Miami (AFP) - Reigning Major League Baseball champion Houston likely will be without second baseman Jose Altuve for two months after he underwent surgery on his fractured right thumb on Wednesday.
Altuve, an eight-time All-Star, will not be the starting second baseman for the Astros on opening day for the first time in more than a decade when the 2023 MLB campaign begins March 30.
Astros general manager Dana Brown said Wednesday it will be about two months before Altuve resumes baseball activities after being struck in the hand by a pitch in Venezuela's quarter-final loss to the United States in the World Baseball Classic last Saturday.
An MRI exam and X-rays revealed the break, which will prevent Altuve from occupying his usual spot as the leadoff batter in Houston's formidable lineup.
"Some guys heal faster than other guys, and he seems to be one of those guys," Brown said."After that, we'll assess and hopefully he's coming along well.It looks like it's going to be about two months."
Altuve, 32, was struck by a fastball from US pitcher Daniel Bard in the WBC playoff showdown.The Americans lost to Japan in Tuesday's Classic final.
The Astros are scheduled to fly to Houston from Florida on Sunday after their final pre-season contest.
"Obviously, nobody wants to get hurt and start the season on the IL (injured list)," Altuve said on Sunday."I want to control what I can control, and that's recover fast and get back to the team."
Altuve, set for his 13th season with the Astros and in MLB with a .307 career batting average, helped Houston capture the 2017 and 2022 World Series crowns and reach the best-of-seven championship series before falling in 2019 and 2021.
Altuve, the 2017 American League Most Valuable Player, batted .300 last season with 28 home runs, 57 runs batted in, 18 stolen bases and 103 runs scored.
"He's one of the best players in the world, a leader for this team," Astros third baseman Alex Bregman said."I'm super sorry for him.
"I know he'll come back stronger from it and he'll be ready to help us as soon as he gets back."