Non-roster Twins outfielder had same surgery as Sano -- and it's all good
PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. — Miguel Sano isn't the only player in Twins camp with a titanium rod supporting his left tibia.
Non-roster outfielder Ryan LaMarre, 29, underwent the same procedure after the 2014 season in Phoenix and made his big-league debut with the Cincinnati Reds in 2015. Dr. Gustavo Armendariz Jr. performed the surgery.
"I had the surgery in September and I was basically ready to go for spring training," LaMarre said. "They were pretty conservative because I was also coming off hernia surgery. I could have played (by Opening Day)."
LaMarre stayed back in extended spring training before heading off to the Reds' Triple-A affiliate by the second or third week of April. Sano, who had his surgery on Nov. 13 with Drs. William Ricci and Martin O'Malley in New York City, is hoping to be ready by Opening Day, which seems likely from a health perspective.
"We've talked about it," LaMarre said. "I told him I haven't had any problems since. Everything's perfect. It's a pretty easy surgery. If anything, I think it gives you the peace of mind that you're not going to break your leg. It's going to be pretty solid. I just try to encourage him he's going to be fine and have a long, healthy career."
Sano is 24, a year younger than LaMarre was at the time of his surgery. Although speed isn't as important to Sano's game as it is to LaMarre's, the outfielder was pleased with how quickly he was able to reclaim that part of his skill set.
As with Sano, the rod in LaMarre's lower leg runs the length of his tibia, from just below his knee down to his ankle.
"I thought I had shin splints for a while so I kept playing on them," said LaMarre, a 2010 second-round draft pick out of the University of Michigan. "You're not going to miss time with shin splints. Eventually it got to be too late, and I guess it had caused a stress fracture. They gave it a couple weeks to try to heal and it wasn't showing signs of healing so we just went ahead with the surgery."
In Sano's case, he fouled a ball off his left shin on Aug. 18 during his only two-homer game of the season, came back to play the next night and was shut down for six weeks with a stress reaction in his left shin. A last-ditch effort to qualify for the wild-card roster saw him take eight plate appearances on the final weekend of the regular season, but the pain persisted.
This spring, Sano was ready to go by the report date for position players. He homered in his first two plate appearances Friday, snapping a 2-for-13 start at the plate, and appears to be suffering no carryover effects from the surgery.
"I'm almost to the point where I'm not really worried about his recovery from his injury or how he's doing," Twins manager Paul Molitor said. "I think he's running well. Front to back, he's (moving) really well. We always try to improve the lateral (movement), but I think that's just more mechanics and learning how to use his body a little better."
A diving stop to either side would be the next logical test for Sano in game action.
"I haven't seen him dive; he's not afraid to," Molitor said. "For me, it has been (all good indicators). He's been running out balls down the line, and all opportunities to run the bases it looks like he has no hesitation to go all out."
LaMarre, who is 2 for 37 (.054) in the majors in parts of three seasons with the Reds, Boston Red Sox and Oakland A's, has opened eyes with his offense this spring. Entering Friday's game against the Tampa Bay Rays, he was 9 for 18 with two home runs and eight runs batted in.
While the procedure is mostly associated with bigger-bodied players in the NBA and the NFL, seeing LaMarre thrive should help ease Sano's concerns about life after surgery.
"It sounds complicated, but it's basically pretty painless once it's in the bone," LaMarre said. "You don't even notice it's there. It's titanium. It's lightweight. You don't even feel it. I've had no problems since I've had the surgery, so it's encouraging for him."
Informed he sounds bionic, LaMarre laughed.
"I'd like to be," he said. "I just have trouble getting through airports."
That last part was a joke.