DENVER -- Head athletic trainer Keith Dugger described the giant cell tumor removed from the left index finger of outfielder Carlos Gonzalez on Tuesday as a "fatty mass with tentacles."
Still feeling the effects of anesthesia when he saw the images, Gonzalez thought of food -- and not the appetizing kind.
"It was something really creepy," Gonzalez said. "It might be a Cheeto, because I eat too many Cheetos."
Later he compared it to a shrimp. Whatever it was -- and a pathology report expected by the end of the week could provide a final answer -- it's gone, and it's possible that Gonzalez could return in five weeks, if not sooner. He hopes to begin baseball activity shortly after sutures are removed in two weeks.
"I'm glad it's gone and it's not in my finger anymore," Gonzalez said on Wednesday night after returning to Denver, his arm in a sling but a smile on his face. "I've got to take it day by day, little steps, and just try to get back on the field when I'm ready."
Recurring swelling in the finger, which came and went mysteriously, forced Gonzalez out of the lineup on three occasions. It was a key reason why Gonzalez, who has started the last two All-Star Games, was batting .255 with eight home runs and 31 RBIs in 52 games before being placed on the 15-day disabled list last week.
Dr. Thomas Graham, a hand specialist in Cleveland, performed the surgery to remove the mass.
"We're calling it a giant cell tumor -- it sounds scarier than it is," Dugger said. "Besides a cyst, it's probably the most common thing in a finger.
"But it had some branches off this little fatty mass that just didn't look right. We're not quite sure what it is. The one that comes off a little nerve, we're calling it a neuroma [a tumor, usually benign], and the other looks like possibly a blood vessel, a thrombosis that just kind of hardened up."
Dugger said that it's possible Gonzalez could sooner than five weeks, since the recovery time for such surgeries varies depending on how Gonzalez's finger feels when he begins hitting and throwing.
Gonzalez was encouraged.
"I was really happy they took all that stuff out of my finger," he said. "Hopefully, I can feel better when I start making contact again, and not be afraid to just let the swing go."
The decision to delay the surgery -- even though the swelling had been a problem for more than a month -- was simply because if the injury turned out to be minor, the surgery would have created more problems than the mass itself.
"It wasn't like when you get jammed, he has a bruise, and it hurts for three days," Dugger said. "Sometimes it would disappear completely, and he'd feel good.
"Normal swelling, in your hands and in your feet, doesn't go away within an hour."
If all goes well with the pathology report and the ensuing rehab, Dugger said, it's possible this issue will be behind Gonzalez.
"The doctor was real excited about possibly eliminating any other onset of this," he said. "But it was a larger piece than we thought. It's kind of like a fatty tissue with tentacles on it."
Dugger, who has been with the Rockies throughout the life of the franchise, could only shake his head at the number of strange injuries that have occurred this season. Michael Cuddyer fractured his left shoulder socket while diving for a ball -- an injury more common in football or extreme sports -- and pitcher Brett Anderson broke his left index finger when he hit a pitch off the end of his bat -- an injury circumstance Dugger had never seen.
"I don't feel sorry for us or the organization," Dugger said. "We just seem to have these ... I don't know how you can explain it, kind of freak-type incidents.
"These are not our normal injuries. My counterparts and peers, we talk all the time. They're like, 'What is going on out there?'"
Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Hardball in the Rockies, and follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb. Cody Ulm is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less