Detroit Tigers first baseman C.J. Cron knows he will need surgery on his left knee, but he’s not sure when that will happen. Of the setbacks throughout his seven-year career, the damaged ligament in his knee leaves him scratching his head the most.
He sustained the injury Monday when a hard-hit ground ball came his way, although he said the ball didn’t actually ricochet off his knee. When he tried to field the ball, his knee buckled, and then his kneecap popped out of place, damaging a ligament.
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The Tigers placed him on the 10-day injured list Tuesday and recalled infielder Willi Castro to take his place, but the chances of Cron returning anytime soon seem unlikely.
“It’s tough to say how it’s going to respond,” Cron said Wednesday. “It’s tough to say how stable it’s going to be moving forward. … There’s legitimately no timetable right now.”
Cron will be in a knee brace for the next few days before rehabbing in Toledo. Because of COVID-19 protocols, he can’t do so in Detroit. He hopes to give his knee enough support — by eliminating the swelling and stabilizing it — to finish the 60-game season with the Tigers, off to a 9-6 start.
With Cron out, Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire said guys like Jeimer Candelario, Harold Castro and even Miguel Cabrera may see time at first base.
Returning to the field this season, however, could come with consequences.
“I mean, it’s kind of floating around in there, so they said it could pop out at any time,” Cron said. “That’s why if we do this, we’re going to need to be super smart about taping it, bracing it and trying to keep that kneecap as stable as possible. Nothing set in stone. As we go, we’ll know more.”
If Cron, on a one-year contract with the Tigers, decides to have surgery now, he won’t return this season and might not be healthy for spring training in February. Whenever Cron gets back on the field, he won’t be afraid of re-injuring his knee, but he acknowledged he’s concerned about what happens in between with medical appointments and personal decisions he needs to make.
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“I don’t think it’s going to be a super quick one,” Cron said. “I actually had something happen to my right knee, and it took about six to eight months. It’s going to be close. There’s so many unknowns and so much going on right now.”
This isn’t the first injury Cron has dealt with recently. For the Minnesota Twins last season, Cron registered a .266 batting average, 17 homers and 54 RBIs in 78 games before the All-Star break. But a nagging thumb injury that required surgery cut his second half to 47 games, eight homers and 24 RBIs.
This year, he is slashing .190/.346/.548 with four homers, eight RBIs in 13 games. He has improved his walk rate, taking nine free passes compared to 16 strikeouts. Last season, he had 107 strikeouts against 29 walks.
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“Anytime somebody gets hurt or has to come out of a game, you’re super concerned,” left-hander Daniel Norris, who made a diving play after Cron fell to the ground, said Monday. “… He’s obviously a huge bat and a great guy in our clubhouse. Prayers out to him, for sure.”
The injury devastates Cron in a few ways. Of course, he wishes he was on the field with teammates, but the Tigers gave him an opportunity to serve as an everyday player. That’s something he’s never had before, so being able to come to the clubhouse without needing to check the lineup card gave him a sense of meaning.
And that boost of confidence is now in jeopardy.
“One less thing you have to worry about in a sport where anything can happen,” Cron said. “So yeah, it was nice, for sure. And, hopefully, maybe next year or the rest of this year, it can be the same kind of thing.”
Evan Petzold is a sports reporting intern at the Detroit Free Press. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @EvanPetzold.