CHICAGO -- An breakout season for Brent Lillibridge came to a premature end on Thursday night after the White Sox utility man fractured his right hand when he was hit by a Josh Judy pitch in the seventh inning of an 8-1 win over the Indians.
Though Lillibridge stayed in the game on the basepaths and scored one batter later on a Paul Konerko grand slam, he was lifted before the start of the eighth inning, and X-rays revealed the fracture. Lillibridge, who entered the season with just three career home runs, slugged 13 while hitting .282 and appearing in a career-high 97 games.
"I got squared up pretty good, and I had to call it and get it checked out," said an emotional Lillibridge, who choked back tears after the game. "It wasn't good stuff, but not serious, serious, just out for the rest of the season. It's just frustrating, because coming into this year, I just got to play a lot more and do some damage. It's frustrating, but I'll be around as much as I can before they kick me out."
Along with the unexpected offensive output, Lillibridge had more recently given the White Sox a lift by providing them with another option defensively at first base.
Following a July 31 injury to first baseman Paul Konerko that limited him to the designated-hitter role for a better part of the past month, Lillibridge stepped up and filled the void, playing first base for the first time in his career. Thursday night was his 12th start and 22nd overall appearance at first base since Konerko bruised his left calf.
"You feel terrible for Lillibridge," Konerko said. "He's having a great year, he's swinging the bat great. I guess the only good thing about it is it's toward the end here where we are not far away from the end of the year. But it would have been nice to see him finish up the year he's having."
Lillibridge got off to a fast start, hitting .320 in April and becoming the team's best defensive outfielder. But manager Ozzie Guillen still had concerns over Lillibridge's ability to contribute as an everyday player. Those concerns came to the forefront when he hit just .212 in June and .188 in July, but when Guillen leaned on Lillibridge following Konerko's injury, the 27-year-old came through.
"[It'll be a] big, big miss," said Guillen, who spoke briefly with Lillibridge at his locker before Lillibridge addressed the media. "This kid is playing very well for us, helped us a lot at a position he's never played before. He made our ballclub a lot better every time he was out there, no matter whether it was a pinch-runner, pinch-hitter."
While undoubtedly a disappointing end to the best season of his career so far, Lillibridge said he'll just continue to support the team, but that he'll be ready come Opening Day in 2012.
"I'm blessed, obviously. I did so well and just wanted to finish," Lillibridge said. "I really saw, being kind of out of it, to play more and do more damage. But it wasn't in the plans. I was very blessed with the season I've had and what I've done for the White Sox."I'll come back for next year. I'll be ready and competitive."
Paul Casella is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.