Braves lose Infante to broken hand
Valuable utility player sidelined indefinitely
ATLANTA -- Outside the Braves community, Omar Infante is known as a solid role player whose greatest strength comes via his versatility. Within it, he's widely recognized as one of the most valuable pieces of the big league roster.
Thus instead of basking in the 12-4 win they claimed over the Rockies at Turner Field on Wednesday night, the Braves dealt with the blow they received courtesy of the broken left hand that Infante had suffered during the sixth inning.
"It's a tough loss losing him because he can play everywhere, especially center field," Braves manager Bobby Cox said. "I don't know what else to say about that. It's awful."
Infante suffered the injury when he was hit with Manuel Corpas' 91-mph fastball. X-rays showed that he fractured the fifth metacarpal of his left hand. He'll be further evaluated by Dr. Gary Lourie, the team's hand specialist on Thursday. But the Braves are already dealing with the reality that they'll be without the valuable utility player for six-to-eight weeks.
"He's just the kind of player and person that no team wants to lose," Braves second baseman Kelly Johnson said. "You don't want to lose a guy like that. It's players like that, that get us where we're trying to go. I just feel really, really bad for him."
Infante spent the past three weeks in a platoon with Johnson. But his value went beyond the fact that he's a skilled defensive infielder. He's hit .381 with a .429 on-base percentage in 70 plate appearances while batting in the leadoff spot this year.
While Infante's defensive skills could be considered average, he was the best candidate to serve as a backup to rookie center fielder Jordan Schafer, who has started each of the team's 39 games this year and dealt with a sore back the past few days.
If Schafer needs some rest, the Braves could utilize Matt Diaz or Martin Prado, who are both scheduled to arrive early Thursday afternoon to get better acquainted with the center-field position. Diaz has never played center field at the Major League level, and Prado's outfield experience is limited to the action he's seen during the Venezuelan Winter League.
Jeff Francoeur, who played some center field during his Minor League days, could also fill the void if necessary.
Infante's injury also weakens the Braves on the trade front. With him and Prado, the Braves possessed a pair of second-base options that would have seemingly made Johnson expendable and available to a number of teams that have shown interest in him.
The Braves plan to recall Diory Hernandez from their Triple-A Gwinnett roster to assume Infante's roster spot. While considered a defensively challenged infielder, Hernandez has hit .355 in 29 games with Gwinnett this year.
Adding to Wednesday's injury news, left-handed pitcher Jo-Jo Reyes strained his left hamstring while running toward first base after delivering an eighth-inning single. Given that he was likely going to be sent to Gwinnett on Thursday to create a roster spot for Kris Medlen, Reyes' injury was obviously far less concerning.
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.