Surgery gives Wagner better grip on future

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- If aspiring catcher Mark Wagner looks like he has better bat speed this spring, there’s a good reason.

Wagner, who missed much of last season after having the hamate bone removed from his left hand, had surgery to remove another bone from the same hand, the pisoform.

“I should be that much quicker,’’ he said, “now that I’ve got two bones missing.’’

Wagner, playing for Triple-A Pawtucket at the time, sustained his original injury late last April when the hamate bone broke free while he was taking a swing. Removing the bone is not an uncommon

surgery among baseball players; David Ortiz had a similar procedure done when he was in the minor leagues.

But even after Wagner returned in late July, discomfort persisted in his wrist, and while he tried to play through it, the results weren’t there. He wound up batting just .205 in 36 games. This was his catching hand, remember, as well as the bottom hand on his bat.

It wasn’t until a month into the offseason, Wagner said, that doctors determined that a second bone needed to be removed. The pisoform, a pea-shaped bone in the wrist, can impact grip strength, wrist movement, static strength or dynamic power in the hand. Studies have shown that when the bone is removed, those areas are not affected in most cases.

“Everything feels back to normal,’’ said Wagner, who is expected to share time in Pawtucket with another Sox prospect, Luis Exposito, who was the regular catcher in Double-A Portland last season. “They finally figured it out, so I’m ready to roll.

“It’s one of those weird things. There’s so much going on in the hand and wrist area, I won’t say it was trial and error, that’s not it, because we have the best doctors in the world, but so many things are interlaced.’’

Wagner had the surgery done near his home in southern California by Dr. Steven Shin of the Kerlan-Jobe clinic. He pointed to the two small scars he now has on his hand. He had to wear a half-cast for weeks while the hand healed, which kept him not only from baseball activities but limited his driving -- he could only steer with one hand.

Last season was not entirely lost, he said, because he proved to himself that he could play even with an injury that ultimately required surgery. Healthy, he figures to be near the top of the list of catching reinforcements in case either Jarrod Saltalamacchia or Jason Varitek go down.

“I don’t ever worry about first call,’’ said Wagner, who turns 27 in June. “There are so many things out of my control. I have to take care of what I can take care of.

“I’m still growing as a player, and still have a long way to go. Whatever happens, happens for a reason.’’