Sidelined Captain

A ship without its captain, one already adrift a bit, is where we find this Ole Miss baseball team. Matt Smith will still be with his team, but he won't be playing for at least six more games.

Those are the facts after the fifth-year senior outfielder/first baseman injured his hand in a dive against Arkansas State Wednesday night in the Rebels' 11-9 win in Jonesboro.

Thursday afternoon he was in Jackson in surgery to insert a plate to repair a fracture in his third metacarpal of his glove/receiving hand. The procedure was done to hopefully get Smith back for the Arkansas series in two weeks. That's the best case scenario.

"There are two options," Ole Miss Coach Mike Bianco said Thursday afternoon. "If (someone) does that to his hand, they put him in a cast and you're probably better in six to eight weeks. That wouldn't help him. The other option is to put a plate on that bone. And what it does is hold that bone together. They showed me an x-ray of another student-athlete that had it done. You have to wait for the incision to heal, which takes about a week or so. Then it's a pain tolerance (situation).

"The benefit in Matt's case is that he can play sooner. The risk of injuring it (again) won't be there because the plate is holding it together. You put a cast on there and you're hoping the bone grows together. If they take off the cast too soon and you do something and it didn't heal all the way, then you could re-injure it. The plate keeps anything from happening."

So two weeks?

"Maybe. Maybe in two weeks he'll be able to swing," Bianco said.

Matt Smith
Bruce Newman
The Rebels (25-20 overall, 9-12 SEC) will have to carry on through two important weekends. They'll host South Carolina and Mississippi State without the captain in the lineup.

That's a .305 hitter this season with seven home runs out of the lineup. That's also 41 home runs for his college career, second all-time at Ole Miss. And it's a threat that's been taken out of the Rebel lineup opposing pitchers and coaches fear.

So who will be in the lineup and where? Lots of questions to be answered between now and first pitch Friday night.

Matt Snyder was at first base in practice Thursday, but Bianco said it isn't likely they would risk losing Snyder at this juncture, certainly not after losing Smith now for two weeks. Snyder injured a shoulder diving at first base last season, had surgery, rehabbed, and re-injured it in January in a practice.

"It's a risk I don't know that we're willing to take," Bianco said. "You don't want to lose that guy."

Snyder, with two home runs at ASU Wednesday night, has become more of himself at the plate lately.

"He looks like he's back," Bianco said. "He's been swinging the best of anybody."

In the outfield, with Matt Tracy in left field and Tanner Mathis in center field, Jordan King, Zach Kirksey, and Jordan Poole are some options in right, as well as Tracy. In practice Thursday, Preston Overbey and Miles Hamblin were spending some time in right field. Overbey and Hamblin have played outfield in a couple of games this season.

"We just don't know yet," Bianco said.

It's an Ole Miss team that has dealt with a lot of pain this season. From Snyder being out early with the re-injured shoulder, then there were the arm problems for several weeks for pitchers Bobby Wahl and R.J. Hively. Then the shoulder of Jake Morgan when he injured it the first Southeastern Conference weekend, and only returned to pitch last weekend.

And Smith, who already battled an arm problem that kept him out of the lineup a small handful of times this season. Now this.

"Matt's a really tough kid. For him to even come out of the game (Wednesday night), you could tell he was in a lot of pain," Bianco said.

While there will be more pain in the coming days for Matt Smith, hopefully the road back to the playing field has already begun for the captain.

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