KANSAS CITY -- The Royals' postseason chances took a severe hit Thursday night when first baseman Eric Hosmer reinjured his right hand and could miss three to six weeks.
Hosmer left the 6-3 victory over the Twins in the sixth inning after aggravating the hand with a checked swing in his previous at-bat in the fourth and will be put on the disabled list.
When might he return?
"They said as quick as three weeks and as long as six," Hosmer said. "So obviously I'm going to be shooting for the three to four weeks."
Hosmer accompanied the Royals to Oakland where they open a three-game series Friday night.
"It's very frustrating. Bad timing. But the positive side is I can still get back for that last month," Hosmer said. "I'll be right there with these guys, cheering them on. But the good thing is I'll be back for the last month and make that last push."
Billy Butler, normally the designated hitter, looms as Hosmer's immediate replacement in the field at first base. He filled in for Hosmer earlier as did veteran Raul Ibanez. Butler pinch-hit for Hosmer to start the sixth and singled, then took over at first base.
"We'll mix and match, depending," manager Ned Yost said.
No immediate replacement was announced for Hosmer on the active roster. Starting pitcher Jason Vargas will have to come off the disabled list Saturday for his start against the Athletics but it wasn't clear if that would be the move. It would leave the Royals a man short on the bench.
Hosmer was drilled on the right hand by a Jon Lester pitch in a 6-0 loss July 20 at Boston. He finished that game but did not start in five of the next six games because the hand was bruised and he had trouble gripping the bat. He did make late-inning appearances on defense, though.
He returned to the starting lineup in each of the three games against the Twins. Until his removal, he was 1-for-10 in the series.
"His second at-bat, he checked his swing and it really bothered him," Yost said. "Came back in, we re-X-rayed it. The swelling had gone down and it revealed a stress fracture of the third metacarpal on his right hand. So it's a definite DL situation and we're looking at three to four weeks."
Or more, according to what Hosmer was told.
After being hit by Lester, now with the A's, Hosmer tried to come back three days later but still had problems so he waited another four days. Back in the lineup for the Twins series, he felt some discomfort.
"Yeah, but it was tolerable. I could grind through it and the pain wasn't too bad but if I make my mind up and want to swing, I can get through that," Hosmer said. "But when these guys are throwing cutters and balls that are moving, you make your mind up you want to swing and, at the last second, you don't want to swing and hold it back, it just doesn't tolerate it."
When Hosmer was hit by Lester, he was the hottest hitter in the Majors and had a 16-game hitting streak. His early-season struggles seemed behind him.
"He was hot and any time you lose a player of his caliber, it hurts. You've got to find ways to overcome it and we did tonight," Yost said after the reinjury. "This game was a big win for us; it got us to four behind Detroit and we want to keep pecking at that. I like our team. I think we'll be able to overcome it."
Butler, who started five games in Hosmer's absence, has worked out at first base virtually every day this year to keep his fielding skills sharp. Before Hosmer's rookie year, Butler was the regular first baseman and in his career has started 356 games at the position.
"I've done it before. I felt like when Hoz sat out earlier trying to heal his hand up, we didn't miss a beat as a team," Butler said.
"I think that's the main goal for me defensively and everything like that. I know I'm not a Gold Glove caliber like he is. I just want to go out there and basically go unnoticed. If nobody notices I'm out there, then basically I feel like I'm doing my job."
Hosmer goes on the DL with a .267 average, 27 doubles, six homers and 46 RBIs. In July he hit .366 (26-for-71).
"It's something you don't ever want to see on anyone's team, especially our team," third baseman Mike Moustakas said. "A guy like Hoz is one of our best players and it hurts to lose him but someone's going to have to find a way to step up. We're going to have to get production from other parts of this lineup. But it's a rough day for us because he's out."
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.