Tonight’s the night. Strasmas II. The Strassurection. Call it what you want, but Stephen Strasburg returns to a major league mound to face the Dodgers. His first game that counts since Tommy John surgery a year and three days ago.
Everyone talks about the physical adjustments after ligament surgery. The velocity often comes back fairly quickly, but the touch and command lags. Often by weeks and months. One thing people don’t talk about is the mental adjustment. There can’t be anything more boring and tedious than injury rehab. Most of it is spent by oneself, working out early mornings at some facility a thousand miles from where the team is playing and a million miles from the mental state a major leaguer would expect to have in the middle of a baseball season.
But it had to have been even more extreme for Strasburg, for he went from the center of the baseball world’s attention to that painful solitude practically overnight. And now his return is more highly anticipated and hyped than just about any similar return I can recall. His physical journey has been as tough as any rehabbing pitcher’s, but his mental journey has to have been much tougher.
So let’s watch tonight to see if he can snap off some of that crazy stuff he showed during those few crazy weeks he captured the nation’s attention in 2010. But let’s also see if we can’t tell if he’s, well, a little crazy from the roller coaster ride.
What happens when an irresistible force meets an immovable object? Just ask Javier Baez, who tracked down a sizzling 106-MPH ground ball from Jose Bautista on Friday afternoon. The defensive gem helped preserve the Cubs’ three-run lead in the top of the ninth inning, paving the way for Wade Davis‘ 25th save of the season.
Baez also impressed at the plate, collecting an RBI single in the second inning before getting tagged out at home by Miguel Montero on a convoluted 9-6-3-6-2 putout. He returned in the eighth inning to pester Tim Mayza and cleared the left field hedge with a 409-foot, two-run blast for his 20th home run of the year. With the win, the Cubs improved to 64-57 and now hold a scant 1.5-game lead over the Brewers in the NL Central.
The Dodgers have reinstated first baseman Adrian Gonzalez from the 60-day disabled list after his recovery from a herniated disc. To make room for him they have optioned Rob Segedin to Triple-A Oklahoma City.
Gonzalez last played on June 11. Since then the Dodgers have gone an astounding 46-9, with shoe-in rookie of the year candidate Cody Bellinger handling first base duties and posting a .978 OPS. When Gonzalez went down he was hitting .255/.304/.339 and only one homer in 49 games.
It’ll be interesting to see what kind of playing time he gets going forward. The Dodgers, of course, have a comfortable lead in the NL West, so they could afford to allow Gonzalez to play a good bit to see if his bat sharpens up while simultaneously giving Bellinger, who has never played more than 137 games in a season, a bit of a breather. Beyond that, though, the Dodgers ain’t broke, so it’s hard to see why anyone would want to tinker with things.