FORT MYERS, Fla. – It's true, Royce Lewis said, that he'll spend the entire summer in Florida, rehabbing his right knee after last week's surgery. It's true, the Twins' top prospect added, that he's willing to believe that the year off could actually benefit him, that he can learn by watching and come back a better player next spring.
But it's emphatically, unequivocally, absolutely false, Lewis insisted, that a slip on some ice at his Dallas home was responsible for his torn anterior cruciate ligament. So he'd really appreciate it if his family would stop making fun of him.
"That's kind of a big joke going around my family," Lewis said via video call Thursday, upon returning from Minnesota where he underwent surgery last Friday. "It wasn't as significant as people think. Just because of the fact that slipping on ice sounds like a joke and not a totally horrible thing, it's funnier for people to say, 'Oh, you just slipped on ice and completely fell.' It's actually not true. That's why I'm here, to clear up the rumors. Not true!"
Little sisters can be so cruel. But if Lewis attacks rehab as energetically as he quashes jokes and rumors, he could return to health faster than the nine-to-12-month timetable normally expected following a full tear like this one. And in fact, he twice dropped a name that will resonate in his future home city.
"I know Adrian Peterson, the Viking, when he tore his ACL, [after] 6½ months, he came back," Lewis said, clearly tempted by the timetable. But even at that incredible pace, Lewis still wouldn't play this year, so the plan is "to just go through this process the right way and not mess up, because you don't want to re-aggravate. … The goal for me is long-term."
That means crutches for the rest of the month, then some walking without their help, a few sessions on a stationary bike, perhaps some light jogging after another month. Hitting a baseball will wait till August or so, and fielding at shortstop sometime after that. He will remain in Fort Myers, where he can use the Twins' equipment to work out with the help of the Twins' minor league training staff. He'll be immersed in baseball and will devote himself to studying the game.
"I'm not going to let something like this tear me down," Lewis said. "I didn't expect myself to start in the big leagues this year, so my mentality was, 'How am I going to grow and continue to learn? I can still do those things while I'm hurt.
"[But] I will say, I am already progressing a little faster than they thought. I told [doctors], 'Watch out, my body is a beast.' "
He never imagined that body had suffered a serious injury. He was doing an NFL combine-style drill at his home in Dallas, slaloming through cones and changing direction suddenly, when he felt "a jolt." A day later, his knee was stiff and swollen, but he treated it with ice and compression sleeves and figured it was just a bruise or hyperextension.
Lewis felt another small twinge when he slipped on ice — "but didn't fall completely down," he emphasizes — while installing security cameras in his home, before departing for spring training. But by Sunday, after arriving in Florida and passing COVID-19 tests, the swelling was gone, and he even completed a two-mile run with no sign of trouble.
But his routine physical exam Monday revealed the tear. Lewis was stunned, having told his family that the injury wasn't serious. "I didn't know what to do. Literally, they asked me, 'What do you want us to do right now?' I couldn't answer," Lewis said. "I called my mom."
Now he's settled into a new phase of his career-on-hold, and already looking forward to his first at-bat next spring.
"It's just devastating, but we're going to get through it … [and] get through it stronger," Lewis vowed. "2022 is going to be scary and spooky, man. Just watch out."