In the pantheon of oddball injuries, what befell Brewers reliever Francisco Rodriguez this week might not rise to the level of Steve Sparks separating his shoulder trying to tear a phone book in two during Milwaukee’s Spring Training in 1994, or general manager Doug Melvin rushing to the emergency room after being stung by a scorpion last year.
Still, add this one to the list: K-Rod stepped on a cactus.
Rodriguez will still try to make his spring debut on Thursday, manager Ron Roenicke said, despite stepping barefoot on a cactus — this is the Cactus League, after all — at some point between Monday afternoon and Wednesday morning. As Roenicke briefed the media at Maryvale Baseball Park, Rodriguez was in the trainer’s room having spines pulled from his foot.
“He took a lot out, but there’s some more in there,” Roenicke said. “I don’t think it’s that big of a setback, but I imagine he’s pretty sore today. I don’t know if you guys have stepped on one, but you know how little some of the [spines] are? And they’re in there for a while.”
Why was Rodriguez walking around barefoot in cactus country? That question remained unanswered because he was busy in the trainer’s room, according to a spokesperson.
Rodriguez is already behind the other relievers because he signed late in the offseason and arrived late after securing a work visa amid political turmoil in Venezuela. Roenicke does not believe this week’s setback will affect Rodriguez’s availability for the Brewers’ March 31 season opener.
“With Frankie, he may come in today and say, ‘I’m pitching.’ I don’t know,” Roenicke said. “It’ll be tough to keep him back, the way he is.”
After the Brewers’ long, 12-2 loss to the Angels, Roenicke was even more sure Rodriguez would pitch.
“He’s wanting to,” Roenicke said. “If he comes in really sore, we may change.”
Word of the cactus caper spread through the visitor’s dugout and clubhouse at Tempe Diablo Stadium throughout the day.
“A cactus?” asked right-hander Matt Garza, who needed a laugh after lasting only 1 2/3 innings and allowing 10 runs, six of them earned. “At least it’s spring. That will heal pretty quick.”
What’s the weirdest injury longtime Brewers second baseman Rickie Weeks could recall?
“Oh, Matt Wise. The salad tongs,” Weeks said. “Hands down.”
Wise was a Brewers reliever with a terrific changeup that was rendered ineffective after he cut the middle finger on his pitching hand in Kansas City in 2006. Wise thought he was doing something healthy when he decided to make a salad. Instead, he missed a few days of work.
“He just stabbed himself, basically,” Weeks said.
The wiry Wise kept his sense of humor about the situation.
“At least it was something in my weight class,” he said a few days later.