Back too soon, Gibbons blames only self

Impatient, trying to shed fragile tag, he knew knee wasn't `100%' before reinjury

June 15, 2006|By JEFF ZREBIEC | JEFF ZREBIEC,SUN REPORTER

TORONTO -- Jay Gibbons sat and watched Orioles games for more than two weeks, nursing a tear of the posterior cruciate ligament and knowing that his right knee would not be pain- free for some time.

Three days ago, he decided he was healthy enough to return to the lineup, a decision that now appears costly with the outfielder back on the disabled list. Gibbons aggravated his injury Tuesday, trying to tag up from second in the second inning. He will be out until the beginning of July at the earliest.

Gibbons defended the timing of his comeback before last night's game, saying it was his choice and that he didn't regret it, considering the circumstances.

"The Orioles told me the risk in coming back was minimal," Gibbons said. "It wasn't 100 percent, wasn't going to be 100 percent for a while. The decision was mine. It really was. I took into account that they told me that I had a very small chance of reinjuring it. But I didn't reinjure it. I aggravated it. I don't blame anybody for it."

Gibbons worked out in Minnesota last Saturday and said he ran and cut well enough to return. He said it was a matter of deciding whether to sit out for an additional two weeks - PCL tears usually take about four to six weeks to heal - or come back and play through the pain.

"It was going to take another few weeks to get better, so it's either play on it and try to get better through playing or take another three weeks off," said Gibbons, who is hitting .274 with 10 homers and 29 RBIs. "It doesn't make a difference that I am back on the DL, because I would have missed another two weeks anyway. That was my choice. I don't want to wait three weeks. I want to test it out. I felt good hitting. I don't regret doing it. You can't control injuries."

Orioles executive vice president Mike Flanagan affirmed last night that Gibbons didn't do any further damage to his knee, which he first hurt May 26.

"The hip condition was 100 percent, and the knee thing would be a lingering issue for a while," Flanagan said. "There was some sense that he would be limited, but all parties felt he could [play]. The diagnosis is it's just the re-sprain. It's nothing worse. He just needs to strengthen the knee."

Manager Sam Perlozzo also didn't fault Gibbons for the setback. "Jay is a gamer," he said. "Jay is about the team, the organization. It's natural for him to do everything possible to get back in the lineup.

Gibbons has endured a tough stretch after an offseason when he signed a four-year, $21.1 million deal with the Orioles, established Baltimore as his year-round home and got married. His mother died unexpectedly three weeks ago, and then just two days before his mother's funeral service, he crashed into a wall at Angel Stadium trying to field Vladimir Guerrero's inside-the-park home run.

The 29-year-old said he was looking forward to getting his mind back on baseball, but that didn't influence his decision to return. Nor did trying to shed the reputation that he is injury-prone. He has spent significant time on the disabled list in three of his six Orioles seasons.

"I really don't care what people think," said Gibbons, who will continue to take batting practice and do other baseball activities. He plans on doing some rehabilitation in California or Arizona, where he works out in the offseason.

"I want to help out my team. I want to play for the fans and the city. They gave me a nice new contract. I want to earn my contract. I feel like I can earn it very well being on the field."

jeff.zrebiec@baltsun.com

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