SAN DIEGO - Brian Giles feels Carlos Beltran's pain. Or at least he did before microfracture surgery on his right knee in October 2007. And knowing what he does now about the nature of bone bruises, the Padres' outfielder has some advice for Beltran as he considers a return this season.
"Tell him to be smart," Giles said before yesterday's game. "I would let it calm down and be ready for next year after what I've been through."
The Mets may be starting to think that way, too. Beltran had talked about coming back by late August, but the team scrapped plans for him to travel to Port St. Lucie while the Mets were on the West Coast. Instead, Beltran remained in New York, where his physical therapy could be closely monitored by the medical staff.
When Giles, 38, was asked about his own knee history, which is very similar to what Beltran is experiencing now, Giles told a cautionary tale of trying to play through a serious bone bruise in 2007. It only became worse, even after sitting out six weeks and taking a few painkilling injections, in a failed attempt to let it heal.
"I got it good enough to go," Giles said. "And I think the constant pounding after doing it eventually softened my cartilage up to where I hit the bag one time trying to beat out an infield hit and I felt a pop. We know that's when the cartilage came off the bone there."
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Giles initially slammed his knee into a metal wall bracket at Wrigley Field during April of that season, and after the extended stay on the disabled list, he hurt himself more seriously in pushing for that infield hit at Shea Stadium in August. Only now does Giles realize that he underestimated the severity.
"Between your adrenaline, and wanting to go out there and compete, there's a lot of things that go through your head," Giles said. "You really don't realize that, hey, the injury's worse than maybe what people think it is."
Beltran, 32, had surgery to "clean out" both knees before the 2008 season and reported no problems at the start of this year - until an MRI revealed a bone bruise that landed him on the disabled list June 22. Three weeks later, another MRI showed that the bruise was roughly the same size, despite the time off.
"It's frustrating because you basically walk around fine, but when you load that patellar tendon with all that weight and it goes over that bone area that's bruised, it bites you pretty good," Giles said. "It just takes time for that area to heal up."
Just last week, Beltran pushed himself to take batting practice and shag fly balls in the outfield in the hope that he could return later this month. Both he and the team now think that could be unrealistic. And after listening to Giles talk about his experience, Beltran sounds like a good candidate for microfracture surgery.
The decision was made to hold off on the procedure after Beltran visited the prestigious Steadman-Hawkins Clinic in Colorado in June. Giles had his done at the Scipps Clinic in La Jolla, Calif., by Padres orthopedist Heinz Hoenecke, who trained at the Steadman Clinic. After surgery in October 2007, Giles made it back ahead of schedule for the end of spring training.
"There's a lot of risk with this injury," Giles said. "Especially a young player like him, it could affect him for a long period of time. You never know."