Brewers catcher Gregg Zaun has a torn labrum in the front of his right shoulder and said he might retire if the injury lingers deep into the summer.
Zaun put his chances of playing this season at “50-50.” The doctors have recommended conservative treatment for the next 2-4 weeks, at which time they will re-evaluate his strength and range of motion to decide of surgery is necessary. A surgical fix would sideline Zaun for 4-6 months.
“I’m pretty disappointed,” Zaun said. “Things were just starting to roll offensively. … For this to happen now is just bad timing, as usual.”
Zaun started the season 0-for-21 but batted .333 over his next 81 at-bats to boost his average to .265 before going on the disabled list. With the 39-year-old on the sidelines, the Brewers are left extremely inexperienced behind the plate. Primary duties figure to go to George Kottaras, who made his 42nd career start on Wednesday night against the Astros. The backup is 23-year-old Jonathan Lucroy, who made his first career start on Tuesday.
Zaun’s injury dates back to mid-April in Washington, when Zaun hurt his shoulder in a plate collision with Nationals infielder Ian Desmond. Zaun played through shoulder pain until a second-inning at-bat in Pittsburgh on May 20, when his right hand slipped off the bat on a swinging strike. He felt his shoulder pop out of its socket and then slam back into place, but continued the at-bat and drove in a run with a groundout before exiting.
Zaun was placed on the 15-day disabled list the following morning and subsequent tests revealed the torn labrum. He has some big decisions ahead.
“I have a couple of questions I have to ask myself,” Zaun said. “Do I want to play next year? I can’t answer that question at this point right now. I love the game; I’m not sure if I want to continue going through this.
“If I make a decision that I’m going to grind this out and do what it takes to play this season, I have to be able to come back as strong as I was before. I don’t want to just come back and be a guy who’s going to play twice a week with two or three days of rest in-between. If I don’t see myself coming back to a situation where I can play four or five days in a row and still function normally, I’m going to go ahead and get surgery and at least keep the options open for next year.
“I owe it to the organization and my teammates to kind of run through the process and give it every chance to be back out there on the field this year. If the time comes where I feel like it’s not going to work for me … than I have to look toward next year and do the right thing.”
Zaun knows that teams would not be lined up to sign a soon-to-be 40-year-old coming off shoulder surgery, especially as an everyday player.
He will remain at Miller Park next week while the Brewers play a weeklong road trip. By the end of a June 8-13 homestand, Zaun figures he will have some answers.