Stressed, but not fractured

  • Article by: La Velle E. Neal III
  • Star Tribune
  • July 16, 2006 - 11:36 PM

Michael Cuddyer homered. Nick Punto patrolled center field as if it's been his all season. And Jason Tyner hooked and crooked his way on base as the Twins outfield contributed to a 5-2 victory over Cleveland on Sunday afternoon at the Metrodome.

Get used to the new look, as center fielder Torii Hunter has been placed on the 15-day disabled list because of a stress fracture in his left foot. An MRI exam taken Sunday morning revealed a fracture in the fourth metatarsal, which connects the second-smallest toe to a bone near the arch.

"We look at it as maybe a couple of weeks," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said, predicting the length of Hunter's absence. "We decided rather than have him try to play through something like that it is better to put him on the DL."

Twins physician John Steubs said that particular stress fracture normally takes six to eight weeks to heal, "but Torii's has already showed signs of healing," he said. There's a chance Hunter could need more than two weeks to get healthy.

Steubs believes Hunter suffered the fracture about a month ago and recently aggravated it.

Hunter, in recent conversations, admitted to hurting his foot last month while stopping on the turf fielding a hit. Hunter left the clubhouse Sunday before it was opened to the media.

Hunter's injury is not related to the broken ankle he suffered last year.

To replace Hunter on the roster, the Twins purchased the contract of outfielder Josh Rabe from Class AAA Rochester. Rabe was batting .297 with four home runs and 38 RBI at Rochester.

The other layer to Hunter's injury is how it affects his future with the club. The Twins must pick up a $12 million option on his 2007 contract or pay him a $2 million buyout. If the Twins want to deal Hunter before the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline, they likely would have difficulty doing so because of the injury. July 31 is the earliest he can be activated.

Hunter, batting .269 with 14 homers and 49 RBI, joins Shannon Stewart and Lew Ford on the 15-day DL. Stewart aggravated his torn plantar fascia in his left foot during Saturday's game, the same game Hunter left in the second inning when he no longer could stand the pain. Ford was disabled on Friday because of a strained right oblique muscle. And outfielder Jason Kubel is slowed because of sore knees.

That's why Sunday's victory in front of an announced crowd of 31,838 was impressive. Cuddyer homered to tie the game 2-2 in the fourth. Tyner, called up to replace Ford, was 2-for-3 and put the Twins up for good with a two-out, two-run single in the fourth. Punto was 2-for-4 and made two fine catches in the outfield as the Twins took three of four from Cleveland and moved within 6½ games of Chicago in the AL wild card race.

Gardenhire would like to return Punto to third base and have Tyner play center with Kubel, Rabe or even Rondell White playing left.

Whomever it is must make up for a week's worth of injuries to outfielders.

"It's unbelievable," said Twins starter Carlos Silva, who gave up two runs on five hits in six innings Sunday. "Especially when they put Torii Hunter on the DL. Torii is one guy we need on the field, not because he is a great player, he keeps everything loose. Shannon Stewart and Torii Hunter, it's like, 'Wow.' "

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