Originally created 05/20/05

Injury forces Braves to alter rotation



ATLANTA - The Atlanta Braves will be without starting pitcher John Thomson for two to three months, general manager John Schuerholz said Thursday.

The club initially feared it would lose Thomson for a longer period - perhaps the remainder of the season - because of the finger injury he suffered Monday night in San Diego.

A thorough series of examinations in Atlanta with hand specialist Dr. Gary Lourie finally concluded that Thomson partially tore the support structure surrounding the flexor tendon of the middle finger of his right hand.

Schuerholz said, the injury will not require surgery.

Thomson is 3-2 with a 3.42 ERA in eight starts this year.

At first, Thomson and the Braves were afraid the flexor tendon was torn from the bone. Even though the injury isn't as severe as that, it doesn't alter the fact that it's bizarre.

Thomson, 31, grimaced and grabbed for his right hand after throwing a pitch in the fifth inning of what turned out to be a 5-3 Padres win.

"It's a rare injury, an unusual case," Schuerholz said.

Schuerholz said the team plans to announce today how it will replace Thomson in the starting rotation.

In addition to the ailing Thomson, Mike Hampton's lingering forearm pain will cause him to miss his start Saturday in Boston. Atlanta's top pitching prospect, Class AAA Richmond's Kyle Davies, is expected to be brought up to make that start.

When Hampton returns, Davies could stay up to help fill the void left by Thomson, who will likely not make another start until after the All-Star break.

"That's devastating news," Schuerholz said. "We're going to miss him. He's been a real big performer for us."

Thomson is 11-3 with a 2.85 ERA since the 2004 All-Star break.

He hasn't lost a game this year since April 19. However, after pitching a three-hit complete game against Houston on May 5, Thomson failed to make it out of the fifth inning in his next two starts.

The strange violence of the injury was shocking to the rest of the Braves.

"His finger fell apart in one pitch," said reliever Adam Bernero, who came in to replace Thomson. "That never happens."

"I've heard of fingers going numb, to where a guy couldn't pitch," Braves manager Bobby Cox said, "but never like an explosion."

Reach Travis Haney at travis.haney@morris.com.