Houston GM Jeff Luhnow says the team expects to be without Gurriel for about five to six weeks, per Jake Kaplan of The Athletic (Twitter links). Clearly, then, the rehab period will delay Gurriel’s start to the 2018 season. In this case, says Luhnow, it was a years-old injury that only just became symptomatic.
While injuries to the hamate — a hand bone near the wrist — are common for hitters, that doesn’t mean they aren’t reasonably significant. Those interested in learning more should check out this detailed examination of the subject from Michael Jong of SB Nation.
That limited recovery time is obviously promising, though hamate injuries have a reputation for sapping a hitter’s power upon his return to action. This interesting look from of SB Nation’s Stuart Wallace suggests, though, that any shorter-term loss of pop does not generally turn into a long-term impediment.
For the ’Stros, it’s perhaps at least preferable for the injury to occur now rather than during the season. Gurriel will still need to serve a five-game suspension, though the injury situation may allow the team to manage that more easily.
Regardless of the specifics, Houston will have to create a fill-in plan. An open-market option seems unlikely with so many internal possibilities. Marwin Gonzalez could step in at first, with the team also giving some opportunities to Tyler White, A.J. Reed, or J.D. Davis.
Though clearly the preference would be for the 33-year-old Gurriel to pick up where he left off in 2017, the Astros likely won’t mind the idea of getting a longer look at some of those players. And any hit to the team’s expectations will be minimal. While Gurriel produced a strong .299/.332/.486 slash line with 18 home runs last year, he’s not exactly a top-end hitter as a first baseman. (A third bagger by trade, Gurriel has been pushed to the other corner by Alex Bregman.)