Matt Diaz was placed on the disabled list Saturday and is headed for surgery on an infected right thumb. He is expected to miss a significant amount of time.
“It will be weeks,” Braves manager Bobby Cox said.
For nearly a month, the part-time outfielder has tried to play through a sore right thumb, but that ended Friday night after a Braves hand specialist got a good look at it when he came into the dugout after a pinch-hit strikeout.
Dr. Gary Lourie will perform surgery Wednesday to remove what Diaz said was an “11 millimeter long foreign body” from his thumb, possibly remnants of a splinter from a broken bat. Diaz was put on the disabled list Saturday and outfielder Brent Clevlen was called up from Triple-A Gwinnett.
Diaz suffered from a similar thumb problem last year after getting jammed by a pitch with a month to go in the season. Diaz missed the last four games to undergo what was considered a “minor surgical procedure” to remove a splinter. This time around it appears more serious.
Diaz said the thumb started bothering him again when he got jammed against Phillies pitcher Kyle Kendrick on April 20. He thought he could play through it but it got to the point where Diaz said he felt a pop every at-bat and had it bleed through his band-aid.
Trainers had put him on antibiotics recently, but after going off of them Tuesday, Diaz’s thumb immediately swelled up again. He said an MRI Thursday showed the foreign body.
“I was told today that it’s heading down toward a tendon and we need to get it out,” Diaz said on Saturday afternoon. “At some point, probably long ago, I stopped being useful (at the plate). It’s time to get it right.”
Diaz, a career .310 hitter, has hit only .178 in 26 games this season. He’s been trying various pads and guards, to no avail.
“We have 18 different versions of foam pads,” Diaz said. “Padding my thumb, padding the bat, padding my thumb and the bat trying to find the happy medium. Without our training staff, I wouldn’t have been able to play the last week and a half. Fortunately, for my sanity, I’ve had some big hits the last week and a half to help us win some games. I’m not kicking myself for costing the team too often.”
Still, Diaz regrets not going to the training staff sooner.
“I made the decision myself in April, when it happened, that I could play through this,” Diaz said. “Now that I can’t, I’m frustrated at myself for not saying something sooner, obviously. I put the trainers in a bad spot. I put (hitting coach Terry Pendleton) in a bad spot with people wondering why I can’t make an adjustment on an inside pitch. I put a lot of people in a bad spot by not being open. I guess that’s my mentality. I was always told never ever take yourself out. Make them take you out.”