Venezuela’s José Altuve exits after HBP to hand

The Astros and Venezuela might have lost the most in a very bad inning for Team USA. (Photo by Daniel Shirey/WBCI/MLB Photos via Getty Images)

The 2023 World Baseball Classic may have another major injury on its ledger.

Houston Astros All-Star José Altuve, playing for Venezuela, exited his team’s game against the United States on Saturday after taking a 96 mph fastball to the hand from pitcher Daniel Bard.

Altuve immediately hit the ground after the pitch made contact and was escorted off the field by a trainer while in clear pain. He was replaced at second base by Luis Rengifo of the Los Angeles Angels.

The hit-by-pitch was the ugliest moment of an ugly inning by Bard, who opened the fifth inning with a walk, single, wild pitch, HBP, wild pitch and walk before Team USA manager Mark DeRosa finally pulled him for Tampa Bay Rays reliever Jason Adam. By the time Bard exited, the bases were loaded with no outs and one run already in.

Bard’s line got even worse after he left, as Venezuela finished the inning up 6-5 after trailing 5-2.

The injury risk of playing in the World Baseball Classic had already been a very loud topic of conversation after New York Mets closer Edwin Díaz tore his Achilles tendon celebrating a win with Puerto Rico at the end of pool play. Díaz, last year’s NL Reliever of the Year, is expected to miss the entire season.

Now, the Astros and Venezuela are both holding their breath on Altuve, as are WBC officials most likely. Altuve is coming off a championship-winning season with the Astros, in which he hit .300/.387/.533 with 28 homers and 18 steals and received his eighth All-Star nod, sixth Silver Slugger Award and a fifth-place finish in AL MVP voting.