Nationals catcher Kurt Suzuki returned to the D.C. lineup tonight for the first time in nearly two weeks, logging a pinch-hit, bases-clearing double in the 10th inning of a game against the Marlins. Though he’s back to swinging a stick for the Wild Card-contending Nats, it isn’t as if he’s altogether healed from the elbow issues that first sidelined him on Sept. 7. As he told Mark Zuckerman of MASN Sports, Suzuki is simply going to have to play through pain if he wishes to help his club into October. “Shoot, I’m 35 years old. I’m going to be 36 (on Oct. 4),” the catcher said. “If I get hurt, knock on wood, it’s not going to be just a little rest thing…At the same time, I don’t know how many times I’m going to have the opportunity to get to the playoffs.”
If Suzuki’s ongoing presence is a question of pain tolerance, the Nats should be sure to have plenty of aspirin on hand for the veteran backstop. After all, his .260/..319/.473 line (100 wRC+) through 301 plate appearances this year is vastly superior to the output offered by teammate Yan Gomes in 2019 (.221/.316/.370 slash in 329 plate appearances).
More notes about athletes dealing with their own share of September pain…
- As noted by Greg Johns of MLB.com, Mariners reliever Austin Adams crumpled into a heap after tweaking his knee while covering first base in tonight’s game against the Orioles (link). Adams, 28, had to be helped off of the field by trainers. After kicking around the Angels and Nationals organizations since being drafted in 2012, Adams had appeared to find a comfortable home with Seattle in 2019. In his first prolonged big league exposure, the righty has logged a whopping 15.06 K/9 rate in 31.2 innings this year, with solid ERA (3.98) and FIP (3.12) indicators.
- Rays youngster Brandon Lowe was back in uniform and manning second base today–albeit only in a sim game. Still, manager Kevin Cash thinks the rookie is almost ready to return from a left quad strain that has sidelined him since being injured in a rehab appearance in late July. “He’s close,” Cash told Juan Toribio of MLB.com (link). “I saw a video of him going first to third, and he’s running a lot better. I’m not going to say he’s back to his normal speed yet — he’s going to have to manage that whenever he does get activated — but we’re encouraged that the at-bats have been really good, the defense has been really good, it’s just running and getting out of the box and us having enough trust in him that he can manage that.” Lowe hasn’t played since July 2nd, when leg issues first befell him. Because Lowe is on the 60-day IL, the team would have to clear a 40-man spot to facilitate his return.
- Rockies starter Kyle Freeland has been activated by the club and started tonight’s game against the Dodgers. Logging two scoreless innings in something of an “opener” capacity this evening, Freeland penned something of a modestly positive chapter in what has been an otherwise forgettable 2019 saga. With a sky-high 6.98 ERA (6.13 FIP) in 99.1 innings entering tonight’s game, Freeland has been a chief culprit in Colorado’s ’19 pitching woes. Interestingly, Jeff Saunders of the Denver Post penned a column today examining baseball’s offensive explosion in 2019, citing Freeland as one player who will be difficult to evaluate this offseason in part because of the possible “juiced” quality of this year’s baseball (link). Said Saunders: “In my opinion, the “juiced baseball” really hurt Rockies left-hander Kyle Freeland this season. I’m not making excuses for Freeland’s 6.98 ERA and 25 home runs served up in 20 starts, because he was clearly off his game and his mechanics were out of whack. But I also think it’s true that Freeland became a little gun shy because his slider wasn’t breaking as it should and he gave up a number of cheap home runs.” There may be some merit to this thinking. Freeland posted a 22.9% HR/FB rate this season while home run records were shattered league-wide.