Fowler isn’t the first player this year to sustain an injury to the hand, have it labeled a bruise, then find out that it’s more than a three-to-five day problem. Diamondbacks’ second baseman Aaron Hill, Brewers’ outfielder Ryan Braun, Pirates’ second baseman Neil Walker and Indians’ outfielder Michael Bourn have all been faced with hand or finger or thumb injuries which proved to be more problematic than initially expected. Braun is still on the DL with his thumb issue and the Brewers have acknowledged it may be something he has to manage throughout the season. By placing Fowler on the DL Tuesday (retroactive to June 26), the Rockies are hoping to avoid this becoming a season-long problem.
Fowler was originally hurt June 13 when he was hit by a pitch on his right hand, on the knuckle of the ring (fourth) finger to be exact, while attempting to bunt. As is usually the case, he had pain and swelling in the area which made it impossible to grip a bat. After sitting for two games he returned to the lineup but it quickly became apparent Fowler was still struggling with his grip. He again came out of the lineup and subsequent X-rays were performed but there was no evidence of a break. Fowler again attempted a return several days later and shortly thereafter developed soreness in his wrist. According to Troy Renck of the Denver Post, Fowler felt discomfort in the wrist while swinging the bat. The natural follow-up question is whether Fowler was compensating for an ineffective grip which led to this secondary problem.
Whether coincidence or consequence, the second injury again resulted in Fowler’s removal from the lineup, followed by an MRI. The MRI reportedly came back negative but the pain in Fowler’s wrist has persisted, hence the move to the DL. Since Fowler has not played since June 25, the move can be backdated and he has the opportunity to return late next week, if he’s ready. Although there is no specific diagnosis to accompany Fowler’s injury, he was placed on the DL because of his wrist and there’s at least a little reason to be concerned. Late last year Fowler was bothered by inflammation in the same wrist; one has to wonder if it wasn’t a little easier to provoke this year with an awkward swing, perhaps precipitated by an altered grip. Naturally, the benefit of hindsight allows the question to be posed. If there wasn’t any overt change in how Fowler was swinging the bat in the days where he was trying to play after being hit by the pitch, there may have been no obvious reason to sit him out.
Those decisions matter little at the moment. The most important thing for Fowler and the Rockies now is that he allows the symptoms to settle to the point where he can grip and swing a bat normally. As a switch hitter who last season hit twice as often from the left side of the plate (where there is likely more torsion on his right wrist), Fowler’s value increases with his ability to deliver from either side. He will be eligible to return for the Rockies’ weekend series against the Los Angeles Dodgers, just before the All-Star Break. Despite how tight the NL West division standings are, it would not be a shock however if the Rockies opted to hold Fowler out through the break, particularly if there is any concern about his ability to swing effortlessly.
After all, no one wants to see this become a season-long problem.