Picking up a bat and taking that first true swing of Spring Training is a special moment for a baseball player.
But when Albert Almora took that first, sweet cut of Spring Training, pain shot through his left wrist.
Almora, taken in the first round of the Draft last season by the Chicago Cubs (sixth overall), immediately knew his Spring Training was headed for a detour. The 6-foot-2, 180-pound 19-year-old outfielder from Hialeah, Fla., was diagnosed with a broken hamate bone in his left wrist. He was sidelined for six weeks after surgery to repair his wrist.
"The doctor told me that it was broken for more than a year," Almora said of the small bone. "I first felt it on my first swing in Spring Training. I felt a really bad pain. The medical staff took an X-ray and they discovered the break. There would be some days last year where my hand would be sore, but it wasn't every day. It wasn't until Spring Training where it really hurt."
Almora, ranked as the Cubs' No. 2 prospect by MLB.com, tackled rehab with a passion. He was given the news that he would be able to play for Kane County on May 21, and has been tearing up the Midwest League since his arrival. Almora is hitting .413 (31-of-75) in 18 games.
"Rehab was great for my body, but it was really bad for my mind," said Almora, the MVP of the Pan-Am Games for the USA Baseball 18-and-Under team in 2011. "I'd see everybody go out and practice and play, and I had to stay in and rehab. It definitely wasn't good. But I rehabbed really hard so I could come back as soon as possible, because I was really itching to get out there."
Almora said that he feels great physically and at the plate.
"I just want to come out here and try to help my team win in any way, shape or form," Almora said. "I felt good in Arizona and extended spring. I came here and I'm playing my game, and I'm lucky it's been going great so far."
According to Almora, there has been no holding back since being given the green light.
"Once the doctors gave me the okay, that I was healthy enough to play, I was going to go 110 percent," Almora said. "That's just the way I go. Fortunately, everything I hit has been falling for me.
"I just try to go out there and put contact on the ball," he added. "I just try to keep things simple. I don't want to complicate my swing too much. I just want to have fun and let the game play out."
Cubs' director of player development Brandon Hyde said that Almora showed a lot of maturity in dealing with the injury.
"Albert worked very hard in Arizona on his rehab," Hyde said. "He has a lot of maturity for a 19-year-old kid. He's a very special player. The maturity is something we saw in him that really impressed us."
Hyde said that Almora has great potential in the Cubs organization.
"Albert is a great hitter," Hyde said. "And he's got Major League defensive skills. He's been impressive in a lot of areas for us."
Vasquez returns: Anthony Vasquez, who underwent emergency brain surgery last November, pitched five innings for Clinton in his return to the mound on June 10th. An 18th-round Draft pick by the Mariners in 2009, Vasquez underwent a five-and-a-half-hour life-saving surgery after being diagnosed with ruptured vein in his brain. Vasquez was called up to the majors by the Mariners in 2011, going 1-6 with an 8.90 ERA. He was with Triple-A Tacoma in 2012 until a shoulder injury ended his season. Against Wisconsin in his return, Vasquez gave up four runs -- two earned -- on five hits in five innings.
TinCaps sizzling: Fort Wayne boasts a nine-game winning streak and have been sizzling after a late-May five-game losing streak. Since ending its tailspin on May 26, the TinCaps are 15-1.
Camp to Kane County: Chicago Cubs pitcher Shawn Camp, sidelined with a toe injury, pitched one inning for Kane County on Tuesday night and will pitch another on Friday night. In his one inning of relief, Camp retired two batters on groundouts (both on the first pitch) and recorded a strikeout. There were two errors committed by Kane County in the inning. Camp is a Midwest League alum, having played for Clinton in 1998.