On to Plan C: Gamel out for the year
The Brewers were re-examining their options at first base Monday after learning Mat Gamel had re-torn his right ACL and would miss the 2013 season.
Gamel, who missed the final five months of 2012 after surgery for the same injury, was already the Brewers’ Plan B after Corey Hart suffered his own knee injury during offseason workouts and underwent surgery. Hart will be sidelined at the first month of the season, so the Brewers will first look at internal options for Plan C, including top prospect Hunter Morris, before deciding whether to seek help from outside the organization.
Meanwhile, 27-year-old Gamel faces a second straight summer of rehab. The Brewers will begin discussing a schedule for surgery on Tuesday.
“Clearly it’s a setback, and a tough thing as much mentally as physically for a guy to spend eight months rehabbing and then be told he’s got to start all over again,” assistant GM Gord Ash said. “I do think he has youth on his side. It’s not like this is a 38-year-old guy and he knows this is the end of the line.”
Brewers officials were stunned by Gamel’s setback. He rehabbed the original injury throughout the 2012 season and received positive check-ups both at the Brewers’ late-January “On Deck” event in Milwaukee and in a physical exam last week.
But Gamel reported discomfort after stretching and hitting during the team’s first full-squad workout on Saturday, and head physician William Raasch detected enough give in Gamel’s knee to order an MRI scan. It revealed the bad news.
“It’s a tear of the middle portion of the repair, which as Dr. Raasch explains to me is unusual,” assistant general manager Gord Ash said. “There are failures — I guess 10 percent seems to be the historical number. But of those failures, they’re mostly at either end, and this is in the middle, which is unusual.”
Gamel has a history of terribly timed injuries. In 2010, a torn muscle behind his throwing shoulder cost him a shot at the Opening Day roster, and in 2011 it was a rib-cage strain. Last year, he got his big break as the Brewers’ replacement for the departed Prince Fielder, but tore his ACL after banging into a low wall at Petco Park in San Diego on May 1.
Now Gamel will have to endure another repair and another year of rehabilitation, though the Brewers don’t expect this latest setback to threaten his career.
“There’s been numbers and numbers of athletes go through this,” Brewers head athletic trainer Dan Wright said, with Ash pointing to former Brewers infielder Tony Graffanino.
Ash said Morris “will be a strong candidate” to play first base at the start of the season, though that would necessitate adding him to the 40-man roster a year early. Other internal candidates include Alex Gonzalez, who is still waiting for his first baseman’s glove and has never played the position, plus Taylor Green and nonroster invitee Bobby Crosby.
Had the timing of the injury been different, the Brewers might have looked at free agent Casey Kotchman, but he signed a Minor League deal with the Marlins just last week. Brewers officials don’t think another notable free agent, Carlos Lee, would be willing to fill-in on a temporary basis, considering Hart is expected back relatively early in the season.
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