SAN FRANCISCO (AP) ― Choo Shin-soo was walking around the Cleveland Indians clubhouse Saturday with a soft cast on his left hand that covered three stitches on his bloodied, broken thumb.
The only thing that might hurt worse is the hole in Cleveland’s shattered lineup.
The Indians’ prize right fielder will see a hand specialist at the Cleveland Clinic on Monday and expects to have surgery on his injured thumb, likely sidelining him for the next six weeks and possibly more.
“It is discouraging because he was swinging the bat very well,” manager Manny Acta said before Cleveland lost to the Giants 1-0 Saturday. “He was playing better, pulling the ball with authority and we knew it was just a matter of time before he could carry this ballclub for some weeks as he has done in the past. It’s not only his offense.
Indians right fielder Choo Shin-soo (center) is helped off the field after being hit on the hand by a pitch. (AFP-Yonhap News)
“To me, he’s the best defensive right fielder in the American League and really, really helps us a lot running the bases. He’s the complete package for us,” Acta said. “It’s a big blow. It would be an understatement to call it a blow.”
Choo was placed on the 15-day disabled list and Travis Buck was called up from Triple-A Columbus. Austin Kearns was in right field Saturday against San Francisco and batting eighth.
Choo’s thumb was smashed when it was hit by a pitch by erratic lefty Jonathan Sanchez in the fourth inning of a 4-3 loss to the Giants on Friday night with his wife and family watching from the stands. He fell face first to the dirt and remained there as a team trainer rushed out to check on him.
He eventually was helped to the dugout with Acta and a team trainer by his side. Choo went to the hospital for stitches but didn’t need to give a prognosis.
“As soon as it hit, I knew it was serious,” Choo said. “It’s disappointing. But it’s even more disappointing because I can’t help the team.”
The South Korean native has been arguably Cleveland’s best all-around player the last two years.
His almost identical numbers the last two season show how much of a consistent force he’s been in the middle of the lineup: He batted .300 with 22 home runs and 90 RBIs last year, and he hit .300 with 20 homers and 86 RBIs in 2009.
Choo was off to a slow start this season ― hitting .244 with five home runs ― but was starting to find his groove for the Indians, clinging to first place in the AL Central. He had hit safely in 20 of his previous 26 games.
“Just stability. He gives us so much,” Acta said. “He plays every single day unless I really want to give him a day off. He brings a lot.”