Yankees' Dustin Fowler on knee injury: 'Couldn't believe what was going on'

ESPN logo
Thursday, July 6, 2017

NEW YORK -- Dustin Fowler remembers adrenaline surging through his veins when he took the field last week for his major league debut. And then before he even stepped into a big league batter's box, the 22-year-old crumpled to the field with a season-ending knee injury after crashing into a low wall while chasing a foul ball.

"Just couldn't believe what was going on," he said Wednesday, hobbling into a Yankee Stadium news conference on crutches.

An 18th-round draft pick in 2013 from West Laurens High School in Dexter, Georgia, the outfielder climbed through the Yankees' minor league system and earned his first call-up last Thursday because of New York's mushrooming injuries.

Fowler was on deck when the top of the first ended that night.

"You want a quick inning so you can go ahead and get to your at-bat," he said.

But Fowler ran at full speed into a wall in the right-field corner at Chicago's Guaranteed Rate Field chasing Jose Abreu's two-out foul. He ruptured the patellar tendon in his right knee when it hit a metal box used for Wi-Fi, and he was carted off for immediate surgery to repair the damage and close an open wound.

"Worked my tail off all this time, finally got there, and the first 15 minutes I was on the field I hit the wall," he said. "When I was sitting on the field, it felt like it was eternity. The only thing I could think of is just not being able to believe what happened happened."

He needed a pair of crutches to make his way across the hallway from the Yankees clubhouse to the interview room. His injured leg was encased in a device that kept it 180 degrees, so the knee would not bend.

"First couple nights were rough, but here lately it's starting to get better. So a lot of the swelling and the pain's getting away," he said. "I'm on antibiotics right now because there was a open wound when I hit the wall, so they're just trying to make sure I don't get infected."

Fowler attributed the injury to his style of play.

"I'm always a guy that's going to try and do everything I can to make the play. Got to it too aggressively," he said. "I don't really regret anything. I think I would give the same effort if I did it all over again."

After the game, Yankees manager Joe Girardi was angry the metal box was left unprotected.

"I can't say that I wouldn't have been hurt if I didn't hit it. I mean I could have easily torn an ACL," Fowler said. "I'm not really blaming anyone or anything for how it happened."

He hit .293 with 13 homers at 43 RBIs at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre this year and was selected to play in the International League All-Star Game. Fowler faces four-to-six months of rehabilitation, meaning he should be ready for the start of spring training in mid-February.

"Got a long process to get it going," he said, "but hopefully I'll be there and be able to actually get that first at-bat."