Dodgers' Kent has knee surgery, could return this month
LOS ANGELES -- Dodgers second baseman Jeff Kent had arthroscopic surgery on his left knee Tuesday morning and might be able to return to action this month.
Trainer Stan Conte said the outpatient procedure to clean out debris from the cartilage tear on Kent's knee took 20 minutes. No additional problems were discovered. Kent, who is on the disabled list for the eighth time in his big league career, will be able to start the rehabilitation process on Wednesday.
"Baseball players have come back from this in two or three weeks, but I don't want to get too far ahead of ourselves in regard to that," Conte said. "We'll only be able to move as fast or as slow as the knee allows us to go. There is no magical healing time that we have to wait."
Conte has attended to Kent's wide assortment of bumps and bruises for eight of the five-time All-Star's 17 seasons in the majors -- six with the San Francisco Giants and the last two with the Dodgers.
"As he was going under -- and if you've ever had surgery, you know that you kind of go in and out in the last seconds -- the last thing he said was: 'Make sure I can ride a motorcycle in four weeks.' So I assume that means playing baseball before that," Conte said.
Manager Joe Torre was relieved the injury wasn't more serious, especially with the Dodgers 2½-games behind the NL West-leading Arizona Diamondbacks heading into Tuesday night's game against San Diego. At first, the club was concerned not only that the injury would end the former NL MVP's season at age 40, but also his career.
"It just turned out to be what they thought it would be, which is good news," Torre said.
Kent, whose 350 home runs as a second baseman are a big league record, left Friday night's game in Arizona with pain in his left knee. An MRI taken Sunday revealed torn cartilage, and he was placed on the disabled list for the first time since 2006.
"It's a matter of getting the swelling out, getting his range [of motion] back, and then getting him to walk, jog, run, hit and throw -- in that progression," said Conte, who spent part of the afternoon at Kent's home. "That progression can be quick, or the knee can limit us for days."
Kent, who turns 41 in March, has yet to formally announce his plans following the final season of his $18 million, two-year contract with the Dodgers. He is hitting .275 with 11 homers and 57 RBIs.
Conte didn't talk to Kent about his plans for next season -- before or after the surgery -- but is confident he won't have to undergo extensive surgery on the knee if he decides to play one more year.
"It doesn't look like it," Conte said. "The knee looked very, very good. I've got to tell you, for a 40-year-old who is just a weekend athlete, his knee looked good. For a 40-year-old who's played baseball for 17 years, it looked incredibly well."
Initially, there was concern whether Kent would be reduced to pinch-hitting duty if he did come back before the season ended because of the nature of his position and the range it requires. But Conte doesn't expect there to be any limitations on him if he is given a clean bill of health.
Kent is one of eight different players to start at second base this season for Torre. The latest is Blake DeWitt, who started the campaign on the 25-man roster as a last-minute callup from the minors because of Nomar Garciaparra's fractured left hand. The Dodgers won the first three games DeWitt started after Kent went down.
"Right now Blake DeWitt seems to be pretty comfortable over there," Torre said. "Hopefully he remains that way. He has a lot of confidence, and we're helping him from the bench the best we can, as far as positioning and stuff. But he has a good feel for it, he has instincts, and I think he'll do fine."
Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press
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