SAN FRANCISCO (CBS Sports / AP) — Buster Posey has fractured a bone in his lower left leg and could be out for the season, delivering a potentially devastating blow to the San Francisco Giants.
The Giants announced Thursday that Posey was on the disabled list with a broken fibula, a day after he was crushed by Florida’s Scott Cousins in a homeplate collision while trying to block the winning run in the 12th inning against the Marlins.
After Thursday afternoon’s 1-0 loss to the Marlins, Giants head trainer Dave Groeschner said that an MRI revealed torn ligaments in the ankle, in addition to the broken fibula.
“We think the fracture is going to be fine, the ankle injury is most concerning to us.” said Groeschner, who indicated that the surgery needed for the ligaments is a greater concern. “Obviously he is going to be out for a while.”
Groeschner said a second MRI was performed on the catcher’s knee, but no damage was found.
“We’ve seen this stuff before. We’ve had other guys through our system, catchers included, that have returned no problem,” Groeschner said without giving a timetable on Posey’s return. “This is probably more of a football-type injury, a contact injury, and those guys come back.”
The team expects Posey to have the surgery to repair the ligaments on both sides of his ankles within a week; doctors may have to insert a screw into his ankle to help set the bone.
Posey has been San Francisco’s best cleanup hitter this season, a team leader in the clubhouse and key cog behind the plate for one of the best rotations in baseball. He was batting .284 with four home runs and 21 RBIs, just finding his groove in the midst of a 13-game hitting streak.
His loss will be an enormous obstacle for the Giants to overcome if they want to repeat as champs. Backup Eli Whiteside will be Posey’s immediate replacement.
The Giants later announced that Chris Stewart had been recalled to take Posey’s place, with Brandon Belt also joining the roster along with Brandon Crawford.
KCBS’ Doug Sovern Reports:
Posey’s broken leg could heal in one-to-two months, a time span common for a broken leg. However, broken legs can mean a wide range of severity, and the complication of torn ligaments makes a possible ETA for a return that much more murky. Some players return from a broken leg inside two months. Others miss almost two full seasons, as Kendrys Morales of the Angels can attest. It would surprise no one if Posey was done for the season, including teammate Pablo Sandoval.
“I feel so bad because we lost Buster for rest of the season it’s gonna be hard with out him,” Sandoval tweeted on Thursday.
Posey’s agent, Jeff Berry, said he was planning on calling Joe Torre, the new leader of on-field operations, in the hopes of changing the rules that allow runners to barrel into catchers.
“You leave players way too vulnerable,” Berry said. “I can tell you Major League Baseball is less than it was before [Posey’s injury]. It’s stupid. I don’t know if this ends up leading to a rule change, but it should. The guy [at the plate] is too exposed.
“If you go helmet to helmet in the NFL, it’s a $100,000 fine, but in baseball, you have a situation in which runners are [slamming into] fielders. It’s brutal. It’s borderline shocking. It just stinks for baseball. I’m going to call Major League Baseball and put this on the radar. Because it’s just wrong.”
“It’s part of baseball. I understand that,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said in a news conference on Thursday. “Guys run into catchers. Being a catcher, I’ve been in a few of them. You’re in harm’s way there. I do think we need to consider changing the rules a little bit because the catcher’s so vulnerable — and there are so many who’ve gotten hurt, and just a little bit. I mean, they’ve had their careers or shortened. And here’s a guy that’s very popular in baseball. Fans want to see him play. Now, he’s out for a while. I’d like to see maybe something considered here where we can protect these guys a little bit more. They just don’t have the protection to take a guy coming in full speed, with that kind of force.”
Bochy said he had previously spoken to Posey about not getting out in front and blocking the plate — and to an extent, Posey tried to honor that.
“He was not completely in front of the plate. He was in a position where he could make a tag without being hit, too,” Bochy said. “He just got himself in a tough position there because [the way] his leg was situated. He was down on one knee, and ideally, you’d like to have the foot pointed that way to protect you a little bit. But, again, you’re trying to handle a throw. You don’t have time to get set up perfectly. That’s what hurt him was his leg was tucked underneath him when he got hit.”
This is a sticky situation. On one hand, Bochy clearly feels that Cousins didn’t need to take out Posey. On the other, it was a game in extra innings with a potential scoring play. Cousins and the ball both arrived to Posey at virtually the same time, and if Cousins had chosen to attempt to slide to the plate, there’s no guarantee he would have made it. It’s just an unfortunate end result, but that’s baseball.
Cousins tried to reach out to Posey, leaving two voicemails and told reporters Thursday that he did not sleep Wednesday night. “The last thing I wanted to do was break the guy’s leg,” he said.
Cousins, who went to the University San Francisco, lives in the Bay Area and had almost a dozen friends and family in attendance, apologized repeatedly for injuring Posey. But he believes — as most Giants also reiterated — that he made a clean baseball play.
“I’m not trying to end anybody’s season or anything like that. I just was trying to play hard and score the go-ahead run,” Cousins said.
Belt takes the place of outfielder and pinch-runner Darren Ford, who hit the DL with an ankle sprain. The Giants were originally going to resist calling Belt up to replace Ford, but the loss of Posey has changed matters as the Giants need to find a way to inject offense into the club, and fast. The Giants won’t have any trouble fitting Belt into the lineup, as first baseman Aubrey Huff is struggling with the bat while left field can also accommodate Belt’s production.
Even though Huff hasn’t played third base since a 33-game stint in 2008, it’s possible the Giants could slide him to third temporarily to get Belt’s bat in at first base, which would allow the team to continue playing Pat Burrell and Nate Schierholz in the outfield. In this scenario, Miguel Tejada would move back to shortstop, a position he vacated to fill Pablo Sandoval’s absence at third. Now that the Giants have also lost Mike Fontenot to the DL due to a groin strain, the options to fill the shortstop position are weak enough to the point the club would likely benefit from Tejada moving back to short all in the name of getting Belt’s bat into the lineup.
Stewart has been with four different teams in the last five years, playing mostly at Triple-A. He received eight at-bats in 2006 for his career debut with the White Sox before collecting 43 plate appearances for the Rangers in ’07. The 29-year-old moved onto the Yankees, snagging just one game’s worth of playing time in ’08, playing for New York’s Triple-A team the entirety of 2009 before returning to the bigs with San Diego last season. At San Diego he appeared in two games as a defensive replacement. Now, Stewart could easily match his career 54 plate appearances as the new tandem in San Francisco. Eli Whiteside is expected to get the bulk of the playing time in the early going, but he doesn’t exactly command being slotted in the lineup every day.
Crawford, meanwhile, was playing at high-Class A, hitting .322/.412/.593 in 69 plate appearances. He spent the bulk of 2010 with Double-A, hitting .241/.337/.375 and started the 2011 season with a broken finger. The corresponding move for Crawford is not yet known, but it is likely Fontenot to the DL. He’ll be the infield backup, with Emmanuel Burriss likely slotting in at shortstop if they don’t move Tejada back to short.
Assuming Posey is out for a long time, if not the rest of the season, the Giants may want to call up ex-Giant Bengie Molina, who was with San Francisco from 2007 until partway through last season, when he was moved to the Rangers and faced the Giants in the World Series. Molina, a free agent, has been waiting for both the right fit and price before playing again. He may have just found it.
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