CLEVELAND, Ohio — One of the missing pieces in the Cleveland Indians’ outfield is optimistic about his chances to get back on the field by spring training.
Centerfielder Bradley Zimmer had surgery to repair a torn labrum in his right shoulder in July and missed the final three months of the 2018 season. The recovery time was reported at 8-12 months, but the 26-year-old is hoping to return sooner rather than later.
“Based on how I’m feeling now, I feel like I’ll be ready for spring training,” Zimmer said. “Whether they turn me lose by then or not, I feel like I’m in a really good place right now, physically.”
The Indians announced Friday that Zimmer is currently hitting off a tee and throwing up to 75 feet with no issues. He is expected to have some restrictions at start of training camp as he continues his return to play progression. Game activity will depend on his response to activity in February.
Zimmer thinks he originally injured the shoulder when he crashed into the center field wall at Yankee Stadium on May 5. He missed nearly three weeks with bruised ribs before being optioned to Class AAA Columbus where he suffered the shoulder injury during a workout.
“In the aftermath (of the crash) I kept playing and something felt a little weird,” Zimmer said. “I kept playing and then I took a swing and just felt a tear and some discomfort. Went and saw the doctors and addressed it from there.”
Zimmer, whose rookie season was cut short in 2017 when he suffered a broken hand while sliding head-first into first base during a September game against Baltimore, said it’s no fun watching the club win division titles while sidelined by injury, but the recovery time allowed him to focus on other areas.
“It’s a good learning time for you to reflect and get back to what works for you and your routine,” Zimmer said. “I had some time to myself to get physically back, but also mentally just where I need to be. I think I used all that time wisely and I’m feeling really good overall right now.”
While Zimmer does not plan to stop playing with the aggressiveness that made him a defensive weapon in manager Terry Francona’s outfield when he does return, there will probably be adjustments in how he handles some plays.
“I’ve always played the game pretty hard and I think it’s come back to bite me a little bit,” Zimmer said. “I’ll definitely be toning it down, but at the same time I’m going to be the same player and play aggressively. Just maybe a little smarter.”
With the departure of Michael Brantley in left field and big questions surrounding who will fill in the other holes in the lineup, Zimmer acknowledged a sense of urgency to get back on the field.
“In a perfect world I’d like to be healthy and ready to play by day one because I believe I belong on this team and I can contribute from the start of the season,” he said. “The timetable is not really in my hands as far as my progression. If everything goes the way it is right now, I should be ready by early in the season.”
Meanwhile, losing veteran leaders in the clubhouse such as Brantley and Edwin Encarnacion to free agency and trades has given the Tribe clubhouse a slightly different feel, Zimmer said.
“Losing Brant, he’s a big piece of our lineup and a big piece in the locker room,” Zimmer said. “Having him not in here definitely is going to be a little different. But I think we’ve got plenty of guys that have been here and that are new that can contribute and get us back to where we need to be.”