The broken hand suffered by Diamondbacks’ first baseman Paul Goldschmidt Friday night merely put a dramatic exclamation point on an already dreadful season.
Despite the team’s mediocrity, Goldschmidt’s star within Major League baseball has risen, in recent years, like a meteor. From post-season awards last year to voted by the fans to start at first base for the National League in the recent All-Star game, Goldschmidt’s value increases seemingly with each at-bat.
Now, the Diamondbacks, who can best hope to finish third in the National League West Division this season, will limp to the finish line with assorted injures and baggage from excessive salaries.
For now, the team will have to get along without Goldschmidt, who put up astounding numbers while watching his teammates struggle.
Goldschmidt went down with a fractured left hand when he was hit by Pirates’ reliever Esnesto Frieri in the ninth inning Friday night. Immediately, he was placed on the 15-day disabled list but his stay will likely be longer.
Meeting with the media prior to Saturday’s game with Pittsburgh, there was no cast or splint on Goldschmdit’s left hand and he said further medical evaluation will determine proper protection.
“I found out about the break (Saturday morning) and still have to talk to the doctors about length of the injury, recovery time, rehab, and all that stuff,” Goldschmidt said. “Look, what happened is part of the game. You always want to play and I’ll see how things go. Sure, I’d like to come back before the season is over and I’m sure we’ll talk about ways to swing that and also be smart.”
Given the traditional time period of one to two months for recovery of broken bones, it’s likely Goldschmidt could miss the rest of the season.
For his part, Feieri kept apologizing for the incident and told reporters in front of his locker prior to Saturday’s game that his intention was not hit any hitter.
“My ERA is so high (9.31 in 13 appearances with Pittsburgh since acquired from the Angels on June 27),” he said. “There’s no way I want to start putting people on base.”
In recent seasons, the Pirates’ staff directed pitchers to guide their deliveries to opposing batters inside. For his part, Feieri said that is an adjustment for him. Used to throwing a fast ball, his signature pitch, down and away as his out-pitch, the 29-year-old native of Bolivar, Columbia indicated baseball is a game of adjustments and the pitch to Goldschmidt was not intentionally thrown inside.
“I feel bad for what happened,” Feieri said. “This was not on purpose and I was pitching just to get him out. I guess this is part of the game. I didn’t know (Goldschmidt) was on the DL and I know he is very valuable to his team. I’m sorry, I’m sorry.”
At this point, Goldschmidt appears unconcerned how the injury occurred but only to get on with the rehabilitation process.
Over the past two years, Goldschmidt is the third Arizona player to break a hand while batting. Last year, second baseman Aaron Hill landed on the DL from April 15 to June 25 with a broken left hand, and earlier this season, centerfielder A. J. Pollock broke his right hand when struck by a pitch from the Reds’ Johnny Cueto on May 31.
As though the Diamondbacks need any more bad news, the reality of losing their best player and one of the top players in baseball was striking.
“It hurts,” said manager Kirk Gibson before Saturday’s game with the Pirates. “He’s one of the best players in the league and now he’s the third one to go down with a broken hand in the last two years.”
For now, Jordan Pacheco will fill in at first base and Gibson said Mark Trumbo, who played first base for the Angels over the last few seasons, will start taking ground balls at first. Gibson also indicated that Kevin Towers, the team’s general manager, could seek help outside of the organization. That means scanning the waiver wire and signing free agents.
“At this point, we haven’t discuss options,” Gibson added. “The break to Goldy happened in the ninth inning, late in the game, and I haven’t spoke with (Towers). It’s probably too early to start thinking outside the organization.”
On Saturday, Goldschmidt said he briefly spoke with Hill about breaking a hand, but was sensitive to the second baseman’s game-day preparation. Yet, discussions with the medical staff remain the priority and Goldschmidt indicated that he would like to begin the rehabilitation period as soon as possible.
When Goldschmidt went down, he was hitting an even .300 with a major-league best 39 doubles, 19 home runs and 69 RBIs. In the National League, he ranked first in doubles and extra-base hits, tied for the league lead in runs scored, second in total bases, third in RBIs and walks, tied for second in games played (109) and fourth in on-base percentage.
Among major league leaders, Goldschmidt led in doubles, tied for second in runs scored, third in extra-base hits and fourth in total bases.
For now, the Diamondbacks recalled outfielder Alfredo Marte from Triple-A Reno to replace Goldschmidt on the 25-man roster.
Beginning his third stint with the Diamondbacks this season, Marte appeared in 16 games for Arizona so far in 2014 and hit .258 (8-for-31) with three doubles, one home run and seven RBIs. His only round-tripper was a pinch grand slam against the Phillies on July 25.