As I first reported last night on Twitter, USC first baseman Dante Flores is expected to be out six to eight weeks after going under the knife to remove a fractured hamate bone in his wrist today.
USC’s No. 3 hitter this season, Flores was coming off the best game of the season when he suffered the injury. In USC’s 4-1 win over Long Beach State last Tuesday, the 5-foot-10, 160 pound sophomore went 3 for 4 with his first home run and his third stolen base of the season. He also scored two runs. He traveled with the team to Fresno State over the weekend but did not play.
Though only a sophomore, Flores is one of the Trojans most experienced hitters after starting 41 games last year as a true freshman. He batted .310 with 22 runs scored and 19 RBI last season. He also hit five doubles, two triples and two home runs. Flores was off to a strong start this season, batting .355 with a .412 on base percentage.
The three-time All-Trinity League 1st Team selection at St. John Bosco HS in Bellflower, Calif came to USC after being a 41st round draft selection by the San Diego Padres in 2011.
No injury is ever opportune, but Flores injury couldn’t comes at a much worse part of the USC schedule. If Flores returns six weeks after his surgery, he would miss 24 games — 16 of which are against teams currently ranked in Baseball America’s Top 25. A full eight-week recovery would have Flores back in uniform for only the final four weekends of the season.
The sweet-swinging left-handed hitter came to USC as a second baseman, but struggled with throwing errors at the beginning of 2012. Then USC head coach Frank Cruz moved Flores to the outfield where he manned left field for the final 30 games of the season.
With an influx of talented freshmen outfielders and the graduation of first baseman Matt Foat, Flores moved back to the dirt. Though he doesn’t possess the prototypical size for a first baseman, Flores has excelled at the new position due to his athleticism and familiarity with the infield. He has 78 putouts and four assists without an error this season.
Freshman AJ Ramirez has played all four games at first base in Flores’ absence.
Flores’ surgery is the worst injury of USC’s bruised and beaten squad that played Cal State Fullerton Wednesday night without starting catcher Garrett Stubbs, starting second baseman Adam Landecker and reserve outfielders J.R. Aguirre and Omar Cotto Lozada. Landecker is expected back this weekend for the Dodgertown Classic after tweaking a hamstring hustling out of the box last Friday night at Fresno State.
Stubbs’ status is undetermined. He suffered a concussion when a throw to the plate up the line led him into Fresno State’s 6-foot-5 Aaron Judge, who unintentionally kneed Stubbs in the head, knocking off the catcher’s helmet. Cotto Lozada is still out for at least another week as he recovers from his own hamate bone surgery. Aguirre’s status is unknown.
Saturday starter Wyatt Strahan is expected to return this weekend after missing his last start with shoulder stiffness.
Here is Flores after his big game against Long Beach State talking about making the transition to first base: