After his late night revelation that he’d broken the hamate bone in his wrist, everyone went into a feverish tailspin of despair about big-time Cubs outfield prospect Albert Almora. The despair lasted only a few minutes, since we live in the Internet age, and everyone can either assuage their fears with a simple Google search … or terrify themselves further.
Fortunately, we’re mostly assuaged. The Cubs do not consider Almora’s injury serious, although it will keep him out of action completely for three to four weeks. From there, he’ll have to get ready for the season, so he’s not likely to make his debut – probably at Kane County – until late May.
I think Cubs fans are uniquely prone to freak outs about wrist injuries these days because (1) we remember Derek Lee’s wrist injury, and the fact that he was never the same after it; and (2) Ian Stewart has been dealing with a lingering wrist issue for years, which may have fundamentally changed the player he could have been. But, the thing is, Lee’s broken wrist was, like, a very seriously broken wrist (in two places), not just a broken hamate bone, and Stewart’s wrist issue has been something of a medical mystery, now believed to be related to pieces of bone and calcifications that doctors missed for years. In other words, the two big red flag wrist things in recent years for Cubs fans don’t really apply here.
As we discussed last night, hamate bone injuries are not uncommon in baseball, and they can come either from an errant pitch or from a swing. Almora’s was the swing variety, apparently, which suggests a kind of repetitive stress injury. Yes, that sounds slightly more worrisome than getting hit by a pitch, but medical science has evolved to the point where, if the hamate bone keeps causing a guy problems, it can be removed.
The success rate in returning from hamate injuries – it’s weird to even call it a “wrist” injury, given that the hamate bone, to me, looks like it’s more in the bottom of the hand than in the top part of the wrist – seems pretty high in the last five, six years. Domonic Brown may have had some lingering issues (or he just struggled with big league pitching), but Nick Markakis, Pablo Sandoval, Troy Tulowitzki, and Dustin Pedroia, for example, have all returned from hamate bone injuries within the same season, and picked right up where they left off.
There are far worse wrist injuries out there.
At bottom, it sucks that this happened. It sucks that it happened to Almora. And it sucks that his development might be delayed slightly. But this probably isn’t a serious thing, it probably isn’t going to be a lingering issue, and it probably doesn’t delay his actual arrival time line – if he makes it to the bigs – by any appreciable time.