Philadelphia – The Braves’ dynamic rookie shortstop Andrelton Simmons fractured the fifth metacarpal on his right hand Sunday against the Phillies making a head-first slide into second base.
It’s sobering news for the Braves, who were playing their last game before the All-Star break on such a high note otherwise, sweeping a three-game series from the Phillies. Simmons will be re-examined by Braves hand specialist Dr. Gary Lourie in Atlanta on Monday to determine the course of treatment.
Injuries of this nature can require four to six weeks to heal and even longer if surgery is required. The Braves wouldn’t speculate on a how much time Simmons might miss before he sees Lourie, but given that it’s a fracture, it’s a significant injury to a player who’s become an important part of the team in a short amount of time.
“That’s just the way it goes, this game of ours, sometimes,” Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. “You pitch three great games and you win three, and then you still feel sick to your stomach with Simmons with his fractured (hand) there.”
Given the way Simmons has played since being called up less than six weeks ago, it’s fitting the injury came on a hustle play. Simmons legged out a double on a ball to center field in the fourth inning, taking advantage of a half-hearted throw by Jason Pridie. But the head-first slide cost him.
“You’ve got to take some risks,” Simmons said. “You can’t just be passive. If I get a chance to do it again, I might slide (feet first) this time, but I’m going to go hard though.”
Gonzalez has come to appreciate the hustle by Simmons, though he’d prefer not to see so many head-first slides. That’s something the Braves will continue to address.
“It’s one of those things you preach about it,” Gonzalez said. “But what a heads-up play. He ran the bases right from the very beginning, something that you preach…He can slide 2,000 times and that stuff never happens to him. So it’s a freak play.”
Simmons was X-rayed at Citizens Bank Park and was wearing a splint on his right hand after the game.
Simmons just won NL rookie of the month for June, after leading all league rookies in batting average (.333), on-base percentage (.365) and hits (30) in his first month in the major leagues. He had spent the first two games of this Phillies series making highlight plays at shortstop.
“Stuff happens,” Simmons said. “I’ve got to live with the consequences. It’s tough, but I can’t do anything about it now.”
Eric Hinske pinch hit for him in the fifth inning, then Jack Wilson replaced Simmons at shortstop in the bottom of the fifth. The veteran Wilson has been the backup shortstop all season but doesn’t figure to be a long-term solution. The Braves have Tyler Pastornicky in Triple-A Gwinnett whom they can call on when the Braves resume play after the All-Star break. They might also decide to try to add a shortstop via trade before the July 31 non-waiver deadline.
Braves general manager Frank Wren indicated late Sunday afternoon those would be decisions he and his staff will mull over during the break.
Pastornicky beat out Simmons for the shortstop job coming out of spring training, in part because Simmons was slowed by a strained oblique muscle. Pastornicky struggled to provide the Braves the kind of defense they needed at shortstop, though, and Simmons was called up from Double-A Mississippi on May 30.
Simmons has been impressive both defensively and offensively since his call-up, hitting .296 with seven doubles, a triple, three home runs and 15 RBIs, as well as making all the plays defensively.
“It’s tough losing him for an extended period of time with how much he’s meant to us,” Braves catcher Brian McCann said.