On Sunday, Team USA advanced into the World Baseball Classic getting contributions from Astros Kyle Tucker and Ryan Pressly. They also inadvertently affected the Astros season when relief pitcher Daniel Bard hit second baseman Jose Altuve, playing for Team Venezuela, on the hand and broke his thumb. The injury will require surgery and sideline the team’s All Star indefinitely, according to the Astros.
It’s a major blow to an Astros team looking to repeat after winning their second world championship in the fall. They are already dealing with injuries to Lance McCullers (forearm), Michael Brantley (shoulder surgery) and Yordan Alvarez (hand). Luckily, Alvarez looks set to return in time for Opening Day and Brantley is expected to return within a couple of weeks of the season starting. McCullers could also be back by mid-May.
But Altuve is the engine that drives this team, one of its bona fide super stars. Here are four thoughts on her injury.
Better to have this injury now than in September.Altuve being injured ANY time during the year is bad, but wouldn’t you rather have that happen now, still two weeks from Opening Day, than in the middle of the playoff race? The rehabilitation time for surgically repaired thumbs is reportedly around two months. That puts his comeback in June still a long way from the playoffs and he has plenty of time to get back into shape. If it happened in August, we’d be worried about a comeback for the postseason. Make no mistake, the April and May matches still matter, but the team has enough firepower to get through them. It could have been much worse.
David Hensley and Mauricio Dubon will have to fix it.Both are natural center infielders, but Hensley has the better bat and Dubon the better glove. Hensley had the better spring, hitting .288 with two home runs. If we had to bet at this point, Hensley would likely start not only because of his bat, but also because Dubon is the more versatile player able to spend time at multiple infield and outfield spots. Hensley certainly delivers even more pop with the bat than he does. Both have huge shoes to fill either way.
Jeremy Pena on the bridge?People all over social media have been clamoring for the second-year shortstop to keep his spot as the number two in the lineup even if pro hitter Michael Brantley returns. Manager Dusty Baker has been clear that he wants the more experienced and consistent Brantley at the top of the lineup. But could the injury to Altuve give Peña the lead?
Peña, Hensley, Bregman could be the team’s best option until the return of Brantley, who then pushes Hensley into seventh place. This preserves half of the order and puts Peña back at the top of the lineup many believe he belongs in. The problem will be getting to the base. Peña will have to prove he can wait on the courts, put the ball in play and not hit as hard as he did in his rookie season.
Not the WBC’s fault.We’ve all heard the wails and grievances about how none of this would have happened if it weren’t for the World Baseball Classic. Maybe, but then again, injuries happen all the time. Edwin Dias tore his knee apart while celebrating the team win, but our guess is that the knee would have torn at some point if jumping on him and down destroyed him.
The World Baseball Classic was great for baseball. Gamers love it. And if you’ve been watching matches, the energy level is off the charts. The injuries that have occurred, including Altuve’s, are unfortunate, but Carlos Correa has shown that they can literally happen anywhere (even on the massage table). This has little to do with the WBC.