Star prospect Pollock once again prospering
Healed from freak injury, D-backs' '09 top pick thriving in camp
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- When it happened, A.J. Pollock was stunned.
A fly ball hit to him in center field during an early Spring Training game last year went into the sun and, as he tried to follow it, he inched closer to the ground. He put his right hand down to brace himself and in an instant his season was over.
"I literally didn't fall on it or anything," Pollock said. "I just braced it on the ground and I felt a pop. I had no idea what happened. When I saw the X-ray I almost threw up."
2010 Spring Training - Arizona Diamondbacks
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The X-ray showed that he had broken his growth plate in the elbow. Surgery was needed and the fast track he was on after the D-backs made him the 17th overall selection in the 2009 First-Year Player Draft slowed considerably.
"Last year, coming into the season I was pretty fired up," Pollock said. "Watching everybody play and then watching these guys go to their teams was pretty frustrating, but you've got to move on."
Pollock threw himself into his rehab with the same passion he plays the game with and, though he would rather have been playing, he found there was plenty he could still learn.
"I got better at a lot of aspects, leg strength, a better understanding of how to maintain my body," Pollock said. "The training staff really helped me understand things like why is my hamstring sore, what do I need to do make sure I'm not going to tweak it. I think I benefited a lot from that stuff, but it was extremely frustrating."
Pollock was rewarded for his efforts in the fall when the D-backs sent him to play in the Arizona Fall League.
Finally, he was able to get back on the field and he wound up hitting .313 with a .389 on-base percentage and a .406 slugging mark in 16 games.
"I would have been a lot more anxious had I not gotten into games," he said. "We won the championship there, too, so I got a taste of that. I couldn't imagine not playing any games for the whole year. All credit to the training staff. I couldn't believe how they got me ready to go that quick. Not just being able to play, but to be able to compete like that."
Pollock was a non-roster invite to big league camp this year and once again is trying to make the most of the opportunity.
"I just learned stuff just watching these guys," Pollock said of the veterans. "They don't even have to say anything, you just observe what they're doing and pick up on their routines. It really helps a lot. You watch their [batting practice] and see what their routine is. You pick and choose different ones and see what helps you."
Pollock will likely start the year at Double-A Mobile and now that his elbow has been repaired it should not be an issue. When he was drafted, the medical tests showed that the growth plate in his elbow had not fused closed as it should have. That left him vulnerable to the injury.
"I just had to keep telling myself there was nothing I could do about it, that it was a freak thing that happened," Pollock said. "You also just try to make the best of it."
With his injury behind him, Pollock once again appears to be on a fast track to Chase Field.
"There's no doubt in my mind he's going to be a good big league player and he's not too far off," Arizona GM Kevin Towers said. "He's a good looking player. I see him as an everyday player, not just a bench-type player. He runs well, hasn't swung at too many bad pitches, he's come up with timely hits, looks very comfortable in the outfield, knows what base to throw to. I would say great baseball instincts."
On one of his first days at camp, Pollock took a look around the room and reflected on his situation. On one side were veteran players he has watched play in the big leagues, while next to him were some of the guys he's played with in the Minor Leagues.
"I kind of took a step back and thought about my last year and how far I've come," he said. "It's incredible being around these guys and the teammates that I've come up with. It's exactly where I want to be at this point."