NEW YORK -- Dustin Fowler's Major League debut ended in cruelly abrupt fashion last June 29, as the outfielder -- then playing for the Yankees -- violently slammed into a wall down the right-field line at Guaranteed Rate Field in Chicago, sustaining an open rupture of the patellar tendon in
NEW YORK -- Dustin Fowler's Major League debut ended in cruelly abrupt fashion last June 29, as the outfielder -- then playing for the Yankees -- violently slammed into a wall down the right-field line at Guaranteed Rate Field in Chicago, sustaining an open rupture of the patellar tendon in his right knee.
One half-inning before he was to bat, Fowler was instead carted off the field, requiring immediate season-ending surgery. At the time, Brett Gardner said that it was "one of the worst things I've seen on a baseball field." Sent to the Athletics in the July 31 deal that brought Sonny Gray to New York, Fowler will finally get a chance to play at Yankee Stadium on Friday when the A's arrive for a three-game series.
"I'm very happy for him," Gardner said on Thursday. "That was a pretty scary injury he went through and obviously it's been a pretty lengthy rehab process. I can't imagine going through that kind of injury, much less the first inning in the big leagues and not even getting an opportunity to hit."
Promoted to the big leagues on Wednesday, Fowler was inserted as a pinch-hitter in the seventh inning of Oakland's 4-1 loss to the Astros, erasing the possibility that he would be remembered as a second coming of Archibald "Moonlight" Graham. Fowler flied out and then remained in the game as the center fielder.
A's manager Bob Melvin plans to give the 23-year-old Fowler a starting nod on Friday, and in a fun twist, he'll face Gray.
"It's just the perfect story," Fowler said. "The guy I got traded for, getting to face him. It'll be nice to be in New York and play in front of that crowd. It'll be exciting. I'm ready to get there."
Gray was acquired with international bonus slot money in exchange for Fowler, right-hander James Kaprielian and infielder Jorge Mateo. Gray said on Thursday that he didn't know much about Fowler, but added, "I know everyone around here has spoken very highly of him."
"I'm a big believer that things happen for a reason, and for whatever reason, that's something that he's had to deal with," Gardner said. "I'm sure that especially mentally he's going to be stronger because of it. I think he's got a really, really bright career ahead of him, and obviously the A's do, too. I know the Yankees did as well."
Speaking at his Yankee Stadium locker on Thursday afternoon, Gray apologized for the volume of his voice, then explained that he'd lost it during the Yanks' four-run eighth inning on Wednesday. Gray -- and the rest of the bench -- were thrilled first by Gardner's two-run triple, then by Aaron Judge's two-run homer that put the 9-6 win over the Red Sox away.
"I think what's cool to me is we do it a different way every game," Gray said. "The starting pitching's been great, the bullpen's been great, but it's been a different guy every night. It's been a different guy showing up and really putting us on his back every night.
"As deep as our lineup is, I don't think you can go on runs like this without a really deep lineup, and we're scoring from all parts of the lineup. I don't know what it is, but I feel like if we're losing in the seventh, eighth or ninth, we feel extremely confident in still winning that game. I think that's kind of showed up these last 20 games or so."
Gray said that he feels confident as he heads into Friday's matchup against the Athletics, for whom he was 44-36 with a 3.42 ERA in 114 games (112 starts) from 2013-17, including an All-Star campaign in '15.
"I don't think it's something that's weird; I think [it's] definitely exciting," Gray said. "There's obviously a ton of familiar faces over there. I know a lot of those guys, really, really well, so it will be exciting. It will be familiar, it'll be fun. The best-case scenario for me is if we can come out with a victory."
Gleyber Torres' 2017 season was cut short by a headfirst slide, so Yankees manager Aaron Boone said he was concerned when Torres dove into home plate in the eighth inning on Wednesday, scoring the second run on Gardner's two-run triple.
"I worry about everything," Boone said. "Obviously I've seen that slide now a couple of times; I've seen the slide last year that hurt him. In the end, we're playing and you've got to play. You've also got to chalk up last year's as fluky, and things happen when you're in Major League sports. Those things can unfortunately happen sometimes."
Boone indicated that his preference would be to see Torres and others slide feet-first into home plate, but added, "I think him going in the way he did last night certainly shows that there's a confidence there that he's good to go, and he's good to play."
Greg Bird went 0-for-3 with an RBI groundout in his first Minor League rehab game for Class A Advanced Tampa on Thursday, playing five innings at first base. Billy McKinney also went 0-for-1 with two walks while playing left field in that game.
With an eye toward Bird's anticipated return, Neil Walker worked on his versatility prior to Thursday's game, taking ground balls at third base. Walker has played 19 career games at the hot corner, starting once there for the Brewers last year, the first time he had done so since 2010.
Bryan Hoch has covered the Yankees for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and on Facebook.