DENVER -- Christian Villanueva's rookie season has been filled with high highs and low lows. Perhaps the lowest of those lows came Wednesday night, when X-rays revealed a fracture in Villanueva's right middle finger, putting the remainder of his season into question.In the immediate aftermath, the Padres were hesitant to
DENVER -- Christian Villanueva's rookie season has been filled with high highs and low lows. Perhaps the lowest of those lows came Wednesday night, when X-rays revealed a fracture in Villanueva's right middle finger, putting the remainder of his season into question.
In the immediate aftermath, the Padres were hesitant to put a timetable on Villanueva's potential return. Doctors noted a recovery time of at least three to four weeks. He was placed on the 10-day disabled list Thursday, and infielder Carlos Asuaje was recalled from Triple-A El Paso in his place.
Villanueva sustained the injury on Tuesday night when he attempted to field a sharp one-hopper off the bat of Colorado's Ian Desmond. The ball struck Villanueva in the right hand. He remained in the game, but his finger swelled overnight, and he was sent for X-rays Wednesday.
"Let's hope that the rehab goes well and things progress pretty well, so I can get back out there and finish strong," Villanueva said. "... It's definitely frustrating. I feel like I'd gotten my rhythm and was playing the way I wanted to play."
Asuaje's callup isn't surprising, considering the role he's played providing infield depth. But Luis Urias -- the team's No. 4 prospect and MLB Pipeline's No. 22 prospect overall -- has been red-hot at El Paso, posting a .432/.482/.689 slash line in August. His callup will have to wait, for now.
Manager Andy Green wasn't willing to divulge the Padres' plans for a callup. Luis Urias -- the team's No. 4 prospect and MLB Pipeline's No. 22 prospect overall -- has been red-hot at Triple-A El Paso, posting a .432/.482/.689 slash line in August.
Urias isn't on the team's 40-man roster. Fellow infielders Carlos Asuaje and Javy Guerra are, and both have seen time in the big leagues already this season. They're the three likeliest options.
As for Villanueva, the injury comes at a particularly inopportune time. He'd only just begun to turn things around at the plate after a slump that lasted from May through July.
"I don't see guys coming back from fractures in three weeks very often," Green said. "But that's the number I get at the beginning. My guess is it's going to take longer than that. If he can make it back by the end of the year, that'd be great."
Villanueva burst onto the scene in April, taking home National League Rookie of the Month honors as he slugged eight homers and posted a 1.103 OPS before May.
But the rest of the league caught up to him quickly. His OPS didn't exceed .650 in any of the three months that followed. This month, however, he's hitting .356/.442/.489, including a dramatic walk-off single on Saturday that capped the Padres' Trevor Hoffman celebration at Petco Park.
"He made some really good adjustments in August," said Green. "They were probably the most encouraging things we saw since the beginning of the season."
Villanueva's long-term place in the organization remains uncertain. There aren't any obvious answers at third base in the Minor Leagues. But Villanueva hasn't proved himself to be the answer there either.
Now, he might not get the chance to do so this year. Were his season to end today, he'd finish with a .236/.299/.450 slash line, and he's been worth 1.3 WAR according to Baseball-Reference.com.
"I've learned a lot, especially from the struggles, the slump that I had," Villanueva said. "I learned that I have to take everything a day at a time and continue to work. Also the successes that I've had; just always stay grounded and continue to work."
AJ Cassavell covers the Padres for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @ajcassavell.