BY KERRY EGGERS/PORTLAND TRIBUNE/All-American second baseman for Oregon State getting closer and 'on schedule' for comeback from wrist injury

CORVALLIS — Nick Madrigal isn't ready to return to playing baseball. But he's getting closer.

Oregon State's All-American second baseman is progressing in his rehab from a fractured left wrist he suffered sliding into home against Ohio State on Feb. 23 in Surprise, Arizona.

Five weeks later, the 5-8, 165-pound junior is still at least a couple of weeks away from playing again.

Initial media reports that it would be a four-to-six-week recovery period were wrong. The doctor actually estimated six to eight weeks.

"There was some confusion about that," Madrigal said Monday before fourth-ranked Oregon State's game against Nevada at Goss Stadium. "Six weeks was the aggressive approach. Seven to eight weeks is the norm to be fully healthy. That's where we're at right now."

A return after six weeks would mean Madrigal would play in a three-game series at Missouri State on April 13 and 14. Seven weeks would be a Civil War series against Oregon at home from April 19-21. Eight weeks is a game against the University of Portland at Hillsboro Stadium on April 24.

Madrigal had an X-ray of the wrist and a visit with the doctor on Monday.

"It looks good," Madrigal said. "Everything is on schedule."

Madrigal's wrist was placed in a hard cast for three weeks. Two weeks ago, the cast was replaced by a long splint, then a shorter one.

"I take the splint off for rehab and around the house," Madrigal said. "Hopefully, pretty soon I won't need it at all. There's no pain at all. Each day, it feels better and better."

Since the injury, Madrigal has worked with OSU trainer Jeremy Ainsworth.

"We're focusing on functional rehab," Ainsworth said. "It's working with weights, range of motion, strengthening drills."

Before Monday's game, Madrigal swung with a regular bat without contact and took some soft ground balls for the first time.

"I've been running, doing ab work, doing side-to-side drills," he said. "It's progressing each day."

Madrigal is reluctant to take a guess on his return.

"I want to get back as soon as possible," he said. "I wish I had a specific date, but it's more on how it feels."

Pat Casey said the decision will be made by Madrigal and his doctor.

"We'd love to have him back, but we want him ready to go," the 25th-year OSU coach said. "He's doing everything he can to get ready. We know he wants to play. It's up to the doctor, and whatever Nick decides."

Madrigal was one of the leading candidates for the Dick Howser Trophy as national Player of the Year when he was injured. As a sophomore on Oregon State's 56-6 College World Series team a year ago, Madrigal was Pac-12 Player of the Year, Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year, a national Gold Glove recipient and a consensus first-team All-American. This season, he was hitting .560 when he was hurt.

"When Nick's not on the field, it makes us a different team," Casey said. "People don't understand how that affects your lineup, one through nine, and how important his presence is on the field."

Madrigal, OSU's team captain, has made his presence felt even while not in uniform. He has made the Beavers' road trips to California and Utah and has provided vocal leadership with his teammates.

"I've tried to approach it just like I was playing the game," Madrigal said. "I get mentally prepared. Once we get on the field, I've stayed locked into the game. I've tried to help out the team as best I can.

"I've always thought the people on the bench can affect a game, too. I'm trying to lead by example. I've been engaged pitch-to-pitch every game. I wouldn't want to be anywhere else. I want to be with this team and these guys."

While being injured has been frustrating, he is trying to look at it from a positive perspective.

"Everything happens for a reason," Madrigal said. "Maybe this is for me to become a better leader — not on the field, but off the field with the guys. I've tried to work on that.

"Time has gone by pretty fast. There have been some long nights when I've thought about it, but I've been able to get by it. I know I'll be back soon."

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