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MESA, Ariz. (AP) — Athletics center fielder Dustin Fowler has begun doing sliding work at spring training to test his surgically repaired right knee ahead of Oakland's full-squad workouts beginning next week.
On June 29, Fowler had not even had his first at-bat for the New York Yankees when a freak injury in the bottom of the first inning of his major league debut at Chicago ended his year. He needed emergency surgery.
Already in Arizona working ahead of most position players, he is set to return to Chicago to be re-examined next Thursday by the doctor who performed his procedure to formally clear him for live action. That means he will likely miss at least the first couple of Cactus League games.
Manager Bob Melvin said Fowler will then be worked in slowly — the staff and medical department had this in mind all along — likely with just two at-bats initially, not much different from what veteran players do early on when games start. While Melvin typically would use younger players a little longer in exhibition games, it will be a cautious approach with Fowler.
"He won't be too far behind," Melvin said Saturday. "The plan all along was to kind of ease him in anyway. It's not like we're going to run him out there for nine innings. It's not like we're going to right away throw him in back-to-back games."
The A's traded away ace Sonny Gray at last summer's deadline and acquired the 23-year-old Fowler. Oakland still hopes he will be ready and healthy to be their starting center fielder for opening day.
He never even got to hit in his debut that day, having been on deck when the top of the first inning ended. Then, running at full speed, the right fielder crashed into the low corner wall at Chicago's Guaranteed Rate Field chasing Jose Abreu's two-out foul. He suffered an open rupture of the patellar tendon in his right knee when it hit a metal box used for Wi-Fi, and he was carted off for immediate surgery to repair the damage and close the wound.
In December, Fowler sued the White Sox and the state agency that runs the ballpark.
With some young players, Melvin uses them in consecutive games. Not Fowler. Not yet.
"Not a guy we'd probably run out there two or three days in a row," Melvin said. "But I take the lead from our training staff on stuff like that."
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