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May 2, 2011

Collateral Damage

Out at Third

by Corey Dawkins and Marc Normandin

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It was a bad weekend to be a third baseman in the National League. It was also a bad time to be Carlos Lee, but then again, that has been the case for much of the last two seasons.

Pablo Sandoval, SFN (Right wrist surgeryhamate)
A hitter's wrist is his lifeline, so whenever it requires surgery, there is a lot of understandable concern. Hamate fractures account for somewhere between two and five percent of all wrist fractures, and are more common in baseball and racquet sports. (Are you picturing Sandoval wearing Wimbledon whites? Mission accomplished, then.)

Often the hamate is injured by recreational golfers who strike the ground instead of the ball, and a similar force is applied by the knob of the bat during the baseball swing. When players are younger–meaning Little League and high-school age–batters hold the bat with the knob on the very outside aspect of their palm near the little finger. As they get older—and certainly by the time they reach the professional ranks—they will tape the knob of the bat and hold it more into the palm so that the knob is putting direct pressure on the bat. Batters believe that it allows for better bat control, but it also places them at risk for these hamate fractures.

As we have seen with other players who have suffered hamate fractures—including the Phillies' Domonic Brown, who joined their ranks in spring training—recovery from this surgery typically takes about four to six weeks. As with many wrist surgeries, there could be an initial struggle upon returning from the disabled list, but there should not be any difficulties long term. And hey, maybe Sandoval will pull a Troy Tulowitzki—after having his wrist struck and broken by a pitch, the Rockies shortstop came back far more powerful than we could have possibly imagined.

This is a blow for the Giants offense, as Sandoval was in the midst of rebounding from his poor 2010 campaign with a .313/.374/.530 performance, good for a .320 TAv that was right in line with his excellent .329 mark from 2009. Mark DeRosa also just hit the DL due to wrist problems, but the Giants will have to hope their already dwindling depth can survive Panda’s absence.

David Freese, SLN (Left hand fracture)
The next third baseman to drop succumbed to a Scott Linebrink fastball. Freese's left hand was struck, fracturing a bone, and it was suggested after the game that surgery might be in Freese’s future.

If surgery is being considered by someone with more medical degrees than Freese, then either the alignment is not good enough or the fracture resulted in many different pieces. This most likely represents a fracture of one the metacarpal bones, which would make bending or extending the fingers–let alone forceful gripping–too painful to play through.

Most average fractures of the hand take approximately four to six weeks to heal, but this timeframe could easily change depending on the severity of the fracture. The Cardinals’ athletic trainers are exploring utilizing the cryogenic glove rehabilitation process, as this would allow Mr. Freese to return to play sooner, though possibly in a far more emo state.

Ryan Zimmerman, WAS (Abdominal surgery)
We've spoken about Zimmerman in the past, but the latest news on him paints a clearer picture of what is going on. There are reports that Zimmerman will undergo surgery for a sports hernia, and others stating that he had surgery on his rectus abominis muscle. The rectus abdominis muscle–more commonly known among high-school girls as “the six-pack”—is involved in sports hernias, meaning sports hernia surgery may be a possibility.

There are suggestions that Zimmerman will be out until the All-Star break, lining up well with our 60-day approximation from the database. Washington's biggest risk was losing Zimmerman for any period of time, and he will now be out for at least six weeks (but probably closer to eight weeks). At least not all of the news out of Washington this weekend was bad.

Carlos Lee, HOU (Chest)
Lee suffered one of the scariest injuries of his career when Angel Sanchez slid into his abdomen and chest. He was carted off the field and taken to the hospital for X-rays (which were negative).

However, we have seen recently that rib fractures often don't show up in plain films, and instead require CT scans to evaluate the bony architecture in greater detail. Players can come back from bruised ribs in a few days, but fractures can take many months, as evidenced by Jacoby Ellsbury (who also had the luxury of believing his broken ribs to be bruised ribs). We will have to wait for the CT scan results to give an updated estimate of Lee's return.

Flesh Wounds: Takashi Saito strained his left oblique while on a rehabilitation assignment for his hamstring, and will miss six to eight weeks… A stomach virus is making the rounds, and the latest victim is Jered Weaver (though that makes it sound like the virus is sentient and on the hunt)...  Zach Britton had a callus removed from the middle finger on his pitching hand. The Orioles hope this was not the source of his power... Daisuke Matsuzaka was pulled from his start Friday night due to elbow tightness, but the team is not concerned that this is anything worth worrying about, even keeping him on his normal day-after-start activity schedule. He is expected to make his next start, though given his history, word of injury wouldn't be the most shocking news.

Corey Dawkins is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Corey's other articles. You can contact Corey by clicking here

Related Content:  Surgery,  Broken Wrist,  Hamate

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