He felt pain in his left hand, but stayed in the batter’s box, hopeful that the discomfort would disappear. When the pain persisted, Alford got a post-game X-ray that would eventually reveal a fractured hamate bone. With that news, Alford was placed on the 10-day disabled list where he’s expected to remain for the next four to six weeks.
“It was definitely a way to rain on my parade,” Alford said. “It was an exciting day (Tuesday) by getting my first hit and on top of that getting the win, but unfortunately we had some bad news after the game.”
Alford will now return to Toronto with the Blue Jays, where he’ll undergo further tests to determine a plan for rehabilitating the injury. In the meantime, Dwight Smith Jr. returned from triple-A Buffalo to take Alford’s place on the roster. Smith caught an early morning flight from Atlanta to Milwaukee and joined the team in Milwaukee in time for the Blue Jays’ Wednesday game against the Brewers.
Josh Donaldson and Troy Tulowitzki are expected to join the Blue Jays this weekend, so Smith’s return to the MLB level could be a short one. He made his big-league debut last week, but was optioned back to Buffalo Saturday when Kevin Pillar was reinstated to the roster.
Even if Alford had stayed healthy, he would likely have returned to the minors before long, so in that sense this injury doesn’t impact Toronto’s big-league club in the short term. Big picture, general manager Ross Atkins wasn’t concerned about how the injury would impact Alford, who was recently named the 34th-best prospect in the game by Baseball America.
“He’ll be back into the fold,” Atkins said. “We’re confident this isn’t going to affect him in the long term.”
Still, a month represents a significant chunk of development for Alford, who had just 33 games of experience in the upper minors when the Blue Jays promoted him from double-A last week. Alford, who missed time recovering from a concussion last summer, had been slated to get his first extended look at the more advanced pitching found in the upper minors.
“What really hurts is it’s cutting into his development,” manager John Gibbons said. “It’s just unfortunate for Anthony. I’m glad he got his first hit out of the way. That’s big. He got to experience (the MLB level), and I think it’ll help him down the road.”
Though Alford was disappointed to hit the disabled list, he has enjoyed the support of his teammates during an up-and-down debut week.
“They treat me like a little brother,” Alford said. “They do a good job of taking care of me and I look at these guys as like a family to me. I look up to a lot of them, try to take bits and pieces of their game and incorporate it into my game. On and off the field these are good guys, they’ve always had my back, they’ve supported me since day one, and I’m pretty confident that they’re going to continue to support me.”
Alford’s injury means the Blue Jays have 11 players on the disabled list, but that shouldn’t be the case for long given the progress Donaldson and Tulowitzki are making. With J.A. Happ and Francisco Liriano also set to make rehab starts, the injury news about the Blue Jays may soon be more positive than negative.
“Somewhat of a silver lining is, and you hate to talk about things that could come, but we have guys that are coming back into the fold here,” Atkins said. “We could be adding the full team very soon. Certainly within weeks. Within days we’ll be adding a couple of very good players.
“There’s certainly been a lot of injuries, but most of them short-term, so hopefully we can add some of these players that are coming back into the fold, rehabbing, and go on a run.”