While there’s never an ideal date to suffer an injury, Andrew Lambo might have picked the most unfortunate time possible.
The reigning Pittsburgh Pirates Minor League Player of the Year was hitting at the International League’s third-best clip of .344 with a league-high 13 doubles in 26 games before he found himself sidelined for more than two months with a nagging thumb injury.
On May 7, Lambo’s hot streak was put on hold when he was placed on the 15-day disabled listed with a right thumb contusion . Originally considered a minor setback, the slugger ultimately underwent surgery to repair ulnar collateral ligament on May 28.
The timetable for Lambo’s rehab process, at least physically, was 6-8 weeks according to Pirates.com. However, the speculations don’t factor the mental aspect of rebounding from an injury.
“It’s a tough process,” Lambo said.“You’ve got to approach a rehab like any other thing and try to do the best you can to come back and be as strong as possible and ready to go.”
Lambo said it was tough being away from his Indians teammates sidelined with an injury. He said the time off the diamond helped him learn to appreciate the simple things usually overlooked when you’re on the field day-in and day-out.
“(Rehabbing) Gives you a little perspective,” Lambo said. “When you’re sitting at home and you’re icing your hand, you just start to be appreciative for the little things that are in your life.”
Perseverance was also key for the 25-year-old prospect.
“You’ve got to stick through [the process] and find a way to try and find some positives out of the day,” he said.
Lambo’s intensive rehab has paid dividends, and after returning to the Indians lineup, hardly missed a beat from where he left off in early May.
In his first return to action – a four-game series at Columbus following the All-Star break – Lambo hit safely in each of his first three games to finish 7-for-12 (.583) with three extra-base hits and five RBI. He opened the stretch by ripping line drives in both of his first two at-bats against major league right-hander Danny Salazar, with the second shot landing safely in right field for one of just three hits surrendered by Columbus’ mid-90s hurler.
“I’m fully aware of what Salazar has,” Lambo admitted after the Clippers’ righty blanked Indianapolis through five innings. “He threw some good pitches that I thought were some quality pitches, [and I] put some good swings on them and good things are going to happen.”
Lambo doubled as part of a two-hit effort the next night against the IL’s Pitcher of the Year from 2012, Tyler Cloyd, before capping his three-game return by reaching safely in all five trips to the plate on July 19 with two homers, three runs scored, four RBI and a walk.
Lambo has since seen his average hover around the .340-.350 range entering the current homestand. A slow start in the Toledo series cooled his clip to .323 as of Aug. 5, but overall in his 17 post-rehab games, the slugger has totaled 20 hits with nine runs, four doubles, three homers, 10 RBI and a .342 OBP, while seeing action as the DH, at first base and in left and right field.
Lambo has welcomed the challenge of his expanding role across the diamond. As the Tribe hits the stretch dive of the 2014 campaign, he said he’s using his added toughness from May’s setback to make the most out every at-bat through the final month of the season.
“You keep forcing an organization’s hands, you’re going to get the opportunities,” Lambo said. “(It’s up to you to) control your preparation and the mindset you have going into that at-bat.”