MILWAUKEE — Christian Yelich’s fractured kneecap won’t require surgery so the Milwaukee Brewers outfielder should be ready to go for spring training next February.
“Based on the MRIs, the initial imaging we took (Wednesday) and the evaluations from our doctors, it looks like Christian will be able to avoid surgery,” team general manager David Stearns said before Thursday’s 3-2 win over the Marlins in Miami.
“If that is the case, the time frame of return is likely 8-10 weeks. (Yelich’s) leg will be immobilized for a while and then there will be strengthening and rehab after that.”
Stearns said the reigning NL MVP will not be able to return to the field this year, even if the Brewers advance to the World Series.
“We do not anticipate any long-term effects, which is the best news of all,” Stearns said.
Yelich’s injury came in the first inning of Milwaukee’s game Tuesday night against the Marlins, when he fouled a pitch off his right knee. After spending several minutes on the ground being checked out by the team’s medical staff, Yelich was able to walk off the field under his own power but X-rays at the stadium revealed the fracture.
Yelich returned to Milwaukee on Wednesday for further examination and will seek a second opinion over the weekend, but for the time being, the Brewers are breathing a sigh of relief.
“I think we all just felt relieved for Christian,” Stearns said. “This was weighing on him. I know he didn’t want to have to go through surgery, so to get this news — assuming the second opinion corroborates this news — that’s really good.”
After a historic finish to the 2018 season, Yelich reported to camp this year with high expectations. He insisted he felt no additional pressure to live up to those expectations but managed to exceed them and put himself in the mix for a second consecutive MVP honor.
In 130 games, Yelich hit .329 with 44 home runs and 97 RBIs while leading the NL with a .429 OBP and all of baseball with a .671 slugging percentage and 1.100 OPS.
He didn’t speak to reporters after the injury but thanked fans for their support in a tweet on Thursday.
“Frustrating way for a season to end but these things happen in sports,” Yelich said in the Tweet. “I will be just fine and am looking forward to making a full recovery and supporting the boys the rest of the season.”
Yelich’s diagnosis isn’t the only good news the Brewers received on the injury front.
Right-hander Brandon Woodruff, out since July with a strained oblique, threw to three batters in a simulated game Wednesday in Miami and could be back on the mound within a week, Stearns said.
“We’re going to continue to talk about that today and tomorrow but given the early results of how he felt yesterday, how he’s recovering this morning, it’s probably safe to say that he should be back on a major league mound within a week,” Stearns said. “We don’t know the exact day yet or how we’ll implement that, but I’d say some point over the next week we’ll see him on a major league mound pitching for us.”
Woodruff’s progress comes after Mike Moustakas returned to the Brewers’ starting lineup Wednesday night after being limited to minimal action for more than a week thanks to a bruised wrist. The third baseman finished with three hits, including a pair of home runs, and drove in five as the Brewers rallied for a 7-5 victory.
Milwaukee also activated second baseman Keston Hiura from the injured list Wednesday. While he’ll still need some time to fully recover from a strained hamstring, the hot-hitting rookie is expected to be available for pinch-hitting duty sometime this weekend.
Those returns couldn’t come at a more opportune time. With a seven-game winning streak and tied with the Chicago Cubs for the NL’s second wild card spot, the Brewers head to St. Louis this weekend with a chance to gain ground on the NL Central-leading Cardinals before returning for their final homestand of the season.
“We’ve responded really well,” Stearns said. “We’ve had a challenging time over the course of this season clicking on all cylinders, getting all phases of our team going well at the same time. But we knew that if we could get that we were and are very capable of running off a really good stretch. We’ve started to do that; we need to continue to do that.
“We have a lot of baseball left. We’re playing teams that are still competing at a high level, and so it’s going to be an exciting couple weeks. But to make up the ground we’ve made up in the standings in a week certainly helps, and that’s not easy to do and we recognize that.“