ST. LOUIS If Allen Craig can get pinch-hit go-ahead RBI singles in back-to-back World Series games and hit a pair of key home runs to help the Cardinals beat the Texas Rangers, imagine what he could do with two healthy knees.
Back in St. Louis Saturday to sign autographs at a memorabilia signing in Clayton, Craig took time to chat with FOXSportsMidwest.com about his November surgery to repair a fractured kneecap that he quietly played with down the stretch.
I could hide it so no one could see it but there was an issue there, Craig said. It took me a while to warm up before the games and it was extra difficult to maintain the strength in my leg. It was something that was there and I knew it was there.
Craig missed 54 games in June and July after fracturing his right knee after banging into a fence in Houston while attempting to catch a foul pop up in right field. He returned August 10 and finished out the season despite not being completely healed.
Playing with a significant more amount of pain than he let on, Craig was huge for the Cardinals down the stretch and in the playoffs. He had pinch-hit, go-ahead RBI singles in the late innings of both Game 1 and Game 2 of the World Series against Texas.
Craig hit three home runs in the World Series, including a go-ahead shot in Game 7 to help the Cardinals defeat the Rangers in an unforgettable Fall Classic.
All while knowing he likely would need a significant surgery after the season that likely would force him to miss the start of next season.
I knew it was an issue that was going to need to be dealt with after the season, Craig said. We just kept playing and kept winning so it got put to the side. We were winning and I was playing well so we just waited until the end of the World Series to think about it.
I wouldnt change anything about how it worked out. If I would have had surgery during the season and missed out on the World Series, that would have been tough to swallow. Everything worked out great. We have a smaller window because of the World Series but thats just how it goes.
After traveling across the country to receive multiple opinions on his knee following the season, Craig ultimately opted for surgery. A couple of screws were inserted into his right kneecap during a Nov. 18 procedure at The Steadman Clinic in Vail, Colo.
I just wanted to figure out what the best surgery was and if I needed it and just to ask all the questions and be thorough with the process and not jump into surgery a day after the season, Craig said. Obviously I wanted to avoid it if I could but the doctors said you need it and you need it now.
Craig remains in a strait-leg brace that he estimated he would have to wear for another week or two before he can begin normal walking. His timetable beyond that is unclear.
The Cardinals arent expecting to have Craig available for the month of April. Hes optimistically hoping that he can be back by Opening Day.
I think the organization always has to plan for the worst and the worst case was six months, Craig said of the four-to-six month timetable. But I asked the doctor directly, when he thought Id be playing and he said in 4-to-5 months I should be playing, which is right around Opening Day.
Obviously the rehab is what it is. Im going to be working hard every day and not taking any days off with that, and whenever I come back that will be what the timetable was, but the doctor told me that around 5 months, I should be feeling pretty good.
Craig will return to The Steadman Clinic in the near future for a follow-up appointment that he hopes shows progress. At that time a more detailed rehab plan will be discussed and decided in hope of getting him back on the field as soon as physically possible.
But that hasnt been the only adjustment Craig has made this offseason. The 27-year-old married longtime girlfriend Marie on November 12, just six days before the surgery.
Its been a whirlwind, just from flying all over the country to get the opinions on my knee and then going home and getting married, Craig said. That was really exciting, but then I had to go back to get the surgery.
Asked about the timing of the wedding, Craig said he had a feeling a deep October run might happen when the couple picked a date a year before.
We planned it that way a year ago just in case we went to the World Series, Craig said. We couldnt be postponing the wedding, so we planned it accordingly. It all worked out perfect.
The Cardinals and Craig are hoping his knee rehab goes just as perfect.