CHICAGO — Dustin Fowler’s major league debut was over before he even stepped into the batter’s box, and New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi had harsh words for Guaranteed Rate Field.
The 22-year-old Fowler ruptured the patellar tendon in his right knee during the first inning of the Yankees’ 4-3 loss to the Chicago White Sox on Thursday night, slamming into the short sidewall near the corner trying to catch Jose Abreu’s one-out foul ball. Fowler had surgery at Rush University Medical Center.
Girardi said the injury was avoidable.
“There’s an electrical box,” Girardi said. “And to me, that’s a problem. And I’m not blaming the White Sox, but it’s something that needs to be inspected. It should have been padded or not put there or put lower because if the kid doesn’t hit the electrical box, he might still be hurt, but my guess is he doesn’t rupture his patellar tendon.”
Fowler was on a full run and wasn’t able to catch up with the ball, which bounced in foul territory. Fowler tumbled into the first row of seats, then tried to stand up on the field. Girardi said more needs to be done in stadiums to prevent players from flipping over low walls.
“I think it’s something baseball needs to address,” he said. “Maybe you put up Plexiglass, so they can’t flip over and people can look through it. They look through it in hockey.”
Fowler hopped but his right leg buckled twice before he sat down on the warning track and waited for help. He was driven off in a cart, and Girardi said Fowler will miss the rest of the season. The injury usually requires at least six months of rehabilitation.
“He has to go through a long grueling rehab, and it just doesn’t seem fair that’s what happened,” Girardi said. “I was in tears, actually, because I know what it takes to get here and how hard he’s worked and what’s supposed to be a really exciting day for him turns into a really bad day.”
Fowler was brought up earlier in the day from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.
“It just makes you sick,” Yankees teammate Aaron Judge said.
Fowler was set to lead off the second inning for his first big league plate appearance.
“It’s one of the worst things I’ve seen on a baseball field,” New York left fielder Brett Gardner said. “I just can’t imagine a worse scenario for him.
“It’s heartbreaking. He’s a good kid and a really, really good player with a bright future.”
Fowler’s injury followed a 2-hour, 50-minute rain delay. Fowler was replaced by Rob Refsnyder.
Fowler was called up after the Yankees put first baseman Tyler Austin on the disabled list with a hamstring injury. Fowler hit .293 with 13 homers at 43 RBIs at Scranton and was selected to play in the International League All-Star Game.
With Fowler out, the Yankees may once again have to dip into the minor league system for help.
Miguel Andujar, another 22-year-old, made his big league debut Wednesday and had three hits and four RBIs as the designated hitter in a 12-3 win. Andujar was optioned Thursday to Scranton so he can play third base regularly, according to Girardi.
“He had a great day and it’s hard to send him down” Girardi said. “We look at him as an everyday third baseman in the future.”
Austin, brought up Saturday to replace Chris Carter, was put on the 10-day disabled list with what Girardi called a high grade right hamstring strain.
“He’s going to be out awhile,” Girardi said.
Carter, designated for assignment and assigned outright Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, was brought back to the big league roster and listed as a bench player. The first baseman hit 41 homers last season for Milwaukee but just eight in 57 games with New York while batting .204 with 70 strikeouts.
CC Sabathia threw a bullpen session and said he is ready to be activated. Girardi wants to wait a couple of days to see how the 6-foot-6 left-hander feels before projecting his return to the rotation.
New York also transferred Greg Bird to the 60-day disabled list and designated outfielder Mason Williams for assignment. Bird went on the DL on May 2.
The Yankees have lost 12 of their last 16 games and fallen a game behind first place Boston in the AL East.