Garrett easing his way back, but approaching final leg of rehab

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. – Stone Garrett was taking fly balls with the rest of the Nationals’ outfielders earlier this week when one of the coaches sent a deep drive over his head. It was the first time he was forced to go back toward the wall to make a play this spring, the first time he engaged in such an activity since that awful August night at Yankee Stadium when he suffered a gruesome injury.

Garrett, though, never thought about any of that. He simply tracked down the ball, made the play and re-took his position, only realizing afterward the significance of the moment.

“It’s kind of like instinct,” he said. “It was weird, we were doing fly balls and one just shot off. … You just go get it, don’t think about the leg or anything. So it’s been pretty nice. No pain. No nothing, really.”

Garrett always knew he’d make a full physical recovery from the broken left fibula and damaged ankle he suffered trying to make a leaping grab at the wall in New York late last summer. The real test, though, was going to be mental. When the time came to make a tough baseball play, would he hesitate at all, or would instincts take over?

When those instincts indeed took over, Garrett breathed a sigh of relief.

“I’m still doing it,” he said with pride. “Like, yeah, I can still do this. So it definitely was a sigh of relief.”

Garrett is mostly a full participant right now in Nationals camp, but he’s not all the way back yet. He is running at full speed, but the club held him out of the baserunning drill all the other position players partake in this morning. He has taken live batting practice off a pitcher, but he won’t just be thrown into the lineup when Grapefruit League play begins Saturday.

The Nats still want to ease the 28-year-old back into the fold. But they’re not ruling out the possibility he makes the Opening Day roster.

“He’s progressing quite well,” manager Davey Martinez said. “But he’s still got to check some boxes for us. … I just want to make sure he’s 100 percent before we get him out there and get him full going. But he looks good. He worked diligently all winter to get himself ready. I think he’s in a good spot.”

It’s been six months now since the injury, and Garrett has experienced the full range of emotions as he coped with the immediate aftermath, the surgery and the long, slow rehab process.

The finish line is coming within sight, but he knows he can’t think about that quite yet.

“These are definitely the most important steps,” he said. “We’ve done a lot of good work with medical staff. So, just nailing down this last part of the process.”

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