After exhausting all other possibilities, Braves outfielder Matt Diaz is headed for surgery on his right thumb, which is expected to end his 2012 season.
Diaz said he had the decision confirmed Monday afternoon by Braves hand specialist Dr. Gary Lourie, who will perform the operation on Wednesday morning. Diaz would need two months to recover before he could swing a bat at full speed, so this effectively ends his season.
“I’ve known for a while, but we’ve given it pretty much every way to rest possible,” Diaz said. “The hole is just not closing up. It’s still a hard callous in there, and it still hurts like crazy on the nerve. So they’re going to go in and look at the nerve, take the little foreign bodies out, and have me ready to have a full offseason.”
This will be the second operation Diaz has had on the same area in a little more than two years, both times to remove splinters he and his doctors believe he got after being stabbed by a palm frond clearing his yard in Lakeland, Fla. back in 2006.
Diaz has been on the disabled list since July 21st, after trying to play through pain for the better part of six weeks. An MRI revealed he still had two small foreign bodies in his thumb. The hope was that with rest and antibiotics, the inflammation would subside. Infection hasn’t been a problem, but it never stopped hurting.
“I can’t grip a bat,” Diaz said.
Diaz said he first found out he was likely headed for surgery last Wednesday. He and his wife Leslee got a babysitter for their three children in case he needed some time to work through the news.
“I felt it was going that way because it just wasn’t feeling good,” Diaz said. “Surprisingly a sense of peace overcame me and just kind of ‘At least we’re taking care of it.’”
Diaz said he’s confident that the surgery will take care of the problem this time, especially considering he’s not under the gun to get back before the season is out, like he was when he had his first operation in May of 2010. He also takes confidence, he said, because he came back and played 58 games that year and didn’t have a problem with it until it cropped up against this June.
“He’s going to cut it wide open search around in there and make sure we get every last (remnant),” Diaz said. “I’m confident in that…I am 100 percent sure when Dr. Lourie is done that I will be at peace that there’s nothing left in there.”
Diaz was hitting .222 with two home runs and 13 RBIs in 51 games this season for the Braves. He said he takes consolation in knowing his thumb worsened before the July 31 trade deadline, so the Braves could acquire right-handed hitting outfielder Reed Johnson from the Cubs.
“I’m glad I hurt it as bad as it did two or three weeks before the trade deadline,” Diaz said. “If I were going through this now and we didn’t get Reed Johnson and Tyler (Pastornicky) wasn’t doing so awesome off the bench, I’d feel more of a sense of almost guilt from not playing. But we’re set with the right-handed hitting outfielder in Reed Johnson who’s done it, been there, and Tyler has proven himself off the bench as an unbelievable young guy to be able to do that.”