After missing two and a half months following surgery on his right thumb, Andrew Lambo did not waste any time getting back into the swing of things. In the first six games, he is hitting for a .462/.481/.808 line in 26 at-bats, with three doubles and two home runs.
“It’s feeling good,” Lambo said. “I got some good pitches to hit the other day. I faced (Justin) Masterson yesterday. That is different, four days in to be facing some arms and having to face a pretty established big leaguer. It was a good opportunity to see some pretty good pitching. I had some quality at bats and we are getting better. It is getting stronger and I am getting more comfortable at the plate.”
Overall, Lambo is hitting .370 with four home runs and 16 doubles in 32 games with Indianapolis this season. However, on Sunday, against Masterson, Lambo struck out twice on the way to a 0-for-5 game. Strikeouts have been an issue for him, as he has fanned 28 times in 119 at bats for the campaign. This is compared to just 14 walks through Wednesday. Last season, Lambo struck out 127 times in 444 at bats between Altoona and Indianapolis, so the struggle is nothing new for the slugger.
Lambo credits the fast start to the work that he put in with the rest of his body while rehabbing the thumb. While the rehab process can be a tedious endeavor for athletes, Lambo said that the hard work is now paying off.
“Sometimes when you get into a rehab, you can get caught up in that negative, ‘this is a drag,’ routine, but you just have to try to make a positive out of things and challenge yourself to work as hard as possible when you are in that cast and in that splint,” Lambo said. “The harder that you work in that cast and in that splint, the recovery of getting back on the baseball field is that much easier. You definitely don’t want to go home and sit on the couch for a month and a half and try to get back to pro ball because this is a tough game.”
Pirates General Manager Neal Huntington has noticed Lambo’s hard work as well and is aware that the bounce back is due to the effort that he put in.
“It’s been great to see him get rewarded for how hard he worked on his rehab,” Huntington said. “He worked hard to keep the non-injured baseball parts of his body in baseball condition. That’s definitely showing. He’s been able to jump back much quicker than most young players, or most players come back from thumb surgery.”
The two home runs since returning matched Lambo’s production in that category for the entire first half of the season. However, Lambo did have 13 doubles over that span. As he told me earlier this season, Lambo looks to drive the ball into the gaps for doubles when he is at his best, and will just let the home runs come.
“It felt really good to get some swings off like that,” Lambo said. “I am just playing day by day, excited to help the team. I feel fortunate to have a jersey on and we go from there.”
While Lambo went only 4-for-25 in rehab stints with GCL and Jamestown, getting some work in was something that he credits for easing him back in. He also is pleased with how the coaching staff handles the players within the organization.
“We have a great coaching staff and a great manager here, who knows when to put you in the lineup and when to give you a day off,” Lambo said. This also allowed him to ease back in once he gets to the Triple-A level.
Lambo will split time between first base and the outfield – right and left — with some DH mixed in. He played his first game at first base last night since his return. Regardless of where he is placed on the field, Lambo is up to the challenge.
“There is going to be bounce-around situations, and you have to take on the challenge,” Lambo said. “I want to help out the big league club, but also help out this club. If that is playing one day at first, then one day in right, one day in left and then one day DHing, I look forward to that challenge.”
It is this versatility that leads Huntington to point out how excited that they were with Lambo going into the spring and that he is “certainly still in our plans moving forward.”
While he is making no doubt that his ultimate goal is to end up in Pittsburgh by the end of the season, Lambo is setting his remaining season goals to improving each day.
“I just want to get better in every facet of the game,” Lambo said. “I want to have fun and play this game the way that I know that I am capable of and play hard. It’s all about coming here and getting better. Nobody is going to be perfect in this game. We are going to make mistakes. We’re not going to get hits and then we are going to get hits, it’s all in how you deal with them.”
While the injury severely set Lambo back, there is little doubt that he will get another big league look in September when the rosters expand, if not before. With the lack of depth in the Pittsburgh outfield, outside of Josh Harrison, if Lambo is able to keep the hits consistent and the strikeouts down, he could be able to provide a nice shot in the arm in Pittsburgh this season. Lambo could also see some time at first base if Ike Davis continues to struggle.