OAKLAND – Ben Zobrist plans to have surgery to trim the torn meniscus in his left knee, a procedure the A’s estimate will keep their second baseman sidelined four to six weeks.
Zobrist, who missed four games before serving as designated hitter Friday night, said he needed to test his knee in a game environment to gauge how his knee was. The switch-hitter found he was still experiencing pain when swinging from the right side. Echoing comments he made on the last road trip, Zobrist said he can’t be the player the A’s need him to be in his current physical state.
It’s the latest key injury absorbed by the A’s, who already were without All-Star closer Sean Doolittle and left fielder Coco Crisp, among others. In Zobrist, they lose arguably the most valuable player on their entire roster given his ability to play multiple infield positions as well as the outfield.
For example, Zobrist very likely would have found himself playing a corner outfield spot Saturday with Eric Sogard handling second against Astros right-hander Scott Feldman. With Zobrist out and Mark Canha struggling of late, manager Bob Melvin penciled in Cody Ross to play left field, though Ross was acquired as a platoon player slated to play only against lefties.
“We’ll get him back sooner than later,” Melvin said of Zobrist. “… (But) he’s a significant factor for us. Depending on the timetable, we’re going to get him back for most of the season. So these are things you have to deal with over the course of the season.”
His injury set in motion some late-night roster shuffling Friday. Infielder Max Muncy got a call from Triple-A manager Steve Scarsone at about 1:30 a.m. local time in Nashville alerting him he was getting his first major league promotion.
The 24-year-old Muncy, a fifth-round draft pick in 2012 out of Baylor University, arrived to find his name in the starting lineup at third base.
As for Zobrist, his surgery has yet to be scheduled. But he said it would be a procedure to trim damaged meniscus rather than repair the meniscus or remove it completely, two options that are sometimes considered. He originally hurt his knee Sunday at Kansas City, when he banged it hard into the ground while sliding into second base.
“I just wasn't getting out of the box well at all, and frankly, the worst thing was just trying to swing,” Zobrist said. “When I swung right-handed specifically, it put a lot of pressure on that front knee, the left knee. I just didn't feel like I was in the kind of condition I need to be to help the club.
“It's been a continual process the last six days since it happened. Let's see how it feels, let's see how it reacts. And yesterday it just didn't go well. … I wasn't close enough to 100 percent to keep trying to do this for five or six months until the offseason.”
Muncy was a first baseman when he entered the A’s system, but they began experimenting with him at third last season. He also played there extensively this spring during his first big league camp. Muncy hit .364 with two home runs and 10 RBI in 23 Cactus League games.
He’d appeared in just one game at third this regular season with Triple-A Nashville, so it’s quite the assignment being handed to him for his major league debut. Perhaps that challenge won’t even have time to sink in with Muncy by the time he takes the field Saturday afternoon. He didn’t arrive at the Coliseum until a little after 10 a.m. following his early-morning flight. Muncy had to ask teammates how to get around the Coliseum leading up to game time.
“I’m running on about one hour’s sleep right now,” he said. "It’s gonna be a long day but it’ll be a fun day.”