Ignore the numbers for a moment.
Sometimes the final results don’t paint the whole story in spring training.
That’s the case with JT Riddle.
The 27-year-old shortstop hasn’t put up the flashiest numbers at the plate this spring — he has just two hits, including a home run on Friday — but considering where he was at this point last year, Riddle is making strides.
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After injuries essentially wiped out his 2018 offseason, simply being healthy and on the field — taking daily at-bats, fielding groundballs up the middle, competing with Miguel Rojas to be the Miami Marlins’ starting shortstop — is a positive sign.
“Everything’s coming together,” Riddle said.
He couldn’t say the same last year.
First he had rehab from shoulder surgery to repair a torn labrum that ended his 2017 season in August. Riddle lost 17 pounds over the ensuing offseason and couldn’t work out or participate in baseball activities.
Then, early in camp, it was tendinitis in his right shoulder that sidelined him again.
Riddle ended up missing the first 50 games of the regular season.
“His winter last year is probably a nightmare for a player,” Marlins manager Don Mattingly said. “… He walked into camp last year behind the eight-ball from the very beginning and that just snowballs on you. I feel like it cost him a year.”
Riddle’s final numbers from last season: A .231 batting average, nine home runs and 36 RBI.
There were a couple bright spots, including a pair of six-game hitting streaks in July and August, but it also left a lot to be desired.
“It was tough to finally get over all those hurdles,” Riddle said, “but I got over them and was pleased with how I did last year with everything after overcoming a long stretch of struggles.”
With those struggles behind him, Riddle is already ahead of where he was last season. No nagging injuries. No pain. No strength issues. He’s back up to his comfortable playing weight of 195 pounds.
Now the adjustment is getting back to game speed. Riddle spent the offseason at home in Frankfort, Kentucky, and didn’t have the chance to see live pitching until reporting to camp.
After two weeks of struggles, Riddle took a positive step on Friday, clubbing a 95 mph fastball from the New York Mets’ Noah Syndergaard over the right-field fence for a home run in an eventual 10-3 win.
“Two weeks ago, I had trouble timing up an 89 mph fastball,” Riddle said. “It didn’t feel good, but I’ve been happy with my work in batting practice and in the cages. It just takes time. … I turn the machine up, get in the cage and try to get the timing back. It’s coming. I feel comfortable at the plate. The results might not be there at the time, but it’s all about rhythm.”
Mattingly added: “The at-bats are getting better. Early on, it’s tough to figure out getting back to speed where guys are throwing 94, 95 at you while you were hitting in the cage. He’s a cold weather guy, so he’s not really outside a lot. We’re just trying to get him up to speed.”
If he can get to a point of consistency, Riddle could have an impact on the Marlins’ lineup. He’s one of the few left-handed hitters the Marlins have at their disposal who is expected to make the 25-man roster.
Luckily for Riddle, he has two-and-a-half more weeks to get situated before Opening Day on March 28.
And, in due time, he believes the results will be there.