PHILADELPHIA -- J.T Realmuto is not worried, so he said nobody else should worry, either.
But he still fractured the base of his right thumb last week when he tried to block a ball in the dirt at Carpenter Complex in Clearwater, Fla. Realmuto said Thursday that he hopes to be ready by Opening Day on April 1, but he will know more in two weeks, because his thumb is being immobilized in a hard cast on Friday.
It is not the way Realmuto imagined the very beginning of his five-year, $115.5 million contract with the Phillies.
Still, it could be worse.
“We’re obviously going to be cautious with it,” Reamuto said. “I feel pretty confident about those two weeks -- it’ll be healed, because it already feels quite a bit better than the day it happened. It’s definitely going to heal on its own and I’m confident I’ll be back by Opening Day. But you can’t set that in stone just because you never know what can happen. We’re going to take our time with it. If I have to miss the first three days of the season, we’d rather do that than absolutely rush back and have something linger a little longer.”
Realmuto, whose thumb was in a soft cast Thursday, tried to block a breaking ball from left-hander José Alvarado, whom the Phillies acquired from Tampa Bay in an offseason trade. Realmuto moved to his right to block the pitch, but his right hand slipped behind his glove and the ball hit his thumb.
It was a freak thing that at the time he thought was no big deal.
“Any time I put pressure on the ball with my thumb, it just didn’t feel right and so in my head I was just thinking it was a bone bruise, because I’ve had that happen before,” Realmuto said. “I just thought it might have been a little worse this time. I was still able to hit without any problem, so in my head I didn’t feel like it was fractured.”
But after not being able to throw for a few days, the Phillies sent Realmuto for an MRI exam on Wednesday.
Realmuto expected confirmation about a bone bruise.
Instead, according to the Phillies, the 29-year-old has a “non-displaced avulsion fracture.”
“I was kind of shocked when I found out it was fractured,” Realmuto said.
If Realmuto is not ready by Opening Day, Andrew Knapp would move into the No. 1 spot. The Phillies’ most likely backups at that point are Rafael Marchan, who is on the 40-man roster, and veteran Jeff Mathis, who signed a Minor League contract on Tuesday with an invite to camp. The Phils said they were working on signing Mathis before Realmuto suffered the injury.
Realmuto said at some point he could still catch bullpen sessions to learn about the new pitchers in camp. If he cannot, it will not be the end of the world. New pitchers join teams all the time and catchers find a way to make it work.
“I can still do everything else baseball activity-wise, other than throw and also hitting,” Realmuto said. “I’m not going to hit for a while. But I can go through [and] stretch with the team. I can do conditioning with the team. I’ll be there for the bullpens and be able to catch those and be able to work with the pitchers and still have those conversations and be able to catch the new guys that I haven’t seen yet. I just won’t be able to throw the ball back. I’ll just flip it to somebody, and they’ll throw it back for me.”
One silver lining here is that it keeps Realmuto off his feet a few more weeks. Only Yadier Molina has caught more innings (5,788) the past six seasons than Realmuto (5,615 1/3). A little time now might help Realmuto feel a little fresher in September and possibly October.