The 2019 season for Stephen Alemais was over almost as soon as it started. He injured his shoulder on a slide in April and after trying rehab for two weeks, he required season-ending surgery on his throwing arm for a torn labrum. Now he’s not playing for a completely different reason, just like everyone else, but Alemais says he will be ready to go once baseball resumes.
Coming into 2019, Alemais was considered to be one of the best defensive players in the Pittsburgh Pirates system at any position. He was drafted in the third round in 2016 as a shortstop and played above average defense at second base when given that assignment.
Alemais spent the entire 2018 season in Altoona and put up decent offensive stats to go along with his defense. Despite the efforts, he was back in Double-A to begin 2019. Alemais played just 12 games for the Curve last year before his season ended. He was an everyday second baseman in 2018, but moved back to his natural position at shortstop last year and handled all 34 chances before his season ended abruptly.
The initial recovery estimates said that it would be four months before he threw again and 8-10 months before he was fully recovered. The Pirates switched things up a little this off-season despite the fact that there were no setbacks in the recovery.
Instead of beginning his throwing in mid-September, they had Alemais take more time off from throwing to strengthen the shoulder and recover from the injury. He began his throwing in late November, using a program that was designed to have him at 100% by the start of the 2020 season.
The good thing with the shoulder injury is that it didn’t affect his swing. Alemais said that he was pain-free swinging the bat in early November and he hasn’t had any issues at the plate.
Alemais was able to get some advice from Cole Tucker about the recovery and how he would feel as he built back up to full strength. Tucker had shoulder surgery late in the 2015 season. As a shortstop, the program the Pirates used to get Tucker back on the field was also a good guide to get Alemais back out there and healthy. Alemais said that he had initial concerns about regaining all of his arm strength, so it was good to have someone to help talk him through the process.
The Pirates brought Alemais down to Spring Training very early this year. He was already there for two weeks before most of the Major League players started to arrive in mid-February. That was so they could work hands on with him through the rehab process, as he got deeper into his throwing program.
Before baseball shut down 12 days ago, Alemais said that he was feeling about 85-90% in regard to his arm strength. He would have days were his arm felt fine after throwing and other days where he was sore, but that’s all part of the process and the talks with Tucker had him ready for the ups and downs.
Alemais was still on track to be 100% for Opening Day (April 9th at the time) when this hiatus started. The tentative plan was to have him as the starting second baseman for Altoona. This break has allowed him to back off of pushing himself to be 100% for the opener. He was able to take the first week off completely during the break, and he’s now back in the rehab process, working at a slower pace than he would be if he was in Spring Training.
We don’t know when the season will start, but we now know that one of the best defensive players in the system will be fully recovered when they return to play and he will be ready to continue his progress towards his big league dreams.
“I’m anxious and ready to go, ready to play,” Alemais said. “It’s been a long year without baseball and it’s been pushed back longer now. I’m healthy and ready to go.”
The time away from the field has almost made him a forgotten player in the system, but he’s been putting in the work to get back on the field and regain his prior prospect status.