Two years ago, outfielder Zach Daeges appeared to be on the fast track to the big leagues.
After being drafted by Boston out of Creighton University in the 6th round in 2006, Daeges excelled at his first three minor league stops earning All-Star honors at Single-A Lowell in 2006, Single-A Lancaster in 2007, and Double-A Portland in 2008. In 299 minor league games, Zach has a batting average of .311 with 101 doubles and 31 HR (.411 OBP/.497 SLG/.909 OPS).
But two weeks into his first season with Triple-A Pawtucket in 2009, Daeges went on the disabled list with an ankle injury. He hasn’t played since.
“They thought it was a sprained ankle and it ended up being a rare injury called Os Trigonum Syndrome which is basically an extra bone that I had to have taken out of my ankle,” Daeges said. “The rehab for that wasn’t too bad – it ended up being about two months and I don’t have any problems with the ankle now. But I got unlucky with my shoulder.”
Zach’s right shoulder began giving him problems last year in spring training and required surgery in April of 2010.
“The surgery that I had was not the most common shoulder surgery, so I’ve been on a roll with these uncommon surgeries,” Zach said. “I had what’s called a posterior capsular shift. Most guys either have their rotator cuff or labrum done and for a position player, you can be back in six to eight months pretty easily. With this, they tightened the ligaments in the back of my shoulder and it’s been tough getting the range of motion back. The point of the surgery was to tighten everything down. It’s pretty rare to do that for a baseball player because for throwing, you want your shoulder to be loose. Mine is tighter now and I’ve had to work to get that range of motion back. Trying to throw has been a difficult process.”
Zach hoped to be back in action for the start of this season, but is still having problems with his shoulder.
“I was taking batting practice about a week ago,” Daeges told me. “I had been hitting for about three weeks and throwing from 90 feet and then I had a little bit of a setback throwing. My shoulder flared up on me a little bit. For the last couple of days, I’ve just been resting it and hopefully I’ll be back to hitting and throwing soon.
“I expect to play this year, but I don’t know when. They’ve told me that it can take 12 to 18 months after surgery before it starts feeling pretty good. I’m pretty close to 12 months now, so I’m starting to get a little impatient with it and at times it feels like I don’t know if I’m going to get better or not. But I’m hoping that I can turn the corner sometime early in the season and at least start getting some at-bats.”
It’s been more than 700 days since Zach appeared in a game, and that’s helped him appreciate how much he loves playing baseball.
“Just taking BP this spring… you don’t realize how fun it is until you don’t get to do it for two years,” Daeges told me. “I try to remind guys that you don’t realize how much you take stuff for granted when you’re playing every day. When you’re injured, it’s like, ‘Man, I wish I could just go out there and play catch.’ You feel lost when you’re hurt and lose your sense of worth.
“I feel like at some point I’m running out of time and that this is a big year for me. I’ve missed basically two full seasons and I’m 27 now. I kind of feel like I’ve got to figure out a way to get healthy whether I end up playing or not. If it doesn’t get better, I guess it doesn’t get better, but I’m looking forward to playing this year and I really hope to.”
* * * * *
A few weeks ago in this blog entry about Bubba Bell, the PawSox outfielder told me that he thought there was a good chance that the Red Sox would trade him before the start of the season.
“They’ve been pretty vocal about telling me that if the opportunity presents itself and they have a chance to get me into a better situation with another team they would want to do that for me,” Bell said at the time. “I get the feeling that if that’s going to happen they would want to wait a little bit closer to the end of spring training just to keep on eye on the players that are ahead of me in case something happened to any of them.”
That’s exactly how it played out.
After starting in left field and delivering an RBI double in Pawtucket’s 6-1 win over Norfolk on Wednesday, Bell was informed that he’s been traded to the Cleveland Indians. He’s expected to join their Triple-A team in Columbus.
The 28-year-old was a Triple-A All-Star last year and was named the PawSox MVP. He’ll be missed in Pawtucket, but I look forward to the day when Bubba makes his big league debut in a Cleveland uniform.
* * * * *
Alfredo Aceves told me on Wednesday that he will be Pawtucket’s Opening Night starter on April 7th at McCoy Stadium.
Based on how he looked in his final spring training outing, the PawSox should be in good hands. Aceves tossed five perfect innings against Norfolk, and struck out 9 of the 15 batters he faced. He threw 44 of his 61 pitches for strikes.
The 28-year-old right-hander was one of Boston’s final two spring training cuts, but he says he considers it an honor to start the season opener at McCoy Stadium.
“Of course,” Aceves said. “It’s really nice for me to be the Opening Night starter. I feel a responsibility to do a good job and get Pawtucket off to a good start. I like this team. There are a lot of good players out there and I think we can deal.”
The PawSox have two exhibition games remaining against Rochester on Thursday and Friday before breaking camp on Saturday.
I’d love to hear from you. The address is email@example.com.
If you Twitter, you can follow my tweets at http://twitter.com/Dan_Hoard
And I’ve finally joined Facebook. Just search for Dan Hoard and look for the photo of me with the handsome lad.