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The Astros are built for another deep postseason run, but their title defense will begin without a franchise icon in the lineup.
Second baseman Jose Altuve suffered a broken thumb during the World Baseball Classic and is set to miss the start of the season for Houston.
While the Astros have continued to win even after losing premier players nearly every offseason, Altuve is one of the few pieces that has been a constant during the franchise’s run of success. The eight-time All-Star hit .300 with 28 home runs and a .921 OPS last season, posting his best on-base percentage since 2017.
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Here’s what you need to know about Altuve’s injury and when he could return to the field.
Jose Altuve injury timeline
Altuve suffered a broken right thumb on a hit-by-pitch during Venezuela’s quarterfinal loss to the United States at the World Baseball Classic on March 18.
The Astros announced the injury the following day and said Altuve would undergo surgery. The surgery took place on March 22.
While a broken thumb doesn’t sound like a debilitating injury, it’s a complicated issue for hitters considering how critical it is to be able to grip the bat at full strength. Bryce Harper missed almost exactly two months after suffering a broken thumb on a hit-by-pitch last season.
Here’s what we know about when Altuve could be ready to make his return.
When could Jose Altuve return from injury?
Astros GM Dana Brown said after Altuve’s surgery that the team expects him to return to baseball activities in two months.
May 22 marks two months post-surgery, but a return to baseball activities is not the same as a return to the Astros’ lineup. Altuve will need time to ramp up, which could include minor-league rehab appearances. That means Altuve’s return to the Astros isn’t expected until late May at the earliest.
While Altuve’s injury is a troubling blow to Houston’s lineup for the first two months of the season, the Astros won the AL West by a whopping 16 games last season and are hoping there is enough separation to survive the absence.
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After seeing Mets closer Edwin Diaz suffer what’s believed to be a season-ending knee injury at the World Baseball Classic, the Astros will gladly take four months of Altuve.
David Hensley and Mauricio Dubon are both expected to see time at second base until Altuve is ready to return.
Jose Altuve injury history
Altuve was remarkably durable early in his career with the Astros, playing at least 145 games in each of his first six full major-league seasons.
Injuries started to hit in 2018, though Altuve has never had a stint on the injured list longer than 35 games. That’s poised to change this season as he potentially misses two months or more with a broken thumb.
2018: Knee discomfort
Altuve missed time during the middle of the 2018 season with what was described as “knee discomfort.” While his time away from the field was short and an exact diagnosis wasn’t revealed, Altuve spent more time as designated hitter the rest of the way and underwent surgery for an avulsion fracture in his kneecap after the season.
2019: Hamstring strain
Altuve spent more than a month on the injured list in May and June due to a hamstring strain. He was able to return and hit .320 over the final three-plus months of the season
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2020: Knee sprain
Altuve was placed on the IL with a knee sprain during the shortened 2020 season, but he didn’t miss much more than the minimum. His injury contributed to an uncharacteristic year for the Astros, who finished under .500 at 29-31 but still came within one win of reaching the World Series.
2022: Hamstring strain
The Astros have some experience with missing Altuve early in the season, as he spent two weeks on the IL with a hamstring strain last April. Fortunately for Houston, he didn’t miss much more than the minimum, but this year’s absence is expected to be considerably longer.