CLEVELAND — Had a ligament snapped in his knee, Brock Holt would have been wheeled into surgery a few days later and soon after started a rehabilitation program knowing he would return to the field when it was finished.
Maybe it wasn’t a 100-percent guarantee, but it was close enough.
A concussion doesn’t work that way. The symptoms could go away in a few days or in Holt’s case, 14 long months. There’s never a timetable.
That’s what has made this particular Red Sox season such a memorable one for Holt. As the Sox pile up victories, Holt is able to appreciate each game in a way he didn’t know was possible.
“The stuff I went through, now it’s part of my story,” Holt said before the Sox played the Cleveland Indians on Saturday night. “Obviously going through it, it was frustrating. I always tried to have confidence I would feel good again and be able to be an impact player.
“The most frustrating part of the whole ordeal was knowing I wasn’t that guy and I didn’t know when I would be.”
Holt was first diagnosed with a concussion in May of 2016 and spent 41 days on the disabled list. Concussion symptoms and vertigo put him back on the disabled list in 2017, this time for most of the first half of the season.
Even those games he did play, Holt was never quite right. He hit .237 over those two seasons with little power. All parts of his life were affected, not just baseball.
“Every case is different. It’s just something you have to get through and trust the process,” Holt said.
Holt reported to spring training this season finally free of any symptoms. Through Friday, he had hit .272 with a career-best .754 OPS for the Sox.
Counting Saturday, Holt had started games at first base (three), second base (48), third base (three), shortstop (18), left field (two), right field (four), and designated hitter (two).
“He’s been huge. He can play the outfield, he can play anywhere in the infield,” manager Alex Cora said. “He’s been amazing and he’s been the whole season.”
Holt’s versatility allowed Cora to stay true to his plans to rest key players throughout the season as a preventative measure. He felt that would lead to season-long consistency and it did as the Sox ran away with the American League East.
“Everyone cares about each other; everyone roots for each other. It’s a special clubhouse, a special team,” Holt said. “This is the most fun I’ve had playing baseball.”
Holt also is 5 of 13 with two doubles, a triple, two home runs, and seven RBIs as a pinch hitter, his at-bats off the bench giving the Red Sox several victories.
Cora, a rookie manager, admitted that knowing when to use a pinch hitter was tricky for him over the first few months the season. Holt helped make that easier.
“That’s the beauty of managing, you adjust,” Cora said. “At one point I was like, ‘No, we’re not pinch hitting.’ Now we’re using our weapons.”
Said Holt: “It’s great when your manager has that confidence in you. He can plug me in at any position or any spot in the lineup and I feel like I can help. I can hit second or hit ninth and I’m happy.”
Holt started at first base on Saturday because Cora wanted to get him more time at the position as preparation for the postseason. With Mitch Moreland slumping since the All-Star break, Holt could become an option in the coming weeks.
Given the stakes, managers can’t afford to wait for a player to get going in the postseason.
“With [Holt], he’s pretty simple in his approach,” Cora said. “He’s so disciplined he stays in the strike zone and when he gets a pitch in the zone, he’s swinging hard.”
It’s been a gratifying season in other ways, too. Holt’s 21-month-old son, Griffin, is old enough to be a regular visitor to the clubhouse and at home takes big cuts at balls on a tee.
Holt’s work in the community, especially for The Jimmy Fund, was recognized with him being nominated for the Roberto Clemente Award.
He’s also made it a habit of dancing with J.D. Martinez in the dugout after their home runs. They have combined for 47, so that’s a lot of dancing.
Sure, Martinez had 41 of them. But the dancing is just as silly when Holt hits one.
“This season has been so much fun,” he said. “It’s not too often you have a group like this. We have a good time together and we’re winning a lot of games.
“It’s like J.D. said the other day, sometimes September can drag on but it feels like we’re still in April because we’re having so much fun.”