According to a major league source, the injury sustained by Andrew Bailey is believed to involve the UCL (ulnar collateral ligament) in the pitcher's thumb.
A UCL tear is commonly referred to as a "skier's thumb," as the injury can be incurred if a pole catches in snow and forces a thumb backward away from the other fingers. The injury results from a physical trauma, in this case, likely a collision that Bailey had in an exhibition game on March 21.
According to Dr. Bruce Leslie of Newton Wellesley Orthopediac Associates, there are three grades for a UCL injury. A Grade 1 does not need surgery and includes three weeks of immobility. A Grade 2 sometimes does not require surgery, but often ends up needing a procedure after the initial treatment isn't effective. A Grade 3, which does include surgery, has the patient coming back anywhere from 2-3 months, with a cast needed between 4-6 weeks.
"At this point in the season, the best course of action [if it is a Grade 2 or 3 tear] is absolutely to go ahead and get the surgery done, hope he recovers in a reasonable time frame and hopefully get him back by the end of the year," said Dr. Christopher Geary, the chief of sports medicine at Tufts Medical Center.
Mets closer Francisco Rodriguez was sidelined by a UCL injury in August 2010, missing the remainder of the season after undergoing surgery. Red Sox catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia also experienced the ailment, and subsequent procedure, leading into the offseason following the 2010 season.
“We think he suffered when he was in a collision at Bradenton when he covered first and collided with Alex Presley and he fell," Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington told reporters Tuesday afternoon in Washington, D.C.
"At the time he didn’t think anything of it but then started to experience some soreness shortly after that and then went back and looked at the video and he definitely landed on his thumb. So, he’s never had any thumb soreness before that, so we don’t know for sure but it seems possible that’s what did it. Anytime you have more of an acute injury, we have to get to the bottom of how bad it is and whether it can be managed conservatively or not."
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Rob Bradford contributed to this report