BRADENTON, Fla. – Ke’Bryan Hayes has been out for over a month, playing his last game in West Virginia on July 10th, and eventually getting diagnosed with “swelling of the rhomboid muscles”. He took about two weeks off from playing in West Virginia, before coming down to Bradenton to start his rehab work. That process is going well, as he got into his first game today, going five innings in the GCL.
Hayes started working on the field almost immediately after arriving in Bradenton. He worked with Pirates’ Rehab Coordinator A.J. Patrick, who treated his injury with stretching and manipulations on his back and ribs to get everything lined up better.
“Almost immediately whenever I got down here with A.J., I started feeling better,” Hayes said. “I think he kind of had more of a better idea of what I was going through.”
Hayes started off immediately with throwing on the field. He gradually progressed with his hitting. That progression started with taking 20 swings off a tee for a few days. Then he went to hitting against soft toss, and got to the point where he was hitting on the field last week. The hitting progression took longer because that was impacting his injury more than the throwing.
“Whenever I would hit, that would make it start hurting. At first, it was just hurting [on my back],” Hayes said. “Then it started hurting in my chest. Whenever I would throw, it would start hurting. Whenever I would do my therapy, whenever I was in West Virginia and I had to throw, it would feel alright. But as soon as I’d start to hit, that was when it started hurting pretty bad, and then throwing started hurting.”
It’s good to see that Hayes is doing well, and his injury might help explain why he saw such a sudden drop in performance at the plate in West Virginia in the month leading up to his final game. He went five innings today, going 1-for-2 with a walk and a strikeout. The hit was a bloop single to shallow left field that probably doesn’t fall in at an advanced level. His defense looked smooth as always.
Hayes said he’s not sure of the progression from here in games, or if he’ll return to West Virginia this year. The typical rehab is two games at five innings, two at seven, and back-to-back nine inning games. The Pirates could be more cautions with Hayes, due to the nature of the injury.
This injury might end up giving the Pirates a good excuse to keep Hayes in West Virginia for the first half of the 2017 season, giving Will Craig time at third base in Bradenton, while giving Hayes more time in West Virginia to show that his first two months at the plate were legit. This is all similar to the Kevin Newman/Cole Tucker situation, where Newman started in Bradenton, then Tucker returned from injury and took over in Bradenton a little while later, after Newman moved up. The same could play out with Craig/Hayes, although the obvious difference is that Hayes looks like he will return much sooner than Tucker did.