Hunter loses another battle with a wall, exits with left knee contusion
DETROIT — The residuals of throwing his body around like a 29-year-old in the playoffs lingered well into the offseason for Torii Hunter.
Former manager Jim Leyland may have said Hunter was the toughest player he’d ever managed, but the 38-year-old outfielder didn’t feel right until almost the new year, and joked in January that he figured he’d go to spring training at “like 92 percent.”
“There’s no such thing as 100,” he said at the time.
Especially at his age.
Hunter can joke all he wants about being 29 — again — but the reality is that things are going to linger with him longer than they would have in his younger days.
Things like the postseason pounding he put on his own body.
Things like Tuesday’s bang-up, when he slid awkwardly into the wall at Dodger Stadium, chasing after a second-inning foul fly. He appeared to bang his knee into the base of the wall, and stayed down.
He remained in the game for two more innings, leaving before the fifth inning with what was called a left knee contusion by the team. Manager Brad Ausmus told reporters he'd probably rest Hunter for Wednesday's game.
"I don't like little fences. Little fences are dangerous," Hunter told reporters, saying that Tuesday's collision "hurt worse" than his postseason incident.
Hunter is officially ‘day-to-day’ — and that very well may be the case.
The percentages, though, at Hunter’s age, say that’s probably not all that logical to expect.
Just look at how long it took to recover from two such instances in the postseason.
First, Hunter jammed his shoulder diving after a ball off the bat of Coco Crisp in the American League Division Series. Then he made the infamous flip — “I went over like a bat out of hell. It was crazy,” he said — into the Fenway Park bullpens, trying to track down David Ortiz’s grand slam.
“It took me until actually a couple weeks ago. Maybe three or four weeks ago,” said Hunter in January. He was getting Toradol injections for his shoulder, even before he took the concussion-inducing tumble over the wall at Fenway. “My lower back — I had so many issues. I was getting up for a month and a half like, ‘Baby, my back!’ Like ‘Baby, my back, my shoulder, my ankles!’”
Chances are, even if Hunter’s current issue is an order of magnitude less than the ones that hampered him in the offseason, the team will be careful with him, choosing to err on the side of caution.
There may be more more of an emphasis on protecting Hunter, as he approaches the age of 40.
Even new manager Brad Ausmus inserted a word of that type of caution Sunday, when talking about Hunter’s hot start.
“The one thing with Torii, with his age, you want to make sure he gets rest, but the plus to the off days we have early in the season is that he gets rest, and can pretty much play every games. If we’re in a stretch of 15 straight games, even if Torii’s hot, we’re probably going to have to take him out of the lineup to rest him. I guess if he’s going to be hot, it’s good that we have some off days to rest him.”