Gamel has torn ACL

Brewers first baseman Mat Gamel needs a surgery for a torn ligament in his right knee and will miss a significant chunk of the regular season, general manager Doug Melvin confirmed on Wednesday.

Gamel was hurt chasing a foul pop-up in Tuesday’s loss to the Padres at Petco Park and underwent an MRI scan after the game. His right leg was completely immobilized and Gamel moved about the clubhouse on crutches Wednesday afternoon before traveling to Milwaukee to meet with the Brewers’ head physician. Dr. William Raasch will set a timetable for surgery.

Melvin and other Brewers officials stopped short of declaring Gamel lost for the season, with Melvin saying only that, “we’re anticipating long-term.” Right-hander Yovani Gallardo tore his ACL on the same date in 2008 and wound up returning to the mound in the final week of the regular season, then started Game 1 of that year’s National League Division Series against the Phillies.

“He’s waited for his chance and his opportunity, and now…” Melvin said, leaving that disappointing though unfinished. “That’s what’s tough about it. This year was a big year for him.”

It’s also tough for the Brewers, who were encouraged by Gamel’s first month following in Prince Fielder’s footsteps. Utility man Brooks Conrad started at first base for Triple-A Nashville on Wednesday and will be recalled in time for the  Brewers’ series opener Friday in San Francisco, and Travis Ishikawa will be the regular first baseman in the near term.

Options down the road include right fielder Corey Hart, who  said he would spend the next few days reacquainting the position during batting practice. The Brewers are deep in outfielders, so Hart could, in time, move to first base if Ishikawa does not work out.

Melvin also instructed his staff to compile a list of players available in free agency or potentially available in trades. Derrek Lee, Melvin said, is “one name out there.”

“At the end of the year, we’re still [not] going to know who’s our first baseman,” Melvin said.

Gamel spoke only briefly to reporters before leaving for his flight. Immediately after taking his tumble, he thought he was OK. Gamel finished the half-inning and briefly stepped on-deck in the top of the second, only to return to the dugout after one tentative swing.

“I knew that I couldn’t go,” he said. “It stinks.”

Gamel has dealt with bad breaks before. He was injured in three consecutive Spring Trainings before reporting to camp in 2012 in terrific shape, committed to taking over first base for Milwaukee. Melvin made clear that Monday’s injury fell into the category of accidental, and not preventative.

“I play the game hard, man,” Gamel said.  “Unfortunately, when you play the game hard, sometimes you’ve got to pay.”

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