11/04/09 11:43 AM EST
Inge undergoes successful knee surgery
Tigers third baseman should be ready by Spring Training
By Joe Frisaro / MLB.com
Team physician Dr. Stephen Lemos performed the operation on Tuesday at Detroit Medical Center. He examined Inge's ailing knees last month after a season in which they became an increasingly painful problem for the 32-year-old third baseman, sapping him of some of his power and range following a first-half resurgence that helped him win a spot on the American League All-Star team.
The Tigers medical staff recommended surgery as the safest way to fix the issue and have Inge ready for the start of Spring Training in February. Though non-surgical options were discussed, head athletic trainer Kevin Rand said they came with no guarantee that his knees would heal that way. If they didn't, he would need surgery anyway, and the delay could've cost him a good part of camp, if not put Opening Day in question.
"Basically, what it boiled down to is that the timetable looked like it was going to be surer with the surgery," Rand said last month.
As it is, Inge will not be able to put weight on his knees for six weeks. Once that time frame has passed, he'll begin rehabbing and strengthening the knees, a process that should have him ready for baseball activities around the start of February.
The procedure included debridement and repair of the left and right patellar tendons.
Inge's knees began bothering him early in the season and became a real problem in June. He felt something worsen in his left knee during the Tigers' Interleague series against the Cubs, and then further deteriorate in the ensuing weeks.
Around that time, Inge was diagnosed with microtears in the patella tendons of both knees.
The deterioration affected Inge's performance, both at the plate and in the field. Before the injury, he was having the best start to a season in his career, batting .275 with 18 home runs and 52 RBIs through June 30. He hit just .189 from July 1 to season's end, homering nine times and driving in 32 runs while striking out 99 times in 331 plate appearances.
Though some sort of dropoff might have been expected once pitchers adjusted to Inge's new approach at the plate, the injury hampered his ability to adjust. He fell out of some of the habits that improved his approach at the plate, and instead had to make adjustments aimed primarily at tempering the pain.
Inge continued to play, insisting that he wouldn't go on the disabled list unless doctors found a way to fix the injury with only the minimum 15-day stay on the DL. Tigers medical personnel tried everything they could short of surgery, including laser therapy and an experimental treatment called prolotherapy in which a glucose solution was injected into his left knee to promote healing. Nothing produced lasting results.
Though Inge set a career high with 84 RBIs and tied another with 27 homers, his .230 batting average was the second-lowest among Major League players with enough plate appearances to qualify for a batting title. Only Carlos Pena batted lower, at .227. Inge's 170 strikeouts ranked second among AL hitters to Jack Cust's 185.
There's no guarantee Inge will get back to his first-half form after surgery, just as it isn't guaranteed that Inge will have the old jump from his knees. Still, Rand likes his chances.
"You know Brandon as well as I do. He's a pretty tough kid," Rand said last month. "That same tenacity is going to do him well in rehab. He'll feel a lot better than what he did this year."
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.