2:30pm: Dahl has been diagnosed with a stress reaction in his sixth rib, the Rockies announced. The injury will be reevaluated in two weeks, which certainly doesn’t bode well for Dahl’s early-season availability.
12:05pm: Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post has a full column on the matter with quotes from Black. To this point, Dahl has undergone multiple tests, but the source of the pain in his upper back remains undetermined. Black emphasized that the team is not anticipating this to be an injury that sidelines Dahl for months. The manager also expressed optimism that Dahl will appear in a game this spring but shied away from putting a specific target date.
11:35am: Rockies manager Bud Black told reporters today that outfielder David Dahl, who has been sidelined by an upper back injury recently, should return to baseball activities and possibly even a game setting before the end of Spring Training (Twitter links via MLB.com’s Thomas Harding).
The fact that the end of Spring Training is viewed as a “possible” target for a return to the playing field for Dahl casts some fairly significant doubt on the soon-to-be 23-year-old’s availability for Opening Day. Black added that Dahl would receive further testing today, and Harding notes that a further update on his condition is expected at some point today.
This past season, Dahl, a former first-round pick and longtime top prospect, returned from a frightening injury in which he suffered a lacerated spleen and a concussion in a disastrous outfield collision with then-teammate Juan Ciriaco. (Dahl would undergo an emergency splenectomy following the collision.) Not only was Dahl able to suit up and take the field, though, he thrived as he laid waste to pitching in Double-A, Triple-A and even the Major Leagues. In a 63-game sample that saw Dahl rack up 237 plate appearances, the outfielder slashed .315/.359/.500 with seven homers, 12 doubles, four triples and five steals.
Dahl was poised to enter the season in line for significant playing time on the heels of that electric rookie showing, but presumptive fourth outfielder Gerardo Parra now seems likely to have a larger role early in the year. If Dahl is indeed on the disabled list to open the season, that could also improve the odds of a non-roster invitee like Chris Denorfia making the club. Rounding out the Colorado outfield are center fielder Charlie Blackmon and right fielder Carlos Gonzalez. And, of course, first baseman Ian Desmond can handle some outfield work, if needed, after spending the entire 2016 campaign as an outfielder with the Rangers.
While the Rockies possess plenty of outfield depth, the potential loss of Dahl for a portion of the regular season is nonetheless a significant blow. While Dahl’s .404 batting average on balls in play last season unquestionably hints at some regression, his blend of power, speed and potentially above-average defense in left field is a highly appealing all-around package. And while Parra has delivered numerous high-quality seasons in the past, his first year in a Rockies uniform was a disaster; the former D-backs outfielder batted just .253/.271/.399 and drew, at best, average marks for his glovework in the outfield.