw’s only game action in 2023 was seven innings of minor-league rehab work in September, but he has been making good progress in Spring Training and is hoping to win a spot in the Brewers rotation, though Rosiak notes that bullpen work could help ease Ashby back into regular activity.
  • Carlos Santana had interest in returning to the Pirates as a free agent this winter, with Santana telling Jason Mackey of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that he expressed this to the team when he was traded to the Brewers prior to last summer’s trade deadline.  The Bucs still had some interest during the offseason even after signing Rowdy Tellez to ostensibly fill the void at first base, but Santana didn’t know why an agreement wasn’t reached.  “My agent has a very good relationship with the team, but he didn’t tell me anything.  I wanted to come back, but there was nothing going on,” the first baseman said.  Santana instead joined the Twins on a one-year, $5.25MM deal, and the Pirates will head into 2024 with Tellez and Connor Joe as the first base platoon and Andrew McCutchen returning as the primary DH.
  • This could be something of a tough read for Pirates fans, but The Athletic’s Stephen J. Nesbitt and Ken Rosenthal details some of the missteps that have slowed the team’s rebuild, such as a lack of success in international signings and some instances of a disconnect between traditional baseball teachings and the more modern approach of GM Ben Cherington.  However, the largest issue is naturally the team’s lack of spending under owner Bob Nutting, as there is less margin for error for Cherington’s front office when operating within a tight budget.  Nesbitt and Rosenthal’s piece was published a day before the Pirates announced a five-year, $77MM extension with Mitch Keller, which is one instance of how the Bucs have been slightly more willing to spend in order to lock up young cornerstone players.


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