Some big offseason news for the baseball team was when they acquired Craig Kimbrel from the San Diego Padres. Kimbrel is a “closer,” a pitcher who enters the game in the late innings to shut down the opposing batters from scoring any runs. In the world of closers, Kimbrel is a pretty darn good one too.
Once the season started, there were a few bumps for him in making the transition from one team to another (and one league to another), but everyone agreed that he threw an assortment of filthy pitches that could leave opposing hitters flailing at air. It looked like the Red Sox at last had the ace reliever they sought.
Then, in July, we got some uh-oh news:
The Red Sox have placed closer Craig Kimbrel on the disabled list with a medial meniscus tear in his left knee, the team announced.I’m not a surgeon of course, but I’m kind of a knee guy, and I thought, “Ah, hope the team is smart enough to handle this well.” Kimbrel was scheduled to have surgery and miss three to six weeks. I thought to myself, “Give him a couple of months.” Knee surgery isn’t a walk in the park, even for a young (Kimbrel is 28) elite athlete.
Then, on Aug. 1, my heart sank when I saw this:
Closer Craig Kimbrel returned to the Boston Red Sox on Monday, three weeks after surgery to repair a medial meniscus tear in his left knee.I’m thinking, “No, give him more time. Sure, he feels great. Lots of people feel great right after surgery. But the truth is, they’re more frail than they realize.”
But Kimbrel took the mound and performed brilliantly. However, things didn’t go so well for him during a game after that:
Craig Kimbrel had the worst outing of his career Tuesday night, walking four batters ... the Boston Red Sox closer spoke of knee soreness after the outing.Oh boy, I thought. This was completely avoidable. Now, to be fair, his manager said that the next day Kimbrel reported no knee soreness at all. True? I don’t know. But even if so, I’d say that knee soreness after surgery should be treated like a wildly flashing red light.
Post knee surgery, don’t rush things. Don’t be deluded by the fact that, when you walk, there isn’t knee pain anymore. Well of course not: you’ve been lying around for weeks, not putting any weight on your joint. Meanwhile, the cartilage cushioning your knees has been getting softer.
Obviously, the last chapter in this story hasn’t been written. And obviously, I’m not the Red Sox trainer overseeing Kimbrel’s rehabilitation program. If I were though, I’d try to go easy on that knee through the end of this season (which ends in late September for teams that don’t make the playoffs).
Then, during the next offseason, I’d consider getting him going on some gradual leg/joint strengthening. Maybe buy him a high-end bicycle and a plane ticket to southern California and tell him to start nice and slow, then perhaps work up to climbing some of those mountain foothills by the time spring training for baseball players rolls around next March.
Knee surgery is a big thing. Give it the respect, and time for recovery, that it deserves.