Jaff Decker was placed on the Indianapolis disabled list with a hand injury at the end of April. The outfielder had just returned from a leg injury two weeks before that, and had limited time at the Triple-A level before going back on the DL. Today he played five innings in an extended Spring Training game at Pirate City, going through the early work to get back to Indianapolis.
Decker took about three weeks off to rehab his hand, and has been at Pirate City for about a week. He has played three games, and today was the first day he played back to back games, after going seven innings yesterday. The main focus while he is here is getting reps in and getting strength back in his hand.
“It’s just about the stability of it, and getting the strength back in it,” Decker said. “It’s holding up. Barely, but it is.”
Decker was injured in a freak accident, sliding into the home plate umpire and hurting his hand in the process. He had a sprain in two knuckles, and a bone bruise in three knuckles. The worst one is the middle knuckle.
“When I go to swing, it kind of rolls my fingers around,” Decker said. “It kind of catches a tendon and those ligaments in there.”
After the game today, Decker had ice wrapped around his hand. He was wearing the oven mitt while running the bases, which is featured in the picture above. He said that the injury isn’t affecting his game now, although that wasn’t always the case.
“When it first happened, I tried to swing through it in the cages, and there was no strength behind it,” Decker said. “There was no holding the bat up. It’s a good thing now that I’m stable to go to the cage and do some dry swings.”
Prior to the injury, Decker had a .259/.364/.296 line in 27 at-bats with Indianapolis. He is hoping to return to Triple-A within a week, but that is still up in the air and depends on how his hand progresses during his rehab.
Tarpley Close to Joining West Virginia
Stephen Tarpley, one of the left-handers acquired in the Travis Snider trade, pitched five innings today in extended Spring Training.
Tarpley was shut down at the end of Spring Training with shoulder soreness, but has been building up his innings over the last few weeks. He threw 70 pitches in his five innings today, sitting 90-92 MPH with his fastball, 78-80 MPH with good tilt on his slider, and 83-85 MPH with his changeup.
“It feels great. Extending it out finally felt like I was getting somewhere again,” Tarpley said of going five innings today. “It allowed me to get more into my starting mentality, kind of like my routine. I was able to work certain pitches early in the count, and then bring some more pitches later in the innings. It made me kind of feel at-home again.”
Tarpley said that he’s not sure whether he will go to West Virginia or make another rehab start, and that he should hear something later today. However, I talked with Pirates’ Director of Minor League Operations Larry Broadway after the games today, and Broadway said that today should be Tarpley’s final start before going to West Virginia.
Ramirez Plays Seven Innings
Harold Ramirez played seven innings today, which was the second time the outfielder has played seven innings in his build up to full season ball. Ramirez was delayed with what I was told were conditioning issues in Spring Training. However, he also had a skin infection, which delayed him further. Ramirez returned to playing at the end of Spring Training, but missed some time once extended Spring Training started, which is most likely when the second issue occurred.
The outfielder was originally slated for Bradenton, but it’s unclear right now if he’ll still be going to that level right away when he returns. He is scheduled for an off-day tomorrow, and expects to play two nine inning games on Thursday and Friday. Ramirez said that he’s hoping to go to Bradenton, and hoping that it could be as soon as Monday.
Other Injury Updates
**Today marked the fifth day from Jameson Taillon’s first outing against another team. He didn’t pitch today, and isn’t on a five-day schedule yet. He will throw a bullpen tomorrow, and is expected to make his next outing on Saturday. Based on other rehab outings, I wouldn’t be surprised if he starts the five-day schedule after that.
**Willy Garcia hasn’t played for Altoona since last Thursday. Broadway said that he was hit in the face with a bat, which is why he’s been out.
“He’s fine,” Broadway said. “Just had to do a couple of days of concussion tests, but everything has turned out fine.”
Broadway said that Garcia should be back tomorrow if today goes well.
**Jordan Luplow left Saturday’s game after dislocating his finger on a bad hop while fielding a ground ball. It’s apparently not a big deal, as Broadway said they’re able to just tape it up and let him play. He has been taking grounders in fielding drills, and will return to the West Virginia lineup tonight as the DH.
**Tyler Eppler was sidelined with elbow soreness in Spring Training, then suffered a setback in April. He’s back on the mound now, and threw a two inning sim game yesterday. He will throw a bullpen tomorrow, then will throw a two inning game for the first time on Saturday.
“Everything feels great right now,” Eppler said. “No problems at all. It’s been perfect ever since I had that little setback.”
Eppler is now on a normal five-day routine, which he just started yesterday. He will add an inning in each of his starts, and should join Bradenton by the second week of June. His current five-day schedule projects out to have him finishing up his rehab on June 8th, joining the Marauders after that.
**Wes Freeman is attempting a comeback this year, giving baseball another shot after retiring following the 2012 season. Freeman was taken in the 16th round of the 2008 draft, and showed plus raw power, which combined with a ton of strikeouts due to poor pitch recognition. He was shut down in Spring Training after injuring his PCL in his knee, which is apparently the ligament you want to injure if one of the three ligaments in your knee gets injured. He is back to taking fielding and batting drills, and expects to get in games by Friday. Freeman is hoping to join the Marauders in three weeks, which lines up with the end of extended Spring Training.