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Wednesday, April 11, 2012
Updates on Wright, Morse, Phillips injuries


Wrong Turn for Wright

It seems like New York Mets third baseman David Wright just can't catch a break. Or maybe that's the problem: He does seem to be on the receiving end of breaks lately. Last year it was his back, as a stress fracture in his lumbar spine (low back) resulted in two months away from the game. He then suffered an abdominal strain this spring (to be fair, nothing was broken) that threatened the start of his season. The Mets wisely controlled his activity and he was able to rehab his way into the lineup by Opening Day. Then, just when everyone was celebrating how well the healthy Wright was swinging the bat to start the season, it all went wrong in one quick dive. Monday night Wright dove back into first base on a pickoff throw and, as he described it, "I went in there a little bit too hard and jammed my pinkie into the bag."

David Wright
David Wright's broken finger likely would affect his hitting more than his throwing.

That jam resulted in a fracture in the middle joint of his right pinkie finger, according to a statement released by the Mets. According to ESPNNewYork.com, Wright experienced significant swelling overnight, as is common, accompanied by the standard pain and stiffness, rendering him unable to function Tuesday despite attempts to pad his finger and the bat. "There was nothing that I could do to have it feel even remotely comfortable, or that I could go up there and do any sort of damage at the plate," Wright said.

Wright was fitted with a customized splint Wednesday at the Hospital for Special Surgery. The trick in crafting a functional splint is providing enough stability to protect the break and allow the bone to heal, while still permitting enough motion around the injured part to perform. The amount of swelling in the area will effectively limit motion in the finger, and pain, even if one is stoic enough to press through it, will inhibit strength to some degree.

Although Wright is eligible to return as his symptoms allow, it is hard to know at this early stage if it will be several days or if he will require a trip to the disabled list. As manager Terry Collins pointed out, with a day off Thursday, the team will not likely make any decision on roster moves until Friday. That allows time, Wright's best friend in terms of recovery, to work its magic.

But will it be enough time? Hitting will undoubtedly be the biggest challenge Wright faces in attempting to return. "For me, the main thing … after I did it, hitting really hurt," said Wright. "Throwing wasn't nearly as bad as gripping the bat." If Wright can't grip effectively because his finger can't curl around the bat handle or is uncomfortable in contacting his other hand, he will lose power at the plate, especially given that the injury is to his top hand. Whether the pain and swelling can subside enough to allow him to perform reliably within just a few days is a big unknown.

While the comparison isn't identical, Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Andre Ethier suffered a broken pinkie finger in 2010 and missed 17 days. There were a couple of significant differences. Ethier fractured the tip of his pinkie finger, not the middle like Wright, making it easier to splint without compromising the bulk of the function of that finger. But Ethier's injury was to his non-throwing hand, also his bottom hand when holding the bat. Accommodating the bottom pinkie finger where it rests against the rounded knob of the bat was a challenge and a big part of the reason Ethier ended up on the DL. Even when he returned, Ethier struggled at the plate despite wearing a splint, simply as a function of his decreased grip ability with that finger.

It is important to stress that the differences in location of the Wright and Ethier injuries along with the routine mantra that no two individuals or injuries heal in exactly the same manner make it impossible to predict just what to expect in terms of time missed in this case. For now Wright is literally day to day, but no one should be surprised if a couple of days turn into a couple of weeks.

Re-Morse

Washington Nationals outfielder Michael Morse started the season on the DL due to a strained lat, which was specifically giving him pain below his right shoulder blade. This week, he took a step backward. Initially, manager Davey Johnson had expressed hope that Morse would be off the DL and available for the team's home opener on Thursday. In fact, Morse has been hitting the ball well in minor league games and had moved from Harrisburg to Hagerstown on Monday in anticipation of rejoining his team later in the week. But Morse did not finish Monday night's game, exiting in the seventh inning after experiencing pain when throwing. The bigger issue for Morse all along has been throwing, not surprisingly since the lat (short for latissimus dorsi) is so involved throughout the throwing motion. According to the Nationals' official website, Morse underwent further tests, the results of which have not been shared publicly. Those results were shared however with Dr. James Andrews, who is also evaluating Nationals closer Drew Storen. Even without knowing the details, suffice it to say that the presence of a setback now, more than a month after the original injury, hints at a prolonged rest from any throwing. Presuming primarily soft tissue injury to the muscle itself, this would not appear to be a surgical situation, but a time frame is impossible to project at this stage. The Nationals have indicated that Morse is out indefinitely.

Phillips cramps up

Brandon Phillips may have left Monday's game early because of cramping in his left hamstring, but that hasn't stopped him from smiling. The Cincinnati Reds certainly can't be too worried about his health either since they signed him to a six-year, $72.5 million extension the following day. Phillips is expected to miss a few days as a precautionary move -- a wise one considering that the weather is still chilly and there is the perspective of the 162-game season to consider -- but the team could have him back in the lineup this weekend. According to the Reds' official website, Phillips blames the issue on not drinking enough water, but he was already running on a treadmill Tuesday, suggesting the problem is not severe. While this early "hint" of a hamstring issue is never something anyone likes to see, it's also too soon to panic. And it's never too soon to hydrate.