Carolina outfielder Ollie Linton likes his performance on the field so far, but what he's really enjoying is just being able to play the game once again.
Linton, once a rising star in the Arizona organization who earned Southern League All-Star honors in both 2010 and 2011, was limited to 11 total games the last two seasons as the result of thumb and hamstring injuries. After the Indians signed him during Spring Training, Linton earned a spot with the Mudcats and is finally back on the field again.
"I'm having a good time," Linton said. "I just love being back on the field, back in a uniform. It's something I missed. I'm just going out there and competing."
The 28-year-old's injury woes began when he dislocated his thumb sliding back into second base during the first week of Spring Training in 2012. He worked his way back but tore his left hamstring trying to stretch a single into a double, costing him four months.
Linton finally returned at the end of August that season as Mobile was on its way to winning a second straight Southern League title. He played in the postseason but strained the hamstring again in the championship series.
Linton came to Spring Training fully healthy last year but suffered a tear in the middle of his right hamstring, an injury that sidelined him for the entire season. He spent the year working on strengthening the hamstring and doing rehab, but the D-backs let him go at season's end.
The move surprised Linton a bit, and he didn't know where he'd play in 2014. Finally, the Indians called halfway through Spring Training and said they had a spot open and to be there the next morning.
"I was excited," he said with a laugh. "I'd been waiting for a phone call for weeks. I was already packed and ready to go."
There was no guarantee for Linton when the Indians brought him in, but he made the Mudcats roster. Linton, who's spent much of the past two years rehabbing just to get back on the field, credits his fiancée for providing support during the tough times, which he hopes are behind him now that's he back on the field.
Linton's got a lot of catching up, though he's playing well so far, batting .265 with a .381 on-base percentage. Carolina manager Scooter Tucker said he doesn't see any ill effects from the injuries of the last two years, and the Mudcats are glad to have him.
"What he brings to us is obviously a lot of experience and energy," Tucker said. "He's a great teammate. He just brings a lot to the table that we think is very valuable here."
Linton said he's still working on putting everything together on the field, something he knows will take some time. But the outfielder believes he's making progress and is hoping for big things this season.
"I just can't wait for everything to fall into place," Linton said. "Every once in a while I'll feel it."
Runnin' Wren: Lynchburg's Kyle Wren has given the Hillcats' offense a jolt recently, collecting nine hits and eight steals during a recent five-game stretch. The Georgia Tech product leads the league with 13 stolen bases.
Barely touchable: Ryan Merritt of the Mudcats has been close to perfect so far this season with a 3-0 record and 0.37 ERA over his first four starts. He's allowed just one earned run in 24 1/3 innings.
Staying hot: Myrtle Beach outfielder Royce Bolinger is second in the league with a .370 batting average, thanks in part to four multi-hit performances last week.