Posted on September 11, 2017, by Bryan Zarpentine
The Cleveland Indians won their 18th straight game Sunday night, giving them the best record in the American League. Unfortunately, the win comes with a caveat, as the Indians lost rookie center fielder Bradley Zimmer to injury. Zimmer broke a bone in his left hand in the 7th inning of Sunday’s game while sliding head first on a close play at first base.
“He’s got a broken bone in his hand,” Indians manager Terry Francona said after the game. “He got stepped on, on his finger. He had a pretty good gash on his finger.”
Officially, Zimmer suffered a fracture of his fourth metacarpal, which is located on the bottom part of the ring finger. Monday afternoon, reports surfaced indicating that the injury will force Zimmer to miss the rest of the season.
Zimmer made his big league debut in May and quickly became a regular in Cleveland’s outfield. He’s struggled offensively since the all-star break but his defense, speed, and constant hustle have continued to make him an important part of the Indians that they will miss moving forward.
The loss of Zimmer is the latest injury to befall the Indians. Second baseman Jason Kipnis has endured multiple trips to the DL, where he still resides. However, the Indians are hopeful he’ll be able to return soon. The Indians are also hoping that Andrew Miller is able to return from knee issues that have plagued him in recent months.
The injury to Zimmer has added significance because of the continued absence of Michael Brantley. It’s been more than a month since Brantley went to the DL with a sprained ankle and he still hasn’t started a running program, so there’s no timetable for his return. Jay Bruce has solidified right field for the Indians since being acquired last month. But with Zimmer and Brantley on the shelf, the Indians are without two-thirds of their preferred outfield lineup.
The good news for the Indians is that they have a variety of options to fill the openings in center field and left field. Austin Jackson has had one of the best seasons of his career in a part-time role. He could potentially become Cleveland’s primary center with Zimmer out for the season. Lonnie Chisenhall is also having a strong offensive season despite multiple stints on the DL. Brandon Guyer is an option, although mostly against left-handed pitchers. Tyler Naquin, Abraham Almonte, and recently promoted rookie Greg Allen are also potential options.
“Zimmer, he’s been great. He’s been great this whole season,” said Indians shortstop Francisco Lindor. “We’re going to miss him. … We’ve got Naquin. He’s proven. We’ve got Greg Allen. He can play good defense and he can hit. We’ve seen it in the past couple games. We’ve got Almonte. We’ve got Guyer. We’ve got Jackson. We have a lot of guys. We have a lot of guys and I think we’ll be fine.”
Obviously, the absence of players like Brantley, Kipnis, and Miller hasn’t stopped the Indians from winning 18 straight games. In the short term, Cleveland also has the depth to survive without Zimmer. However, for the Indians to be at their best during the postseason, they need to be as healthy as possible. With Zimmer ruled out and no timetable for the return of Brantley, the Indians have to be at least a little concerned about the state of their outfield looking ahead to the playoffs.