No Hard Feelings

TORONTO — That was Gregg Zaun’s message to Boston’s Eric Hinske, who was teammates with Toronto’s catcher on the Blue Jays from 2004-2006. Last Tuesday, Hinske fouled off a pitch that broke Zaun’s right hand during a game on the road against the Red Sox. Zaun made sure to call Hinske after the fluke incident.

"I knew he was really concerned," Zaun said on Monday. "My wife and his wife were text-messaging back and forth and I knew he felt bad. Eric and I are very close still and I felt bad for him, because I knew he’d feel bad about it. I just let him know that it’s part of my position and these things happen."

Zaun had his right thumb broken during the first inning of that game — a 10-3 win over Boston. Toronto’s catcher remained in the game for the rest of the first and even had an at-bat in the second inning, when he grounded out to short. During that trip to the plate, Zaun could only grip the bat with four fingers because he had lost all strength with his right thumb.

"I just pretty much didn’t want to admit that it was pretty bad," Zaun said. "But I knew something was fairly wrong when I took pushed on my thumb on the spot and it made crunching noises. I knew that that wasn’t real good.

"Then I went up and I tried to hit. I was kind of hoping and praying that it wasn’t broken — that it was just really badly bruised and that it was going to be swollen and sore for a few days. But I couldn’t hold on to the bat."

Zaun tried to take his place behind the plate during the second inning, but after catching one warm-up pitch from Roy Halladay, the catcher wasn’t able to throw the ball back to the mound. It sailed over Halladay’s head and Zaun removed himself from the game.

On Wednesday, Zaun visited a hand specialist in Baltimore (Dr. Thomas Graham) and then underwent surgery to repair his hand on Thursday. He had two screws inserted into his thumb during the operation. On Tuesday, he’s scheduled to have his cast removed, and he’ll begin wearing a removable splint.

"There was a small glimmer of hope that it wasn’t going to require surgery," Zaun said. "But when they started talking about the fracture being displaced, and if they let it heal that way it could cause problems down the line with arthritis and sheering off the cartilage in the joint and things like that, it was an easy decision."

Zaun is hoping to return to the Blue Jays six weeks post-surgery, which would be around the second week in June. He figures that it’ll take a month for him to return to baseball activities and then another two weeks or so to get back to full strength. Toronto manager John Gibbons said Zaun is a hard worker and might be able to return that quickly, but the team will make sure he’s good and ready before activating him from the DL. That could mean six weeks is a very optimistic proposition.

3 Comments

With Chacin on the 15 day DL, does Towers get 1 or 2 more start chances? Does Janssen get moved to the rotation only to go back to the pen once Chacin is back? Does Vermilyea get called back to fill the hole in the pen? Or do they bring up McGowan or Taubenheim for a few starts?

Gibbons said tonight that it would be someone from Triple-A, but he wouldn’t say who. I think it’s fair to speculate that it will be McGowan, but that’s not for certain. Gibbons said it wouldn’t be someone from the bullpen, which rules out Towers or Janssen.

If last year is anything to go by, it will depend a lot on who has had enough rest to make Thursday’s start. In this case, since Thursday is McGowan’s regular day to start in Syracuse, I’m betting on him. In the meantime, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Vermilea or someone else show up in the bullpen to fill the empty spot until Thursday.

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