PHOENIX — A.J. Pollock’s potential breakout season will be disturbed by a break.
Pollock, who had blossomed as a leadoff hitter in the last week, suffered a fractured right hand when he was struck by a pitch from Cincinnati’s Johnny Cueto in the eighth inning of a 5-0 loss Saturday and will be placed on the disabled list today, manager Kirk Gibson said.
Pollock was told the injury was to fourth metacarpal on his right hand. He was diagnosed by D-backs hand specialist Dr. Don Sheridan, who will do further tests to see if surgery is required.
D-backs second baseman Aaron Hill missed 10 weeks when he needed surgery to repair a fractured left hand last season after being hit by a pitch on the top of the hand. Cueto’s pitch appeared to catch Pollock on the knuckles of his right hand as he checked his swing.
"It’s frustrating," Pollock said. "Unfortunately. It’s part of baseball. People have injuries. This one, there was not much else I could do. A guy ran one up and in and hit me in the hand. I’m not going to think twice about it. Whatever they have me do, I’ll do it and get back out there."
It is a big blow for a player who had a strong rookie seasons in 2013 and has taken the next step forward as a two-way threat this year. And it’s another tough loss for the Diamondbacks, who lost No. 1 starter Patrick Corbin for the season in March and now are without two-thirds of their starting outfield. Starting left fielder Mark Trumbo remains at least a couple weeks away from returning from a stress fracture in his foot.
Pollock is hitting .316 with 16 doubles, six home runs, 15 RBI and eight stolen bases. He was the NL player of the week two weeks ago and was making a run at another nomination while going 12-for-23 during the first six games of this homestand. He started seven straight games at the leadoff spot and appeared to be settling in. He had a double in the sixth inning Saturday and had eight extra-base hits, including a walkoff home run against San Diego on Monday, on the homestand.
Pollock also has five assists, the most among NL center fielders, and he made the first throw on a relay to retire Brandon Phillips at third base as he attempted to stretch a double into a triple in the fifth inning Saturday.
"It’s heartbreaking for a guy who is playing that well and is really coming into his own," D-backs right-hander Brandon McCarthy said, "becoming the player that he is supposed to be.
"This puts a little pebble in front of his way that he has to work around. You feel terrible. You don’t want to see something like that happen to a young kid, a good kid, especially someone who is playing as well as anybody here. But he has the good work ethic, the good mindset. Whatever it takes for him to get back, he’ll get back just fine."
Pollock, 26, is no stranger to bad baseball luck. A first-round pick in the 2009 draft, he missed all of the 2010 after suffering a fractured right elbow when he landed awkwardly while diving for a fly ball during spring training.
"That’s a big blow," Arizona manager Kirk Gibson said. "He’s been playing great. Emerging. He’s been huge for us. I don’t know how else to say it."
The D-backs will recall an outfielder Sunday, Gibson said. Roger Kieschnick, Tony Campana and Alfredo Marte have seen time in the major leagues this season, and one of them could be promoted.
With their best center fielder out, the D-backs also must decide how to configure their outfield. Gerardo Parra has played center field before, but the D-backs like him better at a corner spot because of his arm. If Pollock is out for an extended time, however, Parra could be the best option as a starter.
Ender Inciarte made five starts in center field when Pollock was bothered by neck and groin injuries, and he appears to have the range and arm that make him a viable candidate. The D-backs would like to use Cody Ross in the corner spots this season as he comes back from his fractured hip suffered last August. If Parra moves to center, Ross could move from left to right.
"We’ll get through that and understand a little more tomorrow," Gibson said.
The bullpen can be a feast-or-famine world, so closer Addison Reed pitched the ninth inning of the 5-0 loss. He had not pitched since the third of three consecutive saves in the first game of a May 25 doubleheader at the New York Mets.
.429 — Gerardo Parra’s career batting average against Reds starter Johnny Cueto after he went 2 for 3 with a single and a double Saturday.
— Johnny Cueto took over the NL lead with 92 strikeouts when struck out seven in a 5-0 victory Saturday. Cueto pitched 7 ⅓ innings to drop is ERA to 1.681. The Cubs’ Jeff Samardzija leads the majors with a 1.68 ERA.
— The D-backs had chances against Cueto and his relievers but were unable to get the key hit. They were 1 for 10 with runners in scoring position, and the only hit was Parra’s weak grounder to shortstop with runners on first and second in the eighth. The D-backs left runners on second and third in the first inning and wasted Pollock’s leadoff double in the sixth. They loaded the bases with one out in the eighth, but Jonathan Broxton got 3-4 hitters Paul Goldschmidt and Miguel Montero on a strikeout and a fly out.
— Brandon McCarthy has given up innings of three, three, four, seven and five runs this year.
McCarthy cannot put his finger on the reason his some of his outings go from start to stop so quick, as happened when he gave up three runs in the fourth inning and two more in the fifth after facing only the minimum nine batters through the first three innings. "There is something there I am missing," McCarthy said. "It’s pissing me off to no end. It’s felt similar to five or six starts this year, where you really can’t be much better and then all of a sudden it stops. It’s like the other team is hyper-comfortable and know what’s coming. I’m searching for answers everywhere I can right now and I’m not finding them, and it’s pretty disconcerting." McCarthy is 1-7 with a 5.20 ERA.