The Tampa Bay Rays placed infielder Ben Zobrist on the 15-day disabled list with a dislocated left thumb on Thursday, according to a team press release.
Zobrist suffered the injury while attempting to steal second base during the Rays' 2-0 win over the Mariners on Wednesday. Zobrist was thrown out on the play and appeared to jam his thumb into the ground during his headfirst dive into the bag.
Trainers were able to pop Zobrist's thumb back into place after he underwent an X-ray, but Zobrist still seemed pretty grim about his chances of avoiding a DL stint, as he told MLB.com's Bill Chastain:
"Best-case scenario is that it heals very quickly and I can get back on the field, maybe within a week. But that's unlikely, I think. I think they're trying to decide right now whether we need to go on the DL or not. We'll see what decision is made."
Zobrist's injury is just the latest in a series of unfortunate events for the Rays, who entered play on Thursday in American League East cellar with an 18-23 record.
Three-fifths of the team's starting rotation from last year is on the DL. Alex Cobb and Jeremy Hellickson both could be back in action within the next month, but Matt Moore is out for the entire 2014 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery in April. The top three hurlers currently in the rotation have all been below-average in terms of ERA+, though David Price has struck out 70 batters and walked only six in 62⅔ innings. Still, he's been hittable -- until Wednesday, at least -- and homer-prone, while Jake Odorizzi, Cesar Ramos and Erik Bedard have struggled with command.
Tampa Bay's offense is having its own set of problems, particularly with slow starts from Wil Myers and Evan Longoria. The unit isn't bad as a whole, posting a league-average 100 OPS+ through the first quarter of the season, but David DeJesus has been the Rays' best regular. He's probably not going to sustain a 136 OPS+ for much longer, so other guys are going to have to step up and shoulder the load -- especially while the pitching staff is at half-strength.
That's to say nothing of the bullpen, which has its own concerns. Jake McGee continues to be solid, but his strikeouts are way down from the previous two seasons. Meanwhile, the Heath Bell experiment failed miserably and Grant Balfour's tenure as the team's closer isn't going much better. Though he has converted seven out of eight save opportunities, Balfour has walked more batters than he's struck out, resulting in a poor 4.70 ERA and downright ugly 5.91 FIP, especially for a guy who was given a two-year, $12 million deal in the offseason.
Long story short, things aren't going the Rays' way this season, and Zobrist's hard-luck injury only reinforces that. There's still time for the team to right the ship, and history says they can do it. But in a division that houses, among other things, the defending World Series champions and a phenomenal rookie who might be the best pitcher in all of baseball, overcoming a poor start could be a tall task for Tampa Bay.