DETROIT — As short-lived as the 2014 postseason was for the Detroit Tigers, Rajai Davis' participation was limited at best after an injury he sustained just prior to the series against the Orioles. Davis' recovery wasn't supposed to take the better part of the offseason getting back to normal. Then again, Jose Iglesias wasn't expecting to lose an entire season to bilateral shin fractures either, and Bruce Rondon's year-long stint on the disabled list for Tommy John surgery was also a surprise.
On September 27, 2014, Davis attempted to sprint to first base on a ground ball he'd just hit against the Twins in Detroit, but he pulled up just after leaving the batter's box. Later it was determined that Davis had strained his pelvic cartilage. The Tigers took the necessary precautions, which eventually led the outfielder to be held out of the starting lineup on October 5, the day the Tigers' postseason was cut short.
A player never wants to be pulled from a game, particularly for a playoff game that holds significant implications. Yet, while sitting out for portions of the Tigers-Orioles series was tough, it was necessary. Coming back from an unexpected and odd injury was not only difficult, it was time-consuming.
"It took pretty much the entire offseason, just working on it pretty much every day, five-six days every week," Davis said. "Fortunately my trainer knows a lot about how to get me healthy. We did a lot of stretching, a lot of strengthening that area."
It has been nearly four months since the injury and Davis feels healthy and has been running at full speed with no pain. Looking back though, the injury itself wasn't surprising so much as the length of time that it took for Davis to reach a point where he was healthy again.
"I am. I was (surprised)," Davis said. "I'm just thankful that we're at this place now where I'm able to run with little-to-no trace of it. So that's the good sign. The key is just being healthy, completely healthy, for the season."
Davis' speed on the bases and his ability to distract pitchers are unique assets for the Tigers. Due to the nature of his injury, it's probable that Davis would have needed to sit out for much of the postseason had the Tigers gone deeper into the playoffs. With that no longer a question, the Tigers have one less thing to worry about.
Whereas Davis has no lingering question marks, Iglesias and Rondon do. Not because they aren't healthy, but because both missed a full year of baseball due to season-long injuries. Iglesias, who has been recovering from bilateral shin stress fractures, recently began baseball activities in plastic cleats and says he's ready.
The Tigers have been optimistic about Iglesias' return to full participation for some time, but at the same time cautioned that until the team saw him play in a game there would be no way to know for sure. For Iglesias, the road back to recovery has been a difficult, and at times, frustrating one, but he's remained focused.
"Every time you don't do what you like to do, it's difficult, especially not being here and supporting my team," Iglesias said. "But at the same time, I got time to recover, I got time to prepare myself to be in my position today, to be healthy for 2015 season."
At times during the season, Iglesias admitted he tried to watch games at times, but it bothered him that he couldn't help the team. To make matters worse, personally, 2014 was the first time the young shortstop had ever spent time away from the game, and that alone was a tough task.
No longer limited, however, Iglesias said he has been participating in full baseball activities, although the Tigers will surely keep a close eye on him leading up to spring training and then Opening Day.
The same goes for Rondon, who is only 10 months removed from Tommy John surgery. Despite the short amount of time spent away from the game, Rondon has been throwing consistently without issues, and said he feels 100 percent at this point.
"I'm ready for the season, I'm good right now," Rondon said.
Coming back from surgery is never easy, but Rondon said the process was more difficult than he originally expected. That hasn't prevented Rondon from setting high expectations for himself though, including being ready for the start of the season.
The flame-throwing right-handed reliever may be young, but Tigers manager Brad Ausmus wants to use Rondon for the seventh inning, ideally. Of course, things don't typically proceed according to a perfect world. Rondon's progression, which has recently included consistent long-toss sessions, is a good sign.
With just under a month to go before pitchers and catchers report, Davis, Iglesias, and Rondon have no lingering issues and should be ready for spring training. Until games get underway, though, nothing is official.