Choo likely out at least six weeks
Indians outfielder expected to need surgery for fractured thumb
SAN FRANCISCO -- As Shin-Soo Choo lay in the dirt of the batter's box on Friday night at AT&T Park, face down and clutching his left hand, the Indians' star right fielder was convinced that his thumb was broken.
"I knew," Choo said Saturday morning.
The only question now is how long Cleveland will be without Choo.
What is known is that Choo suffered a displaced fracture of his left thumb after being hit on the hand with a pitch from Giants left-hander Jonathan Sanchez in Friday's 4-3 loss in San Francisco. Indians head athletic trainer Lonnie Soloff indicated that the outfielder will likely miss at least six weeks.
Choo's recovery, however, could take even longer.
On Sunday, Choo will leave the team and fly home to Cleveland, where he will be examined on Monday by renowned hand specialist and surgeon Dr. Tom Graham. All indications are that Choo will likely need surgery, but the Indians will not announce a projected timetable for return until after the consultation.
"They'll discuss the possibility that he needs surgery," Indians manager Manny Acta said. "Then we'll go from there."
Cleveland has placed Choo on the 15-day disabled list and the club recalled outfielder Travis Buck from Triple-A Columbus to replace him on the active roster.
Choo was wearing a soft cast on Saturday and had three stitches inserted in his hand to correct a deep laceration on his thumb. The right fielder was in as good of spirits as could be expected, but it was obvious Choo was despondent over his current condition.
"I just feel bad that I can't help the team anymore," Choo said. "We might make the playoffs. We had a good start and are still in first place, and I can't help the team. I feel sad."
The ill-fated fastball from Sanchez came on a 2-1 count in the fourth inning on Friday night. The ball carried inside swiftly, too fast for Choo to move out of the way. The baseball deflected off Choo's hand and sent him tumbling to the dirt, where he stayed still until he was met by a member of the Tribe's medical staff.
Choo's hand, which began to bleed, was quickly examined and the right fielder had to have his batting glove removed with scissors. Choo left the game immediately and headed to an area hospital, where X-rays confirmed the fracture.
Choo was not upset with Sanchez at all.
"This is baseball. You can't do anything about it," Choo said. "Pitchers, everybody wants to throw inside pitches. I don't feel bad about that. That's his job. They throw the inside pitch. That happens."
Choo exited hitting .244, with five home runs and 28 RBIs in 72 games. He is homerless in his last 125 at-bats, dating back to May 13. The right fielder had, however, hit safely in 29 of his last 36 games, and posted a .370 average over his past eight contests.
"I can't say I was a lot better," Choo said. "But I felt like I was much better than earlier in the season. I was feeling great in the batter's box, had more confidence in the batter's box."
Given Choo's recent improvement, the loss felt like a crushing blow for the Tribe.
"It is discouraging," Acta said. "He was swinging the bat very well. He was playing better, pulling the ball with authority. We knew it was just a matter of time before he could carry this ballclub for some weeks, as he has done in the past.
"It's not only his offense. To me, he's the best defensive right fielder in the American League. That really, really helps us a lot. Also, running the bases. He's just the complete package for us. It's a big blow. That'd be an understatement."
One positive within the situation is the fact that Choo was finally feeling like he was in a better place mentally. In early May, the outfielder was arrested on charges of driving under the influence of alcohol, and Choo admitted that he let outside criticism over his arrest affect his performance on the field.
Lately, Choo has done away with the distractions and has felt more focused.
"I'm already passed that," Choo said. "I'm not thinking about anymore. Nobody is saying anything about it. If they still say something, I'm not listening."
Losing Choo is the latest in a wave of injuries to hit the Indians this season.
Designated hitter Travis Hafner missed one month with a right oblique issue. Center fielder Grady Sizemore had two DL stints due to knee issues. First baseman Matt LaPorta is currently shelved with a right ankle injury. Pitchers Mitch Talbot, Carlos Carrasco and Alex White have all missed time with health issues.
Still, Cleveland remains atop the AL Central standings.
"These kids deserve a ton of credit," Acta said. "Everything they have done, they've done as a team. Does it become tougher now without Choo? Yes. But you know what? We didn't have Hafner for a month and we didn't have Grady for over a month, too. Somehow, some way, we continue to survive."
That does not make the news any harder for Choo to accept.
"I feel bad about the injury," Choo said. "We've had a tough time as a team."