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Gamel’s chance cut short with torn ACL

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Tom Haudricourt, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
May 3, 2012
— The news Wednesday that Milwaukee Brewers first baseman Mat Gamel has a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee was cruel on a couple of fronts.

For the Brewers, it prevented them from learning this year if Gamel indeed was the long-term solution at first base. For Gamel, it put a premature end to his first real chance to prove he could be a viable everyday player.


Gamel and the Brewers both were trying to come to terms with that development only a month into the season. The club made no official announcement, but general manager Doug Melvin confirmed that Gamel suffered a torn ACL when his knee buckled while chasing after a foul pop-up in the first inning Tuesday night against San Diego.


An MRI taken later in the evening revealed the injury, which was confirmed by team physician William Raasch upon receiving the film. With his right leg fully immobilized, Gamel returned to Milwaukee to be examined by Raasch and have the surgery scheduled.


Recalling that right-hander Yovani Gallardo suffered the same injury on the same date in 2008 yet returned to pitch in the playoffs, Melvin stopped short of saying Gamel was done for the season.


“We’ll wait until the doctor looks at it,” said Melvin. “Yovani had a torn ACL and pitched in the playoffs. But we’re anticipating long-term.”


The immediate solution to Gamel’s injury was to put backup first baseman Travis Ishikawa at the position. Ishikawa played 281 games at first for San Francisco from 2006-’10 before signing with the Brewers in the off-season.


The Brewers also will call up veteran utility infielder Brooks Conrad, who started at first base Wednesday for Class AAA Nashville. The switch-hitting Conrad was batting .400 with five home runs and 13 runs batted in.


Melvin and manager Ron Roenicke also have discussed the possibility of moving rightfielder Corey Hart to first base, a position he once played. Melvin and his scouting staff also will explore outside options, including veteran Derrek Lee, 36, who did not sign with a team for 2012.


“It keeps your scouting staff working, keeps our minds going, keeps your development people working,” said Melvin. “For now, we’ll fill from within. Travis will be out there. Making trades aren’t as easy as people think.


“We have guys putting lists together—guys that have played, guys that haven’t played (such as Lee). Ron will have a conversation with (Hart) if he hasn’t already. First base isn’t as easy to play. This isn’t Little League where you take turns playing positions.


“But, if he’s willing to do it, players step up; I wouldn’t be surprised if he was willing to do it.”


Hart said he’d be willing to fill in at first base once he gets his feet on the ground with more work there as well as an inning or two before getting a start.


“I’ll start concentrating more on first-base stuff in batting practice,” he said.


“Maybe get a little time there and see how I feel. It really depends on how quickly I can be comfortable there. I could see starting a game in the next series.


“ ‘Ishie’ obviously is capable and Brooks can pay there, too. Sometimes, you’ve got to overcome things like this. We were very fortunate last year to have our team for the majority of the year. That’s how you’re able to get to the playoffs. It’s a challenge. Guys have to step up.”


It was an extremely discouraging development for Gamel, who finally got his chance to play regularly after Prince Fielder left for Detroit via free agency. In 21 games, the 26-year-old left-handed hitter was batting .246 with one home run and six RBI but was beginning to settle in at the position.


“It sucks, man,” said Gamel. “I play the game hard. Unfortunately, when you play the game hard, sometimes you’ve got to pay.


“(The injury occurred) before I got to the wall. I don’t think it had anything to do with the wall. I think the wall saved me (from further injury). I don’t know what happened. It’s all a blur.”


Melvin said the timing of the injury was unfortunate for both club and player.


“He was getting his chance; he had waited for his chance and opportunity,” said Melvin. “It looked like he was trying to avoid the wall (while chasing a foul pop fly). That’s what’s tough about it.


“At the end of the year, we’ve still got to know who our first baseman is. That’s why this year was a big year for him, with the opportunity. We still would like to think it’s Mat, but you would have more information. “



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