Manuel Margot was itching to get off the Lowell Spinners’ disabled list.
The reason the center fielder landed there was the nebulous “lower body injury,” and it kept him out of action for nearly three weeks, from July 26 to Aug. 16.
It couldn’t have come at a worse time. He was hitting just .254 with four doubles, a triple, and nearly as many strikeouts (24) as hits (29), but he was just starting to find a rhythm at the plate, stringing together a 16-game hit streak from June 19 to July 15.
Once he returned, he knew he had catching up to do, and he wanted to do it as quickly as possible.
“More than anything, I just try to focus on swinging at strikes and making sure that I get the right pitch to hit and letting everything else take care of itself,” said Margot, with his teammate Carlos Asuaje interpreting.
He had hits to collect, and he did it in bunches.
In his first seven games back, Margot went 15 for 32 (.469) with four straight multihit games.
He had runs to score, so he ran laps around the bases.
In an 11-9 loss to Hudson Valley Aug. 25, Margot went 4 for 5 and crossed the plate four times.
He had homers to hit, even if they were inside the park.
In a 5-4 loss to Connecticut Aug. 21, he launched a ball to deep left, and when outfielder Zach Kirksey crashed into the wall trying to chase it down, Margot made a break for it and turned it into a three-run, inside-the-park home run.
By the end of the season, he had lifted his average to .270 with eight doubles, two triples, 21 RBIs, and 18 stolen bases.
“I’ve been feeling real good,” Margot said. “Obviously, I’ve been hitting the ball well. At the plate, I’ve been very confident and I’m just kind of going back to how I used to hit.”
More than the numbers, he brought a certain brand of excitement to the ballpark when he returned, finding a way to be in the mix at crucial points during the game. And he already has drawn comparisons in the organization to high-profile prospect Xander Bogaerts.
“I’m really excited about that,” Margot said. “Those are the people at the end of the day that make your career either long or short, and I’m honored that I’m looked at in that light.”
Both he and Bogaerts signed as international free agents at 16 and raced through the organization, though Margot can’t be expected to ascend as quickly. He doesn’t turn 19 for another three weeks.
Not that he considers his age when he’s competing.
“I don’t really think of my age as anything different,” Margot said. “Once you get to this level, it doesn’t really matter how young or old you are, it’s just the way you’re playing and how you’re getting things done at the time.
“I just feel good right now and I’m going to keep going.”
This time a year ago, all the innings Henry Owens had thrown were finally starting to catch up with him. In his first professional season, Owens pitched in 23 games, making 22 starts for Single A Greenville and putting 101⅔ innings on what at the time was still a 19-year-old arm.
“Last year, I stopped at 100 innings and I was laboring through the last couple outings,” he said, “but I finished strong.”
This season, wanting to power through to the end of the season, getting in the weight room was essential, he said.
“I think it’s been big for me just getting in the weight room, really lifting and getting my body ready for a full season,” Owens said. “This year I feel like I’m getting stronger as the season goes on.”
He made six starts late in the summer for Double A Portland, going 3-1 with a 1.78 ERA and 46 strikeouts.
In a breakthrough season for the young lefthander, the pitch that evolved the most out of his arsenal was his curveball.
“Developing my curveball this year was one of my goals from start to start,” he said. “I was just tinkering with grips and making sure I was consistent with my arm speed on it and finally found a grip that’s comfortable where I can generate a lot of arm speed but it’s not really coming out that fast.”
Flush with some of the top prospects in the organization, from Bryce Brentz and Jackie Bradley to Allen Webster and Anthony Ranaudo, Pawtucket reached the postseason for the third straight year, a record stretch for the franchise. The PawSox’ run to the playoffs was fueled by 19 wins over their final 23 games. Pawtucket and Rochester are tied at one game apiece in the best-of-five opening series . . . One of the major forces behind the Salem Red Sox’ push to their first playoff appearance since 2009 was dominant starter Luis Diaz, who gave up just eight earned runs over his final 12 starts. He was just as stingy in Salem’s playoff opener against Myrtle Beach Wednesday night, striking out four over eight scoreless innings in a 1-0 win . . . Portland outfielder J.C. Linares blew threw the finish line, ending the season on a 12-game hit streak. Over his final eight, he went 17 for 35 (.486) with four homers and 13 RBIs to win the Eastern League’s final Player of the Week award . . . Despite dropping their final four games, the Spinners finished 40-33, their first winning season since 2009. They ended the year two games behind Jamestown for the New York-Penn League wild card . . . Chris Hernandez finished the season strong with Portland, going 2-0 with a 1.64 ERA in five starts.
Julian Benbow can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.