Travis d’Arnaud’s Broken Foot will Delay His Big League Debut … And What Else?

This is no silver-lining to the news that C Travis d’Arnaud, one of the major pieces in the Mets return from the R.A. Dickey trade has a non-displaced d'arnaud Vegas Headfracture in the first metarsal bone. He will miss time.

He was struck in the foot by a foul tip in Wednesday night’s Las Vegas 51s game in the top of the sixth inning.

The first metatarsal is the bone in the human foot behind the big toe, and the shortest, thickest and strongest of the metatarsals.  The first metatarsal is not connected through ligaments to the second metatarsal, so moves independently and as I learned today the head of the bone “is thought to bear one third of body weight.”

The Mets have not put a timetable on d’Arnaud’ return, which is reasonable enough with d’Arnaud set to return to New York to see the team’s doctors.

The question now, and one I have not seen addressed is whether there is instability in the fracture. If there is, d’Arnaud will require surgery, but if there is no instability, then sportsinjurybulletin and Patient.co.uk suggests a cast or walking boot for 4-6 weeks is sufficient to allow the bone to heal. The fact that the Mets’ announced the injury as a non-displaced fracture is d’Arnaud’s hope for avoiding surgery.

 

Lets go through some of the recent baseball foot fractures similar to d’Arnaud’s to estimate a return date.

Baseball Comps
If I missed a player who broke first metatarsal, please alert me.

Orlando Hudson – O Dog was diagnosed with a “contusion of the first metatarsal joint in his left foot” and placed on the disabled list retroactive to August 16. He came back on September 1, in the minimum. Back on the field in two and a half weeks.

Wally Joyner – Joyner, then 37, suffered a “hairline” fracture of his first metatarsal on February 24 during spring training with the Braves. Joyner pinch-hit on April 4, and started for the first time on April 9. Back in games in six weeks.

Shawn Green – Green “suffered a chip fracture of the first metatarsal bone in his right foot when he fouled a ball off of it” on May 25, 2007. Although the original diagnosis called for him to miss six weeks, he was back on June 11. For what it’s worth, 2007 was Green’s final big league season. Back in games in two and a half weeks.

On June 26, 2010, Dustin Pedroia suffered a “non-displaced fracture of the navicular bone in his left foot.” Pedroia missed two months, played two games in August, and shut it down for the season. The key thing to understand about Pedroia’s injury is that he broke a different bone – the navicular bone – in the midfoot, making it a less relevant comparison.

Hockey in 2013
This year, January 25, Flyers winger Scott Hartnell,  “had successful surgery to repair a broken first metatarsal in his left foot and will be out four to six weeks.” Hartnell was back almost a month to the day after his surgery was announced for a game versus Winnipeg on February 23.

There are no catchers in the group and the history of first metatarsal breaks has a few encouraging examples.


d’Arnaud’s Projection
Injury History
This injury ensures that d’Arnaud will have just one healthy season in the last four.
In 2012, d’Arnaud missed the second half of the year after tearing the PCL in his knee trying to break up a double-play with Las Vegas. He was limited to just 67 games.

He was healthy in 2011, but in 2010, Back problems limited d’Arnaud to 71 games with advanced-A Dunedin.

 

Now What
d’Arnaud is 24 with with a lengthy injury history.

I spoke with an athletic trainer outside the Mets’ organization who though the 5-8 week range for d’Arnaud’s return to action was eminently reasonable and even conservative. The trainer was most concened about the demands placed on d’Arnaud’s foot, including the recently healed bone and the surrounding muscles from crouching. How he and the Mets manage that initial discomfort will be interesting. I would suspect that when he returns, he will spend some time at DH to get him back in the lineup and manage the catching-induced stress on his foot.

The most basic timetable without having seen an X-ray or MRI the trainer suggested would be the following: the next few (3 ish) weeks will be spent allowing d’Arnaud’s toe to heal. The next few weeks (3 ish) will be rehab focused.

Even if he misses two months, he will return to action in June. A three month absence, which would be very long for this type of injury, would have him return in July.

d’Arnaud was basically ready for the big leagues when he tore his knee last year. His full AAA line is now .324/.386/.581. This year, his return to AAA was as much about getting him some healthy repetitions, teaching him a little more patience, and managing his service time as anything else.

Barring an expansion of the original diagnosis which includes other broken bones, d’Arnaud should be back in Las Vegas for the heat of the summer and should make his Major League debut later in 2013.

However, this injury almost certainly will delay d’Arnaud’s Major League debut. Outside of that, how does this affect his overall projection? Bones heal. Speed was not a major piece of d’Arnaud’s game. Most importantly, it adds another injury (to go with back and knee) to his ledger. Each injury makes a subsequent injury more likely.

Still, d’Arnaud was the Mets’ catcher of the future on Wednesday morning. He still is on Thursday. The future has just been a little bit delayed.

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