PAWTUCKET ‚Äď For Bryce Brentz, slow and steady must prevail in his quest to shake free of the persistent hamstring issue that has his season on pause.
‚ÄúThe progress has been good and we‚Äôre ahead of schedule right now, but we don‚Äôt want to have any more setbacks,‚ÄĚ said the PawSox outfielder when reached Monday in Fort Myers, Fla.
Presently, his days are filled with restoring strength to the right hamstring strain that has kept him out of the lineup since May 15.
‚ÄúComing back the first time ‚Ä¶ the hardest thing to do was to get back into proper running form because I hadn‚Äôt run in so long,‚ÄĚ Brentz said. ‚ÄúWhen we thought we were going to clear, I came in (the trainer‚Äôs room) after running in a straight line in the outfield and said I was a little tight and stiff. Unlike the first time (in reference to that May afternoon in Indianapolis) when I was reaching for first base on what I thought was a bang-bang play, I didn‚Äôt feel a pop or anything, but I did restrain it. That‚Äôs a medical mystery, I guess.‚ÄĚ
What was originally thought to be an injury that would shelve Brentz for a few weeks ‚Äď he was batting .230 with six home runs and a .430 slugging percentage in 39 games ‚Äď morphed into a more serious matter when Pawtucket visited Durham in early June. A power hitter who up until last Thursday was still leading the PawSox in RBI, Brentz headed down to the Red Sox‚Äô spring training facility on June 16. That same day saw his Triple-A teammates kick off an eight-game road trip to Rochester and Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.
Based on what Brentz was describing, the 25-year-old appears lucky that he was shut down a second time before risking further damage.
‚ÄúSomething happened. (The hamstring) was feeling good, but maybe it wasn‚Äôt quite ready,‚ÄĚ Brentz explained. ‚ÄúThere was a lot of fluid and we might have missed a slight tear which I agitated I guess. At some point right before the series began at Durham, I locked up.
‚ÄúThat‚Äôs why we‚Äôre taking it day-by-day and making sure everything is intact.‚ÄĚ
Before he receives proper clearance to play games, Brentz must first undergo an MRI, which he has his fingers crossed will happen sometime over the next few weeks. His first MRI came when his hamstring didn‚Äôt respond to the rest and treatment that was prescribed prior to boarding a plane for the training facility at JetBlue Park. The findings revealed that Brentz was suffering from something resembling between a Grade 2 and Grade 3 strain, which is considered severe.
‚ÄúThat‚Äôs when they came to me and said ‚ÄėOkay, we‚Äôre going to shut you down and send you to Florida,‚Äô‚ÄĚ Brentz said.
Brentz has been reporting to the Red Sox‚Äô complex each day at 8 a.m. and departing sometime in the early afternoon. He says that his hamstring has held up just fine when engaging in the running exercises he‚Äôs done on an underwater treadmill.
This marks the second straight year that Brentz has missed significant time due to injury. Last summer, he underwent surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his right knee. The Tennessee native was able to return to Pawtucket at the tail end of the season.
The setback with the hamstring came at a time when Brentz appeared to have a strong shot to make his major-league debut and help out a Boston outfield unit that has been short on offensive firepower. Between the time he walked off the diamond in Indianapolis until now, Brentz has watched Alex Hassan and Mookie Betts get summoned to the Red Sox and Daniel Nava work his way back into the parent team‚Äôs good graces. The opportunities, whether it was Grady Sizemore getting released or the bumps experienced by Shane Victorino during his rehab quest, have no doubt been there, though Brentz isn‚Äôt about to play devil‚Äôs advocate or the ‚Äúwhat if?‚ÄĚ game.
‚ÄúIt‚Äôs unfortunate and bad timing. I can sit down and say ‚ÄėThis could have been me,‚Äô but there‚Äôs too many revolving pieces and unanswered questions to sit there and wonder,‚ÄĚ said Brentz, who last offseason was added to Boston‚Äôs 40-man roster. ‚ÄúAll I can do is show up and hope for the best.
‚ÄúA guy like Mookie getting called up compared to where he was a year ago (when the 21-year-old Betts was toiling in Single A), I‚Äôm excited to see him get an opportunity and I hope he makes the most of it. Sometimes it‚Äôs about being in the right place at the right time,‚ÄĚ Brentz added. ‚ÄúI know my time is going to come and when it does, I‚Äôm going to make the most of it.‚ÄĚ
For a player who dealt with a troublesome injury a year ago, Brentz understands the value in not putting a timetable on returning to the PawSox. Right now, all he‚Äôs focused on is taking batting practice in the indoor batting cage at JetBlue Park, which he says is on tap for Wednesday.
‚ÄúDespite how good I feel, there might be something there. We‚Äôre pushing it, but doing so in the right way where we‚Äôre safe,‚ÄĚ Brentz said. ‚ÄúI‚Äôm anxious to see what the next step is, but hopefully everything will continue so I can be back with the boys soon.‚ÄĚ
EXTRA BASES: Rich Hill reported to the PawSox on Monday, the same day the 34-year-old Massachusetts native could have opted out of his deal. The lefthanded Hill carried a 3-3 mark with a 3.25 ERA in 25 games into Monday‚Äôs game against Durham. ‚Ä¶ Carlos Rivero became the first PawSox player to receive International League Player of the Week honors. The infielder led the league with 12 hits while sparking Pawtucket to six wins in seven days. Rivero entered Monday with a .389 batting average in his last 10 games.
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