ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — When you are facing the best pitchers in the world on a daily basis, worrying if each swing would be the one that would send shooting pain through your already aching wrist isn’t an ideal situation for success.
For what seems like more games than not this season, Ty France has dealt with some sort of discomfort in his left wrist. It started around April 26, when he dived for a ball in Houston while playing second base and rolled up on his glove hand.
He tried to play through the injury to his detriment, posting a .063/.196/.083 slash line in the 13 games that followed before finally going on the injured list for 10 days to calm the pain.
The time off helped. When he returned from the break, he started hitting to his expected levels. But even then, the wrist wasn’t healthy. There was a dull pain that never left. At least once or twice a game, he would swing and miss at a pitch, resulting in agonizing discomfort.
“It was a constant achy feeling,” he said. “And then I would swing, and it would be this sharp pain. It would eventually go away, and that achy feeling would still be there.”
And the randomness of when it would occur made it impossible to limit.
“It wasn’t like it was only fastballs away or some other pitch,” he said. “It was just swinging through and missing, those usually aggravated it. And it got to a point where it was always in the back of my mind where I couldn’t give it 100%, knowing that one swing might hurt. It definitely made things tougher.”
France figured it was something he would have to deal with for the rest of the season. There would be taping it multiple times per day, constant postgame treatment and that lingering feeling of knowing that shooting pain might return at any moment.
But when he returned from the All-Star break and took swings for the first time, he realized the ache was gone and even the most awkward swing-and-miss didn’t leave him hurting. Now, he doesn’t even consider the possibility of pain.
“Those days off definitely helped,” he said. “It’s good to go.”
He doesn’t need to tape it any longer. He doesn’t even think about it. His focus is the game.
“I’m just playing baseball,” he said.
And he’s playing it well.
Since the All-Star break, France has a .343/.397/.537 slash line with four doubles, three homers, 11 RBI, a walk, eight strikeouts and five more hit-by-pitches in 16 games and 73 plate appearances, including his 11th homer as one of three hits and three RBI in Monday’s win. Since the much-needed stint on the IL, France has a .304/.366/.474 slash line with 15 doubles, eight homers, 34 RBI, 11 walks, 13 hit by pitches and 36 strikeouts.
France also has shown that he’s more than capable of handling first base duties. He’s played 53 games at the position and will likely play there with the addition of Abraham Toro, who is expected to see the bulk of the reps at second base and the ultra-durable Kyle Seager at third base.
“The more reps you get at one spot the more comfortable you get,” he said. “I think that first and third are my two natural positions, it just came down to getting more time there and settling in. I’ve always considered myself a corner infielder whether that’d be third or first base.”