Darren O'Day was doing pregame sprints in the outfield at T-Mobile Park on July 6 when he thought one of his Yankees teammates had run into him. As he fell to the ground and rolled around in pain, he heard a popping sound and knew exactly what had happened.
O’Day had strained his left hamstring -- the same one that required season-ending surgery to repair in June 2018, when he was with the Orioles. On Tuesday, the Yankees announced that the same course of action would be necessary for the right-handed reliever, who had been on the 10-day injured list since that day in Seattle.
It marked the second time O’Day had gone on the IL this season, after missing May and nearly all of June with a right rotator cuff strain. He made only two appearances for the Yankees in between those stints, tossing 1 2/3 innings against the Angels and Mets.
O’Day will undergo surgery on his hamstring on Wednesday at the Hospital for Special Surgery, with the procedure performed by Dr. Brian Kelly.
“[It’s] extremely disappointing,” said O’Day. “I was just coming back from a shoulder injury, starting to feel better and excited to be back with the team contributing again. And to have all that wiped out in one moment is really tough.”
In speaking with doctors and seeing the results of subsequent MRIs, O’Day learned that his hamstring never fully healed between the two injuries, admitting “this was bound to happen at some point.” He was told by the surgeon who led the 2018 operation that in a certain percentage of repairs, that proves to be the case, adding “there’s no rhyme or reason to it.”
“If I ever want to play baseball again or if I want to live the life I want to live post-baseball, then I have to get it fixed,” O’Day said. “And unfortunately, the timeframe puts me out of this season.”
The 38-year-old O’Day acknowledged that there’s a possibility that his latest injury could also be career-ending. He has spent 14 seasons in the Major Leagues, spending half of those years with the O’s while also playing for the back-to-back American League champion Rangers in 2010-11. He had short stints with the Braves, Mets and Angels as well before joining the Yankees as a free agent last offseason.
“I really came here to New York for two reasons,” O’Day said. “I just wanted to see what it was like to play here -- legendary organization. As I said in my first press conference, it’s every little boy’s dream to play for the Yankees. There’s just so much history as I sit here and look around at these posters on the wall.
“And the main goal was to win a World Series. ... I’ve gotten really close a couple of times but never been able to quite get there. So that’s what I came here for, and those are the things that flashed in my mind with all that time and effort, sacrifice [it takes] to be here and still keep that dream alive. So for the rest of this season, I’ll have to be dreaming vicariously through my teammates and watching them and helping them in any way I can.”
With about a six-month rehab process awaiting him, O’Day isn’t sure what the future holds. He has a $1.4 million player option in his contract that he could exercise for the 2022 season, but whether he takes it will be a topic of deliberation as the year rolls on. He made it clear, however, that there’s only one factor that will impact his decision the most.
“I was never really even supposed to make it to the Major Leagues. I wasn’t a big prospect and I didn’t anticipate making enough money to live on. Somehow, it’s worked out that we’ll be comfortable.
“At this point in my career, it’s all about winning.”