In one of the strangest injuries in recent memory, Los Angeles Dodgers ace Zack Greinke fractured his left collarbone after his involvement in a benches-clearing brawl during the sixth inning Thursday night against the San Diego Padres.
Padres left fielder Carlos Quentin ignited the skirmish after being hit by a pitch on a 3-2 count in a one-run game. Greinke came out of the game immediately and is headed back to Los Angeles to consult with Dodgers physicians.
UPDATE: Friday, Apr. 12 at 7:40 p.m. ET by Will Carroll
The Dodgers announced that Greinke will need surgery:
Zack Greinke will undergo surgery to stabilize his left clavicle tomorrow. Greinke's expected return is eight weeks.— Los Angeles Dodgers (@Dodgers) April 12, 2013
The eight week time frame is very aggressive, though Dr. Neal ElAttrache does often have aggressive timelines and usually hits the goal. Greinke will be able to keep up his arm strength more and sooner with the fixated clavicle, rather than having to wait for natural healing to stabilize the arm.
Greinke and Quentin do have a history.
MLB.com noted that a few years ago, Quentin came after Greinke on another inside pitch but was intercepted before reaching the mound. Greinke didn't get quick enough help this time, which led to the injury.
Earlier in the game, a pitch came up and in to Matt Kemp, but it didn't seem like that pitch was intentional. When Greinke answered with a pitch that hit Quentin in the left shoulder, Quentin immediately responded.
What isn't clear is exactly how the injury occurred.
Greinke hit Quentin as he was running out in something of a block, but he used his arms after that. Quentin then grabbed Greinke and brought him to the ground, which is when Greinke says his collarbone was fractured.
The ensuing pileup, with both players on the bottom, makes it difficult to say exactly when it happened.
Greinke will have tests Friday to determine the course of treatment. A simple fracture will cost him somewhere around four-to-six weeks. If Dodgers physicians determine that the fracture needs to be fixated, it could cost him more like three months.
Greinke's length of missed time is unclear, but he should have no real trouble in his return.
Dodgers athletic trainer Nancy Patterson Flynn was seen manually testing the left shoulder area, meaning that the fracture is on the non-pitching side. As in the case of Jered Weaver's elbow fracture, the non-pitching side is still key to balance and mechanics, but it does allow the pitcher to keep his pitching arm strong during the rehab.
Dodgers manager Don Mattingly was emphatic in his belief of Quentin's culpability:
He should not play a game until Greinke can pitch, Mattingly said about Quentin. If he plays before Greinke pitches, something is wrong. Their guys charges the mound being an idiot and our guy is going to be out for however long and their guy is probably going to be playing in three days. It's a joke.
Quentin and two others, including Dodgers star Matt Kemp, were ejected from the game. Suspensions are coming, though the Dodgers are unlikely to be happy with the punishment. There is no precedent for an injury-matching suspension, and most incidents of this type cost a player about 10 days and are often reduced to avoid appeal.
The Dodgers will now have to fill Greinke's rotation slot.
The likely course is bringing up Ted Lilly, though his rehab from shoulder surgery was not quite finished. There may be a spot start or two before Lilly rejoins the Dodgers, with Chris Capuano being the likely fill-in.
The Dodgers just completed a trade, sending Aaron Harang to the Seattle Mariners and reminding all of us that there is no such thing as too much pitching depth.