Latest Injury for Carlos Gonzalez Could Make Things Rocky for Colorado

Will Carroll@injuryexpertSports Injuries Lead WriterJune 5, 2014

From left, Colorado Rockies' Carlos Gonzalez has his bat break while hitting an RBI-single as San Diego Padres catcher Rene Rivera and home plate umpire Fieldin Culbreth look on in the seventh inning of the Rockies' 8-6 victory in 10 innings of a baseball game in Denver on Sunday, May 18, 2014. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
David Zalubowski/Associated Press

Carlos Gonzalez hit the disabled list as of Wednesday, according to MLB.com, due to continued issues with his index finger. Gonzalez has been struggling with this problem for weeks, but at this point, he is having significant issues with grip strength and inflammation. Several reports have Gonzalez saying that he has difficulty fitting his finger into his normal batting gloves. 

The Colorado Rockies medical staff has been fighting the pain and inflammation for weeks. While they have been somewhat successful, Gonzalez has been struggling to remain comfortable and functional. At times, he's been pretty solid, and at others, it is clear the finger is keeping him well below his talent level. With this DL move, the Rockies are stepping back, seeing whether rest and more aggressive treatment can get Gonzalez back to function.

While the Rockies have not yet given an official diagnosis for the injury, the symptoms point to a small set of possibilities. Fracture and severe tendon issues are easily ruled out, but there's some sort of inflammatory process that is in play. Given the comment about the batting glove, several doctors I spoke with think the injury is focused on one of the knuckles.

The main concern is cellulitis, a painful infection that can be difficult to control, but again, this is a very straightforward diagnosis. The treatment is simple, but it can have the kind of ups and downs seen with Gonzalez. However, if the problem is continuing, it would likely be at a more severe stage rather than the mere annoyance. Also, the symptoms do not match up with an acute arthritis.

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Given the lack of differential diagnosis, it's difficult to put any sort of timeline on Gonzalez's return. When the medical staff can get the inflammation under control and return Gonzalez's function, he should be back quickly. They'll likely be slightly conservative to make sure the flareups are past, so don't expect this to be a pure minimum stay even in the best case. 

Given Gonzalez's injury history, which is varied and plentiful but does not include similar problems, there's no guidance here, either. Gonzalez recovers well from the injuries he has, but at this point, it's not incorrect to call him injury prone. He should return to function well once the grip strength has returned. 

Mark Duncan/Associated Press

This will complicated the situation for the Rockies. With Troy Tulowitzki resurgent and a number of prospects knocking on the door, including Eddie Butler, who will make his first major league start soon, and Jonathan Gray, last year's top pick, Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports called for the team to trade Gonzalez and reload. The Rockies seem disinclined to even put Gonzalez on the market at this stage. 

The Rockies were forced to make one tough decision with Gonzalez heading to the DL. The team had to designate Jordan Pacheco for assignment, meaning he will be traded or released in the next 10 days, in order to make a roster move associated with Gonzalez. Pacheco was once considered a top prospect of the team, used at various positions, including catcher. Pacheco had been marginalized by the emergence of Wilin Rosario, but Walt Weiss has struggled to use his flexibility.

The Rockies seem to be at an inflection point. One of their two best players is down with a difficult injury, though it shouldn't be that long that he's out. The team is playing up to expectations, but are still under .500 at this point. Gonzalez's absence and how the team deals with it could set up the rest of the season. It's not just a challenge for the Rockies' medical staff, but for the Rockies' identity.

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