Hairston on the mend, missing teammates

Hairston on the mend, missing teammates

SAN DIEGO -- While the Dodgers fight the good fight for the last playoff berth, Jerry Hairston is home, cheering them on while rehabbing from hip surgery.

Hairston had a hip impingement, and that should sound familiar to Dodgers fans. Clayton Kershaw is pitching with one.

Hairston's impingement resulted, as it often does, in a torn labrum that required surgical repair this month.

"After two weeks, I feel better than I thought I would," said Hairston, who is signed through next season. "The first three days were real difficult. But I can see that I'll definitely be active in two to three months, no question."

The procedure is arthroscopic, but not minor. His left leg was placed in traction to separate the leg from the hip far enough for arthroscopic tools to enter the joint. The torn labrum was repaired and an irregularity in the head or neck of the femur that caused the impingement was shaved to allow for smooth rotation in the joint. When the ball and socket don't fit properly, friction tears the labrum.

There has been no confirmation from Kershaw or the club that his condition will require such surgery, although that's the widespread speculation. No two patients or injuries are the same and Hairston made it clear that he has no knowledge of Kershaw's condition beyond the impingement diagnosis.

"I can't speak for Clayton. I don't know exactly what's going on and only he knows his body," said Hairston. "I know he's as competitive as it gets. He thinks he can overcome anything. Look at his track record. He's done so much in his career at such a young age. He never thinks there's anything he can't accomplish."

Hairston said his hip began bothering him shortly before he strained a hamstring muscle in May. He said the injury originally presented itself as tightness in the groin area. That type of referred pain is common because of sensitive nerves in the hip labrum. Kershaw also initially complained of groin pain.

"It was really irritating me and I think I taped my quad and hip flexor so tight that it caused the hamstring," said Hairston. "I came back from the All-Star break and thought, 'Are you kidding me? It's still bothering me.'

"I tried to fight through it and not tell anybody, but my play started to be erratic. It was affecting my throws. I couldn't plant my legs. My swing, I had no bat speed. At that point I felt I was hurting the team and I couldn't live with myself hurting the team, not the way I was playing."

Hairston was hitting .315 when he pulled the hamstring. His third game back at the end of May, he went 5-for-5. But by mid-June, the hip worsened. In mid-August while in Miami, Hairston felt severe pain diving for a ground ball and decided it was time to say something.

Hairston's surgery was performed in Vail, Colo., by Dr. Marc Philippon, who had a pair of his baseball patients contact Hairston to discuss the operation.

"Alex Rodriguez called and Brian Roberts," he said. "Roberts had his three weeks before me. They both said the first three to five weeks can be tough, but in the end I'll feel a lot better and next year I'll say I'm so glad I had it done. Because I couldn't play the way I was. It was unbearable, to be playing at the Major League level like that."

Hairston said he's walking with one crutch while wearing a brace from his knee to hip for stabilization. He returns to Vail for a checkup at the two-month mark, when he hopes to be cleared for baseball activities.

In the meantime, he is rehabbing at Athletes Performance Institute near his Phoenix-area home, when he's not enjoying bonus family time that includes carpooling and domestic duties ballplayers rarely perform before October.

"The positive is that I've been able to spend time with my family. That part's been great," he said. "Driving the kids to school, things you never get to do this time of year when you're playing, as much as it pains me not being part of the team.

"Watching my teammates has been extremely difficult. Obviously I miss the camaraderie. I was one of the vocal guys. It's been difficult. But with the moves made, I think it's extremely positive for the future. In the end, Dodgers fans will be very pleased."

Versatile offensively and defensively, Hairston provided manager Don Mattingly with lineup flexibility and clubhouse leadership.

"I don't sit around thinking about it, sulking and saying I wish I had Jerry. You move on. But we haven't been the same without him," said Mattingly. "He's a guy who's been around. He has a sense of humor, he talks in the clubhouse. He's a gamer. I think that we do miss him and his presence in the clubhouse.

"He's been through the things we're now going through. He can say, 'I've seen this before. It looks bad, but here's what we can do.' You can't measure that, but it's there. It's part of why you want veterans on board. You want their moxie."

Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.