SURPRISE, Ariz. — On the first day of workouts here, a ground ball struck Royals reliever Louis Coleman on the middle finger of his right hand. He sat out for the first week of Cactus League games. The Royals referred to the injury as a jammed finger.
On Wednesday morning, manager Ned Yost revealed the actual extent of the damage. Coleman sprained the digit and suffered a bone bruise near the top knuckle. The sprain healed. The bone bruise has not, which is why Coleman is expected to begin the season on the disabled list.
“They’re doing bone stimulation, and they’re doing all kinds of different stuff for it,” Yost said. “And my question is: ‘OK, it’s been six weeks already. Why do we think that another two weeks is going to remedy the problem?’ And they said: ‘It’s just time. A bone bruise takes six to eight weeks to heal.’ And we’re six weeks into it.”
The team is contemplating bringing only 11 pitchers on its Opening Day roster, which means the Royals could include a backup middle infielder to insure against a setback with second baseman Omar Infante and his balky right elbow.
Coleman will not join the team in Milwaukee this weekend for the Royals’ final two exhibition games before the season opens Monday in Detroit. He played catch on Wednesday morning.
He needs to throw at least a pair of bullpen sessions and appear in more than one game before he can pitch in the majors, pitching coach Dave Eiland said.
“We tried to get him ready for Opening Day,” Eiland said. “But it just didn’t heal. I mean, he’s going to be OK. But he’s probably anywhere from a week to two weeks behind. We could legitimately have him at the end of that first home stand.”
If the team backdates Coleman’s stint on the disabled list, he would first be available on April 8. Coleman cannot injure himself further. But he lacks the command necessary to compete in the majors.
Yost sounded as if he could not trust Coleman to appear in high-leverage situations during the season. Coleman cannot throw on back-to-back days, and his command cannot be counted upon.
“The worst thing as a manager, when you’ve got a really good team, is bringing in a reliever when you don’t know what you’re going to get,” Yost said. “It’s a tough situation.”
He added: “Can he pitch through it? Yeah. But can he command the ball through it? That’s the question.”
Coleman represents the second serious injury suffered by the team’s bullpen. The first was far more catastrophic. The Royals lost Luke Hochevar for the season because of Tommy John surgery. Coleman shifted into the place he vacated. He yielded just two earned runs in 29 2/3 innings in 2013.
Coleman has a 13.50 ERA this spring. He struck out the side against the Rangers on March 17. But his inability to throw strikes has been consistent. Coleman was charged with six runs in a disastrous outing against San Francisco on Sunday.
“Actually, the last time he pitched, it felt as good as it did all spring long,” Yost said. “But couldn’t command the ball. Pitchers, this finger is their pressure-point finger. And after like 15 pitches, it started to get real sore. And the next day it was swollen and extremely sore.”
The team will bring both Pedro Ciriaco and Jason Donald to Milwaukee (along with backup catcher Ramon Hernandez). Ciriaco appears to have a leg up on Donald, because he is already on the 40-man roster.
“We have to have a guy that can play second base if he can’t, to start the season,” Yost said.