The Pirates will be without Ryan Doumit, their catcher, cleanup hitter and maturing leader, for 8-10 weeks because of wrist surgery he is scheduled to have Thursday.
Doumit's right wrist, injured Sunday during a swing of the bat, was diagnosed today as having a slightly displaced fracture in the scaphoid bone. It was originally detected by an MRI last night, but Dr. Mark Baratz, the team's hand specialist at Allegheny General Hospital, ordered a CT scan this morning to confirm the result.
Baratz will insert pins into Doumit's scaphoid to fuse it together. After 4-5 weeks, another CT scan will determine if the bone has healed sufficiently to begin full baseball rehabilitation.
"If we see the bone healing, solidifying, then we can move forward," general manager Neal Huntington said. "If not, then we have to wait for the surgery to take. So, 8-10 weeks is the most likely time. It could be a little bit longer if the bone doesn't heal. It could be shorter if it does."
Doumit, always vocal, usually emotional, did little to conceal his feelings.
"It stinks," he said. "You do everything you can in the offseason to try to prepare, and we're off to such a great start. From spring training on, we felt like we had a good thing going. It's devastating, you know? No one wants to be told they can't play for 8-10 weeks. If there was anything I could do ... just cut the hand off and let me play."
Compounding that frustration was Doumit's history of injury that dates back to his time in the minors, one he eagerly sought to bury by reporting to the past two spring trainings in superior physical shape.
And this one, as he divulged today, felt like nothing unusual: He swung through a groundout to second base Sunday and stayed in that game for four more innings, not complaining to management about pain until the following morning.
"I felt like a little grab, like one of those things you feel all the time," Doumit said. "It obviously turned out to be more than that."
Baratz and the Pirates wanted the extra test yesterday "to give Ryan the best possible information" in deciding whether or not to have surgery. Doumit initially told Huntington he wanted to keep playing, even if the wrist hurt, but Baratz stressed the possible long-term ramifications of not letting the scaphoid bone heal.
That might be especially true in the case of Doumit, who has a violent, powerful swing.
"It's the bone that gets the least amount of natural blood supply, which lends to not such a good prognosis in terms of healing on its own," Huntington said. "We feel Ryan made a good decision with surgery, one that allows him the best opportunity to heal fully and make the quickest recovery. More than anything, we wanted to look at Ryan's future."
"The biggest thing in my decision was that I want to come back the same player," Doumit said.
Doumit, 28, was batting .244 with two home runs, four doubles and nine RBIs in the early going, this after a breakout 2008 in which he batted .318 with 15 home runs and 69 RBIs.
In December, the Pirates signed him to a contract extension that retains his rights through 2013, with a guaranteed value of $11.5 million. That includes a $300,000 signing bonus and $2.05 million salary for this season.
Just as predictable as Doumit taking the news hard was that his manager and teammates would do likewise.
Manager John Russell, in addition to being a former catcher deeply fond of Doumit as a player and person, will have an immense void in his daily lineup. Jason Jaramillo, Doumit's backup, will get most of the duty. He is in is first season and is far more proficient defensively than at the plate. Robinzon Diaz, promoted today from Class AAA Indianapolis, has 10 major league at-bats.
"We'll do what we can," Russell said. "There's no question, it's a huge loss for us."
"A really big blow," second baseman Freddy Sanchez said. "You look at what he did for us last year and what we expected from him now, it's tough. Honestly, though, what you think about today is him. He's such a great person and teammate. It's tough on a player mentally to accept something like that, being out for so long."
Most players undergoing extended rehabilitation are assigned to the Pirates' Florida facilities, but Doumit sought and received permission to remain in Pittsburgh.
"These are my boys, and this is my team," Doumit said. "If I can stay here and help Jason, help our pitchers, sit on the bench and learn from Joe Kerrigan, then something good might actually come of this."
Kerrigan is the pitching coach.
"This isn't any fun, but I accept that it happened, and I'm going to make it better," Doumit said. "If I can come back faster, that's my goal."
Check PBC Blog for details, updates.
Dejan Kovacevic can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org .