OAKLAND, Calif. — Dustin Fowler hobbled into his new clubhouse on crutches, a bulky brace protecting his surgically repaired right knee.
The Oakland Athletics’ likely center fielder of the future didn’t know anybody Tuesday, a day after being traded by the Yankees in the deal that sent Sonny Gray to New York. As Gray’s news conference in the Bronx showed on the A’s clubhouse TV with his former teammates tuning in, Fowler discussed his own journey West.
Fowler is from the tiny town of Cadwell, Georgia — population 526 in the 2016 Census — and the first baseball player from home to reach the majors.
“I’m just a small-town boy, I don’t know much about anything,” Fowler said matter-of-factly. “I’m ready to know everything and get to learn everything and get to learn everyone and get my career started here.”
On Tuesday, he quickly got acquainted with his new surroundings and met manager Bob Melvin as the A’s begun the process of evaluating his progress from a freak June 29 injury in the first inning of his major league debut.
He never even got a big league at-bat. Fowler had been on deck when the top of the first inning ended.
Then, running at full speed, the right fielder crashed into the low corner wall at Chicago’s Guaranteed Rate Field chasing Jose Abreu’s two-out foul. He suffered an open rupture of the patellar tendon in his knee when it hit a metal box used for Wi-Fi, and was carted off for immediate surgery to repair the damage and close the wound.
“It’s kind of unique and I think a lot of people know him for that,” Melvin said. “We’ve had an issue with that fence there, too. You get over there it’s just at a bad height. Maybe they end up doing something about that. We didn’t feel like the injury wasn’t something that he couldn’t get past. Obviously it’s going to take a little bit of time. But the forecast is for him to be ready for spring training next year and this isn’t a significant injury that would take away from some of his athleticism. He looks like a pretty confident kid.”
The 22-year-old outfielder is on the 60-day disabled list and will stay with the club to rehab for the time being as they monitor the steps of his rehab. Fowler hopes to return to baseball activities in December and be fully healthy for spring training.
“I know he’s pretty good and does a little bit of everything. He can play the outfield well, he plays center field, he’s got some power, you look at the numbers he can run some,” Melvin said. “So he looks to be exactly the type of athlete we’re looking for. We need to get a little bit more athletic I think within our system. He’s a good start for that.”
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