Washington – Two years after undergoing surgery on his right thumb, Matt Diaz has had a similar problem crop up again. The Braves placed Diaz on the 15-day disabled list Saturday and activated reliever Jonny Venters from the disabled list, in the hopes that rest will allow Diaz to avoid surgery again.
But an MRI taken Monday revealed two foreign bodies in his thumb – which could be similar to fragments of a palm frond he had removed in 2010. Diaz said they will have to be surgically removed at some point, but he and the Braves are hoping to put off surgery until after the season.
“If we can get it calmed down and the infection down, I might be able to finish out the year,” said Diaz, who has been treated with topical anti-inflammatories and a course of antibiotics.
If Diaz were to need surgery now, he’d miss two months and likely the rest of the season.
“That’ll probably be last-case scenario,” Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. “Hopefully it doesn’t come to that. That’s a big piece for us to lose.”
Diaz said he had been symptom-free for two years until June 10 when he felt some numbness on a base hit against Toronto’s Ricky Romero, then pain swinging at an inside pitch from Darren Oliver later in the game. Diaz has been trying to manage it for the past seven weeks but aggravated it Sunday when he got jammed against the Mets.
Diaz has been trying to play wearing two thumb guards, but by Friday afternoon in Washington he struggled to grip a bat. He did not play in the 11-inning marathon against the Nationals.
“I was really mad at myself for the last five innings,” Diaz said. “’You wuss, you should be in there. Go tell Fredi you can hit.’ I’m trying to grab a bat and put my thumb (around) behind it. I’m so mad the whole time, and then we shook hands and (Jason) Heyward gave me a pretty firm high five and I almost went to the ground. I was like ‘No, that was a good decision not to play.’”
Diaz believes the problem dates back to a day in 2006 when he was clearing palm fronds in his yard in Lakeland, Fla. It didn’t start causing him trouble until it got infected in 2009 and he had to miss the final three games of the season.
“It’s one of those things that stinks the timing of it,” said Diaz, who’s hitting .222 with two home runs and 13 RBIs in 51 games this season for the Braves. “It’s been bothering me for a while. Trying to play through it, I have not been effective.”
The Braves have already been on the lookout for bench help and this may expedite that search over the next several weeks.