ALTOONA, PA – Chris Stewart has been on the disabled list since July 4th, citing left knee discomfort. But, Stewart was not only dealing with knee issues, he had a couple bum knees, a bum ankle, a hurt arm, and an ailing major league veteran catcher’s body that seemed to be falling apart on him.

As reported, surgery on the worst of his ailments — his left knee — became a real option for the veteran backstop; however, Stewart took the option to take a break from all baseball activities, rest, and try to get the knee in good enough shape to finish the season.

“Surgery was only necessary if I couldn’t play, so I took a break,” Stewart said. “We treated it as best as we could. This is pretty much the last-ditch effort to see if I can play this year. If I can’t play after these next couple rehab games, we’ll have to shut down again and get surgery. We’re testing it out to see what I can do. Hopefully, it goes well and I can get back to Pittsburgh to help the team win.”

He categorized his left knee as “an old knee, basically”, saying that there wasn’t really any major damage; rather, there is a myriad of wear and tear that has added up over the years.

“We’re just seeing how much I can take at the moment, and the only way we will know is by playing on it.”

They did not do any lower body activity for the first few weeks on the DL, just to give everything a breather. The break from baseball activities allowed his bruised and beaten ankle to heal up after taking a few foul balls in the span of three days.

“My ankle was hating me after that,” he said. “I think the rest from the knee, I was able to rest some other things, too. I got hit in the arm, and I had a bunch of other stuff going on at that time, too. It’s actually kind of a godsend for me to be able to get a break and try to come back healthy.”

Stewart has been ramping it up over the last three weeks in preparation for game activity, essentially doing everything they could to simulate a game before on Friday night.

“We have a pretty good idea of how it would turn out tonight,” he said. “It was just going out and doing it.”

The first step of this “last-ditch effort” went well on Friday night in Altoona, PA, as Stewart strapped on his new, shiny red catcher’s gear and took up residence behind the plate for Clay Holmes’ start and seven innings total.

He went 1-for-2 from the plate with an RBI single and a walk. He walked in the second inning before slapping a line drive single to left field in the fourth. He also tried to score from second base in the fourth inning and slid hard into home plate, making decent contact with the opposing catcher. He did seem to get up a little gingerly, but he said he felt fine from the collision after the game.

“I was excited,” Stewart said about the play at the plate. “It was a little bang-bang play there. I slid into him, and he put good pressure on me. There was contact there, but everything went well, so I was excited about that. You’re a little tentative about sliding or making plays where there is going to be a little contact, but that was one that I wasn’t really thinking about it. It happened, and everything turned out well.”

Defensively, Stewart didn’t get to throw to any bases, but he said after the game that he isn’t too worried about his arm. He did make some good blocks and participated in a rundown to get a runner out on the third base line.

“Everything felt good. I did everything possible to test it out tonight,” Stewart said. “I ran the bases, had a couple slides, some quick breaks, and some balls in the dirt. I didn’t throw today, but that’s not a huge issue. We knocked a lot of boxes off the check list, and we’re just going to keep doing everything and hope it goes well.”

Ultimately, the true test for Stewart is how his body recovers tomorrow following a game’s work. During the time before his DL stint — where it really did look like he was playing on a true Pirates’ peg leg — Stewart said that he would feel good before going to sleep then wake up feeling terrible the next day. His hope that a little TLC tonight will alleviate any of those pains that creep up the next day and keep everything going in forward motion in terms of a recovery.

“All signs are pointing up,” Stewart said. “It’s just a matter of how it feels tomorrow, and we’ll go from there.”

He will take Saturday off from behind the plate, then Stewart will catch Tyler Glasnow’s rehab start on Sunday. The plan is for him to go seven innings, but he did not rule out the possibility of playing a full nine.

Stewart also hinted that his stay with the Curve may be longer than most rehab guys that come through Altoona, as he said that he’s “going to be here for a little while”, giving him more opportunities to work with the Jin-De Jhang and the pitching staff.

“We’ll get to go over how I like to go about it – calling a game, what I see out there, reading swings, calling pitches, the whole repertoire of being a good catcher,” Stewart said of the possibility of working with Jhang during his stint in Altoona. “I’ll have the time to work with him, and I look forward to it.”

He also hopes to mentor some of the pitching staff, saying that he was able to talk to Clay Holmes before and throughout the game about different aspects that should help him moving forward. (On a side note, Holmes told me that Stewart watched his last start before he arrived in Altoona and came to him with a game plan to attack hitters tonight. I thought that showed great leadership and effort by the major leaguer.)

“I talked to him about things that I saw,” Stewart said about Holmes. “Some certain keys that he can work on, and some things from the upper levels that he could expect. You’re able to get away with some stuff down here, but it’s not going to work in the upper levels.”

When asked what else needs to happen for him to call his rehab stint a success, he promptly replied with a laugh: “Some more base hits maybe.”

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31 COMMENTS

  1. Well, at least I will be able to watch Steward on the Altoona road trip next week. Hope to hit Portland along with the three New Hampshire games

  2. For a while, this is going to be like having an extra coach
    on a young team that does not have a full major league
    staff of coaches.

    Hopefully he can get his bat going as well because
    his ability to be a smart hitter can also help the
    young kids. This will also be important for him since
    his primary role in September will be PH.

    He will be a nice extra bench piece in September.

  3. The sad but impartial truth is that his body is shot and the defense has been in decline. With Cervelli’s injury history and the very nature of the position I don’t see the accuracy of the “dealing from strength” party line on the McGuire trade.
    Next year it is Cervelli, Fryer, Diaz with Stewart also under contract. Three of those four have missed significant time due to injury this year.

  4. Nice to see Stewart take on the mentor role during his rehab time. Sounds similar to the story on Vogelsong when he was there also. A couple of veterans willing to go above and beyond their stint and work with the younger guys. Couple of class acts.

  5. I would’ve assumed after the first week of Fryer that Stewart would have shut it down and elected the surgery. IMO, Fryer offers more than Stewart the rest of the way this season and Diaz is back as depth (that’s probably more valuable) as well. Stew’s a much better insurance policy for Cervelli next season if he’s healthy enough to play nine more than a couple times a week. Diaz seems to be stuck in AAA until which time Cervelli hits the DL again.

  6. Stewart returning in 2016? Please, NO!!!! He does NOTHING well – except “pitch framing” of course…..
    Next year, it better be Cervelli and Diaz in Pittsburgh – if not, I hope Diaz is the PTBNL in the Nova trade – because he deserves a real chance to play in the majors.

      • Technically, but really only through next season and only for $1.65M. If Diaz is healthy by the end of next spring training…there’s no real need or financial commitment keeping Stewart on the roster.

        • There’s always a demand for backup catchers. At his salary Stewart would be an attractive trade chip if nothing else.

          • Maybe we have learned something from the Yankees about how to handle that matter – he is intelligent, well spoken, and has a wealth of knowledge. And Catchers always make the best coaches.

            Regardless, in an objective evaluation of Catchers, Stewie would be 3rd and Fryer 4th. Diaz is the real deal.

        • Cheap contract and he’s got more to offer than Kratz who got a decent number of ABs this year. I hope Stew sticks around as a coach when the knees are done.

    • Pitch framing is the most useless stat of all the geek stats. Majority of it is umps with their own version of the strike zone. Yet they get credit for an ump calling 4″ – 6″ off of a corner or below the knees because that’s just what he does no matter who is catching.

      • Totally disagree. Just watch Cervelli or Diaz and then watch Fryer. I have watched Fryer lose strikes because, at times, he will not receive the ball correctly. Framing is an art that was around long before the geek stats. Oftentimes it is nothing more than catching the ball properly so that every pitch is funneled into the strike zone.

        The HP Ump is under constant scrutiny and many, if not all. develop a strong relationship with the Catchers they work with. Fryer likes to get the ball and throw it back immediately. A good framing Catcher will hold the glove in place for a second longer on a close pitch – he may not get that call, but just his action will cause the Ump to take a closer look at close pitches.

        Pitchers greatly appreciate a strong receiving Catcher, and how that Catcher will fight to get that extra strike per inning.

        • I caught & I know you can steal a call, but I also see several umps who have extended strike zones no matter who’s catching. Certain veteran pitchers get extended strike zones while rookie pitchers get squeezed. Superstar hitters get calls while rookie hitters don’t. In the last few years with pitch tracker has had a bigger impact on umps then any catcher. Ryan Doumit could’ve caught Glavin & Maddox and got calls all day long. He would’ve still sucked as a catcher

    • I wouldn’t go that far, you are a little hyped up today. That being said, I prefer Eric Fryer in literally every way, so lets allow Stew to rest get surgery and we will figure it out next year

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