Scottsdale, Ariz. -- There's never a good time to get injured in professional baseball, but a hamstring pull at the start of spring training was a particularly tough challenge for right-handed pitcher David Hale earlier this month. Hale, 28, is trying to make the Colorado Rockies this spring after going 5-5 with a 6.09 ERA in 17 games (12 starts) last summer for the club.
But even though the mild hamstring strain kept him out of game action for several weeks, Hale is back healthy now, and he's appeared in one "B" game and one Major League spring training contest thus far through Thursday. The Princeton University product is also optimistic that he'll be fully ready to go — even enough to be stretched out as a starting pitcher — when the season begins in less than two weeks.
"With the week and a half we’ve got left, I think I’d be ready to start," Hale told Purple Row in the Rockies' clubhouse on Thursday. "I threw 35 pitches last time, the next one will be higher, and the next will be slightly higher than that. It’ll be close."
Though that may be an optimistic path for Hale, there are certainly opportunities available for him to seize. Both Jon Gray and Chris Rusin have dealt with their own injury problems recently, leaving some uncertainty in the Rockies' starting rotation for a pitcher—most likely Christian Bergman or Yohan Flande—to fill, even temporarily.
At least to start the season, it doesn't appear that man will be Hale; he was optioned to minor league camp on Friday morning. And while the injury played a role in that, Hale is back on the path towards Opening Day, even if at Triple-A Albuquerque.
"I’ve never had an injury like that before, even though I’ve had nagging injuries the last couple years, it was nothing on my hamstring," Hale admitted when discussing his recovery. "I think the effect was just losing some time, losing some repetitions in getting ready. But it feels great now, and I’ve been in a couple games now and it all felt really good."
"I think frustrating is the word," Hale added, noting how inopportune and minor the injury turned out to be. "My arm felt fantastic, so I wanted to be in there, and I’m out because of my leg."
That Hale could continue throwing and doing side work throughout his injury was a blessing in disguise for the right-hander, who didn't need to be built up nearly as quickly after recovery as he would have had he needed to shut his entire body down. And the injury, although to a part of his body critical in mechanics, hasn't appreciably affected the pitcher's delivery, at least in his mind.
"It definitely didn’t change me mechanically, since I really didn’t feel it throwing." Hale explained. "It was just any sort of movement - running, and stuff like that. No running, no [pitcher fielding drills]. It was annoying because they wouldn’t let me in a game since I couldn’t field a bunt or anything."
All that being said, Hale is still focused on moving forward, and he believes the injury didn't hurt his chances of impacting the big league team even though he's now a lock for an assignment to Triple-A to open the season.
"Whatever they tell me, hopefully I have a legitimate chance," Hale said. "I just want to be consistent and stay healthy all year. Last year, I had some bumps in the road, too, and I wasn’t able to get in a good groove."
"I’ve gotten a lot more sink and my slider is back to where it used to be a couple years ago," Hale added, noting he feels his stuff has improved despite the hiccup. "I’m really happy the way it’s going."