The Colorado Rockies have enjoyed a surprisingly strong start to their 2014 campaign thanks to better than advertised pitching, a red-hot six weeks from Troy Tulowitzki and the all around emergence of third baseman Nolan Arenado. Unfortunately, they'll be forced to trek on without the latter for several weeks after Arenado was diagnosed Friday night with a fractured mallet in his left middle finger.
The injury occurred when Arenado dove head-first into second base on his second inning double against Atlanta Braves right-hander Gavin Floyd. Left fielder Justin Upton played the ball off the wall expertly and made a strong throw back to the infield, which added urgency to the play. In fact, the Braves made it a reviewable play after Dan Uggla quickly flipped the ball to a covering Andrelton Simmons.
Arenado was deemed safe and eventually scored Colorado's first run. Unfortunately, the damage suffered on the slide could not be undone. He was removed before Colorado took the field in the bottom half of the inning, and the bad news followed a few innings later.
The Rockies have yet to release an official timeline for a possible return. However, the Denver Post's Patrick Saunders reports it could be a 6-8 week injury without surgery.
The 23-year-old Arenado will not be easily replaced regardless of how much time he's forced to miss. He's coming off a Gold Glove season at third base as a rookie in 2013, and has become a more complete player in 2014, hitting .305/.333/.489. That line was aided greatly by an MLB best 28-game hitting streak spanning April and May. That also set a new Rockies franchise record.
If the rosters were picked tomorrow, Arenado would have drawn strong consideration as an All-Star. Now Colorado may be forced to turn to backup catcher Jordan Pacheco, who served as their regular third baseman in 2012, to man the position. He's competent, but not nearly as dynamic as Arenado on either side of the field.
Second baseman D.J. LeMahieu could slide across the diamond as well if Colorado's willing to alter their regular defensive alignment. They also have marginal options in Charlie Culberson and Josh Rutledge, who was removed from their Triple-A game on Friday night and is expected to be called up on Saturday.
In other words, there's no quick fix or ideal solution to make up for Arenado's loss. They'll just have to make due and hope that Carlos Gonzalez's own finger injury doesn't linger too long. They'll need his bat in the lineup regularly.
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