With Brandon Belt continuing to battle knee issues throughout September — manager Bruce Bochy said there could be meniscus involvement, and he could have surgery this offseason — the San Francisco Giants’ first base options are getting thin.
Ryder Jones — who injured his left knee during a swing two days ago — will be going under the knife Wednesday, limiting San Francisco’s backup options to utility man Chase d’Arnaud, backup catcher Aramis Garcia, outfielder Austin Slater — starting Tuesday — and Joe Panik.
The loss of Jones and Belt’s limited availability — he’ll be day-to-day, Bochy said — makes what’s been an already-painful season that much worse for the Giants. Had he not been hurt, odds are that Jones would have gotten quite a bit of time to prove himself against major league pitching, as San Francisco looks towards a likely younger lineup in 2019.
The injury for Jones is “basically identical” to one he suffered in 2015, while playing for the San Jose Giants against the Bakersfield Blaze — then the Seattle Mariners’ Single-A California League affiliate. In his third at-bat of an 0-for-3 day on Sept. 5, Jones fouled a ball off and dislocated the patella in his left (back) knee while swinging.
“It was like deja vu,” Jones said. “Right when I did it, I knew exactly what I did. I could feel the kneecap go, and when [trainer Dave Groeschner] got up to help me out, it was already back in. It’s just painful.”
He didn’t have surgery the first time he dislocated his patella, but will have surgery this time, performed by Dr. Kenneth Akizuki, a San Francisco-based orthopedist. Jones will stay in the City while the team is in town, and head out to Arizona when they’re on the road to rehab at the team’s spring training facility.
“I’ve watched the replay [of Sunday] 100 times just to see,” Jones said. “I think my knee just kept going and my cleat got stuck in the clay. They did tell me that once you dislocate your kneecap the first time, your tendons are going to be a little bit looser than the average person’s tendons. Doing it a second time, they’re even looser now. After the first time, you usually don’t get surgery.”
The procedure will be in part to tighten up the tendons — like last time, none tore — and to clean out some patellar tendonitis. Jones has suffered from that most of the year, but which did not contribute to the injury.
“My tendons are loose, just because I’ve dislocated it twice, so they’re going to tighten everything up,” Jones said. “I think the timeline is mid-December to Christmas, I’ll be hitting off a tee and throwing. Should be good for spring.”
Jones — who has never had surgery — said that he may be not quite conditioned enough by the time spring training rolls around, so he might start off a bit slow, in terms of games.
“Ground balls and baseball stuff, I should be good to go,” Jones said.
The 2013 second-round pick played in 53 games last season, hitting .173 as San Francisco endured a 98-loss campaign, but only plated sparingly at the big league level this season. In five games for the Giants this season, he’s hit .375 with two home runs.
“Obviously small sample size, but I felt really good,” Jones said.
At Triple-A Sacramento, Jones hit .274 with 11 home runs, four triples, 22 doubles and 59 RBIs in 116 games — his first full season at Triple-A after hitting .312 with 13 home runs in 64 games with the River Cats a year ago.
Because the tendonitis is in his back leg, Jones has thought that it could be possible the tendonitis sapped a bit of his power.
“I’d noticed my power numbers were a little bit down in Triple-A this year, and I don’t know how much of a factor it played into it,” Jones said. “It’s my drive leg, so maybe a little bit, but I felt decently well the whole season.”
Still, he’s confident that, next year, he’ll be able to compete for a spot on the big league roster.
“I felt really comfortable this year,” Jones said. “We’ll see what happens. I don’t have any expectations. Just carry the confidence in. It’s tough to be at the hotel room thinking about this. It sucks. Nothing you can do about it. Just stay positive and rehab and be healthy.”