When Travis Jankowski fouled a ball off his right foot on April 14th, he joked to other players that he might have broken his foot, but he kept playing through some initial soreness. When he strapped on a walking boot and was listed on the 10-day disabled list on April 22nd, we were all told that he had a “bone bruise” and that they needed the swelling to go down before they could properly diagnose it. Well, a month later the swelling has gone down, and in a CT scan they saw what some of us had feared: a fracture. For a player whose game is predicated on speed above all other skills, that’s not a good thing.
LF Travis Jankowski: hairline fracture of navicular bone in foot. Very slow healing injury. #Padres don't expect back before All-Star break.— Bill Center (@PadresCentral) May 16, 2017
I’m not a doctor, but I stayed in a Holiday Inn Express once, and i know how to google. The navicular bone is on top of the foot and its equivalent in the hand is the scaphoid, which I’m only familiar with because I somehow dislocated mine while swinging a golf club. It’s all good, I popped it back in because I didn’t know what I was doing and my golf game is fine... but I digress. This isn’t about my left hand, this is about Travis Jankowski’s right foot. The navicular bone doesn’t get a whole lot of press because it’s a particularly hard bone to break unless you foul a ball in a most unfortunate manner. Any injury to a speedster’s feet is a concern, and when it’s the plant foot of a left-handed hitter or the launch foot of an outfielder who catches with his left hand, it’s particularly important. The team is indicating that they are in no rush to get him back, with a projected return pushed out at least six more weeks.
When the Padres went out and got Matt Szczur last week, there were murmurs that his acquisition meant that Jankowski would be out more than a couple of weeks. Alex Dickerson is on the 60-day DL with lingering back issues, so Szczur’s presence fortifies an outfield corps that quickly became all too thin. Jabari Blash’s extended third chance didn’t pan out, and the team was trying to get by with Cory Spangenberg and Allen Cordoba covering leftfield while Jankowski’s condition was being diagnosed. Hunter Renfroe’s slump didn’t help the situation, either. Fast-forward a couple of weeks, and Cordoba has been better than expected while Hunter Renfroe has shown signs of positive adjustments, while Szczur announced his arrival by going 5-for-12 with a leadoff homer in his first three games as a Padre. Expect the right-handed Szczur to platoon with the lefty Spangenberg against tough righties, with Cordoba getting some looks as well. Szczur can play all three positions, and he’s already relieved Manuel Margot in center and Renfroe in right for a game each.
Looking ahead, if Jankowski and Dickerson can make their returns mid-season, the presence of Szczur (and his lack of minor league options) could prompt the team to option Margot and/or Renfroe, which could gain the team another year of team control in either case. While the lineup could use Dickerson’s bat and Jankowski’s speed & defense, having Szczur on the roster gives Andy Green some flexibility and depth that he didn’t have to start the year. In the meantime, maybe Jankowski can get a part-time job in the team shop while he rehabs his foot.