Souza playing pain-free after hip surgery

Souza playing pain-free after hip surgery

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Amid the walking wounded inside the Rays' clubhouse, right fielder Steven Souza Jr., is a standout since he no longer qualifies for that designation.

Coming into camp, Souza was returning from Sept. 21 surgery to debride a labral tear and impingement of his left hip. The decision to have the surgery brought anxiety.

"Some days I'd feel really great, and some days I'd not feel so great," Souza said. "So it's kind of a confusing process, where you can't really look at it and say, 'Yeah, that's a broken leg.' ... I was trying to battle through, but it just wasn't working a lot of the time."

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Souza's recovery went well, but the Rays had him take it slow at the beginning of camp. Now he's in full swing. On Saturday against the Red Sox, he could be seen sliding into third base.

"That was a first," he said.

On Monday against the Twins in Fort Myers, he made a diving catch, and he also took a 96-mph fastball in the ribs. And he passed both tests, telling reporters afterward: "You're going to probably have to drag me off the field now that I'm coming back from surgery."

Souza allowed that he didn't really have a list of obstacles he wanted to clear to prove to himself that he is back.

"It's more that I wanted to go out there and play the way I normally play, and see if there was anything that was a red flag or flared up," he said. "So far nothing has flared up."

Souza noted that being pain-free makes a day at the office a lot more enjoyable, since he was dealing with hip pain from midseason until his surgery.

"I was just telling my wife that it's amazing to go out there and not have anything wrong," he said, "and to be able to play 100 percent and knowing that I'm 100 percent healthy. There's just something different about it."

Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.