This weekend Diamondbacks fans got the encouraging news that injured All-Star A.J. Pollock is slated to resume baseball activities on July 1, and said he hopes to play “a good chunk of time” in the majors this season.
If he really is progressing well, the Diamondbacks should absolutely allow him to play. He’s the team’s best player not named Paul Goldschmidt, and Pollock can catalyze an offense. But it makes no sense to rush Pollock back to the field with the team so far out of contention.
If Pollock returns healthy by mid-August, it will realistically be too late for the Diamondbacks to come back to playoff contention. The team faces a near-insurmountable deficit in the division and the Wild Card—while more attainable—would require the Diamondbacks to leapfrog over half of the National League. It could happen, but it probably won’t.
If this changes and the Diamondbacks are able to close the gap a bit, than the team should adapt accordingly. Rush him back if they’re two games out of the Wild Card by the deadline. But otherwise, it wouldn’t make any sense to expedite Pollock’s rehab schedule. This will only further risk the prospect of re-injury and harm his chances to help the team long-term. Fans obviously want to see Pollock play and have the team win now, but thinking with the big picture in mind is necessary in this situation.
On the flip side, if he truly is healthy, having him return would be fantastic in both the short and long term. It will give Diamondbacks fans a reason to keep watching games—regardless of position in the standings—and allow Pollock to shake off the big-league rust in games that likely will not be too important. This may be a better re-adjustment than coming back to the majors next season after not playing in a game in 16 months.
Pollock suffered a broken elbow just days before Opening Day and missed all of 2010 with a similar injury, so it remains to be seen how he will recover.