When the Northwoods League all-star break came around last week, La Crosse Loggers manager Brian Lewis believed it was a welcome rest for his banged up ballclub.
With designated hitter Luke Rasmussen (ankle), speedy centerfielder Kennie Taylor (elbow), and versatile shortstop Cameron Cannon (wrist) all on the mend, the three-day break appeared to come at the perfect time for the Loggers as they try and make one last push towards the NWL playoffs. For Rasmussen and Taylor, the break got them closer to 100 percent and they’ve been in the Loggers lineup for the first three games after the break. But the injury bug has continued to bite the Loggers.
First it was Cannon who missed the last few games before the break with a sore wrist. The Loggers hoped that the extra rest during the break would help, but the wrist which Cannon injured in April while at Arizona had been bothering him throughout the season. The injury turned out to be more serious than originally thought, and an MRI revealed he had a hairline fracture that would require surgery. Cannon’s season ended with a .276 average in 27 starts.
“He got hit by a pitch while at Arizona and it had been bothering him some off and on the last month or so of the season there and it just flared up here,” Lewis said. “The X-ray came back negative on it, the coach wanted him to stay and play through it. Still wasn’t feeling right even though he was having success hitting, so we got him an MRI and that showed a hairline fracture in the wrist.”
The next domino to fall was catcher Nicholas Kahle, who also had to be sent home for surgery after he had a hernia, forcing him to miss the rest of the season. Kahle hit .205 in 25 games.
The team’s other catcher, Korey Lee, was hurt when he took a foul tip off his hand in the first game back from the break against Eau Claire on Thursday.
“First pitch of the game kind of got him weird and his thumb blew up on him,” Lewis said. “He caught the first couple of innings but we had to take him out because he just couldn’t do it anymore. We are hoping Korey can go (Sunday).”
With both catchers hurt, the Loggers have turned to corner infielder Jorge Guiterrez behind the plate. Guiterrez, who caught in high school, is not quite the defensive presence or as a hitter as Lee is, but the freshman from Texas A&M has done well despite the circumstances.
“He loves catching, it’s his passion, so he is more than happy that he is getting reps there,” Lewis said. “He’s done a good job, he obviously doesn’t throw like Korey does. Korey has a huge arm back there, but he has done a very good job blocking the ball. The pitchers that I have talked to like to throw to him. He has been more than adequate for us.”
Another Aggie freshman, Cameron Blake, hurt his ankle swinging at a 3-1 pitch in the Loggers’ 4-1 loss to the Express on Friday. Blake, who was in the middle of a 6-for-11 stretch at the plate before the injury, is considered day-to-day but was seen in shorts and flip-flops while sporting an ice pack on his ankle at Saturday’s batting practice.
“Just on the swing he went to unload on a pitch and he felt a little tweak in his ankle,” Lewis said. “Something with the tendon, he couldn’t run on it and could barely walk. He’s walking on it today, but it’s a day-to-day thing right now.”
So far, despite the rash of injuries and a now short bench, Lewis has liked the way his team has come out of the all-star break.
“I like the energy level,” Lewis said. “They are still having fun, they are still competing, they are still out here working and that has been fun to watch. Overall I like what we have done, the pitching has been better. We are competing well and like where we are at. Injury-wise we will try to keep it together.”