LAKELAND, Fla. -- Carlos Guillen wasn't the only Tiger who had microfracture surgery on a knee last year. But since Clete Thomas' surgery came last June, rather than in the fall, he faces far fewer questions about whether he'll ready for the season.
"I'm raring to go," Thomas said Tuesday morning after reporting to Spring Training.
The bigger question facing Thomas this spring is where, not if, he'll start the season. He at least appears to be healthy enough to give it his best shot.
Thomas nearly made last year's team out of Spring Training before losing out to the more versatile Don Kelly. A nagging shoulder injury last spring didn't help Thomas' cause. He recovered, went to Triple-A Toledo and struggled mightily to a .183 average with 32 strikeouts in just 86 plate appearances.
Something wasn't right -- in Thomas' case, it was his knee -- and team doctors eventually found the worst-case scenario. Microfracture surgery is rather rare among baseball players, but it's a recent development.
To have two players on the same team in the same year have it is obviously unusual, but so is having two baseball players in the same day. Thomas had his surgery on June 4, the same day as Indians center fielder Grady Sizemore. Both procedures were conducted by specialist Dr. Richard Steadman in Vail, Colo.
The results were encouraging. Thomas was able to hit and throw by mid-December, and he's able to run now. He should be able to play in games.
Assuming that, he should get a good look from the Tigers, who continue to mention him among the outfield candidates. He's a left-handed hitter with Major League experience on a team with a projected starting outfield made up entirely of right-handed batters. He batted .240 with 77 strikeouts over 275 at-bats in his last Major League stint in 2009, but he did so with seven home runs, 13 doubles and three triples. He also carries the ability to play all three outfield positions.
Because of last year's injury, Thomas has one more Minor League option left. Thus, the Tigers don't have to worry about clearing him through waivers if they want to send him to Triple-A Toledo at camp's end.
Thomas is hoping at this point that everything goes well, because he's due a little good health. Beyond his knee and shoulder injuries, he also had Tommy John surgery in September 2008.
"It's kind of been a rough couple years," Thomas said.