SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Former Brewers infielder Tony Graffanino visited his old club on Tuesday and sought out Mat Gamel to deliver inspiration: Yes, it is possible to come back from a second ACL reconstruction.
Graffanino tore his ACL with the White Sox in 2002 and tore it again with the Brewers in '07. He was briefly back in the big leagues at '09, at age 37.
"I told him he can do it," said Graffanino, who visited Maryvale Baseball Park as an ambassador for Unlimited Potential Inc., a Christian ministry. "I know it's frustrating. For him, he worked so hard after rehabbing the first one, and then to come back and have it happen again so quickly, it's tough. I had five years in between.
"But when it happened the second time, I was frustrated, old, not as good as I once was. He's much younger. I gave him my number and told him to call me if he has any points of frustration, needs encouragement."
Gamel will be 28 in July. He is facing his second straight year of rehab, having first torn his ACL last May 1. He was expected to be the Brewers' Opening Day first baseman this year while Corey Hart recovered from his own knee surgery, but suffered another tear last month and underwent another surgery last week.
Just like Graffanino, Gamel's second tear came on a mundane movement.
"You can tell when something's not right," Graffanino said. "That's what he said, that something was moving in there. You kind of hold your breath when that starts happening. Hopefully, this time, it will be better, tighter."
Graffanino tore his ACL the second time while leaping for a line drive in Colorado. It was his final play in a Brewers uniform.
"But I made the catch," he joked.