SAN DIEGO -- After he admittedly "butted heads" with Pirates management over his knee injury, after he was absent from the major leagues for 32 months recovering from the ensuing surgery that he sought against his previous employer's wishes, Jody Gerut has returned. Not with a vengeance, but rather with a comfort that three years ago he made a decision right for him.
"In Pittsburgh, I had a choice: I could play one year and probably never play after that; or I could stand down, have surgery in hopes that it would be better, and come back and hopefully play until I'm 40. I chose the latter. And it worked out," Gerut said last night, before he batted leadoff and played center field when his Padres played host to the Pirates in Petco Park.
Gerut, 31, platoons in San Diego with Scott Hairston, combining to rank among the best of all single National League center fielders. On his own, Gerut brought into the game last night a .316 average, 5 RBIs, a .500 slugging percentage and a .395 on-base percentage. He faced his former team once before, going 3 for 9 in three meetings at PNC Park late in July 2008. That was part of his long journey back.
It all began soon after Gerut was traded twice in a two weeks span in 2005: from the Indians to the Cubs, then from the Cubs along with cash to the Pirates for Matt Lawton. He played in four games, had 18 at-bats, got two RBIs and wasn't seen in Pittsburgh again in a Pirates uniform. He was optioned to Class AAA Indianapolis March 31, 2006, at the end of the next spring training, but he didn't play. Gerut sought a second medical opinion and wound up having surgery May 31 -- 10 days after the Pirates first put him on the 15-day disabled list with patella tendinitis in the right knee. The Pirates released him the next March. He returned to baseball in late 2007 in the Venezuela winter league, where San Diego signed him.
"In the end, you have to do what's best for your career in your own eyes, despite the consequences," Gerut said of his decision. "There are plenty of guys sitting in bars telling stories about how teams screwed them. Your career has to be in your own hands. Especially when what the right course of action is is so obvious."
He doesn't follow the Pirates closely, he said: "I haven't checked to see how the team is doing. I check to see how my friends are doing," such as Ryan Doumit, Zach Duke, Ian Snell, and so on.
"Stanford guy," recalled Pirates shortstop Jack Wilson, an Oxnard Junior College guy. "Basically, he had a tough road with his knee and his injury. It's good to see he's back in the big leagues. It's good to see him make it through those kinds of things."
"Just happy to be back playing," Gerut added. "Very happy here."
Pirates manager John Russell reported about Doumit's surgery yesterday: "The [scaphoid] bone fit back together perfectly. They put the screw in. I left him a message and he called back and said he was doing well." Russell added that Doumit plans to meet the team in Milwaukee, either Sunday night, after the Pirates leave San Diego, or Monday.
• The Pirates lost reliever Dave Davidson to the Florida Marlins, who claimed him off waivers and assigned him to Class AAA New Orleans. Davidson, a left-hander with a 4.15 ERA in Indianapolis this month, was designated for assignment last week to create space on the 40-man roster for outfielder Delwyn Young.
• Club officials announced the lineup of attendees for the Thursday grand opening of their Latin American academy. It includes the Dominican Republic president, Dr. Leonel Fernandez; as well as Vera, Roberto Jr. and Luis Clemente; plus all of the team's top brass: owner Bob Nutting, president Frank Coonelly and general manager Neal Huntington.
• The Pirates' push for the Pittsburgh Police's Fallen Heroes fund totaled $76,103. The donations included those made by fans, front-office staff and the players, as well as an auction of the Pittsburgh Police caps and patched jerseys worn by the team in the April 13 home opener.
• On the subject of Pirates pitching and the club's 9-6 start, Russell said: "It's funny, all the things we hear[d] coming into the season, the 16, 17 years [of losing records], it's labeled automatic. Now we're pitching well, there are all kinds of doubt, [detractors] can't believe we're doing it. We're going to face that stuff all year long."
Game: Pirates (Duke 2-1) vs. Padres (Hill 1-0), 10:05 p.m.
Where: Petco Park, San Diego.
TV: FSN Pittsburgh.
Dejan Kovacevic contributed to this story.