By JOHN PESETSKI Special to FOXSportsWisconsin.com
PHOENIX — For the second season in a row, Milwaukee Brewers first baseman Mat Gamel has suffered a season-ending injury to his right knee. Gamel, who was not available for comment, left practice early on Friday after feeling some aggravation in the repaired joint while fielding and hitting. An MRI on Sunday revealed the tear.
The Brewers certainly were surprised by the injury.
“He was checked out at Fan Fest weekend and he was fine,” Brewers assistant general manager Gord Ash said. “He was checked out at his physical here in Arizona and was fine. He just felt a touch of aggravation the other day, so we had it looked at it.”
Manager Ron Roenicke added: “It really surprised me. I was figuring a couple of days and then maybe he’d be back on the fields. He seemed fine.”
Gamel first tore the ACL in his right knee in April 2012 chasing a foul pop in a game in San Diego. The knee was operated on last year in a procedure in which one-third of the patellar tendon is grafted to ends of the torn ligament and anchored into the bones of the knee joint.
Gamel’s most recent injury is somewhat rare, Ash said.
“It’s a tear of the middle portion of the repair, which is unusual,” he said. “There are failures, about 10 percent, but most of the injuries occur at the end of the actual repaired ligament.”
Gamel was the leading contender to fill in for Corey Hart while Hart heals from his own right knee injury. Now, competition for that position is wide open.
“As of right now, we are going to look at the guys we have in camp here to fill in for Corey,” Roenicke said. “(Taylor) Green, (Hunter) Morris, (Sean) Halton, Alex Gonzales and (Bobby) Crosby can play a little first. Those are the options we’re looking at in-house. I think we can cover it until Corey gets back. But that isn’t to say (GM) Doug (Melvin) isn’t already thinking about it looking around. You can’t predict exactly when Corey’s coming back. But we’ve got some guys in camp we’re happy with.”
Gamel’s future with the Brewers is unclear. Once one of the organization’s top prospects, he’s struggled at the major league level — hitting .229 in 240 major league at-bats. Ash and Roenicke confirmed that they have spoken with Gamel’s agent and that they’ll speak further in the coming days.
A return from a second injury to the same ACL would not be unprecedented. Former Brewers player Tony Graffinino did exactly that. The second surgery, however, is more complex.
“You can pull some patellar tendon from his other knee or you can pull some hamstring tendon to create the graft. Those are the two options,” Brewers head athletic trainer Dan Wright explained.
Roenicke, who fought injuries during his own playing career, is sensitive to Gamel’s position.
“He was pretty good when I talked to him earlier today,” he said. “But it has to crush you. You go through a long rehab, which isn’t fun. It’s lonely, its hard work, boring at times and now to think you have to go through it again. It’s pretty rough.”