Albert Almora’s hand injury ought to be no big deal
BY GORDON WITTENMYER email@example.com March 15, 2013 11:14PM
Javy Baez (right) is greeted at the plate by teammates after his two-run walk-off homer beat Japan in one of the Cubs’ split-squad games. | Chris Carlson~AP
Updated: April 17, 2013 6:15AM
MESA, Ariz. — The Cubs expect top outfield prospect Albert Almora to make a full recovery from the broken hamate bone in his left hand he suffered in a minor-league spring game Thursday, even as they prepare for him to miss about a third of the season.
Almora, the sixth overall pick in last year’s draft, was scheduled to fly to Chicago to have minor surgery in the next few days to remove the broken hook of the hamate. He is expected to be sidelined three to four weeks before being allowed to resume baseball activity and remain on the disabled list until late May.
“Obviously, it’s not a career problem, more of a pain-in-the-butt type thing that happens to quite a few hitters over the history of the game,’’ manager Dale Sveum said. “It’s just that little bone that doesn’t mean anything and you don’t need.
“It’ll cost him eight weeks before he gets in a game. The good thing is it’s one of those things you take out and are done with it.”
The injury is often caused by contact with the knob of the bat on swings. Baltimore’s Nick Markakis and San Francisco’s Pablo Sandoval are among the major leaguers who have suffered the injury in recent years.
“He just took a swing on two strikes, and I guess something happened,” said Class A teammate Dan Vogelbach, who was nearby when Almora was hurt. “It was just a swing. He just fouled it back. … A couple guys [in the Cubs’ system] got it last year.
“It’s just unlucky. It just happened to happen to him. But he’ll come back better than ever. He’ll be ready. He’s a good guy. He works hard, and he’s a great teammate.”
Baez’s final word
By the time hard-hitting prospect Javy Baez strode to the plate in the ninth inning of a tied game against Japan’s World Baseball Classic semifinalist, he and on-deck hitter Welington Castillo were in full smack-talk mode — mostly as a result of the older guy getting on the kid after his home run in the seventh that cleared a fence that sits another 40 feet behind the left-field wall.
Baez looked at Castillo one last time, smiled and said, “You’re not hitting.”
He then stepped into the box and hit the first pitch he saw more than 400 feet to left-center for a walk-off, two-run homer.
The No. 9 overall pick in the 2011 draft said it was his first walk-off homer since high school.
Third baseman Ian Stewart (quad) said he felt great the day after batting five times Thursday on the minor-league side of camp in his first game action in three weeks. He took Friday off and is expected to return to the minor-league side Saturday to load up on more at-bats and said he’s confident he has enough time left in camp to be ready for the start of the season.
◆ Outfield prospect Brett Jackson was scratched from the lineup against Japan because of recurring soreness in his shoulder that manager Dale Sveum said doesn’t affect the lefty hitter’s swing. He’s expected to return to action in the next day or two.
CUBS (ss) 7, JAPAN 5
WHITE SOX 15, CUBS (ss) 3
JAVY TIME! Javy Baez, the Cubs’ top prospect, beat Japan almost single-handedly with two long home runs — including a two-run, walk-off shot to left-center in the ninth, two innings after he cleared the fence behind the left-field berm (that second fence being about 40 feet past the outfield wall). He also walked and scored a run in the first, giving the shortstop three runs and three RBI. Baez, the No. 9 overall pick in the 2011 draft, is expected to open the season at advanced-A Daytona.
STARTING BLOCKS: Travis Wood (42/3 innings against Japan) and Scott Feldman (32/3 against White Sox) — the third and fourth starters in the opening rotation — gave up a combined 11 earned runs on three homers and six doubles. Wood, who got all four of his strikeouts on off-speed pitches, said those pitches were his emphasis and shrugged off what he said was surprising power from the Japanese team. “Minus the outcome, the pitches were working good,” he said. “I was able to work on my off-speed pitches a lot, and they were sharp.”
PROSPECT WATCH: Class A slugger Dan Vogelbach got an unexpected invitation to the big-league camp — and the start at first — when first baseman Anthony Rizzo was given an extra day to get back from his WBC trip to Miami. Vogelbach delivered with a game-tying single to left in the eighth.
ON DECK: Split squad — Cubs vs. Texas Rangers at Las Vegas, 3:05 p.m., 720-AM, Jeff Samardzija vs. Nick Tepesch; Kansas City Royals at Cubs, HoHoKam Stadium, 3:05 p.m., Ch. 9, Hisanori Takahashi vs. Bruce Chen.