Ozzie Albies placed on injured list after ‘freak injury’, won’t need surgery

HOUSTON — When a pitch hit Ozzie Albies on his big toe on Monday night – “exactly on it,” he said Tuesday – he figured the pain would subside as he played the rest of the game.

It never did.

Albies fractured the big toe in his right foot, and the Braves on Tuesday placed him on the 10-day injured list. He won’t need surgery, but will likely be on the injured list for longer than the minimum amount of time. He was in a walking boot on Tuesday.

“I’m going to be honest, not really surprised (it was fractured),” Albies said. “Normally when stuff like this happens three or four innings in, it kind of goes away. This one stayed, so I was like, ‘Ah, it’s not feeling right.’ I didn’t expect it to be broken – (I thought) it was probably a really, really deep bone bruise.”

After Monday’s game, Albies had X-rays on the toe. On Tuesday morning, he had an MRI. The imaging, he said, allowed him to see the “crack” in the bone.

As the corresponding move for placing Albies on the injured list, the Braves selected the contract of David Fletcher, who began the season at Triple-A Gwinnett.

In Monday’s second inning at Minute Maid Park, when Astros starter Spencer Arrighetti hit Albies with an 81 mph curveball, Albies fell to the ground. He got up, but gingerly walked around. Then he put his hands on his knees and bent over.

Albies played the rest of the game with a fractured toe. In his other at-bats, Albies struck out, walked and singled. After he hit a single in the ninth inning, he ran the bases and eventually scored a few batters later. In the field, he showed no major signs of injury.

“And I’ll be honest: I beat it up in Miami twice – hit two foul balls off the same toe,” Albies said. “And then yesterday, the pitch went right on it.”

The question everyone is wondering: How long will Albies be out?

If you asked him – and reporters did – the answer would be rather optimistic – because he wants to play. Of course he does. And his answer reflected that.

“If I feel good two or three days from now and I can run, yeah, I’m gonna be out there,” Albies said. “I don’t know the exact day, but I’ll be out there ready to go, as long as I feel better.”

Albies isn’t eligible to return, and it seems likely he won’t be back until after that, according to manager Brian Snitker.

“I was talking to (head athletic trainer George (Poulis),” Snitker said. “He said it’s probably going to be longer than that.”

In 2022, Albies fractured his foot on June 13 and didn’t return until Sept. 16. This broken toe shouldn’t take as long to heal.

“It should be shorter, yeah. It should be,” Snitker said. “And he’ll handle pain a little bit. You never know.”

And Albies said this fracture isn’t as bad as the foot two years ago.

“It definitely feels better than the foot fracture, because that one actually snapped completely,” Albies said. “That one, I felt the click and everything. This one, I didn’t feel anything. I think that’s why I played the whole game and after I took the shoe off after the game, I think I released all the compression, (and) that’s when I felt like, ‘Uh oh, something’s wrong in here.’”

On Tuesday against Houston right-hander Hunter Brown, Braves manager Brian Snitker went with the left-handing hitting Luis Guillorme at second base and batting eighth. Michael Harris II was batting second, which is where Albies usually hits in the order.

Snitker said he’ll likely start Guillorme or Fletcher based on the opposing starter that day.

“Shoot, both in spring training were very impressive at second base,” Snitker said. “Ozzie’s a hard guy to replace. I mean, this guy’s an All-Star and all. But you know what, that’s just one of the things you gotta do. I feel good about the guys we have to fill the void until he gets back.”

The injury is tough for the Braves, who have experienced some bad luck early in this season.

Days ago, Spencer Strider, the club’s ace, underwent season-ending elbow surgery to repair his UCL. And on opening day, Sean Murphy sustained an oblique strain.

Now, Albies is out. And you feel for the second baseman, who always plays hard. During his career, he’s dealt with a handful of injuries.

In 2020, Albies dealt with an ailing right wrist. He played in only 29 games in the shortened season.

In 2022, he fractured the foot, then broke a finger the day after returning. In the offseason after that, he underwent a clean-up procedure on his shoulder. (Albies said his shoulder pain before that was the worst pain he’s ever played through, even more than the broken toe.)

In Albies’ healthy seasons, he’s been among the best offensive second baseman in baseball. He’s a two-time Silver Slugger Award winner and a three-time All-Star at the position.

Twice, he has eclipsed the 30-homer, 100-RBI mark. He’s never hit fewer than 24 home runs over a full season.

And in the clubhouse, Albies is part of the Braves’ heart and soul. He leads by example. Guys gravitate toward him.

Now, the Braves will need to make do without him – however long that becomes.

The Braves acquired Fletcher over the offseason during the string of deals following the Jarred Kelenic acquisition. To deal infielder Evan White and his bad contract, the Braves had to take on Fletcher and catcher Max Stassi. The Braves dealt Stassi to the White Sox but kept Fletcher.

At the time, it appeared Fletcher may be the utility infielder for the major-league team – even after the Braves outrighted Fletcher off the 40-man roster. The team then signed Luis Guillorme, who occupies the utility infielder role.

Over 50 at-bats for Gwinnett before joining the Braves, Fletcher hit .280 with a .703 OPS. He drove in seven RBIs and stole two bases.

During spring training, Fletcher made a great impression. He displayed his tremendous glove and batted .324. Many times, Snitker lauded Fletcher and his ability.

But the hope, of course, is that Albies is back soon.

“It’s a freak injury, but there’s nothing I can do about it,” Albies said. “Just make sure I heal faster and faster, and be ready to go as soon as I feel good.”