DETROIT -- C.J. Cron expects that he will need surgery at some point to repair the damage in his left knee sustained when he tried to field a ground ball on Monday against the White Sox. The question now is whether he can play out this season without making it worse.
“We're going to try to do the best we can to give [the knee] enough support to maybe finish the year,” Cron said during a conference call with reporters on Wednesday morning. “It's one of those things where something's going to have to get done eventually, I think, from the opinions I've gotten so far. Obviously, stuff like that can change, but right now our main focus is just to get that swelling down and try to stabilize it a little bit and just see what happens, I guess. There's no rush at the moment.”
There’s no timetable for a return, Cron said, just as there’s no timetable for how long surgery would keep him out. The injury does not lead him to believe it would be quick.
The injury is a rather freak one. The ground ball didn’t actually hit his knee; he doesn’t believe it hit him at all. But when he went to the ground, his knee gave out and a ligament that keeps the kneecap together was damaged.
“I think when I went down, my kneecap kind of popped out of place there for a little bit,” Cron said. “I was just told it's a stabilizer. It's one of the ones on the inside of the knee that stabilizes the kneecap in place. Everything else looked OK, though.”
Asked whether playing again without surgery could make the injury worse, Cron said, “Probably. They said it could pop out. It's kind of just floating around in there, so it could pop out at any time, really. That's why, if we do this, we're going to have to be super smart about taping it, bracing it and trying to keep that kneecap as stable as possible.”
For someone who has overcome a wide range of injuries -- a labrum tear in 2012, a fractured hand in 2016 and a right thumb injury that led to surgery after the 2019 season -- this one might be the toughest. He’ll be in a brace for at least a few more days, then will see how the knee feels and how much he can do. With the current safety protocols, he can’t be at the ballpark for games, and he’ll have to receive treatment and rehab in Toledo while the Tigers are on the road next week.
The most frustrating part, though, is that the injury halts his chance to be a key everyday player in the middle of a productive lineup. Cron hit four home runs with eight RBIs as the cleanup hitter, batting just behind Miguel Cabrera in the order, posting an .894 OPS and 147 OPS+ despite a .190 batting average.
“It's pretty brutal,” he said. “It was really the first time in my career where I was slotted in there every day and playing every day and allowed to make mistakes and learn from them, the ebbs and flows of a season being an everyday player. To kind of go down like this is pretty bad, especially considering how the boys were playing. I'm confident they're going to continue to do that, but for me personally, it's tough, for sure.”
• Manager Ron Gardenhire said that he’ll likely rotate cleanup hitters in Cron’s absence to play matchups. Christin Stewart batted fourth on Wednesday after Jonathan Schoop hit there on Tuesday night. “We'll just mix that spot up and try to put the best lineup out there according to who's pitching,” Gardenhire said.
• The Tigers will use Thursday as an off-day rather than stage a workout or an intrasquad game following the postponement of their doubleheader against the Cardinals. The date was originally an off-day before last week’s home-and-home series with the Cardinals was postponed. No date has been scheduled to make up those two games, though the two teams are still on for a Sept. 10 doubleheader in St. Louis.