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Duck tales: Cody Puckett perseveres following gruesome knee injury

The third baseman has played the majority of the season after missing most of last season.

Long Island Ducks 3rd baseman Cody Puckett during

Long Island Ducks 3rd baseman Cody Puckett during a game against the New Britain Bees, Wednesday. Photo Credit: George A. Faella

The pain was indescribable, but Ducks third baseman Cody Puckett was willing to try as he stood on the other side of the most traumatic experience of his baseball career. The play was innocent enough — a sacrifice bunt in an early-season game last May, something that the Independent league veteran had done and seen many times before. But, as Puckett made his way up the first base line, he suddenly collapsed onto himself.

“I stopped at the wrong angle, heard a pop, the kneecap came up and I couldn’t even lift my leg,” Puckett, who missed the rest of last season, said.

The pain? Excruciating. The eventual diagnosis? A completely ruptured patella tendon in his right leg. The rehab? Long and arduous.

“It’s indescribable the amount of pain,” Puckett said. “The first couple minutes were just excruciating and then you go into shock . . . Once I felt my kneecap up in my quad area, I knew it was pretty bad.”

When the shock wore off, the reality set in — Puckett, who had been a staple in Central Islip for three seasons before the injury — a significant time period in the Atlantic League — might never play again. It was a daunting possibility, and one that definitely crossed his mind.

“I couldn’t walk and was probably in bed for six weeks,” Puckett, who stayed with his in-laws on Long Island last summer before returning to his Las Vegas home in October, said. “I had to keep it straight. There were just all kind of questions. You never know if you’re going to play again, but luckily I made it out here.”

Puckett continued, “I wanted to come back. I didn’t want to go out like that, so after the initial month my mindset turned to ‘I’m coming back. I’m not finishing like this.’ I never had a doubt that I wanted to come back, I just had to make sure I was able to.”

He was and, health-wise, he’s been setback free. Puckett returned to the scene of his gruesome injury in spring training and, despite still having to rehab two to three times a week, has played the majority of the season. Entering play Saturday, Puckett was hitting .223 with two home runs and 17 RBIs in 51 games.

Puckett said he needed to make a minor adjustment to his batting stance because of the injury — shortening up his pronounced leg kick.

“It just takes time to get back,” Puckett said. “I’m not going to feel how I felt last year before [the injury]. It’s always going to be different. There’s always going to be weakness on that side. You just have to learn how to work around it.”

Lyons reaches milestone

Ducks shortstop Dan Lyons — affectionately known as ‘shorty’ — smacked the 1,000th hit of his 12-year professional career Friday night. 732 of those hits have come during his eight seasons with the Ducks.

Lyons, who was hitting .215 entering play Saturday, played parts of four seasons for Class A affiliates in the Nationals system.

Reliever Perez heads to DL

The Ducks bullpen lost a key piece Friday when they put Atlantic League All-Star Wander Perez on the disabled list with an elbow injury. Ducks manager Kevin Baez said the injury has been bothering Perez for “a week or so,” and the team decided to put him on the shelf after Thursday’s win over the New Britain Bees.

“He was feeling a little tightness in his elbow, so we thought we’d shut him down, get him some treatment, and go from there,” Baez said.

Perez is 2-1 with a 2.82 ERA, 26 strikeouts, and nine walks in 28 2⁄3 innings in 31 appearances.

Baez said he’s hoping that Perez only misses the Ducks’ seven-game road trip, which starts Monday night in Lancaster. Ashur Tolliver is expected to step in for Perez, especially against lefties. Tolliver, who pitched briefly for the Astros last season, was 1-2 with a 4.72 ERA, 26 strikeouts, and 17 walks in 25 appearances (26 2⁄3 innings), entering play Saturday.

K-Rod watch

Ducks closer Francisco Rodriguez was 2-0 with a 3.13 ERA and 15 saves in 23 appearances. He pitched a scoreless ninth and got the save in the Ducks 3-0 victory over New Britain Wednesday in the second game of a doubleheader. He had 22 strikeouts and 12 walks in 23 innings entering play Saturday.

K-Rod watch

Ducks closer Francisco Rodriguez was 2-0 with a 3.13 ERA and 15 saves in 23 appearances. He pitched a scoreless ninth and got the save in the Ducks 3-0 victory over New Britain Wednesday in the second game of a doubleheader. He had 22 strikeouts and 12 walks in 23 innings entering play Saturday.

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