The 2023 World Baseball Classic has another major injury on its ledger.
Houston Astros All-Star José Altuve, playing for Venezuela, sustained a fractured thumb when he took a 96 mph fastball from pitcher Daniel Bard to the hand during Saturday's game against the United States.
The Astros announced Sunday that Altuve will need surgery on his broken thumb, and there's no timetable for his return.
BREAKING NEWS: Astros 2B Jose Altuve has a fractured right thumb and will need surgery, GM Dana Brown said. There is no timetable.
— Brian McTaggart (@brianmctaggart) March 19, 2023
Here's a look at the hit by pitch. Altuve immediately hit the ground after the pitch made contact, and he was escorted off the field by a trainer while in obvious pain. He was replaced at second base by Luis Rengifo of the Los Angeles Angels.
Jose Altuve leaves the game after being hit in the hand by a pitch. pic.twitter.com/Dzd9phTnnK
— FOX Sports: MLB (@MLBONFOX) March 19, 2023
The hit-by-pitch was the ugliest moment of an ugly inning by Bard, who opened the fifth with a walk, single, wild pitch, HBP, wild pitch and walk before Team USA manager Mark DeRosa pulled him for Tampa Bay Rays reliever Jason Adam. By the time Bard exited, the bases were loaded with no outs and one run already in.
Bard's line got even worse after he left, as Venezuela finished the inning leading 6-5 after trailing 5-2. But thanks to a Trea Turner grand slam, Team USA came back in the eighth inning and won 9-7 to advance to the semifinals.
The injury risk of playing in the World Baseball Classic has been a topic of conversation since New York Mets closer Edwin Díaz tore his patellar tendon while celebrating Puerto Rico's victory at the end of pool play. Díaz, last year's NL Reliever of the Year, is expected to miss the entire MLB season.
With Venezuela eliminated from the WBC after losing to Team USA on Saturday, the impact of Altuve's injury falls fully on the Astros. Altuve is coming off a championship-winning season in which he hit .300/.387/.533 with 28 homers and 18 steals and earned his eighth All-Star nod, sixth Silver Slugger Award and a fifth-place finish in AL MVP voting. He's a major cog in the Astros' machine, and replacing his bat and glove in the lineup will be extremely difficult — if not impossible.