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Isotope Gibbons Sees a Better Future

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Second Eye Surgery Gets Isotope Back Into Game

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — An ideal situation it’s not, but Jay Gibbons is making the most of it.

Gibbons, who is in his second stint with the Albuquerque Isotopes this season, hadn’t envisioned himself playing in New Mexico in 2011 at all.

After a Pacific Coast League All-Star season and a strong finish with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2010, Gibbons understandably went into the offseason with Hollywood hopes. It took two eye surgeries to get the 34-year-old outfielder back to that outlook.

“A lot of the last couple months were definitely a grind,” said Gibbons, who was 1-for-5 with an RBI but hit four balls hard in Monday’s 8-7 Isotopes home loss to Oklahoma City.

“I was struggling with contacts. It was tough tracking balls and I felt like I had to anticipate everything. Now, all of a sudden, the game’s a lot more fun again.”

Fans might remember Gibbons sporting glasses when he played last season. He had no idea what an ordeal getting rid of those specs would become.

Gibbons elected to have corrective laser surgery on his left eye in the offseason. It was his second procedure on the eye (the first came in 2004), but it didn’t prove corrective. Instead, his vision became blurry, forcing Gibbons to try one lense-solution combination after another.

Vision difficulties forced Gibbons to start the season on a rehab assignment in Albuquerque. After a rough start in Triple-A, he seemed to settle on effective lenses. His hitting began to come around and the Dodgers activated Gibbons in early May.

It proved a short stay. Despite hitting a respectable .255 in 24 games, Gibbons got caught in a positional numbers game and was designated for assignment. No longer on Los Angeles’ 40-man roster, he opted to return to Albuquerque rather than become a free agent.

After continuing to battle his vision in Albuquerque’s high elevation, dry air and wind, Gibbons decided enough was enough. He went on the disabled list and had eye surgery – again.

“I came down for a week and it got to the point I had to ask myself, ‘Am I going to be able to be a productive big-league player like this?’ The answer was no.”

Isotopes manager Lorenzo Bundy agreed.

“Jay was at a point in his career where, seeing like he was wouldn’t get it done,” Bundy said.

Gibbons called the latest procedure a “last hope,” and it turns out his hopes were answered. Since coming off the DL, Gibbons is hitting .375 in eight games.

Better still, his initial goal has finally been accomplished. Gibbons can see clearly without glasses.

“After the way the last procedure went, the last thing I wanted to do was try it again,” he said. “But I’m so glad I did. If I’d known it would turn out this way, I’d have done it months ago.”

The timing is good for Gibbons. With major league baseball’s trade deadline approaching, a hot streak could go a long way toward getting him back on a big-league roster. He hopes it will be with the Dodgers.

“I’m an L.A. guy and that’s still the goal,” he said.

For the time being, Bundy is just as happy with the view as is Gibbons.

“Right now he’s hitting like the Jay Gibbons (Albuquerque fans) saw last year,” Bundy said. “That’s a welcome sight because you know Jay can hit.”
Second Eye Surgery Gets Isotope Back Into GameSee GIBBONS on PAGE D2Gibbons Sees Better Futurefrom PAGE D1adolphe pierre-louis/journalIsotopes A.J. Ellis (44) and Jerry Sands (50) congratulate each other after scoring against Oklahoma and catcher J.R. Towles on Monday night.Dodgers manager Don Mattingly comes to the defense of struggling Rafael FurcalD3

Monday

RedHawks 8 Isotopes 7

— This article appeared on page D1 of the Albuquerque Journal

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