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 might 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 from pitcher Daniel Bard to the hand.

Altuve immediately hit the ground after the pitch made contact, and he was escorted off the field by a trainer while in obvious 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 with a walk, single, wild pitch, HBP, wild pitch and walk before Team USA manager Mark DeRosa 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 leading 6-5 after trailing 5-2.

The injury risk of playing in the World Baseball Classic has already been a loud topic of conversation since New York Mets closer Edwin Díaz tore his patellar tendon while celebrating Puerto Rico’s victory at the end of pool play. Díaz, last year’s NL Reliever of the Year, is expected to miss the entire MLB season.

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