The 2023 World Baseball Classic may have another major injury on its record.
Houston Astros All-Star José Altuve, playing for Venezuela, left his team’s game against the United States on Saturday after taking a 96 mph fastball from pitcher Daniel Bard to the hand.
Altuve hit the ground immediately after the pitch made contact and he was escorted off the pitch by a trainer while in obvious pain. He was replaced at second base by Luis Rengifo of the Los Angeles Angels.
The hit-by-pitch was the ugliest moment of an ugly inning by Bard, who led off 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 took off, the bases were loaded with no outs and one run already in.
Bard’s line got worse after he left, as Venezuela ended the inning leading 6-5 after trailing 5-2.
The risk of injury playing the World Baseball Classic has been a loud talking point ever since New York Mets closer Edwin Díaz tore his patellar tendon while celebrating Puerto Rico’s win at the end of the pool game. Díaz, last year’s NL Reliever of the Year, is expected to miss the entire MLB season.
Now the Astros and Venezuela are probably both holding their breath on Altuve. The second baseman is coming off a championship-winning season with the Astros in which he hit .300/.387/.533 with 28 home runs and 18 steals to earn his eighth All-Star nod, sixth Silver Slugger Award and a fifth-place finish in AL MVP -mood.