PAWTUCKET — Was Bryce Brentz resigned to the possibility that his season was over upon undergoing significant surgery to his right knee? A rollover-and-surrender attitude wouldn’t fit the PawSox outfielder’s hard-charging persona now, would it?
That said, the power hitter is a realist and understands the slippery slope that comes with accelerating the rehab timetable in order to return to the field this season.
“I’m trying to get back as soon as possible, but we’ll just have to wait and see,” said Brentz when reached earlier this week in Fort Myers, Fla., his days consumed with restoring strength to the torn meniscus that was operated on July 16. “I don’t think I’ll be back by the end of (Pawtucket’s regular season). It depends on how much the organization wants me to do as far as rehab, how many games they want me to play before rejoining (the Triple-A ranks).”
Brentz saw his 2013 season possibly go up in smoke the moment he slid awkwardly into second base during Pawtucket’s July 5 contest at Rochester.
“There was a groundball hit to third base. I was on first base and (the Red Wings) were trying to turn two,” Brentz recalled. “I was trying to break up the double play... I’m not trying to cause anybody an injury or whatever. I slid a little bit later than normal and my back foot got stuck.
“In my mind, I was thinking that I was going to slide through the bag, but I ended up doing a pop-up slide,” added Brentz. “When I did that, I did feel a pop on my right side. I tried my best to get off the field as soon as possible. After the second day of ice and treatment, it was determined that something wasn’t right.
“Surgery was the only option.”
Originally, Brentz was supposed to get operated on a few days following his on-field setback. The date of the surgery to repair the first significant baseball injury of his pro career was pushed back so that the 24-year-old could ward off the effects of food poisoning.
“I couldn’t hold any chow down, so they said they couldn’t operate on me in my condition,” said Brentz.
After a cooling-off period that encompassed 4-5 days, Brentz received clearance to have a surgery that came with a recovery time of 4-6 weeks. The procedure was performed in Boston.
“If you’re ever going to do something to your knee that requires surgery, you have to do the right thing. Luckily it wasn’t an ACL,” Brentz. “Every ballplayer wants to come back as quick as possible and think that they’re good to go. Once you get in a game, it’s different. You can test it out 1-on-1 with a trainer, but it’s not game speed and you run the risk of having a setback.”
Shifting gears to the road to recovery, Brentz says that the program the Red Sox prescribed has allowed him to move past the frustration stage. The fact that he’s been able to lift weights and perform squats free and easy some two-and-a-half weeks following surgery has him upbeat.
“Every day I’m asking the trainer, ‘What can I do next?’ I want my next exercise to be as hard as possible. If there’s something I can’t do, I’ll back off. I haven’t had to do that yet,” he said. “I’m trying to get back as soon as possible, but I don’t want to do anything that’s forced.”
Asked if he has a general sense of when he might be permitted to do baseball-related activities, Brentz said, “I haven’t asked that question. Right now, we’re talking about building strength back in the leg, especially in the quad areas, before we can test it out on the field. Playing catch and swinging a bat is not a big deal right now.”
Brentz does have an inkling of the kind of tests he’ll have to pass on the diamond before the Red Sox permit him to go on a rehab assignment.
“The things we’re going to have to save for last are those quick fire motions on the base paths or going back for a fly ball,” he says. “We’re making good progress. We haven’t had any bumps in the road.”
It’s been a roller coaster of a calendar year for Brentz, who saw his invitation to big-league spring training revoked after he accidentally shot himself in the leg in January. Though the specific incident was not mentioned, the 2010 sandwich pick took the opportunity to once again state that he regrets what took place.
“Rule No. 1, you always respect your firearms because you read all the time about people having accidents and how sad it is,” Brentz said. “I was eligible to get my carrying license from the state of Tennessee after taking some classes.
“You have that one moment where you get comfortable and forget that, ‘Oh my God, this thing can hurt you,’” continued Brentz. “I lost respect for my firearm … it was the same one that I had for a while. People make mistakes. I was embarrassed and very sorry that I put myself, my family and the Red Sox in that situation, but I came back healthy.”
With the gun incident behind him, Brentz entered the season with one clear-cut objective – place himself in a position that would result in Pawtucket manager Gary DiSarcina informing him that he was off to Boston and the major leagues for the first time in his pro odyssey.
A “serious knot in my throwing shoulder” limited Brentz to DH duties for a stretch in June. He still leads the PawSox in home runs (16) and RBI (53) despite not playing in nearly a month. In 75 games, he was hitting .272 while slugging at a .487 clip.
“In the past, I’ve been known to be streaky. This year I didn’t see much of a difference, which I appreciate,” Brentz said. “As rocky as it was off the field before spring training, I feel like everyone has moved on.”
Brentz doesn’t see cause for alarm despite drawing 19 walks in 300-plus plate appearances.
“One day I had a talk with (ex-Red Sox outfielder) Dwight Evans and (PawSox hitting coach) Dave Joppie. We didn’t see results right away, but eventually I started to see more pitches per at-bat,” he pointed out. “I’m never going to be a work-the-count kind of guy, but I’m staying back and not getting fooled on off-speed pitches as often. I think that goes a long way and you need to build on it.
“We were starting to get there and boom, I got hurt.”
Looking ahead, Brentz is a candidate to be added to Boston’s 40-man roster this offseason. Otherwise, the organization risks losing him to the Rule 5 draft that will take place at this December’s MLB Winter Meetings in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.
“You can sit there and wonder if this could have happened if I hadn’t gotten hurt. It’s bad given the timing of the injury, though it’s never a good time to get hurt,” Brentz said. “Instead of showing up to the field and hitting off a tee, I’m showing up and getting ice and riding a bike. The first couple of days were tough when I was walking around with a limp, but since the fourth day following surgery, I haven’t had a limp since.
“I still have to get my work in. It’s just not with the boys in Pawtucket,” said Brentz. “Hopefully I can join the team and we are in the playoffs and get some more games. We’ll see what happens.”
Follow Brendan McGair on Twitter @BWMcGair03