08/28/12 7:22 PM ET
Left wrist surgery to end Bautista's season
Blue Jays slugger expected to be ready for Spring Training
By Gregor Chisholm / MLB.com
Bautista originally suffered the injury during a swing in New York on July 16. He returned last week following a prolonged absence, but felt the pain resurface during an at-bat against the Orioles on Saturday.
The 31-year-old then traveled to Cleveland on Monday, where he was examined by hand specialist Dr. Thomas Graham. Surgery became the recommended course of action, and Bautista will undergo the procedure sometime next week.
"We followed the course of action that was recommended at each time during the recovery after the original injury," Bautista said. "The only way I could have played again this year without having surgery was to do what we did. I tried, there's just too much instability in that tendon.
"It got to the point where risking injuring the tendon was not worth it. That's why we're opting to do it now, that way I have plenty of time to be ready for Spring Training and the  season."
The positive news for Bautista is that the affected tendon in his left wrist has not been damaged at all. Instead, it's a sheath that holds the tendon in place which has been compromised and is the cause of the lingering discomfort.
It's the same injury that Tampa Bay outfielder Sam Fuld suffered last September. Fuld originally attempted to go through an extended period of rest to avoid surgery, but then aggravated the wrist area during a swing on March 23.
Fuld then opted for surgery and didn't return to the Major Leagues until July 24. Bautista said he spoke to Fuld at great length about the rehab process, and their conversation is one of the main reasons surgery has already been scheduled.
"He attempted a longer resting period and immobilization, and that didn't really work out for him," Bautista said. "I'm going to bypass that and go straight for the surgery, because there's no need to chance it and have the same thing that happened to him, went the whole offseason resting and rehabbing it, and the first game of the year he hurt it again.
"I'm not going to go through that, I'll be ready with plenty of time to go before Spring Training starts. It's the right time."
The estimated rehab period for Bautista is approximately three to four months. He expects to start swinging a bat around 10 weeks after the procedure is performed, and said he'll be back to full strength well before next year's reporting date.
If there's any positive news to be found in the latest development it's that Bautista now has a set plan in place. The uncertainty is completely gone, and the veteran right fielder knows what steps he needs to make to get back to full health.
That's a only a small consolation, and it's still a bitter end to what has been a frustrating season.
"It's a definitive plan going forward," manager John Farrell said. "Everything points to this being a three-to-four month recovery and rehab to normal strength, likely a six-month total return, so that puts him in line to be back in games for Spring Training, provided all goes according to the protocol, which we fully expect. But unfortunately right now, [surgery is] the next step for him."
Bautista said there were no regrets about attempting to make a return to the lineup on Friday in Baltimore. The comeback lasted barely more than 24 hours as he was removed from his second game back after just three innings.
The injury is exactly the same as it was back in July, and there was no further damage to the sheath contained in the left wrist area. All along it has been about pain tolerance, and when Bautista realized in Baltimore that the discomfort wasn't going away any time soon, he decided to schedule the procedure so the issue doesn't carry over into 2013.
"We always used pain as an indicator of how far I should push it," Bautista said. "What I have now is the same injury I had, and the same damage to the anatomy of the area from the original injury, nothing got worse. Using pain as an indication is how far I knew to push it.
"It got to the point I felt so much instability in the tendon that I knew if I kept playing, or had to do something extraordinary, it was not going to be good for my tendon, I'd probably jeopardize it at that point. There's no need to do that."
Bautista entered this season with a chance to become the first player since Mike Schmidt (1974-76) to lead the Major Leagues in home runs three consecutive years. Instead, he departs with a .241 average, 27 homers and 65 RBIs in 92 games.
It was another strong performance for the time he was healthy, despite a slow start to the season. Bautista began the year hitting just .181 with three homers and 10 RBIs while posting a .634 OPS in April, but he re-established himself as one of the premier sluggers in baseball the following month.
"I didn't have the consistency I wanted to, but I think I picked it up in the production and was able to contribute," Bautista said. "What I really wanted to do at the beginning of the year was remain healthy, and I said that many times, and unfortunately I wasn't able to.
"At least I can put my head on my pillow and know it wasn't because of a lack of work or a lack of preparation. It's just an accident that happens on a baseball play, you can't control those things."