Talk about your extremes! One minute "King" Felix Hernandez is indeed the King, enjoying the moment as he belts a grand slam for the Mariners, off New York Mets ace (and fellow Venezuelan) Johan Santana no less. But the highest of highs turned to the lowest of lows for Hernandez and Mariners fans alike when he had to be helped off the field after injuring his ankle in the fifth inning. In a collision at home plate, which Hernandez was covering after a wild pitch, Carlos Beltran slid into the inner side of Hernandez' left lower leg. Close review of the video shows that Hernandez's left heel was off the ground as Beltran's lead leg made contact, rendering his ankle a little more vulnerable. The collision forced Hernandez' ankle to roll so that the sole of his foot pointed inward (called an inversion injury). Clearly in pain, Hernandez still hoped to remain in the game. But one warm-up pitch later he was hopping around gingerly and it became clear he could not put full weight on his landing leg, so he was forced to make an early exit.
The Mariners are calling the injury an ankle sprain, meaning the ligaments that support the ankle joint are involved. Judging from the mechanism of the injury, the damage is most likely to the lateral ligaments, those on the outside of the ankle that help control side-to-side stability. The team is reporting that X-rays were negative and Hernandez says he expects to make his next start. Given the pain he appeared to be in last night, that target might be a bit ambitious. The key will be how much swelling appears in the ankle after a night of rest, and how soon it can bear his full weight. Since Hernandez injured his landing leg, it will need to be able to carry his full body weight and, more importantly, have the stability to control that body weight on follow-through. The last thing a pitcher like Hernandez needs is to compensate for any lower extremity deficit by throwing harder and placing increased strain on his arm. It was just last year that Hernandez suffered an elbow strain in the early part of the season, and with his hard delivery, any imbalance could pose a threat.
Stephania Bell is an injury expert for ESPN Fantasy. She is a physical therapist who is a Board Certified Orthopedic Clinical Specialist and a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist.