There was nothing underhanded about Max Moroff’s slide, but that didn’t make it hurt any less for – or soften the disappointment of – Alex Blandino.
The Cincinnati rookie infielder will miss the rest of this season after the anterior cruciate ligament of his right knee was torn in a collision with Moroff while Blandino was turning a double play in the ninth inning of the Reds 12-1 loss to Pittsburgh Friday night and early Saturday morning at Great American Ball Park.
Moroff was on first base with nobody out when Jordan Luplow hit a grounder to Blandino, who was stationed just to the right side of and behind second base. Blandino fielded the ball and rushed to step on the bag. The night’s soggy conditions left the infield soft. Moroff’s spikes caught in the mud and he bounced more than slid, coming up and meeting Blandino’s knee flush on the outside.
Blandino lay screaming in pain in front of the bag for several minutes before being helped off. Tests on Saturday confirmed the damage.
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“I’ll have surgery on Monday,” Blandino said before Saturday’s game. “It’s a 5-6 month recovery. We have a good support staff here. I’m bummed out, but it’s something guys come back from.”
Moroff waited on the infield until Blandino was being helped off and reached out after the game to apologize.
“It was a freak accident,” Blandino said. “He got stuck on his slide. There are no hard feelings. It was definitely unfortunate.”
Blandino, who entered the game as a pinch-hitter in the eighth inning and singled, giving him a team-high nine pinch hits. He opened the season with Triple-A Louisville and was promoted on April 9, batting .234 with a home run and eight runs batted in over 69 games.
“I’m proud of what the team has done,” he said. “I’m sad and upset that I’m not going to be a part of it the rest of this year, but there’s a lot to build on for next year.”
Shouldering the load: Outfielder Scott Schebler spent time before Saturday’s game tossing in short right field as he continued to work his way back from a sprained AC joint in his right shoulder. He was placed on the 10-day disabled list on Wednesday, retroactive to Sunday, and he expects to be ready when he’s eligible to be activated this coming Wednesday.
Schebler suffered the injury running into the right field wall while trying to make a catch at St. Louis’s New Busch Stadium on July 14. He was unable to hold on to the ball, but had the presence of mind to pick it up while laying on the warning track and flip it to center fielder Billy Hamilton.
“It is probably the first cutoff man I hit all year,” he joked.
The Reds medical staff was more concerned about his head and neck at first.
“Everybody thought it was my neck – my head or my neck neither of which touched the wall,” recalled Schebler, who is hitting .278 with 12 homers and 37 RBIs in 76 games. “That’s really weird. I honestly don’t remember getting the ball to Billy. That’s just instincts, really. Me saying I didn’t remember it didn’t help my cause for not hitting my head. (Trainer Steve Baumann) said, ‘Are you sure you didn’t hit your head, because you don’t remember that?’ Honestly, I just remember the pain in my shoulder.
“It must be something about the way I fall. I’m very ungraceful. It was a funky play for sure.”
Ball magnet: One baseball tradition states that the ball always find a player trying a new position for the first time. Curt Casali proved it in the ninth inning of the series opener against Pittsburgh.
Casali took over at first base to open the ninth – his first career appearance at the position – and he had to reach high to catch Blandino’s throw from second and complete the double play.
Blandino’s injury forced interim manager Jim Riggleman to use Joey Votto, his last position player, at first base and shift Casali to second – his second new spot on back-to-back plays. Naturally, the next batter, Corey Dickerson, unleashed a vicious one-hopper that got throught Casali for an error.
Showcase: Right-hander Matt Harvey (5-5), expected by many to be traded by the July 31 non-waiver deadline, is Cincinnati’s scheduled start in Sunday’s 1:10 p.m. series wrapup. Right-hander Ivan Nova (5-6) is set to start for the Pirates.