March 08, 2016
CLEARWATER, Fla. – Phillies outfielder Aaron Altherr could be lost for all but the final few weeks of the 2016 season.
Altherr, who injured his left wrist diving for a ball in a game on Friday in Clearwater, will undergo surgery in Philadelphia on Wednesday to repair a torn tendon sheath in his hand. General manager Matt Klentak said the recovery time for such an injury is 4-6 months.
But the sixth-month window would take Altherr and the Phillies to the first week of September.
“Yeah, it’s disappointing certainly for a young player who had a lot to prove,” Klentak said. “We were certainly excited to watch him play. But we’re not going to sit here and feel sorry for ourselves. We have a lot of good players in camp that are competing really hard for an opportunity. And now there is an opportunity.”
Among the contingent of players who could see regular time in the outfield with Altherr out: Rule 5 pick Tyler Goeddel, incumbent veteran Cody Asche, Darnell Sweeney, David Lough, and Cedric Hunter, among others.
Darin Ruf and Brock Stassi could also be options, although Stassi’s recent outfield work has been limited to eight games at Double-A Reading last year and three in winter ball this offseason. But since the current management has put a premium on defense, both of those options seem unlikely.
Klentak said both Nick Williams and Roman Quinn, the team’s top two outfield prospects, would be starting the season in the minor leagues, as expected.
Altherr suffered the injury while diving for a ball in the right field corner on the first play in the first inning of Friday’s game at Bright House Field against the Atlanta Braves. He flew home to Philadelphia two days later and was examined by Dr. Randall Culp on Monday.
On Tuesday, Altherr received a second opinion in New York. The diagnosis was confirmed and Altherr will undergo surgery on Wednesday with Culp at the Philadelphia Hand Center in Philadelphia.
The most recent, notable major leaguer to have the surgery was New York Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira, in July of 2013. He returned at the start of the 2014 season, but hit .216 with a .711 OPS in 123 games. He bounced back last year with a much more productive season, hitting .255 with a .906 OPS.
Altherr, 25, was an odds-on favorite to be the Phillies Opening Day rightfielder in an outfield where defense was going to be a premium, alongside Odubel Herrera and Peter Bourjos. Instead, he’ll be undergoing surgery today and facing a lengthy rehab. And it’s not the first time, either.
This is Altherr’s second wrist injury in the last three years – he suffered a right wrist injury (which eventually needed surgery) while sliding into a base while playing in the Arizona Fall League in 2013. It hurt his development the following season when he hit just .236 with a .686 OPS and 110 strikeouts in 120 games at Double-A Reading in 2014.
But the former ninth round pick found his stroke last year, hitting .293 with 14 home runs in 111 games between Double-A Reading and Triple-A Lehigh Valley before being promoted to the big leagues in August. Altherr hit .241 with an .827 OPS, five home runs, and 11 doubles in 39 games with the Phillies at the end of last season.
Rather than immediately look elsewhere for outfield help – through trade or free agency – Klentak said he expects someone to emerge in the Phillies current camp.
“We owe it to the guys in camp to give them that chance to fill that spot,” We’ll survey the market, if there’s something out there we’ll explore it. But we feel pretty good about the guys we have here."
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