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Kevin Youkilis has epidural injection in back, expects to return from DL as soon as eligible

MRI on Yankees' third baseman showed bulging disc as source of back pain
05/01/2013 5:05 PM ET
By Lou DiPietro

Kevin Youkilus has a bulging disk that will take a week to 14 days to heal.(AP)
The official diagnosis on injured Yankees third baseman Kevin Youkilis is in: a bulge in the L4 disc in his back that Youkilis says was rubbing a nerve and causing inflammation.

Youkilis went on the disabled list on Tuesday with what the team called a lumbar spine strain, and an MRI showed the bulge in what the third baseman believed was the same disc that caused him pain last year. On Tuesday, Youkilis received an epidural injection from team physician Dr. Christopher Ahmad at Columbia-Presbyterian Hospital, a process he said went perfectly well.

“I think it’s the same bulge in the disc I had last year, but there was inflammation off it rubbing my nerve and I was getting discomfort running down my leg,” Youkilis said. “I got the epidural, and the doctors were pretty excited because they got it in where it needed to be and got the fluids to where they needed to be.”

Youkilis believes he’ll be ready to come off the disabled list on May 13 when he’s eligible, and should be ready to start preparing for his return well before that.

“Once the medicine kicks in, it takes a week to 14 days to fully heal, but to get back and doing stuff shouldn’t take that long,” he said. “Probably in a week or so I’ll start more baseball like activities; for the first few days you ease your way back in because the medicine is still working.”

Youkilis originally came out of the April 20 game in Toronto with what was termed back stiffness, and missed a week. He returned last Saturday only to sit out the last three games before being placed on the DL, but doesn’t think that one appearance would have exacerbated his injury any and took responsibility for his current situation.

“I think it was inevitable I’d have to get an epidural. There’s no one to blame here, I’m more to blame than anyone because I probably should’ve said I’m not 100 percent,” he said. “With the epidural, if I didn’t go on the disabled list it’d probably be 10 days or so anyway, and we need guys here to play, especially going out to Colorado. It was the right move, so I’ll just wait and get healthy and get right.”

All told, if Youkilis is activated on May 13, he’ll have missed just about three weeks (save that lone appearance on April 27), which is what he missed with the same injury last year – although he joked that his prolonged absence in 2012 wasn’t all due to his back.

“I went through it last year, I think they gave me a little extra time and I was ready to go nuts in Triple-A…but there was a lot more going on in Boston at that time,” he laughed. “I don’t think it will be a problem here, and I hope I’m ready to go in 15 days.”

The only difference this time, Youkilis said, is that even though it’s the same bulge, he feels it on the right side instead of his left – something doctors told him is perfectly normal.

“They say with the back you never know, there’s no rhyme or reason as to where you feel it. This year I felt it on the right side, and this is part of the crazy human body and how it works,” he said. “The other thing this year is that it was rubbing the nerve a little bit and it was just mild inflammation, but the littlest thing can make your nerve feel weird. Once the medicine kicks in, I’ll be good to go, and seeing there wasn’t anything crazy was good.”

Youkilis was happy it was “only” a bulging disc – saying there are probably “100 things” worse doctors could have found – and said that it’s simply something he’ll have to deal with now and perhaps in the future.

“With what I have, people wonder why you don’t shoot it up before the season, but doctors don’t like to do that because if there’s no problem with it, they don’t want to put something there,” he said. “Basically, if you don’t have any symptoms, don’t do it. But, the first thing Dr. Ahmad said to me was it’s not career ending and nothing to worry about surgery wise, the epidural was all I needed.”

Youkilis also said the injury wasn’t something he might consider off-season surgery on, and manager Joe Girardi was cautiously optimistic that he’ll have Youk back in the lineup as soon as possible.

“I hope (the epidural is all that is needed), but backs are tricky and we never know how they’re going to react,” Girardi said. “We hope this clears it up and he can be a player for us.”

Follow Lou DiPietro on Twitter: @LouDiPietroYES

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