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Tavarez injures left hand10/18/2004 7:02 PM ET
By Matthew Leach / MLB.com
HOUSTON -- It was painful for Julian Tavarez to surrender a game-winning home run on Sunday night, but that may be nothing compared to the pain he felt soon thereafter.
The Cardinals announced on Monday afternoon that Tavarez fractured the proximal phalanx bone in his ring finger and the fifth metacarpal bone in his left (non-throwing) hand. He sustained the injuries during an outburst in the dugout after he pitched the deciding seventh inning in Sunday's Game 4 of the National League Championship Series.
His availability for the remainder of the series remains unclear, though Tavarez expects to be able to pitch.
"I'll be available [back home]," he said. "I have to take some pills and stuff. I did play a little catch [Monday] and I felt fine. It's tough to squeeze the ball, but I can go in late, so I won't be there long anyway. I don't know how it happened. I hit the phone and was attacking everything."
The Cardinals' medical staff fashioned an elaborate splint for Tavarez, who will need to protect the injuries in a cast once the season ends.
"This is not a little boo-boo," said Dr. George Paletta, the Cardinals' team physician. "He broke two bones in his hand: one in the hand, one in the fourth finger. So the whole outside half of his hand is affected and is swollen.
"Medically, we've done what we can at this point. It's safe for him to try to go out and play in the protection that he's in, but I can't tell you whether he can do that successfully or not. That's gonna be his feedback and the baseball people's decision."
"If we get in the normal situation where he [would get] the call tonight, I'm gonna have second, third, fourth, fifth thoughts about whether to do it," La Russa said.
Tavarez was visibly upset over surrendering a go-ahead home run to Carlos Beltran in the seventh inning of Game 4. The homer clinched the Astros' 6-5 victory and knotted the best-of-seven series at 2. In the dugout, after an inning-ending double play, Tavarez expressed his frustrations by throwing his glove, attacking the bullpen phone and angrily putting his arms in the air in frustration.
"I'll be fine," Tavarez said. "At the time I didn't think it was broken, but later on I had it X-rayed and two fingers were broken. I feel bad. I'm embarrassed. It was stupid.
"I hurt myself. I should have calmed down, but I wasn't able to. I'm not happy about it, but I'll be able to pitch. It was so stupid what I did, but I wasn't able to control my emotions. Things happen to human people, so it happened to me and I hope it won't happen again."
Though La Russa would not condone Tavarez's behavior, he did defend the pitcher's desire to win.
"This guy has been not just OK but outstanding for us since the first day he showed up at Spring Training," said La Russa. "So he flares up and makes a mistake. That's the way it goes."
Tavarez declined to comment to reporters before Monday's game.
It is unclear whether the Cardinals intend to discipline Tavarez, as the New York Yankees did when Kevin Brown injured himself in a similar case. Brown punched a wall after a frustrating start and missed several weeks.
"He [Brown] also couldn't pitch," La Russa said. "I think Tavarez can pitch. The Yankees, obviously, they know what they're doing. We'll look at our situation and get all our facts together. ... But if you ask my opinion, I think he does understand how serious it is. It's not a laughing matter. It's important. It's serious. But he's earned a lot of points here and he only loses a couple."
Paletta said that although Tavarez's injuries are similar to those sustained by Brown, they should be less limiting in a baseball sense.
"I'm not familiar with Kevin Brown's case, per se, but my understanding from the media reports is that his was the fifth metacarpal, as well, but he had a different pattern of fractures," Paletta said. "He had what's called a boxer's fracture, where they break it all the way at the end, and the end of the bone tends to bend down.
"With Tavvy, he's got a long, sort of oblique fracture. Those pieces are aligned. There's no mal-alignment or mal-positioning of it. If it was left completely alone, it would heal and be perfectly fine. With what little I know about Kevin Brown's specific situation, I think that's probably the difference. It's a different fracture pattern."
Paletta estimated that under normal circumstances, the bone would take approximately six weeks to heal.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.
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