An MRI on Wednesday seemed to confirm news that the Los Angeles Angels had feared since Josh Hamilton's ill-advised head-first slide into first base forced him to exit their 5-3 loss to the Seattle Mariners on Tuesday night. According to Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times, Hamilton reportedly suffered a complete tear of the ulnar collateral ligament in his left thumb along with a torn capsule. Injuries, that would require surgery and cost Hamilton 6-8 weeks.
However, the Angels are saying surgery in not a foregone conclusion, and a follow up exam on Friday will determine if surgery is in the cards.
What's safe to assume is Hamilton will be forced to miss several games if not several weeks. For however long he's sidelined, it will be a sizable loss for the Angels, especially considering Hamilton's hot start to the season. Through eight games, the 32-year-old outfielder was batting .444/.545/.741 with two homers and two doubles. A far cry from his slow start in 2013 that saw him connect for only two home runs through the first week of May. Though he remained healthy throughout, it was an all around disappointing season as Hamilton hit only .250/.307/.432 with 21 home runs and 79 RBI.
Both Hamilton and the Angels were in need of a bounce back in the second year of his five-year, $133-million contract. The strong start was encouraging, but an ill-fated decision in the heat of competition is poised to wipe out as much as a third of his season.
It's a decision Hamilton says he's made many times before and avoided injury. And it's a decision he said following the game that he's likely to make again, despite the consequences.
“Sometimes your instincts more than anything take over; the fun of the game,” Hamilton said. “I thought maybe when he was fielding the ball he had to go a little further than he did but he didn’t. I shouldn’t have done it, probably, but I’m not going to say I’m not going to do it again because I’d be lying.”
For some reason players of all ages and experience levels have it in their mind that diving head-first into first base will get them there quicker. It doesn't, but as we've learned over the years, it definitely increases the odds of hand injuries and even shoulder injuries from the awkward impact on the body. Unfortunately for Hamilton, the odds caught up to him on Tuesday night, and as a result, the Angels will move forward with a key component of their offense missing.
With Hamilton on the shelf, the Angels have recalled 26-year-old outfielder J.B. Shuck. In 437 at-bats last season, Shuck posted a .293/.331/.366 line with two homers, 39 RBI and eight stolen bases.
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