SARASOTA, Fla. — The last week of spring training is always the worst, Baltimore Orioles manager Buck Showalter said Monday. You're just trying to get through it so you can start the regular season.
And then something like this happens to Wilson Betemit.
Betemit tore the posterior cruciate ligament in his right knee as he ran the bases in a Grapefruit League game Monday. He lay in the dirt near second base in the fifth inning after collapsing in a heap, first writhing in obvious pain and then being alarmingly still for moments at a time. Betemit eventually was lifted to his feet and carried to a cart by trainer Richie Bancells and coach Wayne Kirby as Showalter hovered with concern. Later, Betemit's knee was put in a full brace to keep it still.
The Orioles say an MRI revealed a grade 2-3 tear, which means Betemit is straddling the line between trying rehab and needing reconstructive surgery.
UPDATE: The injury will not require surgery. Betemit will be out 6-8 weeks. His ACL is fully intact. Here's what he told reporters Tuesday morning:
“Oh yeah, it felt like my legs, my bones, felt like I had broke everything,” Betemit said. “And then yesterday after they took me to the MRI they told me it was my ligament in the back, everything is connected, but it’s stretched too much. That’s why I have to wear this [brace] so I can connect them back.”
MASN's Roch Kubato has a little more on what the PCL does. Showalter was hoping for a PCL strain instead of an ACL, but a grade three tear usually means surgery. Really, Showalter was hoping it wasn't Betemit's knee at all.
"I was hoping it was his hamstring," Showalter said somberly.
And Betemit was having a good day, too.
He hit a three-run home run against the Red Sox and had a sacrifice fly, and was projected as an important piece in the Orioles lineup — he was going to be the DH against right-handed pitchers, along with the top backup on the corners in the infield. But replacing him in the lineup wasn't worrying Showalter on Monday.
"I’m more concerned about Wilson as a human being than what he does for our club," Showalter said. "What it does for our club kind of pales in comparison. You don’t want to lose the person."
To that end, Showalter said he left the Orioles dugout at Ed Smith Stadium and went to the clubhouse to see Betemit not long after the injury happened. A luxury of it being spring training — yet it's hard to imagine Showalter leaving the dugout for any reason.
"I saw him on the ground. ... I watched it. ... I came up here and spent a little time with him," Showalter said. "He’s pretty down right now. Wilson’s one of the better young men in the game. And for him personally, we’ll have to hope we get lucky. He’s a tough guy. For him to lay there, you know he’s in some pain."
The injury stunned Betemit's teammates, too. Relief pitcher Pedro Strop, who was making his second appearance since pitching for the Dominican Republic in the World Baseball Classic, said it was hard to see his friend and countryman on the ground.
"It definitely had our attention," Strop said.
Betemit and teammate Alexi Casilla had greeted Strop so warmly, too, dressing his locker with a Dominican flag upon his return from victory in the tournament.
"He’s an amazing teammate," Strop said. "He’s always pushing for his teammates. He’s a hard worker. It’s tough for me to see him like that. I know he worked to prepare for the 2013 season. He didn't even want to play winter ball because he wanted to get his body ready.
"But things happen and you’ve got to stick with it."
Even if Betemit's injury is one that will take months to heal, the O's plan is to replace him from within. Before a recurring wrist injury ended his season early in 2012, Betemit slugged .502 against right-handed pitching, third on the club after Adam Jones and Chris Davis. The Orioles managed to make the playoffs anyway.
But missing Betemit is no small consideration, no matter how you look at it.
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