TORONTO -- The source of ongoing pain in Wily Mo Peña's left wrist was determined to be a broken hamate bone in his hand, a problem that will require removal of the bone this morning. Peña, who will miss approximately two months, was bothered last August by similar pain while playing with Cincinnati, suggesting that the bone has been bruised or broken for nearly a year.
``It's probably been beat up for a while because he felt it last year," manager Terry Francona said.
The hamate, a wedge-shaped bone, is located at the base of the fourth and fifth metacarpals, or, the base of the pinkie and ring fingers. Removal requires a surgeon to enter through the palm side of the hand. The hamate, by all accounts, is a rather useless bone that is usually removed whenever broken or chipped.
It's a somewhat common problem among baseball players (David Ortiz, Jim Thome, Jose Canseco, Jay Gibbons, and Eric Hinske are among those major league players who have had the bone removed). It's also often injured by poor golfers who attempt to hit the ball but hit only the ground, with the hand and wrist absorbing the shock. The symptom, generally, is difficulty gripping.
Ortiz had the hamate in his right hand removed in 1998 and missed two months. In his case, he said the bone was bruised and broke on a swing.
``Mine snapped," Ortiz said.
Upon returning, ``I was sore," he said. ``There's weakness there when they take something out."
Clearly, he has had little problems since, blossoming into one of baseball's most feared hitters.
``They told me I'm bionic now," he said, jokingly.
Hinske, however, had the bone taken out after his 24-homer rookie season. He has hit no more than 15 in any of the three seasons since. While he has acknowledged to Toronto writers that the surgical procedure affected him for some time, he doesn't believe that an absent hamate affects him to this day.
Francona said losing the bone ``doesn't take strength away. You just have to rehab it. He'll be fine."
Peña, on the disabled list since last Saturday, was hitting .321 with four homers and 18 RBIs in 112 at-bats when he decided he couldn't bear the pain any longer. Though he was the Sox' fourth outfielder, playing against lefthanded pitchers, he will not immediately be replaced by a righthanded-hitting outfielder such as Dustan Mohr.
Why? Because the Sox need all the arms they can keep on the roster, making 12 pitchers a necessity. That leaves only four spots for bench players, and Francona said Alex Cora, Doug Mirabelli, Willie Harris, and J.T. Snow will stay put.
``If you're talking about tweaking you've got to get somebody off the roster," Francona said. ``Cora's a fixture as far as I'm concerned. Willie Harris has been very valuable doing what he does [pinch running]. J.T. is our backup first baseman, our lefthanded hitter. Mirabelli will tell you how important he is. I don't think there's anywhere to go right now."
So, Trot Nixon will get his chances against lefties. He began last night hitting .242 (8 for 33) with two homers off lefties, .315 (35 for 111) with one homer off righties. Last night he batted eighth against lefthander Ted Lilly. He went 1 for 3 with a home run off righthander Pete Wilson in the sixth.
``I think right now we're letting Trot play [against lefties] as long as he's OK physically, because we can just drop him down in the order," Francona said. ``And that doesn't bother me one bit."
One potential replacement is outfielder Gabe Kapler, who begins a rehab assignment today in Fort Myers, Fla. Francona said there's no timetable on Kapler's return to the majors.
``I just don't think you can do that to someone," Francona said, on the topic of rushing Kapler. ``The whole way we've been saying, `Hey, you do what you're supposed to do. You have a serious injury and you don't want to have a reoccurrence.' And then all of a sudden somebody gets hurt and you say, `Hey, hurry up.' I just think that's very disrespectful. We wouldn't do that to Gabe."
``Big day," said Francona, who has been without his pitching coach all season. ``I think he's excited and he's nervous."
Bullpen coach Al Nipper has worked as interim pitching coach since spring training opened in late February. Francona's hope is that once off crutches Wallace will be able to assist the Sox in some capacity.
``We'll be open to having him come around as soon as he can come back," Francona said. ``How much work he can do is up to him. He is the pitching coach. We have to see what he can handle."
MORE ON THE SOX For a gallery of photos from last night's game, go to www.boston.com/redsox