The Arizona Wildcats will open the 2011 baseball season next week without their best player.

Outfielder Steve Selsky underwent surgery Friday to repair a "boxer's fracture" in his right hand. The junior standout will miss at least the first month of the season while he heals.

The Wildcats, ranked No. 19 by Baseball America in its preseason poll, will open the season Feb. 18 against North Dakota State at Kindall/Sancet Stadium.

Coach Andy Lopez said Monday that's he's trying to stay optimistic. Sophomore Robert Refsnyder and freshman Johnny Field will split time in right field until Selsky returns.

"He'll be back for Pac-10 play, which is the biggest part of the season," he said. "The tangible part is we're going to miss our three-hole guy for a while. He hits some home runs and drives in some runs.…

"The intangible part is he's one of our oldest guys. You lose some seasoning, so to speak."

Selsky led the UA in hits (87), triples (six), homers (nine), RBIs (52), slugging percentage (.609) and on-base percentage (.448) in 2010. His .370 batting average was second-best in the Pac-10.

Selsky's problems started, oddly, with a bunt.

The Wildcats slugger was hitting during an intrasquad game last Tuesday when he decided to push one down the third base line.

"The count was in my favor, and the third baseman was playing back," he said. "I thought I could bunt for a hit."

Selsky squared to surprise the pitcher, but the fastball came high and inside. Selsky covered his face with his right hand, fearing he would get hit. He was - right on the fifth metacarpal.

Selsky said he instantly knew something was wrong, even though he stayed in the game long enough to steal second base and score a run.

A Tucson hand specialist performed a one-hour surgery Friday, securing the broken bone with a small plate. Selsky's cast will be removed next week and be replaced with a brace; he'll continue to build strength in his broken hand while he recovers.

Selsky, 21, already has a return date in mind: Arizona's March 15-16 series at Wichita State. The Wildcats swept the Shockers in Tucson a year ago but are expecting a tough challenge against one of the nation's college baseball powerhouses.

"He wants to take that trip and play in that atmosphere," Lopez said. "It'd be nice if he could."

Selsky admitted he was "pretty frustrated" by the injury, but said Monday he has come to terms with it. Assuming he heals properly, Selsky projects as Arizona's top pro prospect this season. The Colorado Rockies selected Selsky with their 34th-round pick last spring, but he chose to return to school for a better shot at the pros.

"Playing a Division I sport, you're going to get injured. You need to come back stronger than you were before," he said.

"I still think I'm going to come back and have a strong year. I still think I can play at the next level. I don't think it's going to slow me down much, outside of me not playing for the first few weeks of the season."

Season opener

• Who: North Dakota State at Arizona

• When: 6 p.m. Feb. 18