The Tigers placed their star center fielder on the 15-day DL on Sunday with a non-displaced fracture of the metacarpal at the base of his right middle finger. It was a sudden, if short-term, blow to a club whose injuries to this point had mainly been to the pitching staff.
The injury occurred in the fourth and final inning of Saturday's rained-out game against the Phillies. Granderson was leading off the inning when a fastball from left-hander Travis Blackley ran inside and struck him in the hand. Granderson took his place at first base and remained in the game before heavy rain halted the contest two batters later.
"I was hoping [Granderson] was OK," president/general manager Dave Dombrowski said on Sunday morning, "but I also saw that he was shaking his hand."
The initial feeling was that it was little more than a bruise, and Granderson suggested he could've stayed in the game had it continued. However, a series of X-rays taken as a precaution revealed a fracture right behind the knuckle.
"We looked at it real quick and I'm not a doctor, but I could see it [on the X-ray image]," Granderson said. "And I know if I can see something, I'm sure [a doctor] will."
The prognosis calls for Granderson to wear a splint on the finger for about two weeks, after which he'll undergo more X-rays and should be cleared to resume baseball activity. Until then, he'll be limited to mainly endurance and cardiovascular workouts. From there, the Tigers' hope is that he could be back in game-ready shape within about a week.
"The good thing is, it's not like I'm coming fresh into it from the offseason," Granderson said. "It's not like I took three or four months off and you need that Spring Training to get ready. The good thing is, I have it [timing] now and hopefully, I won't lose it too much. This is the first time I've had to deal with something like this, so I really don't know. Hopefully, it'll be a week, maybe two at the most."
Manager Jim Leyland declined to comment in-depth about the injury. Since the news was just confirmed on Sunday morning, he said he has not worked out a plan on how to fill Granderson's absence in the lineup. The Tigers still have a natural center fielder in camp in Freddy Guzman, but Ryan Raburn and Brandon Inge have also shown themselves capable of playing center. Jacque Jones has also played center in his career, but he has not done so this spring.
Inge started in center field on Sunday and made a diving catch in shallow center in the late innings. Leyland said after the game that Inge will play in center this coming week in order to get him ready.
If Inge were to become the fill-in center fielder, or at least part of the mix, it could put him in the odd position of starting on Opening Day after the Tigers have spent Spring Training trying to trade him somewhere he can start.
"Of course, I want to play, but it's Grandy's [spot], man," Inge said. "I feel more concerned for him than I do about anything else. He might be my favorite player, with the way he goes about his business and the way he handles himself. He's a professional, and I feel for him having to miss Opening Day. I would just pick up slack, if necessary, but I feel for Grandy more than anything."
Replacing Granderson's offense could be the tougher challenge. He and Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins were the first players since Willie Mays to post 20 doubles, 20 triples, 20 home runs and 20 stolen bases in the same season last year, a feat to which Granderson added a .302 average in a breakout campaign at the plate. Moreover, there are no other natural leadoff hitters in the order. As Leyland said earlier this spring, Granderson makes the offense go.
Shortstop Edgar Renteria batted leadoff on Sunday. Leyland has used catcher Ivan Rodriguez in the leadoff spot for games against left-handed starting pitchers this spring, and he has said he would consider doing so against lefties once the regular season began.
"He's an option," Leyland said of Renteria, "but I have no idea what my lineup's going to look like right now. One thing I can tell you right now, [Placido] Polanco will stay in the two hole."
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.