LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – Micah Johnson’s first season with the Braves might be over before it began, with a left-wrist fracture that will require surgery.
The infielder-outfielder’s bid for a bench job ended Tuesday when Johnson injured his wrist making a spectacular diving catch near the left-field line in a Grapefruit League game against the Phillies. Initial X-rays showed no break, and the injury was diagnosed as sprain, but further tests done Wednesday revealed the fracture.
Braves head team physician Dr. Gary Lourie will perform the surgery Friday. The team gave no timetable for his recovery.
“Surgery on the wrist, it’s going to be a while,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “Torquing a bat after you do that … it’s going to be a while. It’s a shame, too. He was playing good. He’s improved in the outfield, and his game was coming around, too. He’s been working hard.”
Johnson, 26, was on the 40-man roster and having a pretty good spring, batting .222 (8-for-36) with a triple and a home run, though he had 11 strikeouts with only two walks. He’d been outplayed this spring by non-roster invitee Emilio Bonifacio, a versatile veteran expected to get one of the Braves’ bench jobs, barring a late trade for another outfielder.
Johnson had begun to look comfortable in left and center fields despite playing almost exclusively at second base in 43 major league games over parts of two seasons with the White Sox and Dodgers. He had 41 games in the outfield in the minors.
The Braves also lost outfield prospect Dustin Peterson early in camp with a broken hamate bone in his hand.
“It’s a shame. Dustin Peterson, too,” Snitker said. “Guys that can help you over the course of the year, whether they make the team here or go to Triple-A, they’re good pieces to have there, guys you’re going to need. That’s why it hurts to lose them…. I was scared when I saw (Johnson’s injury) that it was going to be even worse than that.”
The Braves acquired Johnson in a January trade for cash considerations or a player to be named later. The former White Sox prospect showed good speed and on-base potential in the minor leagues, but struggled in scarce opportunities in the majors and was designated for assignment by the Dodgers just before the trade to the Braves.
Johnson has a .226 career average and .299 OBP with four extra-base hits (all doubles) and 31 strikeouts in 106 at-bats in 43 major league games. He got his first call to the majors in 2015, the year he hit .315 with a .375 OBP and 28 extra-base hits (eight home runs) and 28 stolen bases in 78 games for Triple-A Charlotte.
Johnson was traded from the White Sox to the Dodgers in a December 2015 three-team trade that sent Todd Frazier to the White Sox and former Braves infielder Jose Peraza and two minor leaguers to the Reds.