Braves hope Ozzie Albies can return for playoffs

Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com

Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com

When Vaughn Grissom was watching Ozzie Albies from the dugout, he knew something might be wrong.

“Ah, I feel like something looks off, the way he’s looking at it,” Grissom said of the moment he noticed Albies checking out his finger at second base.

As it turned out, Albies fell victim to a cruel and unfortunate twist. A little over 24 hours after he returned from a fractured foot, he fractured his right pinkie on a head-first slide into second base in Saturday’s win over the Phillies. He will miss the rest of the regular season, manager Brian Snitker said, but a postseason return is a possibility.

“I hate it for him,” Snitker said. “My heart breaks for him. After everything he went through, to get back here and then have that happen, God, it’s horrible for him. He was just having so much fun and being old (Ozzie), and he was playing ball, which is what he loves to do. It’s a shame, and I hate it for him.”

“There’s like a pit in my stomach,” Grissom said.

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In the bottom of the fourth inning, Albies, who was at first base, tagged up on a flyout to right field and ran to take second base. When he executed the head-first slide, with both hands stretched out toward the bag, he fractured his right pinkie. The television broadcast caught him looking at his hand and feeling his pinkie. Albies eventually scored on Ronald Acuña’s two-run double, but did not return after that.

It is a big loss for the Braves. They have played well without Albies, but he is a large personality in their clubhouse and a starter on the field.

“He means a lot,” Acuña said through interpreter Franco García. “He’s a leader on this team, we need him. I’m really sad for what happened to him.”

Grissom replaced Albies for the top of the fifth inning. Grissom will play second base for the foreseeable future, as he did when Albies was working to return from the foot fracture.

Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com

Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com

In 247 at-bats this season, Albies is batting .247 with a .703 OPS. He was 1-for-1 with two runs scored before Grissom replaced him. On Friday, Albies went 1-for-4 with a double and two RBIs in his return.

“Just his energy and just his presence is super crucial for this team,” Grissom said. “It’s hard to watch. It’s even hard to go in there and back him up.”

Grissom said he can learn a lot from Albies. He said Albies’ work ethic spoke louder than any conversation they had.

“I just try to be like his little bro,” Grissom said. “Obviously I know he’s the chief over here, so I just learn from him, I watch him.”

Albies has had brutal luck this season. In June, he fractured his foot during an at-bat. And before that, he had not been experiencing an offensive season that is up to his standards. All along, the Braves expected him to be back sometime toward the end of the season. It seemed he would have an opportunity to join the team’s push for another World Series title.

Albies made it back in time, as the team Friday returned him from his rehab assignment.

On Saturday night, 13 innings into his return from a fractured foot, Albies fractured his right pinkie.

“I have no idea how old he is, but he’s been the best infielder in the league for a couple seasons now – whether someone said it or someone didn’t, but he has,” Grissom said. “Just being around him, he’s just amazing.”