Matt Strahm sauntered into the Royals clubhouse Sunday morning, his gait reduced to a mild limp. It was the only sign that something was wrong.
On Saturday, Strahm, a 25-year-old left-hander, was placed on the 10-day disabled list because of what the Royals called patellar tendinitis in his left knee. By Sunday morning, the diagnosis had turned more serious.
Strahm sustained a torn patellar tendon on Saturday while leaping for a chopper from the bat of Minnesota’s Miguel Sano, Royals manager Ned Yost said. Strahm could miss a significant period of time, depending on the severity of the tear.
“I don’t have a timetable,” Yost said. “And until I get that information, I am not going to speculate.”
Strahm underwent an MRI on Saturday. Yost said the 25-year-old southpaw would receive a second opinion on the injury in the coming days. The range of outcomes varies from potential season-ending surgery to rehab and physical therapy to heal the tear. Strahm said he did not know how long he might be out.
“I’m just trying to manage the pain right now and wait and see what they say,” Strahm said.
For now, the Royals remain mum on a potential recovery time, citing the need for more information. Yet if the injury requires surgery, his 2017 season probably is over.
Strahm has battled patellar tendinitis in his knee for years, he said. The issue recently resurfaced during the last few weeks. But the injury, he said, probably occurred while he was jumping for a ball over his head during the first game of a doubleheader on Saturday against the Minnesota Twins.
“When he landed,” Yost said, “boom — he felt a pop.”
Strahm remained in the game for one more batter, but he couldn’t push off on his left leg. The injury comes just days after Strahm was moved back to the bullpen following a short stay in the starting rotation. He allowed 10 earned runs in 16 2/3 innings across three starts. Left-hander Travis Wood started in his place on Sunday afternoon. The decision came earlier in the week.
The injury could leave a hole in the middle of the Royals’ bullpen. One year after a dynamic debut in the second half, Strahm has posted a 4.30 ERA and 26 strikeouts in 23 innings of relief work.
His numbers appear demonstrably better after some struggles during the first week of the season. He has allowed just four earned runs in relief appearances since returning from a brief demotion to Class AAA Omaha in early April. He posted a 2.08 ERA in May before joining the rotation on June 15.
On Saturday, Strahm was replaced on the roster by right-hander Miguel Almonte, who arrived from Omaha. The club also has left-hander Brian Flynn pitching at Omaha after a back injury sidelined him for much of the first half. Flynn logged a 2.60 ERA in 55 1/3 innings in 2016.