Flagstaff, AZ - The Iowa City Bison suffered two losses to the disabled list, as LF Vinny Funaki and IF Tyler Merrick were injured in Spring Training games. Funaki suffered a pulled oblique muscle and is expected to miss at least two weeks while rehabbing, and is expected to open the season in the DL. Funaki is a 3-time all star and 2-time silver slugger, but was placed on the disabled list for the fourth time in his 11 year career. Originally a 2B, the 32 yr old Funaki started a significant number of games in LF in Season 10 following a herniated disk that limited his infield range, and projected to be the Bison's regular LF this season. Funaki is a .321 career hitter and appeared in 154 games last season.
In an earlier spring training game, Funaki's projected replacement at 2B, Tyler Merrick, suffered a torn ligament in his ankle while running out an infield hit. Bison team physician Dr Raul Falto indicated that Merrick will undergo surgery today to repair the ligament, and is expected to miss at least one month. Team GM Bill Zooba issued a statement "Although both of these injuries are significant to our team, we emphasize the concept of team and believe that the team will continue to compete until we get them back and healthy. At this point, we believe we have enough talent and depth in our organization to fill the temporary needs until Tyler and Vinny are healthy to come back to their jobs".
Following the injuries, the Bison made a few roster moves. 3B Jason Whitehead was claimed off waivers from the Oakland Elephants. Whitehead is a Rule 5 draftee and must stay in the Major League roster or be returned to his original team, the Buffalo Blizzard. 2B Travis Biggio, who filled in admirable for the injured Vinaki during Season 9's playoff push, was added to the ML roster. Biggio, Whitehead, and fellow Rule 5 draftees Vic Saez and Billy Hunter are the most likely options to temporarily replace Merrick and Funaki in the lineup.