Homecoming for Alex Blandino hasn’t been as pleasurable as it usually is for most high school and college graduates.
The Cincinnati Reds utility infielder and product of Stanford’s baseball program has been spending three days a week on the Palo Alto, Calif., campus, working through therapy as he tries to come back from the horrific knee injury that ended his 2018 season on July 20.
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“It’s been fun being back on campus, especially since I don’t have to go to classes,” Blandino, 26, said last week during Redsfest.
Blandino had hit .234 in 69 games and was leading Cincinnati with 26 pinch-hit plate appearances and nine pinch hits when he was injured trying to turn a double play while playing second base in the ninth inning of a 12-1 loss to Pittsburgh on July 20 at a rain-soaked Great American Ball Park. He underwent surgery on July 23 to reconstruct the anterior cruciate ligament and repair the medial collateral ligament in his right knee.
Redsfest was his first chance in at least two months that Reds medical officials had the opportunity to update his progress.
“I’m a little ahead of schedule,” said the Palo Alto native and Scottsdale, Ariz., resident, the Reds’ first-round pick and 29th overall selection in the June 2014 draft. “I saw the doctors for the first time since I left in September, and they said they were pleased with my progress.
“Being around the guys is definitely a jolt of energy,” he added.
Blandino was feeling so good that he felt compelled to restrain himself and had to force himself to follow doctors’ orders.
“I’ve been throwing a little bit, but I’m not running yet,” he said, admitting “I feel like I could, but I’ll stick with what the medical staff is saying.”
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He was hoping to start swinging a bat in January, but he couldn’t put a timetable on when he might be ready to play in spring training games. The recovery time for surgeries such as his is six to eight months, meaning the lengthiest would take him up to March 23 – five days before the Reds are scheduled to open the 2019 season.
“Swinging a bat is contingent on my progress,” he said, adding that being ahead of schedule left him hopeful of being ready for spring training. “There are definitely some unknowns, but I’m fully confident that I’ll be ready.”