A. J. Pollock, centerfielder for the Arizona Diamondbacks, could be back in centerfield as early as this Friday
Expect A. J. Pollock back in the lineup for the Arizona Diamondbacks by this Friday. That’s not exactly a promise made by manager Chip Hale, but the reality of Pollock back in the Chase Field gardens later this week seems a sure bet.
Once Pollock resumed baseball activity earlier this month, the organization wanted the fleet centerfielder to exhaust 20 days of his rehab period. That period is up this coming Thursday. Meeting with reporters before Tuesday’s game with Atlanta at home, Hale indicated the decision to activate Pollock will likely be made Friday.
“When we active him, he will be back in the lineup,” Hale said. “All reports are great, and it will be nice to have him back.”
Pollock is coming off an All-Star season in which the native of Marlborough, Mass. hit a career-high .315, lashed 39 doubles, scored 111 runs, banged out 192 hits and stole 39 bases. As a complement to his stellar play in the outfield, Pollock was awarded a Gold Glove.
Among National League leaders, Pollock was second in runs scored, second in hits, tied for second in multi-hit games, fourth in doubles, fourth in stolen bases, and topped all major league outfielders with 192 hits.
Out since April 1 with a fractured right elbow, Pollock has a combined .430 batting average in 10 rehab games (13-for-30) between the Arizona Rookie League, Advanced-A Visalia and Triple-A Reno.
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When Pollock went down, there was no question his absence was a catalyst for marginal play. Centered between Ender Inciarte in left and David Peralta in right last season, that trio was responsible for saving runs and lowering the ERA of the pitching staff. Alone, Pollock tied with Kevin Pillar among centerfielders with 14 defensive runs saved.
All of which clearly increased Pollock’s value. Having traded Inciarte to Atlanta in the off-season, and Peralta spent most of this season on the disabled list, Pollock’s absence only exacerbated a delicate situation. Here, Hale placed Brandon Drury, Yasmany Tomas, Chris Herrmann, Mitch Haniger, and Rickie Weeks, Jr. in left and left Tomas essentially in right field. Michael Bourn was signed a free agent to help plug the hole in center, and Chris Owings, a shortstop by trade, started the season in center field.
The results are telling.
A team does not lose a player of Pollock’s worth and caliber without a residual effect. With Inciarte and Peralta absent, defensive play of the corner outfielders was compromised. Production from Pollock’s bat and legs was clearly reduced, and his clubhouse presence was affected. Through his recovery, Pollock is visible in the clubhouse after games, and is clearly diligent in his rehab process. Rarely is he seen speaking with fellow teammates in the presence of reporters and television crews.
At the same time, there could be concern about the timing of Pollock’s injury. The operation to repair the fracture was the second procedure on the same elbow. The first occurred in 2010, and by his own admission, Pollock said that initial injury never healed properly.
“I thought I could play out my career with the existing condition of the elbow,” Pollock said the day after he sustained the fracture on April 1. “No, I did not have an issue or problem last season.”
Still, the specter of the previous injury hung over Pollock like a bad and nasty dream. Instead of addressing the existing condition and attempt to be pro-active, Pollock wanted to play through the previous injury, and his decision proved to be devastating.
Where are the fans?
The fans passing through the Chase Field turnstiles this season clearly reflect the difficult season on the baseball diamond.
With the announced crowd of 15,789 for the opening game of the Atlanta series Monday night, the Diamondbacks drew one of the smallest crowds of the season. In their 62 home games so far this season, the Arizona Diamondbacks attracted crowds of under 20,000 for 17 separate games. With a home mark of 22-40, the 18 games below .500 at home is not a catalyst to draw fans.
At this time last season and through 62 home games, the Diamondbacks drew 1,568,691. In 2016 and through 62 games, they drew 1,527,522. For the entire 2015 season, the Arizona Diamondbacks drew 2,080,145 to games at Chase Field.
For the past seven years, the Diamondbacks drew just over two million, and the highest in that time period was 2,177,617 in 2012. That was the season after they captured the National League West division title.