CHICAGO -- Dustin Fowler's Major League debut ended in cruelly abrupt fashion on Thursday night as the Yankees outfielder sustained an open rupture of the patellar tendon in his right knee after crashing into a wall, requiring immediate season-ending surgery.
"Everything is as good as it can be right now,'' Fowler said in a New York Post report. "The surgery went well. That's always a plus. I'm just going to take it day to day right now. It ruptured but they were able to put it back in place and there wasn't any other issues, so they said it's going to be a pretty positive recovery. They said I'd be out for about four or five months and then be ready for the spring.''
Playing right field in a game the White Sox won, 4-3, Fowler ran at full speed when Jose Abreu sliced a two-out drive down the right-field line in the bottom of the first inning. The ball landed in the seats, but Fowler violently slammed into a low fence and railing, with the 22-year-old nearly flipping over the railing into the crowd.
Fowler hobbled and hopped briefly before attempting to put weight on his right leg, when he crumpled to the warning track.
"It's one of the worst things I've seen on a baseball field," Yankees outfielder Brett Gardner said. "I think back with Derek [Jeter] and his ankle and Mariano [Rivera] and his knee. It's hard to compare a kid that hasn't been in the big leagues to one of those two guys. I can't imagine a worse scenario for him. It's heartbreaking."
Yankees manager Joe Girardi called for the cart that transported Fowler off the field, covering his eyes at one point.
"I was in tears, actually," Girardi said. "I'm still in disbelief. I'm in tears for the kid. I know he'll fight and get back here, but he's out for a while and he has to go through a long, grueling rehab. It just doesn't seem fair."
Fowler had surgery at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago. White Sox team physician Charles A. Bush-Joseph performed the procedure.
"Our hearts are with him," White Sox manager Rick Renteria said. "That's not a good feeling, to see somebody go down on anybody's club."
Replaced in right field by Rob Refsnyder, Fowler did not have a chance to bat in his debut. His spot was due up at the top of the next inning.
"It just makes you sick," Aaron Judge said. "It's your debut, you're about to lead off the next inning and something like that happens. It's tough. Especially all the hard work he's done, what he's been through, to finally get a shot up here and get the call. It's tough."
Girardi said the timetable for recovery will be at least six months, and wondered if the injury could have been avoided. Girardi said Fowler appeared to slam into an unpadded metal box adjacent to the low railing.
"I am not blaming the White Sox, but that is something that needs to be inspected and it should have been padded," Girardi said. "If the kid hits the electrical box, he still might be hurt, but my guess is he doesn't rupture his patellar tendon."
Ranked as the Yankees' No. 8 prospect by MLBPipeline.com, Fowler was batting .293/.329/.542 in 70 games at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, with 19 doubles, eight triples, 13 homers and 43 RBIs, stealing 13 bases in 18 attempts.
Earlier in the day, Fowler flew in from Syracuse and battled traffic from O'Hare International Airport, arriving about 2 1/2 hours before the game's scheduled start time. The first pitch was delayed two hours and 50 minutes by a band of heavy thunderstorms.
"I'm obviously overwhelmed right now; very excited," Fowler said after finding his locker in the visitors clubhouse. "Glad to be here. It was always nice to be in Spring Training, so I know a lot of familiar faces. Just overwhelmed right now; ready to get comfy here."
The Caldwell, Ga., native said his parents could not make it to Chicago on short notice, but they had planned to be in Houston on Friday.
Fowler had played 14 games in right field at Triple-A this season, seeing most of his action in center (40 games). He also played 12 games in left, earning selection to represent the International League in the upcoming Triple-A All-Star Game.
Gardner said that he and his teammates tried to console Fowler as best they could while they waited for the medical cart.
"He works his [tail] off and he's a strong kid, and he's got a good head on his shoulders," Gardner said. "I have no doubt that he'll come back from it. It might just take a little while. He's a damn good player and continues to improve. I was looking forward to getting a chance to play with him."