Healing process frustrates Johnson
Broken bone in foot still prevents outfielder from running
CHICAGO -- A couple of hours before Saturday's game, outfielder Reed Johnson was in the Cubs' clubhouse strapping on his batting gloves and grabbing a piece of lumber.
He was ready to takes some swings in the batting cage.
The problem for Johnson is that more than six weeks after fouling a ball off his left foot, he still can't run, which means he is unable to play. With the season entering its last few weeks, Johnson's chances of returning have dwindled.
"I think in reality, what the guys are thinking now, because there's really no place for me to go and rehab with the Minor League seasons being all wrapped up, is that it's going to be tough for me to try to get some at-bats, get up to the speed of the game that's here, to get back in time," Johnson said.
Johnson's foot is fractured at the arch, making it difficult for him to put any pressure on it. A staunch optimist and tireless worker, he expected to miss three to four weeks, less than what team doctors originally predicted, but it has not turned out that way.
When Cubs pitcher Ryan Dempster fractured a toe earlier this season, the fracture site started to callous over in three weeks, the first sign of the bone healing. But it wasn't until a few days ago, when doctors performed X-rays of Johnson's foot at the six-week mark, that he showed signs of bone callous.
The healing process has crept along at a glacial pace for Johnson, and it has been difficult for him.
"For me, I just love to play baseball, and that's the main thing," he said. "I want to be out on the field every day. You feel like you want to be out there with your teammates as well. You feel like you've gone through the ups and downs of a six-month season, and you want to be with them all the way until the very end."
Johnson has stayed around the team and continued to take batting practice. If his condition makes a sudden and unexpected turn for the better, he wants to get back on the field, even if it's for a couple of games.
"It's a situation for me where I've just got to mentally keep myself sharp and that way, if I wake up one morning and this thing feels better, I'll be ahead of the game in all of the other aspects besides running," Johnson said.
Johnson, who in his last year before free agency was batting .252 with four home runs, admits his propensity for going all out might not have served him well in his rehab this time.
"I'm used to setting goals and reaching them, and it's frustrating when you don't reach a goal like that," he said. "But at the same time, you have to look back and realize it's a fracture, and it's really nothing I can control. A lot of those other goals I can control. It's all about work ethic, but it's almost like in this situation, work ethic might hurt you sometimes. You might not be ready, and you try to pound on it and you might set yourself back a little bit."
Andrew Simon is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.